A Conversation with Meredith Allard

Her Dear & Loving Husband is a paranormal love story set around the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. It combines the romance of Twilight with the terror of The Crucible. Allard studied the Salem Witch Trials, Colonial America, and the town of Salem, Massachusetts for two years during the process of writing this novel. Here is Paula Day’s conversation with Meredith Allard about her story.

How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

It’s fair enough to say that this novel was inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. In 2008, one of my students handed me Twilight and told me how much she loved that book. She asked me if I had read it, and I said no. Honestly, when I heard that the Twilight books were about vampires I shied away from them. I’ve never been into the horror genre. I had never read a vampire novel, and the only vampire movie I had ever seen was Interview With the Vampire, and that was because of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. My student handed me the book and said I had to read it. I took the book, brought it home, figured I’d skim through it enough to get some character names, bring it back to school, and thank the student for sharing her favorite book with me. As I was flipping through it at home I was intrigued by what I saw so I decided to read it. Needless to say, I was hooked.

It was still another year before I had any thought of writing my own vampire story. I had read a number of other vampire novels in that time–Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series, Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice, and the classic in the genre, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I also watched True Blood on HBO, which is based on Charlaine Harris’ novels. Then one day it dawned on me–vampires live forever. How do they feel about the people they’ve loved and lost, because the humans they loved will have died at some point? Would they mourn? Would they go on and forget? And once you’re dealing with vampires, anything else goes from there. If you can write about vampires, then you can write about reincarnation. What if a vampire found someone he loved again? What would that look like? How would that happen? And that was the germ from which Her Dear & Loving Husband grew.

What was the first scene you saw as you came up with ideas for the story?

The past-life regression scene. The rest came from there.

Her Dear & Loving Husband is a unique combination of genres–historical, paranormal, romance, and you have such a literary way with words. How did you decide how to write this novel?

As far as style, I’ve always tried to incorporate elements of poetry into my writing. I’m not a poet, I’m not wise enough for that, but I can use the parts of poetry I love and use that as a basis to create my own style of prose. As far as genres, I didn’t originally have any intention of writing a piece of historical fiction, which is actually pretty funny if you consider that I’ve been the executive editor of a literary journal of historical fiction for the last ten years. But I didn’t have any sense that there would be any history in this story, that is until I decided where to set it–Salem, Massachusetts.

How did you decide to set the novel in Salem?

Stephenie’s vampires inhabit the Northwestern U.S. in Washington State, so I didn’t want to set it there. Charlaine’s vampires are in the South, so I didn’t want to set it there. I’m from Los Angeles, and I currently live in Las Vegas, but neither of those felt right for a vampire story (though Vegas is one of the greatest nightlife cities in the world). Then I thought that if I wasn’t going Northwest, how about Northeast? I pulled up a map of the U.S., looked at the Northeast, saw Massachusetts, saw Salem, and that was that. And, of course, being the historical fiction person I am, the moment I settled on Salem as the setting I knew I had to incorporate the Salem Witch Trials somehow. So it did end up being, at least partially, an historical novel.

Did you always intend for Her Dear & Loving Husband to be the first book in a trilogy?

I knew fairly early into writing that the story as I saw it would be too much for one book. So, yes, I always saw Her Dear & Loving Husband as the first part of a larger story. Book Two, Her Loving Husband’s Curse, will be ready Spring 2012. I’m working on it now.

Any hints about what’s in store for James and Sarah in part two?

I don’t want to say too much yet. I will say that the second book focuses on vampire lore the way the first book focuses on the Salem Witch Trials. It’s fascinating studying vampire myths and legends. There have been stories explaining the undead for as long as there have been people to tell stories.

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