Emily Arsenault will appear at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison on Tuesday, February 2nd, at 7:00 p.m. to discuss her new novel, “The Evening Spider.” This event is free and open to the public; reservations can be made online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. Copies of the book will be available for purchase/signing. Location: 768 Boston Post Rd.
Today, Hartford Books Examiner offers virtual greetings to Emily Arsenault.
Ms. Arsenault is the author of “The Evening Spider” (William Morrow Paperbacks). Her previous novels include “The Broken Teaglass,” “In Search of the Rose Notes,” “Miss Me When I’m Gone,” and “What Strange Creatures.” She studied philosophy in college, worked at Merriam-Webster (helping to write definitions for their dictionaries), and worked as part of the Peace Corps in South Africa. Ms. Arsenault makes her home in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.
“The Evening Spider” was published earlier this week. Publishers Weekly awarded the title a starred review, noting: “Arsenault deftly shifts among three perspectives in this exquisitely creepy blend of historical true crime and modern ghost story … Arsenualt’s gift for letting readers feel the characters’ anguish from the inside while showing their irrational strangeness from the outside makes for terror that sticks.” Further, Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of “The Aviator’s Wife” and “The Swans of Fifth Avenue,” praised: “a good old-fashioned gothic novel with a modern twist; a tale of dusty old journals, creaky houses, and ghostly whispers … Arsenault never strays from the task at hand, which is to keep you up all night with a light burning until you reach the surprising end.”
From the publisher:
A gripping blend of psychological suspense and historical true crime, this riveting novel—inspired by a sensational real-life murder from the 1800s—by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault delivers a heart-stopping mystery linking two young mothers from different centuries.
Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.
1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.
During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.
Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.
Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.
Now, Emily Arsenault reveals a few pages from the book of her life …
John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?
Emily Arsenault: Very much loud and proud. In addition to going to the library all the time, I’d go to the local Waldenbooks every week or two and my mother would let me pick out a book. I had a ton of paperbacks, lined up on my bedroom shelves. A couple of kids from my neighborhood would come over regularly to borrow from my personal “library.” I doled out the kind of books that our library didn’t carry—Sweet Valley, Babysitters’ Club, and some trashier fare as well.
JV: What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?
EA: Ghosts stories, books about psychic powers, or anything by Lois Lowry.
JV: What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?
EA: I’m about 300 pages into “The Executioner’s Song.” I’ve been picking it up and putting it down for several months now, reading other books in between doses. I’m not sure why it’s taking me so long. I’m fascinated by the story and impressed with the level of emotional depth Norman Mailer reaches with so many of the people involved. I just recently read the section about Gary Gilmore’s mother reflecting on her life and her son—just after she learns he committed murder—and it is so tragic and so beautifully written. It has stayed with me for days.
JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?
EA: This changes every few years. I don’t have an all-time favorite book. In the last couple of years, I’ve been recommending “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” (by Tom Franklin) to a lot of people.
JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?
EA: This is a difficult question because they are all pretty different, and one is always tempted to suggest the most recent book. But I’d say “In Search of the Rose Notes” if you’re looking for suspense, “What Strange Creatures” if you’re looking for laughs. “In Search of the Rose Notes” is probably the closest to my heart, since the eleven-year-old character and her friends were drawn from my own childhood experiences.
JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?
EA: “101 Dalmatians,” the dollar store edition. My daughter is obsessed with dark stories with cruel witches and villains, and this one she keeps making me read to her over and over. While I wonder about her taste sometimes, I really enjoy perfecting my Cruella de Vil voice.
JV: Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?
EA: Lionel Shriver.
JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?
EA: Not really. I’m still waiting to make it, I guess—although any time I get paid to write something, it feels like I’ve already “made it,” on some level, because I feel so lucky. One time my mother called me to tell me that she saw someone reading one of my books on an airplane. That was pretty exciting—proof that someone outside of friends and immediate family is reading my books.
JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?
EA: Perhaps to write a book I love so much that I don’t care what anyone says about it or how many copies it sells. Something I’d want all of my grandkids to read one day.
JV: Fill in the blank: Hartford Books Examiner is _____.
EA: Always a pleasure to work with. Thank you for all your hard work!
With thanks to Emily Arsenault for her generosity of time and thought and to Katie Steinberg, Publicist at HarperCollins, for helping to facilitate this interview.
Don’t forget: The author will appear at R.J. Julia in Madison next Tuesday evening, February 2nd, at 7:00 p.m.