New Paltz resident Susannah Appelbaum has created a world in which poisons and antidotes are necessary for survival in her children’s trilogy, “The Poisons of Caux.”
Appelbaum’s third novel and the final installment of her children’s trilogy titled “The Shepherd of Weeds” is set to come out on Oct. 11 from Knopf Books for Young Readers.
“I was one of those kids that was always reading and writing my own stories,” Appelbaum said. “The trestleman character in my Caux books came from a story I wrote when I was 8-years-old.”
While living in Normandy, France as a young child, Appelbaum was surrounded by nature. The name caux, meaning limestone in French, was included in nearby neighborhood names and was the inspiration for the title of her trilogy. Her early fascination with poison and the outdoors serves as the backdrop for her stories.
“I was always an outdoor person,” Appelbaum said. “I was burning things and making little scientific experiments.”
Appelbaum’s trilogy is a story of perseverance. The main character, 11-year-old Ivy Manx, has a duty to save her world from the evil King Shepherd and the taster’s guild despite her young age.
“I was really drawn to Ivy primarily because she’s such a survivor,” Appelbaum said. “I thought a lot about Joan of Arc who in the face of such obstacles had self-reliance and courage.”
“The Shepherds of Weeds” mirrors the trials of Joan of Arc as Ivy rallies together the people of Caux to defeat the corrupted taster’s guild, a group of food tasters who charge people for their services. Without a certified taster, one runs the risk of being poisoned. Appelbaum’s wry and witty writing style works to depict Ivy’s adventurous spirit and sense of courage.
Owen Sullivan, a 12-year-old New Paltz resident, said he admires Ivy’s selflessness.
“You have to be willing to get the mission done no matter the cost to you,” Sullivan said.
The writing process took 10 years and Appelbaum said, “the stories changed and grew from what I initially intended.”
Before starting the second book, Appelbaum had to “establish some rules for the trilogy” and the process was meticulous. The second book in the author’s trilogy, “The Taster’s Guild,” was Appelbaum’s favorite book to write as she found the writing process to be much more fluid and enjoyable.
“I got to be really free and tell the story like I wanted to,” Appelbaum said.
However, writing this trilogy did not come without obstacles.
“It’s hard to be a writer and a mother,” Appelbaum said.
Appelbaum, who has two young children, had to carve out time to create the magical world of Caux while taking care of responsibilities in her own world.
“I’m very happy that it’s concluded,” Appelbaum said. “I’m very proud of how the third book has ended.”
Appelbaum has already started to write a new book which will be primarily for teenagers. She describes the book as “a little darker” than her children’s trilogy.
Appelbaum will be holding a book launch for “The Shepherd of Weeds” on Oct. 15 at Inquiring Minds, a book store in New Paltz. The launch begins at 2 p.m. and will be feature a reading, signing, and question and answer session.
To learn more about the author, visit www.susannahappelbaum.com.