The first time I encountered Death, I hurled my mother’s medical chart at him. As far as impressions went, I blew it, but I was five at the time, so he eventually forgave me. Some days I wished he hadn’t—particularly when we crossed paths on the job.
When you think of Death personified, what image do you see? Many probably conjure images of skeletons in black robes carrying long, deadly scythes and intent on reaping souls. At one point, that might have been my first image as well. Not so much anymore. Now when I picture a personified Death, the image in my mind is of a much more relaxed figure in a black tee-shirt and faded jeans. He leans against a wall, arms crossed over a wide chest and his dark hair falling around his face as he watches with a smirk. Not a traditional image, that’s for sure, but that’s what he looked like when he first walked into a scene and became a leading character in my newest book, GRAVE WITCH.
Angel of Death, Soul Collector, Grim Reaper—whatever you called him, most people saw him only once.
A popular question has been why I decided to cast Death in my story, and how I decided to make him a romantic interest? When I first started playing with the idea for GRAVE WITCH, I knew the main character, Alex, would be able to question the dead. Alex raises shades, which are the memories of the deceased given solid form by magic, for both private clients and occasionally for the police. Shades have no will and no emotion. They are a collection of memories. But in Alex’s world there are also ghosts, which do have will and emotion. Ghosts are lost souls, but they are rare.
While world building, it became clear that I would have to know what exactly happened to a character’s soul after they died and why some people could or would be left to wander and become ghosts. I decided I wanted Grim Reapers in the story, a type of Chiron to move the souls from their living, mortal existence to what awaited them next. Considering I had a character who could speak to various types of dead, it made since that she’d be able to see a grim reaper, and it was even probable that they would have met at some point.
I met his gaze, pleading, warning—I didn’t care which—him to leave my client alone. He flashed a row of perfectly straight teeth, which didn’t tell me anything.
Once I got a feel for Death’s character and I started to envision scenes between him and Alex, I realized they had very dynamic chemistry. They have a history and they flirt, but he’s Death and that’s not something Alex can ever really forget. The fact that she’s known him most of her life but knows very little about him doesn’t help. There’s always a bit of tension there, because when Death appears, Alex never knows in those first moments if he’s dropping in for a cup of coffee or for a soul.
The scenes with both Alex and Death were a lot of fun to write and turned out to be some of my favorite in the book. I hope that readers enjoy this twist on Death, and that after they read the book, they also forget the skull-headed version of Death in favor of a hazel-eyed reaper.
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