Congratulations on your debut novel, Alexandra! And thank you for taking some time to chat with me about your novel Cauchemar.
How does it feel to have published your first novel?
Alexandra Grigorescu: It feels amazing, Steph. It’s been one of my goals since I was eight years old—really, one of the top ones—so it’s wonderful to finally see my work in print.
What inspired you to write Cauchemar?
AG: I don’t think there was necessarily any one thing that inspired me. It was a convergence of being twenty-something and in love, feeling a bit unsure of what came next, and honestly, finding myself unable to avoid staring at this weathered cow skull that I’d mounted on my wall.
The book came on the heels of having taken a bit of a break from writing creatively, so it felt good to immerse myself in such an evocative environment.
You created such a wonderful and descriptive Louisianan backdrop for your characters filled with culture, folklore, and superstitions. How much research was involved in your writing process?
AG: It’s so rewarding to hear that. As soon as I realized I had written myself into Louisiana, I started researching the food and the landscape. Christobelle’s “church” is, as far as I know, not inspired by reality, but I wanted to draw from the rich cultural background of the South. I researched some of their superstitions and folk remedies, and found that there are many complex practices at play in the area. Cauchemar is fiction and fiction allows you lots of liberties, but it was important to me to add a bit more to the pot than stereotypical representations of voodoo.
While writing Cauchemar, what was your favourite scene to write? What challenges did you have to overcome?
AG: On the one hand, I really enjoyed fleshing out the budding romance between Hannah and Callum. On the other, Christobelle was a pleasure to write, as well as some of the darker scenes (there’s this crow…). Part of the joy of it, for me, was getting to immerse myself in both the lighter and heavier aspects of the book, but it was also a challenge to make sure they were balanced. I loved writing what I like to call “the showdown,” the book’s climactic scene. It flowed very easily, and is also one of my favourite scenes to re-read. There’s a lot at stake.
On my blog Feisty Little Woman, I always love to highlight and analyze the female characters in novels, celebrating their differences and choices. As a writer (especially a female one), how important is it to you to create life-like and relatable women characters? How significant are their roles and relationships in Cauchemar?
AG: It’s a great blog! As a writer, it’s very important. As a female writer, it’s almost inevitable that some aspect of your particular female experience will emerge. What rings true for one person will not for the next, though, and I think that’s as much to do with your personal history, as where you are in your life, how you see yourself, or how you wish to see yourself. A female character that hits all those notes—accessible, vulnerable and aspirational in one neat package—is ideal. Cauchemar’s main character, Hannah, is thrust into one difficult situation after another and she’s certainly not immune to the stress of this, but I think her strength shines through when it really counts, and hopefully readers agree.
Three of Hannah’s most significant relationships are with women—her adoptive mother, her real mother, and her childhood best friend. They each leave an indelible mark on her, and the book is, in part, a nod to how women can help or harm each other.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
AG: I might well find myself in the South again (and bring readers along, of course). But maybe not right away. I have many more voices, characters, and worlds that I’d like to explore.
Thank you, Alexandra. I’m looking forward to reading more from you in the future!
Gripping, fast-paced, gorgeously written, and with unforgettable characters, Cauchemar tells the story of 20-year-old Hannah, who finds herself living alone on the edge of a Louisianan swamp after her adopted mother and protector dies. Hannah falls in love with Callum, an easy-going boat captain and part-time musician, but after her mysterious birth mother, outcast as a witch and rumoured to commune with the dead, comes back into Hannah’s life, she must confront what she’s been hiding from — the deadly spirits that haunt the swamp, the dark secrets of her past, and the nascent gift she possesses.
Like the nightmares that plague Hannah, Cauchemar lingers and haunts.
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication Date: March 17, 2015.