by Sherrie Wilkolaski
It’s with great pleasure that I introduce the hottest new paranormal thriller to hit the virtual bookshelves, Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising, to my audience. In this two part series, we’ll get acquainted with co-authors Jack Heath and John Thompson. Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising is one of those books that is destined to make an impact readers like many books just don’t do. A combination of historical fiction meets modern day Salem witch trials, the book is entertaining and posses a real question, “who were the real witches?” and that is what keeps you thinking long after you’ve put the book down. Let’s be clear before we go any further, my enthusiasm is personal on this title. Let me explain…
First, I have been a huge fan of the history of the Salem witch trials since I was in elementary school. I remember going to the Mapleton Building Library at Starpoint once a week. If there wasn’t a Nancy Drew book available to check out, I went immediately to the Salem witch trials section. I read every book on the shelves, over and over. The subject has always fascinated me and I still wonder how this could have happened. Even as a third, fourth and fifth grader, it didn’t really make much sense to me. I had to keep reading, I felt like and still feel, there are so many unanswered questions on the subject.
Second, I am the publisher of this book. This book was published via my traditional publishing house, Pressque Publishing. When my business partner, Ellie Maas Davis, brought this book to me, I jumped at the opportunity. Incredible story with a modern-day twist. The eBook was launched on Kindle July 19, 2012 on the 320th anniversary of the hanging of Rebecca Nurse. The Amazon reviews have been fabulous and fans are already anticipating the second book in this trilogy. The print edition will be released on September 28, 2012 with a celebration in Salem, MA. Let’s take a look at the book and introduce co-author Jack Heath. It is true, he is a direct descendent of Rebecca Nurse (accused) and Ann Putnam (accuser).
Jack Heath is direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse, the last person to be tried and hanged during the Salem witch trials, and Ann R. Putnam, one of her accusers. His first novel, Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising, is an altogether modern take on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Having stepped off the fast track of primetime network television news, John Andrews has chosen a quieter life as editor of Salem News, a small paper in a quiet New England town.
Life is perfect until Andrews’ wife is killed in a tragic accident. After several years of trying to numb the pain with alcohol, Andrews is visited by the spirit of a long dead ancestor who opens a door to a shocking family history.
After he experiences a surreal glimpse into the past, Andrews must confront the question of whether he is losing his mind or whether for several hundred years his ancestors have been engaged in a secret battle with a coven that worships Satan. Fueled by the need to understand whether his wife’s death was really an accident or something far more sinister, Andrews, along with his beautiful assistant editor, risk everything to discover a truth so horrifying it threatens to destroy everything and everyone he knows and loves.
Author Interview: Jack Heath
How did Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising, come to life?
I always had in my mind growing up a story about the Salem witch trials, I just wasn’t sure what angle to write from. Ever since I was a child, I heard from my grandfather Heath stories about old Salem and Rebecca Nurse whom we were related to. I think he liked to scare me a bit about the Puritanical past of Salem and how rigid society was. Then a few years ago when I was on vacation in No. Myrtle Beach, SC, with my family, the idea for Salem VI literally popped into my head when I asked myself the question, “What if the Judges in the Salem witch trials were the witches and what if they had formed a pact with Satan and fabricated the whole thing to frame God’s innocent children and offer them as a sacrifices to the devil, their new God?”
From there the story came to life in my head, then I asked, “what if the witch trials never ended and are still going on underground 320 years later?” The rest is this book that John Thompson and I collaborated on and brought to life…I cannot wait to finish book two as John Andrews fights on…
Is it true that you are a direct decedent of Rebecca Nurse? Do you really have “Salem Witch” in your blood?
Yes, through my father’s family I am a direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse and her family. My ancestors through the Heath blood line married Putnam’s, Newhall’s, Tarbell’s- all prominent and historical early Salem, Massachusetts families that tie to Rebecca Nurse. My great-grandfather Heath married Susanna Silver Putnam, for example. The Heath-Putnam-Newhall-Tarbell blood lines go directly back to Rebecca Nurse (formerly Towne) and her family who came here from England to Salem in the 1600’s. I have a painting of my relative Thomas Bancroft Newhall who was an influential lawyer and Judge in Lynn, Massachusetts and through his family lines are great ancestoral stories in my family. I know there was actually quite a feud between Rebecca’s family and the Putnam’s for generations over land property I think, but I have no gripes and am only thankful to be a part of such great, early American history. It is the basis for this series of book and I hope through a lot of the fictional depiction of this history, more people are drawn to this rich and early history of Salem. Most people have heard of the witch trials, but may now know that Salem was a leading seaport for trade in the 1800’s.
How important was keeping the history of the Salem Witch Trials true to the story?
A lot of was important in references but not totally in my mind. I like taking the actual history of the witch trials and imagining what if it all was totally different or behind the scenes different forces were driving it all? I also wonder if there was not more to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who like me was related to original players in the Salem Witch Trials. I mean, I know he was so bothered by it he changed the spelling of his last name due to guilt. I also kind of never liked Halloween as a kid because I grew up in the center of the Halloween universe. Like our main character, John Andrews, a part of my resents the exploitation of the whole witch trial chapter, but I get it and why it fascinates people near and far. Growing up in the area, I just did not embrace or like the influx of witch and Halloween folks who converged on Salem for the month of October.
How has your career in media prepared you for the launch of Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising?
I view things in story form all the time, whether I am writing or doing my radio show. Everything to me has a start, a middle and an ending, without any one part there is no story. I also feel like I am a witness in life, or I feel this is one of my main purposes. I have always found myself in incredible situations, not for my selfish pleasure but for me to tell others about them. I’ve been in the Oval Office to interview on TV two different American Presidents, and even then, I felt only like the witness and messenger. I think this background has helped me not only write but be prepared for helping to tell a lot of people about this story and what we are trying to do here in terms of capturing such a classic known tale of evil with the Salem witch trials and through a blend of history and fiction bring the trials of good vs. evil to the present day in an entertaining way. I like communicating, obviously.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I actually do, especially when someone dies a violent death or in a house where their spirit never was able to go free. I don’t believe these ghosts or spirits are necessarily bad or a threat but I believe there is a very thin line between this physical life as we know it and a spiritual journey that awaits us all. In fact, Rebecca Nurse was alive in my head long before I wrote this book.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do?
It’s funny, I wanted to write a novel almost 20 years ago during my first TV reporting job in Maine. I was covering a few really strange murders in rural areas that impressed me in how bizarre they were. Then, once my news career starting to grow to larger markets, I lost time and focus to write a story about some of the homicide cases I covered as a reporter. Then a few years ago when I thought of the plot for this book, I just started to write like I was possessed in a good way. The story just came out faster than I could hit the computer keys. My wife Patty reminded me recently that I have a box in the basement of stories I stared to write but never finished. This story just ripped through my mind and formed in my head more than others.
Are there any writers who inspire your own work?
Ironically, I liked Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works and his love for Salem, Massachusetts and the history, which I share from growing up in the next town. I also loved F. Scott Fitzgerald growing up and the Great Gatsby. More recently I like a bunch of suspense writers who write in the Robert Ludlum fashion of story-telling and character development.Jack Heath is direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse, the last person to be tried and hanged during the Salem witch trials, and Ann R. Putnam, one of her accusers. His first novel, Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising, is an altogether modern take on Arthur Miller’s The CrucibleHaving stepped off the fast track of primetime network television news, John Andrews has chosen a quieter life as editor of Salem News, a small paper in a quiet New England town.
What book is sitting on your bedside table?
I have several I am in the yearly process of reading. The books on bedside table now are; The Bancroft Strategy by Robert Ludlum, American Assassin by Vince Flynn, The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Alboon, Bobby Orr by Stan Fischler from 1970, Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open, and The Race by Richard North Patterson. Maybe this assortment says a lot about me. I am a little focus-challenged, as they say.
Who is your favorite Salem VI character?
In writing the book initially, it was Abigail. I got a real sense of her and what made her tick. But Rebecca was really a driving force and I like how she rises and John really got a sense of this too. I like how when she gets really pissed off you can feel her rise within John Andrews to get him to do what she wants him to do.
Images courtesy of Pressque Publishing.