Exclusive Interview: “A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon” Author Sarah Hawley
While some fantasy novels have a bit of romance in them, writer Sarah Hawley is taking the opposite approach with her new series, Glimmer Falls, by having them be fantasy rom-coms. In the following email interview, Hawley discusses both this series, and the book that kicks it off, A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon (paperback, Kindle, audiobook).
Photo Credit: © Mahina Hawley Photography
To begin, what is A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon about, and what kind of world is it set in?
A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon is a fantasy rom-com about a magically-challenged witch (Mariel Spark) who tries to summon flour and accidentally summons a demon (Ozroth The Ruthless), who can’t leave until he claims her soul. When her meddling mother asks who the hot, strange man in her kitchen is, Mariel panics and claims he’s her boyfriend. The two are stuck fake-dating while trying to navigate their opposing goals, and they fall in love on the way. It’s set in the small town of Glimmer Falls, Washington State, in a magical version of our contemporary world; Taylor Swift exists, but so do dragons.
Where did you get the idea for A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon?
I come from a fantasy background, but love reading all sorts of romance, so I thought it would be fun to write a fantasy romance. I love books with magic in them and decided my heroine should be a witch, and since I enjoy enemies-to-lovers as a trope, I brainstormed who might be a worthy / sexy adversary for said witch. An accidentally-summoned demon sounded good, since the stakes would be high for both of them: he needs to harvest her soul to salvage his reputation as a soul bargainer and protect the demon plane, and she obviously does not want to do that, since her soul includes her magic.
And just so everyone is clear: A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon is not an instructional book. If you’re a witch, this is not going to help you fake date one of Hell’s minions, correct?
If you buy this book, I promise* one (1) very attractive demon will appear in your kitchen to sweep you off your feet and hopefully not harvest your eternal soul.
(*terms and conditions may apply, “promise” is a strong word, please see crystal ball for details)
As you said, A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon is a fantasy rom-com. But it sounds like it might be more fantasy than romance…
No, I would say it’s solidly in the romance category. The fantasy is woven throughout the book, and is essential for the setting and plot, but ultimately the A plot revolves around a witch and a demon falling in love, and the magical hijinks are the B plot. Also, I don’t want to alarm anyone who picks it up expecting “a bit” of romance and finds their eyes burned out by a sex scene (it is explicit, fair warning).
It also sounds like A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon might be humorous.
It is humorous (I hope!) It’s more on the jokey tongue-in-cheek side. One of my early reviews from author Vivien Jackson described it as “If Good Omens were a small-town, enemies-to-lovers rom-com.” I think keeping the humor light and including a lot of it, from awkward situations to dad jokes to esoteric references only I may find funny, keeps the book fast-paced and cheerful in tone while hopefully including a bit of humor for everyone.
So then what funny people do you think had the biggest influence on the humor in A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon?
My family is full of odd people with fast-paced wit, an appreciation of the absurd, and a wide repertoire of knowledge to draw from, so I’m mostly a product of my environment. That said, Douglas Adams was definitely an early influence on my humor. I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide series at a formative age, and that occasionally dark absurdism (the poor whale??) is a delight. I think my book may be the only romance that opens with the heroine accidentally exploding a chicken.
Aside from Adams, are there any other writers who you think had a particularly big influence on A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon?
Kresley Cole writes the absolute most bonkers paranormal romances, and her Immortals After Dark series was a huge influence. Her books are explicit, strange, and often quite funny, and she sets the gold standard for “I didn’t know you could do that in a romance novel.” People are constantly losing limbs, one heroine catapults the hero off his castle in Hell using a trebuchet counterweighted with a bag of stone penises, and one hero memorably gifts a heroine a sack of severed heads when she really just wanted concert tickets. That absurdity is a delight, and reading authors like her made me feel free to be as weird as I wanted.
How about non-literary influences; was A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Not really. I did watch a bit of Charmed and Buffy when I was younger, but ultimately this was just an idea I would have liked reading.
And what about your cats? What influence did they have on A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon?
Their influence has been to sit on my hands to prevent me from typing. It’s so helpful. Their names are Coco and Starbuck (after Starbuck in the B.S.G. reboot). Coco is a friendly, clumsy gentleman, while Starbuck is a nervous wreck, so the name didn’t confer any special traits to her.
Fantasy stories — be they romantic, humorous, or something else — are sometimes stand-alone stories and sometimes part of larger sagas. What is A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon? Is it the first book in a series or a stand-alone story?
It’s both. The story stands alone, but it’s the first book in a trilogy of romances set in Glimmer Falls. Romance novels incline themselves towards series because you can sprinkle in interesting side characters and then build out their Happily Ever Afters in future books. Romance readers (myself included) often finish a book and say things like “I can’t wait for X to have a story” or “When will Y get a book??” so that anticipation of an expanding world is built into the genre.
Do you know yet what the other books will be called or when they’ll be out?
There are three books contracted in the Glimmer Falls series. The second one, A Demon’s Guide To Wooing A Witch, should be out November 28, 2023, and the third (title TBD) will theoretically be out in spring 2024. They’re getting progressively weirder as they go. I just turned in the draft for book 3, which features an anxious werewolf hero who likes knitting and a vampire heroine who likes hissing and threatening to disembowel people.
Upon hearing that A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon is the first book of a trilogy, some people might decide to hold off reading any of them until all three are out. But I don’t get the sense that there’s a good reason to wait.
There’s no reason to wait. The plot of A Demon’s Guide To Wooing A Witch picks up immediately after the events of the first book, and features side characters from Fake Dating, but Fake Dating doesn’t end on a cliffhanger for Mariel and Oz. It’s a stand-alone story.
Earlier I asked if A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to turn things around, do you think A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon could work as a movie, show, or game?
I think it could be a very fun TV show. Romance is an amazing genre for adapting to TV because it’s character driven and lends itself well to serialization (and with the success of Bridgerton, I hope many more romance series get adapted). With each season revolving around a different couple, a show can simultaneously stay character-focused while building out long-term narrative threads. There’s also the element of viewer anticipation — “I can’t wait for so-and-so’s season” — which I’ve seen in a lot of conversation around Bridgerton. Plus, the writers won’t have to keep breaking up couples to keep the narrative interesting, which always drives me nuts: “I was pining for this romance for three seasons and the characters broke up after two episodes??” When you have a new couple every season, everyone can stay happy.
So, if someone wanted to make a Glimmer Falls TV show, who would you want them to cast as Mariel, Ozroth, and the other main characters?
Fan casting is really not my strength, to be honest. Oz has elements of Jon Bernthal [The Punisher] and Adam Driver [Star Wars], but mostly the characters just live in my head. I’d love to hear readers’ suggestions, though.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon?
People should know it is a very lonely book that just wants to sit next to some other books on a shelf. If readers buy it or borrow it from the library and take it home, it will be so happy!!!
Finally, if someone enjoys A Witch’s Guide To Fake Dating A Demon, what humorous fantasy romance novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for A Demon’s Guide To Wooing A Witch to come out?
For a similar tone, I’d recommend my friend Jenna Levine’s book, My Roommate Is A Vampire, which is hilarious and comes out later in 2023. I also adored The Dead Romantics by Ash Poston, which has a paranormal element and is funny but also bittersweet. And, obviously, anything by Kresley Cole.