Half in Love with Death by Emily Ross
Publisher: Merit Press
Release Date: December 18th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
It's the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline's life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She's invisible to her parents, who can't stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister's older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline's desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her.
Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess's disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we'll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again.
Inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, Half in Love with Death is a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing all my life. I started out writing poetry, and then turned to short stories around the same time I had my first child. I love short stories but mine were often a little too long. When my kids were older and I had more time to write, I decided to try novel writing and have been hooked on that for the past 10 years.
What makes you want to write?
Writing absorbs and excites me more than anything else I do. It feels like something is missing when I’m not writing. It’s also the only thing I do that fully engages both the creative and analytic sides of my brain. I love the music and magic of language, and exploring the mystery of existence in fiction.
Who is your favourite character in Half in Love with Death?
My favorite character is Caroline. She’s smart but also a little innocent, and she’s a real romantic in the best sense. She wants love to be something life-changing that is spiritual as well as physical. That’s a good thing but it also sets her up for big disappointments, and I really feel for her as she navigates the worst summer of her life. With her sister being missing and everyone letting her down, someone else might have given up. But Caroline never gives up. Even when things seem dark she can still find poetry in the world around her, and the strength to save herself.
How did you get the idea for Half in Love with Death?
I got the idea from my sister. I was struggling with plotting my novel when she suggested I use a true crime for inspiration, and not just any crime. She confided in me that when she was twelve she was obsessed with the case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson.’ When she showed me the Life Magazine article from 1966 about Schmid that had terrified her so many years ago, I could see why. Schmid was a serial killer who murdered three teenage girls and buried them in the Arizona desert. He was a handsome guy even with the fake mole he painted on his cheek and the tin cans he stuffed in his boots to appear taller. His friends followed him like he was a ‘pied piper’ and girls adored him because as they said in the article, “at least he wasn’t dull.” To me Schmid seemed like an odd combination of soulful (he played music and wrote poetry) and soulless (he killed for the thrill of it). The more I learned about him and his victims the more fascinated I became. I decided to take my sister’s suggestion and use this case to help with plotting my novel. Half in Love with Death ended up being very different from the crime that inspired it, but ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’ led me to the story I wanted to tell.
What are your hobbies?
I play golf badly but I guess that counts as a hobby. I also enjoy cooking, especially trying out new vegetarian dishes. And I come from a family of artists so I am a compulsive doodler.
What is your favorite film?
Edward Scissorhands. No matter how many times I watch this movie it still makes me sob uncontrollably.
What is your favourite TV show?
I like tons of shows but Mad Men is my all time favorite. So many depictions of the sixties in film and television are cheesy or just plain wrong, but Mad Men gets that decade right. I really enjoyed seeing its dark and complex characters, especially Don Draper, develop and change over many seasons. At the same time each episode was a little gem that could stand on its own, like a well-crafted short story. Also I’m a huge fan of sixties’ fashion and I loved seeing how the clothing changed throughout this series.
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Emily Ross's YA mystery/thriller HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH is forthcoming from Merit Press(12/2015). She received a 2014 MCC Artist Fellowship finalist award for fiction, and is a graduate of Grub Street's Novel Incubator program. When not writing she works as a web developer and is the mother of two millennials. Find out more at http://www.emilyrosswrites.com/ or https://twitter.com/emilyross816.