Michelle Muto lives in northeast Georgia with her husband and two dogs. She loves changes of season, dogs, and all things geeky. Currently, she’s hard at work on her next book.
Today, I’d like to give you a little glimpse of just that for my latest book, Don’t Fear the Reaper.
Cover art: A lot of people will recognize the cover as artwork from the fabulous Claudia McKinney at PhatPuppy art. What few people know is that the girl holding the raven is her daughter.
Inspiration: I was tired of agents telling me they wanted something darker, more dystopian. I couldn’t think of anything darker or more dystopian than having my character commit suicide in the first chapter, or later, visit her body in the morgue. But how to pull it off? I needed to relate to my character somehow. Without it, I didn’t think the story would feel real, believable. I was far from suicidal. What I drew on was loss — my parents’ deaths years ago and more recently, that of my beloved dog, Jack. Harder still was the idea I could sympathize with my main character. To do that, I had to relive the deaths of everyone I’d ever loved and lost. I poured through photos and keepsakes, letting the pain back in after years of trying to bury it. I came across a poem that I’d written ten years after my father died of cancer in a hospice center – Tell Me About Heaven. The title of that poem made it into the book.
That simple line, my grief, and the desire to know if my loved ones were okay — and what I’d do for such knowledge fueled so much of the story. Don’t Fear the Reaper was the hardest book to write. I’m so glad I have The Book of Lost Souls as a fun, light series to run in tandem with Reaper’s because wow. It’s so emotional for me. By the way, those agents? Although they responded with the most humbling of praise, most thought Reaper was too dark and not something they felt they could successfully represent during these ‘economic times.’ In an odd twist of fate, The Book of Lost Soulswas considered too light.
Casting Call! Oddly, my main character, Keely, wasn’t the first one who I saw clearly in my head. It was Banning, her Reaper. If Don’t Fear the Reaper was ever made into a movie, I see Simon Baker as Banning and Claire Foy (Season of the Witch) as Keely. While writing the draft, I modeled Banning to lookjust like Simon Baker. To this day, I still don’t know who I’d chose to play Daniel, the demon sent to escort Keely to hell.
Research:The strangest research I did for Don’t Fear the Reaper was calling the local morgue and asking them all sorts of questions. They even offered to give me a tour. I also did a lot of research on exsanguination. Yeah. Talk about squick factor! But, I had to be sure the opening chapters and the later scene where Keely’s visits her own corpse would seem realistic.
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