Susannah Appelbaum’s YA novel, Divah, hits shelves on March 15th. Angels, demons, and Marie Antoinette—oh my! There are still a few weeks till you can get your own copy, but don’t worry! We have just what you need to keep you busy. We’ve put together a fun Q & A for Susannah, and she has shared a bit about her experience living at the Carlyle hotel, where most of the book is set.
Eloise meets Rosemary’s Baby in New York City’s very own Carlyle hotel.
Seventeen-year-old Itzy Nash is spending the summer at the exclusive Carlyle hotel in New York City. But the hotel harbors more than the rich and privileged; it is host to a gorgeous fallen angel, reclusive movie stars, and—Itzy soon learns—demons of the worst sort. When the Queen of the Damned checks in, all Hell breaks loose. Itzy is called upon to save herself—and all of humanity—from the ravages of the Underworld. There’s only one problem: Itzy’s possessed.
Susannah Appelbaum realized at an early age that the world contains both good and evil—and she wanted nothing more than to write about it. By day, she does so. The night is reserved for keeping the world safe from shadows and demons. She has lived both in Paris and at the Carlyle hotel, where the service is exquisite and the food is never burnt. Susannah resides in New York’s Hudson Valley and is the critically acclaimed author of the Poisons of Caux series.
Susannah Appelbaum on Bed-Writing
When I lived in the Carlyle hotel, I used to write from bed. And why not? It was pure luxury. Coffee, tea, little delicate finger sandwiches were but a phone call away, and I was pampered and nourished while horizontal. I was following the tradition of many wildly successful authors who wrote from bed. It has been a few years since I moved to the country, leaving behind the white pressed sheets and room service of the Carlyle, and especially, the practice of bed-writing. I have now a room of my own, and after I lock myself away in it—and perform a series of odd rituals—I can begin for the day. But today, for the purpose of Sky Pony’s new blog, I have decided to break with this tradition and follow the likes of Proust, Truman Capote, Emily Dickinson (to name a few) and prop myself up on every pillow available, and kick back, bedside.
In bed (and out-of-bed), I am writing this on Ash Wednesday. Naturally, my mind turns to fire and ash. For, as I say in my new novel Divah, “Fire transforms everything.” Ash, throughout history, through dark ages and witch hunts, has played an important role in both the sacred (such as today) and the profane. As a young student, freshly attending New York University, I remember Ash Wednesday as the day I would wander the streets of the city and wonder why everyone’s forehead was smudged with black. Today’s ashes are a reminder of human mortality (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.) For others, ashes can protect, even from such things that roam the dark nights, and haunted ruins. The Talmud explains how to see demons, should you want to, and it involves finding and burning a black she-cat. Ashes can be used in divinatory ways, like tea leaves, or as a burnt offering (Make a wish. Write it down. Set it aflame). A ribbon of ash sprinkled over a threshold will prevent demons and other inhabitants of the spirit world from crossing. There is a drink made of ash from the Tree of Life. I have not tasted it, but it is said to ignite inspiration.
So let’s order room service, and lift our cups of ash tea, and toast together to continued inspiration!
From Susannah‘s days living at the Carlyle.
Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?
I grew up on fantasy, all the usual suspects. My first attempt at writing (age 6) was a total rip-off of the Wizard of Oz. Now, even if I try, I find it impossible to write realistic fiction. Every time I open my laptop, a dragon pops out.
Q: What are you reading right now?
I am reading a lot of crime fiction. Actually, one of my first loves was Agatha Christie. I am feeling the urge to write something mysterious, dark and deadly. And of course, somehow the supernatural will creep in. I am a big reference book junky. I own the complete Oxford English Dictionary, which takes up much real estate on my bookshelf. The current book on my nightstand is Amazing Rare Things, by David Attenborough. It’s full of beautiful illustrations of all sorts of weird flowers and animals and creatures to inspire.
Q: If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?
Alice! From Alice in Wonderland. I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more than meet the Cheshire Cat. Or perhaps Itzy Nash, my lead character in Divah. I’ve spent a lot of time with her, and genuinely like her. She’s smart, funny, artistic (super into photography—like me), very independent, and, well, everything else is a spoiler.
Q: Where’s your favorite place to write?
Not bed. My study is lovely, as I hope you’ll agree.
Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?
Anything Hitchcock. Rear Window, perhaps, is my favorite. But nothing can beat the dialog in All About Eve, and Bette Davis is my all-time fave. Can’t you just see her as the ultimate demon hunter?!
Q: If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?
A baby elephant. Or maybe a baby mammoth. Not too big. Something I can bring on a leash to Starbucks.
Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?
Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. It’s a completely non-religious holiday, where you gather and give thanks. Because there’s no talk of Heaven and Hell, you can say this makes it a demon-free holiday, although demons have been known to invite themselves to anyone’s table, at any time, and once seated, they are notoriously difficult to remove.
Q: What’s your favorite emoji?
The poop! I mean, come on. He’s got eyes! How cool is that?
Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were Itzy’s age (17)?
That’s easy. A writer.
To learn more about Divah, visit www.susannahappelbaum.com/divah/