Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Sarah Hawley Interview - A Witch's Guide to Fake Dating a Demon

Photo Content from Sarah Hawley

Sarah Hawley is an author of romance and fantasy novels. She was a winner of RevPit 2018, and her short stories and satirical articles have been published by Hooked, Slackjaw, The Belladonna Comedy, and Points in Case. She co-hosted the Wicked Wallflowers Club podcast about romance fiction, which was featured on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List” as “a compelling reminder of why the oft-dismissed genre is a real force in cultural conversations about consent and desire.”

Sarah has an MA in archaeology and has excavated at an Inca site in Chile, a Bronze Age palace in Turkey, and a medieval abbey in England. When not dreaming up whimsical love stories, she can be found reading, dancing, or cuddling her two cats.

Greatest thing you learned at school.
Touch typing! I mean, I’ve learned a lot of other very useful and interesting things, but as a writer, that one is a lifesaver. I can type about 100 words a minute when I’m really going, which helps me draft quickly and get my thoughts down on the page.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
Very young! I always had an artistic bent—writing stories, drawing pictures, dancing, singing, etc. My first attempt at writing the Great American Novel was in first grade when I decided to write a tragedy about the ants my mother vacuumed up in the kitchen. Their names were things like Amy Ant, Arthur Ant, and Amelia Ant, and the premise was that this loving ant family would be torn apart by a natural disaster no one could explain. Imagine Amy Ant screaming “NOOOOOOOO” as her uncle Arthur is swept away from her. I did not finish that “book,” probably for the best, but I did finish one a few years later. It was 25 pages long and about an orphan who realizes she’s a princess and has to travel with a mysterious stranger to reclaim her throne.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Getting to meet readers at the launch events! I’d expected the audience to be made up almost entirely of my friends and family, but people I didn’t even know showed up!! That was surreal. And they were all very nice – some brought me little presents, one showed up with art they’d drawn of the characters, and they were absolutely delightful to talk to. I’m beyond grateful for their support and enthusiasm.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
The internet. So much information! So many weird facts to learn! So much time checking social media and wondering why I’m writing so slowly!

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
Many books have changed my life. Some by inspiring me to write, some by encouraging me to visit new places, some by introducing me to a new genre or new ideas. One very formative series for me was The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce – it was my favorite fantasy series in elementary school and it was wonderful to see a heroine like Alanna who got to pursue her dreams, get the men, and live the life she wanted. When I was young and frustrated by difficult things I would remind myself that Alanna wasn’t good at swordfighting initially—she had to work hard at it until it became her strength. I think that’s a good lesson for all of us.

Can you tell us when you started A WITCH'S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING A DEMON, how that came about?
My previous books were all fantasy with romantic subplots—though I’ve been an avid romance reader for a long time, I hadn’t actually tried writing one. It was intimidating—having read so many wonderful romances, how could I possibly write something that good? But I decided it was time to try my hand at a romance, so I took my love of fantasy and used it as the setting. The magic is one of my favorite parts of fantasy novels so the heroine obviously needed to be a witch. And who better for a witch to fall in love with than the demon she accidentally summoned?

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
It’s always surprising when the characters change the plot or their own natures seemingly all on their own. Yes, I do realize I am responsible for this, but I plot fairly loosely and tend to discover my books as I write, so sometimes the characters make surprising choices or end up different from how I imagined them. Oz and Mariel were supposed to remain enemies for longer, but Mariel was just so nice and Oz ended up being a huge simp, so they settled into being pining roommates with opposing goals very quickly.

  • 1. Mariel Spark loves baking, cooking, and gardening and knows a lot about plants. I do not, so much research had to be done into what types of plants bloom when, what they look like, and how to care for them.
  • 2. I created 11 months of fake newspapers for the small town of Glimmer Falls leading up to publication, which you can read here: One of my favorite parts of the worldbuilding was coming up with businesses, events, and apps for this world that looks like our own but with magic woven through it. Pixtagram instead of Instagram, Bumbelina instead of Bumble, LYKEA instead of IKEA (a werewolf-run furniture store), a vampire restaurant called NecroNomNomNoms. Some of the ideas in the newspapers made it into future books, but mostly it was just me playing around and having fun.
  • 3. A WITCH'S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING A DEMON is the first book in a trilogy set in Glimmer Falls! Book two is an enemies-to-lovers amnesia road trip romance. Book three was inspired by the time I tried to purchase a ghost on eBay.
  • 4. I am such a sucker for enemies-to-lovers that the villain of book one became my hero for book two the moment I dressed him in black and gave him a cane sword. I had a clown moment writing book two when I started describing that villain as very hot and wearing black leather, too—I had to restrain myself and dress him in brown to remind myself the book two villain is NOT supposed to be sexy.
  • 5. The language of magic was crafted to be complicated enough to sound believable while vague enough no one can ask me for the particulars, as I am not J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s based on agglutinating languages like Turkish in which words are created by stringing together morphemes. (I did just have to Google those terms.) So in Turkish, here’s an example from Wikipedia: “the word evlerinizden ("from your houses") consists of the morphemes ev-ler-iniz-den, literally translated morpheme-by-morpheme as house-plural-your(plural)-from.” And here’s an example from my book: “Rotkva en iyiltransformen is an acceptable way to say ‘I transform the group of you into radishes,’ but you can also say transforma a rotkviyil.”
  • 6. There are nods to fanfiction in this book and the next ones—see if you can spot them!
  • 7. I spilled water on my laptop when I was 20k words in… and hadn’t backed the project up. I was able to recover most of it, minus a few thousand words, and now I back up frequently!
  • 8. I always draft way too long. I think I cut 10,000-15,000 words from the first draft of this one, and it’s only getting worse with every book. I’m envious of people who can hit their word count goals without going over!
  • 9. Things I know about the world that aren’t on the page: Pixie Themmie’s parents are haberdashers. No one has ever seen the mysterious Dear Sphinxie, advice columnist for the Glimmer Falls Gazette. Demon Astaroth of the Nine has walked in multiple human fashion shows. Ozroth is pleasantly surprised the first time Mariel sticks a finger up his bum. A very lonely death maybe-deity lives in a pocket universe accessible only through a hidden level deep below the Glimmer Falls library.
  • 10. My parents are my best and most enthusiastic cheerleaders and nothing like the horrible parents in this book. It’s actually a joke between us—that I only write evil or dead parents, so they must have traumatized me in some way growing up. In reality, happy families don’t offer much opportunity for literary conflict! The two sets of parents in book three are deliberately very happy and nice (well, one set of them died seven centuries ago, but they were happy before that) so my parents won’t get a complex.
Best date you've ever had?
This is only sort-of a date, but my high school boyfriend asked me to prom in a very interesting way. He wrote a series of poems on scrolls (he soaked the paper in tea to make it look old) that took me on a scavenger hunt around school. At each stop there’d be another clue. Ultimately this was supposed to take me from our high school theatre to a local ice cream shop to a swing dance event in the evening, but I got incredibly sick that day and had to go to the emergency room before I could make it to the final stop. My mother went and found him at the swing dance holding a banner asking me to prom. She drove him to the ER, where he slipped in a side door and greeted me outside my exam room with that banner. Ever since then I’ve enjoyed creating scavenger hunts for the people I date as well—it was such a fun experience (extreme illness aside) and showing up at the ER was a rom-com worthy gesture.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
“Can I please sleep in a little longer?” Though sometimes it’s “That was a weird noise… what are the cats doing now?”

What is your most memorable travel experience?
That’s hard to choose! I traveled to Turkey and Chile for archaeological work during college (I have a BA and MA in archaeology) and both were incredible, eye-opening experiences. Growing up we didn’t travel much, so heading to digs in countries where I didn’t know anyone or speak the language was jumping in the deep end. Now I adore traveling all over the place, with others or by myself.

-In Chile, digging up a tiny piece of Inca gold and a 1,000 year old naturally mummified mouse corpse. (The mouse was an exciting find because of something called strontium isotope analysis.)
-Seeing more stars than I ever have in my life in Chile. The Atacama desert has some of the best skies in the world, and it was breathtaking to see.
-Dancing at village weddings in Turkey.
-Learning how to draw and ink pottery illustrations for publications—I became the project illustrator during one season in Turkey.
-Spending New Year’s Eve in snow-dusted Kapadokya after exploring Byzantine churches carved into the rock.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
Nothing good haha! I have an anxious sort of brain, and I’m usually running through a list of deadlines, worries, and mortifying memories from a long time ago. But I did adopt two cuddly cats during the pandemic, so sometimes I get to drift off listening to purrs and thinking about how nice and soft they are.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school?
English, unsurprisingly! I’ve always loved reading and writing. But I enjoyed anything creative—theatre, ceramics, getting to create Rube Goldberg machines and trebuchets in physics.

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
This may be cheating since technically they’ll be born in the future, but the person who invented time travel! I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, merrily bopping through different periods of history. Ever since my childhood obsession with Ancient Egypt (I mummified one of my Barbies) I’ve been interested in history and archaeology, so I can’t think of anything better than getting to explore the timeline.

What is your greatest adventure?
Probably going to grad school in the UK. I lived in Sheffield for two years. It was scary moving to another country where I didn’t know anyone, but the experience taught me a lot about independence and adapting to new circumstances. I also came away with a few lifelong friends, an appreciation for craft beer and scotch whisky, and a solid education in the history of the Bronze Age Aegean.

But hopefully I have many more great adventures waiting for me!

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I don’t know if it’s unique, but I really, really don’t like wasps. I was stung under my fingernail as a child after a wasp got caught in my hair, and since then I have a startle response when bees and wasps are nearby. I will actually leave the area and hide from them. (Though I’m trying to be less afraid of bees, since they are nice little pollinators who probably don’t want to sting me any more than I want to be stung.)

Mariel Spark knows not to trust a demon, especially one that wants her soul, but what’s a witch to do when he won’t leave her side—and she kind of doesn’t want him to?

Mariel Spark is prophesied to be the most powerful witch seen in centuries of the famed Spark family, but to the displeasure of her mother, she prefers baking to brewing potions and gardening to casting hexes. When a spell to summon flour goes very wrong, Mariel finds herself staring down a demon—one she inadvertently summoned for a soul bargain.

Ozroth the Ruthless is a legend among demons. Powerful and merciless, he drives hard bargains to collect mortal souls. But his reputation has suffered ever since a bargain went awry—if he can strike a bargain with Mariel, he will earn back his deadly reputation. Ozroth can’t leave Mariel’s side until they complete a bargain, which she refuses to do (turns out some humans are attached to their souls).

But the witch is funny. And curvy. And disgustingly yet endearingly cheerful. Becoming awkward roommates quickly escalates when Mariel, terrified to confess the inadvertent summoning to her mother, blurts out that she’s dating Ozroth. As Ozroth and Mariel struggle with their opposing goals and maintaining a fake relationship, real attraction blooms between them. But Ozroth has a limited amount of time to strike the deal, and if Mariel gives up her soul, she’ll lose all her emotions—including love—which will only spell disaster for them both.

You can purchase A Witch's Guide to Fake Dating a Demon at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SARAH HAWLEY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of A Witch's Guide to Fake 
Dating a Demon by Sarah Hawley.