The Salem witch trials has always been of interest to me since I was in elementary school. We made our weekly trip to the school library and were allowed to check out one book a week. My personal struggle was selecting the next book in the Nancy Drew series or to grab another book on the history of Salem. Our library was small and I ended up reading the same books over and over again, never tiring of the stories and always wanting more.
As an adult, I’m still fascinated with the history of Salem. In December 2011, I was launching my book publishing house, Pressque Publishing, with my business partner, Ellie Maas Davis. She brought me a manuscript that I knew was just the right headliner to kick-off our catalog. The story was a modern day twist on the Salem witch trials, written by first time author, Jack Heath, titled Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising (First of a trilogy). By day, Jack was a successful radio talk show host of NH Today and former TV news station manager and reporter. What made his story so different from everything else out there about the witch trials was the question he asked, “Who were the real witches?”
Jack Heath is more than just an amazing storyteller. He is also a direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse, who was tried and executed for practicing witchcraft in Salem, MA, on July 19, 1692. Additionally, he has a bad bloodline coursing through his veins because he is related to one of the Salem witch trials accusers, Ann R. Putnam. All of this adds to the mystique behind the book trilogy.
With Halloween quickly approaching, I thought it would be fitting to introduce Jack Heath to our audience. He grew up in in Swampscott, MA, a suburb a few minutes just outside of Salem, MA. He is the former News Director and Vice President of WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, and a former TV reporter for WCVB-TV in Boston and WABI-TV in Maine. Jack has a unique and varied background in news media and business. In 2000, Jack also founded Biznews24, now Pinpoint Global Communications, a software-based media company in New Hampshire, which provides sales training management systems to the financial services and insurance industries. When he is not running his media consulting company, he is marketing and promoting the book series.
One of the things Jack and I have both been passionate about has been to get this book trilogy adapted for the silver screen. Last October, we got our wish. Michael DeRoker with Wonderland Pictures, Inc.. approached us and purchased film rights. Now, the first film is on its way to production. It really is a dream come true and we’re enjoying every minute of the process. We’re currently in the process of kicking off a Halloween campaign on Kickstarter to help increase our marketing budget and help support the production budget. With a higher budget, some A-List actors can join the cast.
Here is my brief interview with Jack Heath:
How did Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising, come to life?
Growing up, I always had in my mind a story about the Salem witch trials, I just wasn’t sure what angle to write from. Ever since I was a child, I heard from my grandfather Heath stories about old Salem and Rebecca Nurse whom we were related to. I think he liked to scare me a bit about the Puritanical past of Salem and how rigid society was. Then a few years ago, when I was on vacation in No. Myrtle Beach, SC, with my family, the idea for Salem VI literally popped into my head when I asked myself the question, “What if the Judges in the Salem witch trials were the real witches and what if they had formed a pact with Satan and fabricated the whole thing to frame God’s innocent children and offer them as sacrifices to the devil, their new God?” From there, the story came to life in my head. Then I asked, “What if the witch trials never ended and are still going on underground 320 years later?”
What can you tell our readers about Chain of Souls, the second book in the Salem Witch Trilogy?
Chain of Souls carries on directly from the end of the first book. John Andrews continues to wrestle with new forces changing his being and world while he tries to battle the coven and evil forces. It is a struggle and Chain of Souls continues unraveling the history of Salem. In the plot, we have our twists along the way. As in the first book, we like action and suspense being the underlying mood, along with a lot that starts to take us more international out beyond Salem. Chain of Souls has more fun with Salem’s history, and people will like a new version of Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables, where more evil lies underneath than anyone ever suspected.
What about the final book in the trilogy?
The third book in the series has already been written and we know how it all winds up in the end. It’s with our editorial team, now getting the final touches. I can tell you this much, Book 3 takes us on a global chase which ties together broader good vs. evil plots and characters. But all tied back to the late 1600s and why evil took root in Salem. Readers will be amazed when they see that evil has roots and havens elsewhere and still does. You will have to wait until the release of the film for this book to hit the bookshelves.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I actually do, especially when someone dies a violent death or in a house where their spirit never was able to go free. I don’t believe these ghosts or spirits are necessarily bad or a threat, but I believe there is a very thin line between this physical life as we know it and a spiritual journey that awaits us all. In fact, Rebecca Nurse was alive in my head long before I wrote this book.
What drives you to write?
It’s funny, I wanted to write a novel almost 20 years ago during my first TV reporting job in Maine. I was covering a few really strange murders in rural areas that impressed me in how bizarre they were. Then, once my news career started to grow to larger markets, I lost time and focus to write a story about some of the homicide cases I covered as a reporter. Then a few years ago, when I thought of the plot for this book, I just started to write like I was possessed in a good way. The story just came out faster than I could hit the computer keys. My wife Patty reminded me recently that I have a box in the basement of stories I stared to write but never finished. This story just ripped through my mind and formed in my head more than others.
Who influences you as an author?
Ironically, I liked Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work and his love for Salem, Massachusetts and its history, which I share from growing up in the next town. I also loved F. Scott Fitzgerald growing up and the Great Gatsby. More recently, I like a bunch of suspense writers who write in the Robert Ludlum fashion of story-telling and character development.
What book is sitting on your bedside table?
I have several I am in the yearly process of reading. Books on bedside table now are; The Bancroft Strategy by Robert Ludlum, American Assassin by Vince Flynn, The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Alboon, Bobby Orr by Stan Fischler from 1970, Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open, and The Race by Richard North Patterson. Maybe this assortment says a lot about me. I am a little focus challenged, as they say.
What is your favorite book series?
Robert Ludlum, for sure. I just love Jason Bourne before his story was popularized by the movies. I like it when a character people can somehow relate to has his life blown up and just tries to hang on.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Marketing the book series and the upcoming film is always top on my list. There is something so invigorating about books and the movie, and I really enjoy getting out there and talking with new readers. When I step away from all of this, you can probably find me out on a walk. I cannot stand to be inside on a nice, sunny day watching TV. I need to be out doing something, walking, golfing or hiking.
How does your radio career play into your routine?
Well, this is my day job. I really enjoy doing my daily three-hour radio show. A lot of people ask me if having my own live, radio show every day is hard? It is actually the easiest thing I do. It is harder for me to write than do my show. I just love the interaction with listeners and callers. After almost 18 years in TV news, I like radio even more than I ever imagined. There is this close bond with talk show listeners that is two-way. TV is one direction. On TV, you broadcast, an anchor talks and someone receives the show. With radio, like writing, you say or express yourself, and someone connects with you and what you are saying more closely than most mediums.
Who is your favorite Salem VI character?
In writing the book initially, it was Abigail. I got a real sense of her and what made her tick. But Rebecca was really a driving force, and I like how she rises and John really got a sense of this too. I like how when she gets really pissed off, you can feel her rise within John Andrews to get him to do what she wants him to do.
Jack Heath is a one-of-a-kind guy who just keeps making big things happen. His modern-day take on the Salem witch trials has changed my life on so many levels, and the lives of so many readers who enjoy stories he has to tell. Who knows what he’ll be doing next, once the film is released (holidays 2015)? If you are interested in learning more about Jack Heath and his work, please go to www.jackheathradio.com or www.salemwitchtrilogy.com.
The Salem VI series is published by Pressque Publishing and co-authored with John Thompson.