Jack Heath is the host of NH Today, New Hampshire’s only live afternoon radio talk show, and cohost of Sport Legends of New England with Bob Lobel, which can be seen throughout New England. A direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse, the last person to be tried and hanged during the Salem witch trials, and Ann R. Putnam, one of her accusers, his first novel, Salem VI, is an altogether modern take on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Q & A
How did Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising, come to life?
I always had in my mind growing up 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 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 a 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?” The rest is this book that John and I collaborated on and brought to life…I cannot wait to finish Book 2 as John Andrews fights on…
What can you tell us about the next two books in this Salem Witch trilogy?
Book 2 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 Book 2 continues unraveling the neat history Salem and we have our twists along the way. Like 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. Book 3 takes us on a global chase which ties together broader good vs. evil plots and characters, but all tying back to the late 1600’s and why evil took root in Salem. But readers will be amazed when they see how that evil has roots and havens elsewhere and still does. You will have to wait until the spring of 2013 to read more. But Book 2 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.
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.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do?
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 starting 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.
Are there any writers who inspire your own work?
Ironically, I liked Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work and his love for Salem, Massachusetts and the 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. The 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. Just love Jason Bourne before the story was popular by the movies. I like it when a character people can somehow relate to have his life blown up and just tried to hang on.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like walking and being outdoors. I cannot stand to be inside on a nice, sunny day watching TV. I need to be out doing something, walking, golfing or hiking. I also like 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 because there is this close bond with talk show listeners that is two-way. TV is one directional. 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.