Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spotlight on...Wish Me Dead

I've just finished and sent off a big chunk of work, and it's raining too hard to go out anywhere, so I thought I'd settle down with a nice cup of tea and do another one of my occasional "spotlight" blog posts introducing one of my books! Today it's Wish Me Dead, which was my third novel, published in the UK by Penguin in 2011.

Wish Me Dead is the last of my books to be set in Germany. It sees a return to Bad Münstereifel, the setting of The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. Although it is a stand-alone novel, it takes place in the same "universe" as The Vanishing did, although a decade later. The same familiar places are mentioned, and some of the characters who appeared in The Vanishing also make a reappearance, although they are, of course, also ten years older.

So, what's it about?

Wish Me Dead is all about Steffi Nett, the daughter of the town baker (so look out for lots of references to cream cakes, rye loaves, and in one scene, death by cherry streusel!). Shy and unassuming, Steffi is always being put upon by other people - her parents, who are just assuming that she wants to take over the family business when she gets older, her boyfriend Timo, who has a wandering eye, and slimy Achim the baker's assistant, who keeps propositioning her. However, events take a surprising turn when Steffi and her friends decide to pay a visit to a ruined house in the forest, where a notorious local witch is supposed to have lived. They hold an impromptu ceremony and make a wish - that a local celebrity should drop dead. And she does... As the friends experiment with further wishes it soon becomes clear that only Steffi's wishes ever come true. What is behind this extraordinary power that Steffi seems to have? And after being pushed around by others for so long, can she resist the temptation to have her own way for once?

Where did you get the idea for the book?

Just as The Vanishing of Katharina Linden was inspired by the genuine folklore of Bad Münstereifel, Wish Me Dead was inspired by the real history of the town and the surrounding area. The seventeenth century saw a proliferation of witch trials in the Eifel. Hermann Löher, one time mayor of Rheinbach and born in Bad Münstereifel itself, wrote a book denouncing the persecution of supposed witches, and was obliged to flee to Amsterdam with his family, in fear of his life. Witchcraft was a hot topic in the Eifel in the 1600s, and the sorry (fictional) tale of Red Gertrud is based on the real life witch trials.

Hmmm, witches. And what about the bakery bit?

The bakery products were researched as *cough* lovingly as the witch trials. I was advised by Herr and Frau Nipp of the Erft Cafe (sadly now defunct) and the Cafe am Salzmarkt, both in Bad Münstereifel, and Frau Quasten of the Bäckerei Cafe Quasten in Kommern. All of these were kind enough to let me go "behind the scenes" to see how a German bakery works, and they also explained quite a lot to me about the different types of breads popular in Germany. And then there are the cakes. I tried quite a lot of those - for research purposes, obviously...

These characters from The Vanishing of Katharina Linden who reappear in this book, do they include Frau Kessel by any chance?

Well, it is about witches...

Did the book win anything?

Wish Me Dead was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2012 and shortlisted for the Worcestershire Teen Book Awards.

What did the critics think?

"Wish Me Dead is the kind of book that makes you want to curl up on the sofa on a rainy day and devour it in one go."
  - Caroline, Chicklish Blog

"Helen Grant's third book is probably her scariest yet...This book had me too scared to turn off the light, but unable to leave the next page unread. The ending was unpredictable and the characters were believable, responding to Steffi's "ability" in a realistic way. Overall, very, very scary and very, very good!"
 - Derby Telegraph

"The German flavour is what makes the story. That, and the gory horror."
 - The Bookwitch

My Dad also votes Wish Me Dead as the one of my novels most likely to make a cracking film. So if there are any film producers reading this...

So did everyone love it?

Er, no. One Spinebreakers reviewer found the book "tediously average" ...but conceded that "The ending was made of pure awesome."

Who is the book for?

I know I keep saying teens and adults...Wish Me Dead is probably for slightly older teens than the previous two books. Owing to some of the content, I'd put this at 14+. And adults too.

Anything else to declare?

There is a high redhead count in Wish Me Dead. This is because whilst I was working on the idea for the book, I was outraged to read a newspaper article about yet another child who had been bullied very badly for having red hair. Grrr. Red hair is beautiful! So I decided to give the hero flaming red hair. Red Gertrud - the witch - also had red hair and is supposed to have been beautiful - infuriatingly so to the men who persecuted her. Finally, to even up the goodies and baddies, there is a nasty redhead too.

And finally...

If you'd like to see the book trailer, made by the fabulous Lumiere Productions, it's here:
Wish Me Dead book trailer
You can also read a sample of the book on Amazon's Click to look inside function: Wish Me Dead sample

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