View our feature on Ann Aguirre’s Hell Fire.The second in the thrilling national bestselling series
As a handler, Corine Solomon can touch any object and know its history. It’s too bad she can’t seem to forget her own. With her ex-boyfriend Chance in tow-lending his own supernatural brand of luck-Corine journeys back home to Kilmer, Georgia, in order to discover the truth behind her mother’s death and the origins of “gift”.
But while trying to uncover the secrets in her past, Corine and Chance find that something is rotten in the state of Georgia. Inside Kilmer’s borders there are signs of a dark curse affecting the town and all its residents-and it can only be satisfied with death…
Dear Reader:I’ve been living in Mexico for five years now. At this point, I’ve acclimated; I’m used to speaking Spanish to do business. In our house, one of us often speaks in Spanish and the other answers in English, or vice versa.But when we first moved, I had a hard time adjusting. Eventually, I came to love it here: the climate, the mountains, the people, the slower pace, the ability to take exotic road trips on short notice, and shopping on Tuesday at the market stall near my house for fresh cheese and produce. I liked the entrepreneurial spirit of the country. For example, every weekend, on a back street near my home, men set up a grill and they sell pollos borrachos (beer braised chicken) along with nopales, homemade tortillas, banana chips, and rice. For about $15, you can buy a whole chicken, plus trimmings, enough to feed the whole family. And it’s really delicious. It also feels like a party with the whole neighborhood turning out to get their Sunday meal.Eventually it came to me that most people don’t know a lot about the real Mexico. They know what they see on the news. They think it’s all drug dealers, kidnapping, violence, and unspeakable poverty, interspersed with gorgeous beaches and ancient ruins. And I would be remiss if I did not state that that Mexico can, assuredly, be a dangerous place. The darkness exists. But it does not comprise the whole, anymore than the gangs in LA encompass the whole of the United States. Mexico is a huge country, full of indigenous people and suave metrosexuals. It is tiny villages with goats grazing on the mountainsides and urban sprawls with great towers of steel and glass. It is caballeros in straw hats who lead mules down dirt roads and armed soldiers who stand with automatic weapons at a toll gate, watching the passers-by with hard and watchful eyes.Several years ago, it occurred to me that I had a unique opportunity, living here as an expatriate. I could represent the country as few before me had done. But honestly, even my agent—likely due to her proximity to Tijuana—wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea of a series even partially set in Mexico. It’s not a desirable setting. It’s not glamorous. But I had the book drafted by then, and she agreed to take a look. To my delight, she was pleasantly surprised. And that’s the point: changing people’s expectations, sharing what I’ve seen.The Corine Solomon series is about a woman who was born to a witch, ostensibly without magic of her own. When her mother died, she imbued Corine with her own power, but something went wrong. Instead of becoming a full-fledged practitioner, she wound up with just one gift—the Touch—and it allows her to read charged objects. She has a complicated past; like all my characters, she is damaged, but she is also a survivor. As the series builds, she becomes progressively darker—and stronger. Before the end, she will see her resolveand her sense of morality—quite profoundly tested. How far is too far?In Hell Fire, she returns to Kilmer, her birthplace, to discover the truth behind her mother’s death. The second book is a departure from the first because it has a Southern setting instead of Southwestern, but it’s dark, creepy, and atmospheric, pulling from such sources as H.P. Lovecraft, The Twilight Zone, and American Gothic. I try to write a different book each time, which is part of why I varied the setting. (I also wanted to give Corine closure.) And it was definitely a challenge to create a town from the ground up. I’m interested in hearing your reactions to how I did.Of course, I am not Corine. The only trait we share is that we’re both Americans living in Mexico by choice. But via that commonality, I can bring her observations a greater verisimilitude, and this country is so rich with culture and tradition, beauty most people never see. I wanted to take the reality and build something new from it, a possibility infused with fresh myths and legends, tales that most people never get to hear. I’ve done extensive research on Mexican folk magic and interviewed real witches. I’ve taken research trips, such as the one to Catemaco to enrich the writing of book three, Shady Lady. I have walked in Corine’s steps, gazed up at walls covered in bougainvillea, climbed ancient pyramids, and stood in a jungle by night. I have donned the mud and breathed in the sacred smoke of the temascal and taken a spirit journey while a shaman sang. Afterward, I bathed in the waters of Lake Catemaco and was blessed with oils that smelled of camphor.Most of all, I have been infinitely gratified by the response to both my world and the characters. I think it feels real because of my experiences. Thanks so much for taking this journey with me. You can learn more about the series at www.annaguirre.com. I love hearing from readers, so if you have questions, please feel free to write email@example.com.— Ann Aguirre