Map of NC

Map of NC

April 18, 2024

An Interview with Esme Addison
Esme Addison is a fantastic North Carolina author. She has published two books so far in the Enchanted Bay series, a mystery series that follows Alex Daniels after she moves back home to help her family run their apothecary only to discover that her family has ties to a long-ago mermaid. 

Her new book, An Intrigue of Witches, comes out May 7th, and I’ll let her explain more about it below. Her blend of genres is truly delightful and sure to draw in readers. Below she discusses a bit of her writing process and inspiration. Check out our interview with Esme Addison and find all her books listed on the NC Literary Map.

 How long have you been writing and what first inspired you to start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. The first ‘book’ I wrote was in the 6th grade, and it was an assignment for my Language Arts class. We had to write the story, illustrate it and create the cover out of cardboard. My love affair with books began then. And when I discovered that S.E. Hinton published The Outsiders as a high school student, I was inspired to become an author. I thought – if she can do it as a kid, so can I.

Your new book is set in a fictional town in North Carolina. Can you explain a bit of your process when creating these places? Why North Carolina and do you use real cities and towns to base them off of?

I’m from North Carolina. I love my home state though I have traveled the world and lived in other states for a time. And I enjoy setting my stories in places that feel comfortable for me, like home. Like those decals you see on the backs of cars with the outline of the state of North Carolina with a heart and the words home in the middle? That’s how I feel.

So, there’s always a perfect somewhere in this state for one of my stories. My newest book, An Intrigue Of Witches is located near New Bern. Because my other series is on the coast, I wanted a different setting. It didn’t need to be special so I thought just somewhere in the middle of the state. Much of the story takes place at a living colonial-era museum so I wanted it to be near a real place with American Revolutionary history.

And when I decided to create a scene at Tryon Palace, creating a fictional town near New Bern just seemed natural. Late in the story, I decided I wanted a river to run through the town, and again being near the Neuse just make sense.

As far as how I create the town, it just develops as I write. I can usually see it in my minds eyes. But it always begins with a main street and a historic district. Like always.

My other series, the Enchanted Bay Mysteries is about a family of women descended from the Polish Mermaid Of Warsaw. They own an enchanted herbal apothecary and live in a community of people with and without magical abilities.

They had to be near the ocean, as they draw their magic from the element of water, especially the sea. And since I spent time as a military spouse near Camp Lejeune, I wanted to use a general beach community between Jacksonville and Wilmington, areas I was familiar with.

Your books also all have a magical element. Why have you chosen fantasy for your novels and what do you find the most difficult about building these magical systems?

I’m not sure why I’ve gravitated toward fantasy and science fiction. I’ve written other books that will probably never see the light of day in high school and college. Two were contemporary YA, one was a romcom and the other historical fiction.

But, I always write the book I want to read. And I also want to write something that is unique to me – only a book I can write. My books combine genres and include unorthodox elements by design. I don’t want to write just ‘any ol’ thing’. I want it to really represent my interests as a writer…. Which are eccentric and obscure.

My parents made sure there were plenty books in our home, and I was exposed to classic fiction, and non-fiction that explored new age subjects, conspiracies, hidden histories…all the things I write about.

I really don’t find anything difficult about magical world building. It’s fun and exciting for me to create worlds as I write. I think the actual concern would be if I wasn’t writing in magical elements, would I be interested in the story?

Please give us a quick elevator speech of your new book, An Intrigue of Witches.

When a historian is invited to a small town to find an elusive artifact, she discovers secrets about her heritage and unveils a government conspiracy that stems from North Carolina’s the colonial-era.

You must to do a lot of research on herbal remedies, myths, and history to write your books. What is your research process like for writing a story?

This is true, I do a crazy amount of research. But I do this irrespective of writing. I’m always learning about new things. Sometimes I create ideas for books because I found something while researching and want to explore it more. You could say writing a book gives me a good excuse to research many things.

Mostly I research as I go, falling down several useful research rabbit holes. I take notes and then return to writing. Beyond that, I am always researching something that I know will be useful one day. I screenshot, bookmark and save as PDFs many topics for future reference.

I am an amateur herbalist, so I know a lot about herbal remedies but I still research and confirm information as I write.

The Enchanted Bay series pulls inspiration from Polish legend, specifically the Mermaid of Warsaw. How did you first hear about this? What about this story attracted you to it enough to write a series centered around it?

I’d discovered cozy fantasy and cozy mysteries a couple years prior, and decided I wanted to create my own. I’d married into a first generation Polish family and wanted a story where I could add all the delicious food and baked goods my mother-in-law prepared for me. That was truly my initial motivation.

One of my favorite fantasy mysteries is about a group of witches in Savannah, Georgia so I thought I’d create a series around a Polish bakery and a family of ‘kitchen witches’. However, editors weren’t interested in the idea so I began researching Polish history and mythology trying to find something interesting and different enough to pique my interest.

I’d never heard of the Polish Mermaid Of Warsaw, but I found a wiki page and was immediately fascinated by the story. A quick internet search showed me that not much had been written about the myth, despite the fact that if you travel to Warsaw (as I have) you’ll find mermaid statues and likenesses all over the place.

There was no way I could not not write about this myth. And I was challenged to find a way to write a grounded, practical story about women in a small town that were descended from a mythological creature that was actually flesh and blood. In my story, the characters are genetically mermaid so presenting as everyday humans, but they have some paranormal or magical abilities that come along with that dna. My goal with the Enchanted Bay Mystery series is to answer the question: If the Mermaid Of Warsaw myth was actually true, what would that look like today in our real, contemporary world.

What can you tell us about the third book in the series?

Not too much at this point, I’ll just say that it’s set in the fall, the women are planning an Oktoberfest and the 40th anniversary of a serial killer that stalked the town one summer and was never caught causes problems for the good folk of Bellamy Bay, NC.

As the NC Literary Map, we love supporting and showcasing the authors and literary works of North Carolina. Can you tell us what North Carolina authors or books you would recommend?

One of my favorite NC authors is Sarah Addison Allen. She’s one of the first authors I read that combined small town Southern settings, family dynamics and magical realism – all things I love. And I try to include those elements in my writing as well.


April 1, 2024

An Interview with The Bookhouse

The Bookhouse is an independent bookstore in Winston-Salem, but it is also so much more than that. The owners, Tara Cool and Meghan Brown, told us about how they’ve created a place for gathering and community, as well as books. We were lucky enough to be able to ask them about their store, how they got to where they are, and what makes them stand out. Enjoy learning about The Bookhouse and its owners in the below interview!

You’ve been open for a year now. Has running a bookstore been what you imagined? What’s been the biggest surprise?

We opened our doors in July of 2023, and it has been a crazy ride. We have loved owning/operating a bookstore and getting to know our community. This has been both as fun and as difficult as we expected. We would say that our biggest surprise was the processes for licensing (both for food/drink and alcohol).

What advice would you give to yourself one year ago?

To be patient with ourselves as we navigate owning a business and getting to know our clientele. 

What’s it like running a bookstore with your sister?

It’s bittersweet. It’s great to work on a project together but that also means we don’t get to see each other as much outside of the business. 

For many, owning a bookstore is a dream job. Can you tell us what a typical day at work is like for you?

One day is never the same as another. It’s a lot of fun because we get to talk about the things we love, books, and we get to talk to and get to know our customers. Some days it can be fast-paced and other days it’s very chill. We are checking in inventory, helping customers find books, and running the bar. 

What are some of your favorite memories of books?

Meg: I remember when Tara was little, and she would bring me piles of books to read to her in the living room. She will say she never liked reading before Harry Potter but it is one of my fondest memories of books and being a big sister to Tara.

Tara: I actually don’t remember liking to read when I was younger. I used to hate going to the library in elementary school, but one summer my babysitter read the first Harry Potter book to us and I was hooked. I haven’t stopped reading since.

I see that you do a lot of events with North Carolina authors. How do you find and choose who to invite? Is there someone you haven’t had at the store that you would love to invite?

It is mostly just through building relationships. We get to know many local authors that come into the store, or through our customers. We would love to host Sarah McCoy. She has been a great supporter and friend! We would also like to host Adrienne Young and Hugh Howey. 

What makes your bookstore unique? Do you have any types of books that you specialize in?

What makes our store unique is that we are not only a bookstore. We offer local craft beers, wine, coffee teas, and grab-and-go snack items. We also have some locally sourced baked goods available. We are designed to be a gathering place for the community and often host live music and other events.

You’re not originally from Winston-Salem, so what brought you there and what led you to stay? How have you built your own community within it?

Meg: I moved here to be closer to family (although I did leave quite a bit of family in NY at the same time) but we also felt like there were better opportunities for my family here. We have established a love for the city and our community, my family is thriving here. Of course, The Bookhouse is just one of the anchors keeping us here.

Tara: I moved here about seven years ago to be closer to family as my parents relocated here for a job. I quickly fell in love with Winston-Salem. It is the perfect sized city. We have a lot of revitalization happening and there is a lot to do, but the community is small enough that you will run into people you know when you are out and about. We have a fun arts culture and so many great outdoor spaces, that it was easy to settle in and make this place home. I have built community through my church, the places I have worked, and of course The Bookhouse. We are so blessed to be able to meet many different kinds of people and get to know our community better!

The mission of the NC Literary Map is to share and promote the literary heritage of our state, which is not unlike what a bookstore aims to do. How do you think organizations like us can work together to both achieve our goals?

There are so many ways to do this, but I think it really boils down to education. One thing we try to do is to host local authors often, but we also love to feature other North Carolina authors in the store. I love Wiley Cash, and I recently learned that one of his inspirations was John Ehle. I had never heard of John before, but now I am hooked. I love to tell my customers about him and help them learn a little more about our North Carolina authors. By continuing to learn about our North Carolina authors, we can connect people with authors in their preferred genre.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our followers?

We are more than a bookstore. We are also a gathering place. We love to discuss with our customers what they are reading, make recommendations, get recommendations, and share a little life together. We are designed to create a space where people can come together, and the bar really facilitates that. We offer coffee, tea, beer, wine, and small baked goods/snacks that encourage people to linger and gather.

As the NC Literary Map, we love supporting and showcasing the authors and literary works of North Carolina. Can you tell us what North Carolina authors or books you would recommend?

·         The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young

·         Wool by Hugh Howey

·         Sun Eater Series by Christopher Ruocchio

·         Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

A Land More Kind Than Home – Wiley Cash