Sunday, July 11, 2021

Q&A with Susan K. Hamilton




Susan K. Hamilton is the author of the new novel The Devil Inside. Her other books include the novel Shadow King. She is based in Massachusetts.


Q: What inspired you to write The Devil Inside, and how did it evolve from a series of short stories to a novel?


A: I started The Devil Inside as a National Novel Writing Month project. I tend to write longer projects and I wanted to push myself to do something shorter. So my idea was to write a set of short stories—interconnected in some way—as my project.

I settled on a set of stories about the Seven Deadly Sins and originally, Mara was a character meant to have a cameo in each one and be that connecting thread.


As the project progressed, Mara had a bigger and bigger role, and it wasn’t long before I figured out that it was really Mara’s story that I was writing. So, I ditched the short stories and focused on Mara.


Once I figured out that it was Mara’s story, I started to look at who she was as a character… but believe it or not, a lot of her came from a graphic I found on the Internet.

Mara’s a devil, so flames had to be part of who she was. I found a picture—an illustration—of an eye surrounded by flames, and I thought, “That’s exactly how Mara’s eyes would look.” Once I had that, she started to come together in my mind a lot more clearly. Then it was a case of who she was on the inside, behind her brassy, sassy exterior.

Q: You've said, "For some parts of the Hell I created, I tried to stick to the traditional dark pit of fire and brimstone. But at the same time, for many people, the idea of spending your whole life in a little tiny corporate cubicle is hellish, too. And that’s what got me thinking about the 'business' end of Hell--and how it just might run like a corporation." Can you say more about how you created your version of Hell?


A: I wanted some aspects of Hell to reflect some of the traditional images that spring to mind: fire, brimstone, tormented souls. But because I wanted Heaven and Hell to run like a corporation, I wanted to create a layer of Hell that was reflective of some of the worst aspects of corporate life.


It made sense to me that all of the souls collected would need to be processed, and there would be a lot of bureaucracy around that. And that the devils who were out hunting souls were essentially in the sales department. It all started to come together after that.


I also tried to modernize the punishments. While I think eternal torment in a pit of flames sounds pretty awful, I think Hell means different things to different people. I thought it would be interesting to let Mara decide what each soul’s personal hellish damnation might be… because what is Heaven for some would be Hell for another.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I think there are a few things… first, you have to fight for the people you love. Don’t work for a boss you can’t stand. And always, always read the fine print!

Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now, I’m revising a manuscript that’s a little bit of a departure for me: women’s fiction. It’s called Stone Heart and it’s about a singer who returns home to work on her new album. While she’s there she reconnects with her married ex-lover and as their affair intensifies it threatens to ruin more than just her career.


I also have some ideas for a follow up to The Devil Inside but haven’t really turned them into something cohesive yet.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Readers might find this interesting: I created Mara’s name from different global folklore.


A Mara is a malicious creature in Germanic and Scandanavian folklore that rides on people's chests while they sleep, bringing on nightmares. The Dullahan comes from Celtic mythology, it is the root of the headless horseman legend. The Dullahan roams the roads, calling the names of those doomed to die.


And I’d love to connect with readers… you can find me on Twitter at @RealSKHamilton!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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