Chasing Azrael: Gritty New Paranormal Mystery Series Raises Vital Awareness of Bipolar Disorder.
The ‘Deathly Insanity’ series uses gripping urban mystery and heaps of the paranormal to keep its readers on the edge of their seats. However, the series is also serving a vital dual-purpose by openly examining societal attitudes towards Bipolar Disorder and Depression. The first volume, ‘Chasing Azrael’, sees author Hazel Butler serve up the perfect start to what’s poised to be a best-selling series.
PURCHASE LINKS for CHASING AZRAEL
Interview with Hazel Butler
Hazel is a twenty eight year old author, artist and archaeologist from Cheshire, England. She is currently in the final year of her PhD, which focuses on Gender Dynamics in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Britain. She studied archaeology at The University of Manchester, then Bangor University, and spent two years doing corporate archaeology and research excavations, both in Britain and Austria. She has had papers published in international journals and online.
Since 2010, she has been working on Chasing Azrael, a Gothic Literary novel and the first in the Deathly Insanity Series, a set of Paranormal Mystery/Urban Fantasy novels with overlapping character and plot-lines. Although these novels have a strong supernatural element they also explore themes of mental health, in particular Bipolar Disorder, which Hazel herself has suffered from since her early teens.
Hi Hazel! Sooo, let’s start at the beginning. Tell me a little bit about Chasing Azrael. No spoilers, though!
Chasing Azrael is primarily a ghost story, following main character Andee Tilbrook as she attempts to recover from her husband James’s death. Andee has the ability to see ghosts, and as a result can still see and speak with James on a regular basis. At the start of the novel, two years have passed since his death, but for Andee the grief is still as fresh as the day he died, and she is contemplating suicide. Her personal problems take a slight backseat when Josh, one of her closest friends, is threatened by a very unstable ex-girlfriend. Andee has a gut reaction to this woman that tells her something is very wrong, and soon enough is proven correct, when it transpires she is wanted in connection to a string of murders. Andee gets dragged into the murder investigated by Robert, the same detective who investigated James’s death, and she ends up torn between James, Josh, and Robert, as she tries to puzzle out how she feels and use her abilities to solve the murders.
On a deeper level however, Chasing Azrael is more than simply a paranormal whodoneit. It examines depression, suicide, and mental illness, as well as societal attitudes to bipolar disorder and the effects those attitudes can have on people with the condition.
I like the cover, who designed it?
The cover has actually just changed, so I’m not sure which to talk about. The original cover was a digital painting done by myself. I was never entirely happy with it however, as I found the colour scheme a little dull, and the composition too busy. I have just changed it for a new design – this one a digital photo manipulation, also done by myself – which has a much brighter colour scheme and a far simpler composition. I am very pleased with the new cover, although it is very different.
You’re a very talented artist in your own right. Have you created any artwork to go with Chasing Azrael?
Yes I have, although I haven’t released any of it. I may at some point, but there are no plans to do so as of yet.
When it comes to writing, do you prefer to plan ahead or do you just write and write and write until you pass out?
It depends what I’m writing. Chasing Azrael was very cathartic for me. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010 and writing became a way for me to order my thoughts and feelings, come to terms with the diagnosis, and try to express in a way others – who had never suffered any form of mental illness – could understand, just what it was like to live a bipolar life, or live with someone who was bipolar. I had no idea where the book was going when I started writing. I just kept writing until suddenly I had the bones of a book. I then built it up from there. Other projects I plan meticulously. I’m currently working on the sequel to Chasing Azrael, the second book in the Deathly Insanity series, Death Becomes Me. That one has a very complicated plot, and has taken a great deal of time and effort to plan properly. The whole series gets complicated at this point, because the books have different bit overlapping characters and plotlines.
How long have you been writing?
Fiction? Since my very early teens, although it wasn’t particularly good back then. I wrote a few short pieces that impressed my English teachers at school and I think that encouraged me to continue, although to be honest I think I would have done whether I was any good or not. I wrote my first full length novel when I was about nineteen and kept working on that for a couple more years. I had started a second one but gave that up when I started Chasing Azrael. There have been numerous short stories, novellas, and novel plans done since then. I’ve also started two other novels, one of which is about half done.
Do you write full time or part time?
Erm… tricky question. I write fiction part time, but my full time job is as a freelance editor, proofreader, copywriter, researcher, and artist, so I generally spend most of my time writing or doing art work.
When you’re not writing, what keeps you busy?
More writing? Seriously the writing never ends. I spend a couple of afternoons/evenings a week with a writing group and that’s my main time off. I run my own business, so I don’t have a lot of free time. When I do, I walk my dog, who is very loyal and sits patiently under my desk as long as I’m working. I also do my own art work, and I play the piano. I have two god-daughters and a young niece and I spend as much time as I can with them. I’m also an avid reader, and a huge fan of a wide range of TV shows and films, so it all keeps me busy. Multi-tasking. I’ve found that’s the key.
What book/books are you reading at the moment?
I’m actually in the midst of my annual re-read of all my Robin Hobb books. I love Robin Hobb, she’s by far my favourite author (so much so that the Fantasy and Science Fiction imprint of my publishing house, Astrid Press, is named after her). Every year I re-read her books. I’m doing it a little earlier than usual this year, it’s usually an early winter thing, but I’m going to London on the 19th August to meet her and George R.R. Martin, and she has just released a new novel, so I’m doing it early. I’m delaying reading the new novel until I’ve finished and it’s agony – I treasure her books so much, having a new one I’ve never read before is the biggest treat imaginable.
And lastly, most importantly, do you prefer dragons or pancakes?
To eat? Or which do I prefer? I prefer dragons, but I would not like to eat one, so if the question was food related definitely pancakes.
The Force is strong with this one. We’ll keep her for a while.
Blessed be, my little pixies