By John Clement
I spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the television in my so-called “formative years,” and two shows in particular wormed their way into my permanent consciousness. One was I Dream of Jeannie. The other was Bewitched. I knew full well both these shows were nothing but pure fantasy, but that didn’t quash the sneaky suspicion lingering in the back of my mind that if I just tried hard enough, I could unlock my own as-yet-unrealized magical powers.
Well, I’m still waiting for those powers to reveal themselves, which is probably why I felt a little rush of excitement when I opened up Dawn Eastman’s latest mystery, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WITCH FOR, the follow-up to her popular debut, PALL IN THE FAMILY. Both books are set in the small Michigan town of Crystal Haven, where an unusually large population of magically gifted (and hilariously eccentric) residents has transformed the town into a kind of Mecca for hopeful tourists. They come from far and wide in search of psychics, healers, spells, and perhaps even a bridge to the spirit world.
Enter Clyde Fortune, who’s left her stormy career as a cop in nearby Ann Arbor for some quiet reflection in her eccentric hometown—only to find that things in Crystal Haven are anything but quiet, and her telepathic relatives are all hoping she’ll rejoin the family business. As it turns out, Clyde’s experience as a police officer, coupled with her long-suppressed psychic abilities, make her particularly well suited for crime-solving.
I had the pleasure of talking with Dawn about some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating the wonderful world of Crystal Haven.
The first thing I want to know is, are any of your characters based on real people?
I’m so glad you asked! I face this question somewhat frequently from various family members. Because I write about a quirky family, and I have some quirky family members, they all want to know which one I based on them. Or their friends want to know. My father is convinced he and Frank (my protagonist’s father) are the same person and even asks what “he” will do in the next book. Apart from a desire to do home repairs that extend beyond their skill level, Frank and my father are not related.
Seth is the one character that came directly from a real person. Six or so years ago, when I was writing the first book in the Family Fortune Mystery series, I was engaged in a pitched battle with my oldest child over when I would let him ride in the front seat of the car. “Everyone” he knew was permitted to sit in the front.
Finally, the glorious day arrived when he was allowed to ride in the front seat. He. Drove. Me. Nuts. His running commentary on how much better the view was, constant adjusting of the seat (including putting it all the way back so he could nap on the way to the grocery store that was two minutes from the house), flipping radio stations and pressing every button within reach had me regretting my decision. I almost banished him to the dreaded backseat. I warned him. I said, “If you don’t knock it off, I’m going to write all of this in my book.”
So, with an immature desire for revenge, I wrote a scene with a character named Seth who drove Clyde nuts. He chattered constantly and messed up the seats in her car; he had something to say about her every action and opinion. He slouched, he sulked, and he was like a monkey on speed. My son thought it was hilarious and even added his own slant to the ridiculous scene. We had a good laugh over the whole thing and I hit delete.
Fortunately, Seth did not accept his fate. He kept inserting himself into the story. He stopped adjusting the seat and pressing the buttons. He developed a relationship with the dogs. He has become one of my favorite characters to write and one of the most mentioned favorite characters of readers. He is now his own person and there is nothing in the books that is directly related to anything my son has ever done. For one thing, as far as I know, my son is not an animal psychic. But they do share a gentle nature, and an acceptance of others that I admire. And a snarky sense of humor.
Crystal Haven, populated as it is with Tarot readers, herbalists, healers, and psychics, bears a striking resemblance to the village of Lily Dale, New York. I’m curious if you’ve ever been, and is it the inspiration for Crystal Haven?
Yes, and yes. My aunt lived there many years ago and I stayed with her for a week or so one summer. I was struck by how things that most people would scoff at were considered everyday occurrences. I liked the idea of setting the books in a town where psychics were in the majority, and exploring those beliefs and assumptions.
Some of your readers might be surprised to learn that you have a background in traditional medicine. Can you talk a little about your training and practice, and how it informs the world of Crystal Haven?
I attended medical school in New York city and then completed a residency in Family Medicine in Ann Arbor. My favorite part of practicing medicine was listening to the patients’ stories. I took care of whole families and loved learning about the interconnections and the way family relationships and support would impact the patient’s recovery. I sat with people as they died. I delivered babies. I was able to observe families at their saddest and happiest times. I still am fascinated by that interplay of roles, firmly held beliefs, and affection among family members.
There’s a subtle theme of religious freedom woven into the story of BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WITCH FOR. Did you have that theme in mind when you started the series? How have readers responded?
I think it grew organically from the town I set up. I liked the idea of exploring religion and belief systems by flipping things around and starting from an unusual place. Discovering how their beliefs affect the choices characters make is part of the fun of writing the series. I think many murder mysteries examine a character’s core values and how they can become twisted and ultimately clash with society’s rules. However, I mostly hope readers will be entertained by the adventures of Clyde Fortune and her family, so I try to keep it light and just weave that aspect in as part of the setting.
Readers have mostly commented on the humor of the books, but a few have mentioned learning something about Spiritualism or Wicca. And I’ve received some appreciative feedback that the books don’t make fun of any belief system.
Finally, can you use your psychic powers to give us a hint as to what’s next for Clyde Fortune?
Clyde’s next adventure finds her snowed in at a haunted castle. She and Mac try to get away for a weekend and end up trapped for the duration with Clyde’s whole family and Mac’s mother. There will be knitters, yarn bombing, a spooky cat, and secret passages!
Dawn Eastman lived in Michigan for many years, in a house full of animals, unusual people, and laughter. She now lives in Iowa with her family and one extremely bossy small dog. She is the national bestselling author of PALL IN THE FAMILY, the first in the Family Fortune Mystery series, which features psychics, animal communication, quirky characters and murders. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WITCH FOR, was released on July 1, 2014.
To learn more about Dawn, please visit her website.