Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on psychological thriller author Chris Bohjalian. Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of twenty-two books, including The Red Lotus, Midwives, and The Flight Attendant, which is an HBO Max limited series starring Kaley Cuoco. His other books include The Guest Room; Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; The Sandcastle Girls; Skeletons at the Feast; and The Double Bind. His novels Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers were made into movies, and his work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. He is also a playwright (Wingspan and Midwives), and lives in Vermont.
Chris, how can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I can be found at chrisbohjalian.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Litsy, and Goodreads, @chrisbohjalian.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Hour Of the Witch?
My work walks a tightrope between heartbreak and dread. A lot of dread. My novels are character-driven slow burns. Hour Of the Witch is a perfect example: in 1662 Boston, Mary Deerfield has to escape an abusive marriage – and try to avoid being hanged as witch. It was inspired, in part, by the first divorce in North America for domestic violence.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
The Puritans had atrocious table manners. They drank beer like it was Spring Break in Miami, they often used trenchers – mini-pig’s troughs two or three people could share – instead of plates, and they didn’t approve of forks: the utensil slowly gaining favor in Europe then had but three tines and resembled, in the opinion of some Puritans, the Devil’s pitchfork. (They were not incorrect: the first forks were terrifying to behold.)
Also, they ate lobster like bologna: it was that common.
So, imagine it: no forks, no plates, lots of beer. . .and lobster. It was a party.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
Oh, I loved writing from the perspective of Mary Deerfield. The novel is a third-person subjective novel. What I enjoyed most was that Mary has one foot firmly in 1662, but another in our present. She is a woman of her era, that is clear; but she also is a bit of a rebel by 17th century standards – as were all of the women who attempted to divorce their husbands. And, of course, contemporary readers will recognize the reference when a doctrinaire pedant on Boston’s Court of Assistants calls her “a nasty woman.”
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
I watch so many movie and TV series trailers – two or three a day. Those impeccably produced “commercials” instantly catapult me into a particular emotional place. Sometimes, there are one or two trailers I will watch over and over for a specific book to get into the right head space. They inspire me and rev my engine.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I write with absolute silence EXCEPT for the purring of Horton the cat in my lap, and the occasional yawn of my dog Jesse in her dog bed behind me.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Chris!