Black Bird of the Gallows
By: Meg Kassel
Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.
What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.
World building is one of my favorite things about story making! Since I don’t write high fantasy, I don’t get to indulge in pages upon pages of juicy scenery, clothing, food and complex social structures. However, the paranormal world in Black Bird of the Gallows required a lot of rules and a mythology of its own. This is the story of Angie Dovage, seventeen-year-old high school senior, who discovers that Reece Fernandez, the hot new kid next door, is a harbinger of death. Problem is, Reece and his group are in town because it’s about to be hit by a disaster, and he’s not allowed to save Angie if she becomes a potential casualty.
First, I needed to make decisions about the harbingers of death. They are the focus, since Reece, is one of them. It was important to me that they weren’t superheroes. No super strength. No immunity to injury. No vampire-style immortality. These people are stuck in a curse with no upside. The only things they can do that humans can’t are turn into crows at will and regenerate into their own younger selves when they’re killed (and that happens often). I didn’t allow them any “perks” to their condition. I’m not sure why I disempowered them—it had something to do with wanting Angie and Reece on equal footing. I wanted to get away from the, “super-powered, immortal boy and fragile, mortal girl” situation. Those are fun to read, but I didn’t see how I could add to that model. Part of the fun of making a new world is making rules that take things in a direction that readers (hopefully) don’t expect.
Second, I had made a type of creature called a Beekeeper. These guys were a blast to write, as most villains are, but unlike harbingers of death, I had no reference for them. They are made from scratch, and I did give them extra special abilities, like immortality, like great strength and speed, to make them a more formidable challenge to the main characters. However, Rafette, the antagonist, is hardly evil, despite his actions. He’s tortured by his curse, which causes him to house a hive of bees in his chest. The bees sting inflicts venom in people which causes psychosis, and the features of those who die with that venom in them turn up in a shifting montage on the Beekeeper’s face. His own face is lost to him, along with his humanity. These guys were SO MUCH FUN to write, I couldn’t get enough. I made one the main character in the companion novel, Keeper of the Bees, which is set to release next fall from Entangled TEEN.
Meg Kassel is an author of fantasy and speculative books for young adults. A graduate of Parson’s School of Design, she’s always been creating stories, whether with visuals or words. She worked as a graphic designer before realizing the thing she did for pleasure (writing) was something she should do for real. Meg is a New Jersey native who lives in a log house in the Maine woods with her husband and daughter. A fan of ’80s cartoons, Netflix series, and ancient mythology, Meg has always been fascinated and inspired by the fantastic, the creepy, and the futuristic. When she’s not writing, Meg is reading, hanging out with her family, hoarding peanut butter cups, or playing video games. She is a two-time finalist and the 2016 winner of the RWA Golden Heart© contest in YA.
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