Hendrix | Photos provided

Author Grady Hendrix, known for writing about the creepy and the macabre, released his latest novel, How to Sell a Haunted House, Jan. 17. To celebrate the release, he is hosting a book signing with Buxton Books at the Riviera Theater Friday at 7: 30 p.m.

The New York City-based author regularly visits Charleston, his hometown, to see family and friends and collect inspiration. While catching up with the City Paper over beers at a Mount Pleasant restaurant, Hendrix was as nerdy and enthusiastic as ever. 

“For this book, I wanted to spend time with an imaginary family,” Grady said. “If you’re doing a horror novel about a family, or writing about a haunted house, like most haunted house stories, [you’ll deal with themes of] family versus family secrets, and watching the family fall apart.”

Grady’s How To Sell A Haunted House closes out a trilogy series set in Charleston — specifically in Mount Pleasant. It started with My Best Friend’s Exorcism, focusing on high school friendships told through the eyes of a teeneger. His New York Times bestselling book, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, followed, exploring parental fears. How to Sell a Haunted House examines the five stages of grief as two adult children ponder a future without their parents. 

In the book, estranged siblings, Louise and Mark Joyner reunite after their parents suddenly die in a car accident. Mark, the aimless creative that still lives in his hometown of Charleston, and Louise, the determined single parent who moved far away from her birthplace, meet up to begin the process of cleaning out their childhood home. Old memories begin to haunt them — as well as a few other things.

“In Beloved, the Toni Morrison book, it’s all about her and her children and trying to forge this family. In Haunting of Hill House, Eleanor is dealing with the death for mother and alienation from her sister. That was all part of [my inspiration for this book].”

The other source of inspiration stemmed from something more personal.

“I once was cleaning out a friend’s house after they died, which was just dealing with all the shit they left behind,” he said. “And being down here during the pandemic, my mom had a couple of health scares. I remember looking around her garage and thinking, ‘This is all gonna have to go.’ It’s not family heirlooms. It’s theater programs she saved over the years, her clothes and stuff like that. What do you do with all these things that are left behind when someone dies? 

I’ve always thought that there was a weakness when we deal with inanimate objects. I don’t think people talk about it a whole lot, but we all have really weird relationships with inanimate objects. We yell at our cars. We beg our laptops not to crash. We have teddy bears and people work in the offices surrounded by Funko big head things and plush baby Yodas. I think they really cut through our defenses.”

An inanimate object — a puppet named Pupkin — plays a central part in How To Sell A Haunted House. Even Pupkin is inspired by Hendricks’ real life.

“Pupkin is directly inspired by my wife’s stuffed doll, Snocchio, which she had as a kid,” he said. “We still have Snocchio. No one’s quite sure where he came from. Somewhere between [ages] one and three, he popped up in Amanda’s crib, and she’s had him all her life, and she keeps him around. The first time I met Snocchio, my bowels froze. We basically live with a murder clown in the house.”

Though Hendrix is excited to have finished the trilogy, he said How to Sell a Haunted House may be his last book set in the Holy City. 

“I don’t know Charleston anymore! … Every time I come, it’s different. On the one hand, I love it, because they feel like it’s a better city in a lot of ways than the one I grew up in. It’s got a lot more going on. … But on the other hand, every assessment says it’s gonna be underwater in 30 years, and no one’s doing much about that.”

Hendrix will sign books during an event hosted by Buxton Books at the Riviera Theater Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 and include a copy of the book. Visit gradyhendrix.com to learn more.

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