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Interview: Author Keith R. A. DeCandido Discusses His SLEEPY HOLLOW Book

Sleepy Hollow isn’t only on television. The spooky universe is being expanded beyond the screen with two novels from Broadway Books and a comic book series from Boom! Studios. Because really, is there any such thing as too much Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills? No. No, there is not.

Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution will be available Tuesday, September 30, and we spoke with author Keith R.A. DeCandido to learn what it was like to bring Ichabod, Abbie, and the weird happenings of Sleepy Hollow to the page. DeCandido isn’t a stranger to writing book tie-ins to existing franchises. He’s written stories in 25 different licensed universes including Star Trek, Supernatural, and Doctor Who.

Children of the Revolution tells an all-new tale set in the first season of the television series – specifically between episodes 10 and 11. Ichabod and Abbie must learn why medals awarded to ten heroes of the American Revolution by the Second Continental Congress in 1775 are disappearing one by one.

Nerdist: Tell me how you got involved in the Sleepy Hollow universe.

Keith DeCandido: In this particular instance, Random House and Fox did the deal to do a couple of Sleepy Hollow books. The two books they’re leading with are The Secret Journal of Ichabod Crane, which is being written by Alex Irvine and my novel, Children of the Revolution. I was a fan of the show already, but the editor at Random House, Meagan Stacey, hadn’t actually done a tie-in work before. She did her research, basically looked around and saw who had written tie-ins of similar things. Probably the thing on my resumé that got her attention the most was I had written three Supernatural novels.

N: Right, that would do it.

KD: Yeah, I mean there’s a certain amount of crossover in terms of audience, and they’re similar types of shows. So, she got in touch with me. “Do you want to write a ‘Sleepy Hollow‘ book?”

I said, “Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah! Yeah!” because I’m a big fan.

And we did the book. It was actually a very rushed process, because they wanted to get the books out in time for the big debut of the second season. So, the timing of the release is that, basically, both The Secret Journal of Ichabod Crane and Children of the Revolution are both being released around the same time that the second season debuts on Fox.

Sleepy Hollow Children of the Revolution cover

N: One of the interesting things about Sleepy Hollow is that the stories are fantastical but they include tidbits from history. Does your story have any roots in history?

KD: Sort of. The basic notion of somebody else trying to resurrect Serilda of Abaddon from the episode “Blood Moon” – that was given to me by Fox. Fox actually gave me six very basic thumbnails. They weren’t even plots. They were just launching points for things they might want to see.

I was also inspired by a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I live in New York. In fact, I live not very far from the actual town of Sleepy Hollow, and so I took a trip down to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was in the American wing. There are two galleries there that are full of art from the Revolutionary War era, and one of those galleries actually had the famous painting of “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” And there’s another one in there that has a portrait of Marinus Willett, who was the leader of the Sons of Liberty, and he’s holding this really nice sword. Right next to the painting is the actual sword that he’s holding in the painting. It turns out that was issued to him by the Continental Congress in 1775. It was one of ten elegant swords that were issued.

And that gave me the idea. I was like, “Okay. What if the swords also can do magic?” Because that would fit in with the particular twist on the Revolutionary War that we get in Sleepy Hollow. I sent in that proposal, and they sent it back saying, “Great! Can’t be a sword.”

N: So, back to the drawing board?

KD: Yeah. “It needs to be something other than a magic sword.” I’m like, “Okay.”

So, the Congressional Cross is based on an existing thing. They gave out lots of different medals and awards and things over the course of the Revolutionary War, so I just made one up. And the conceit is that the Congressional Cross was offered to ten heroes of the revolution, one of whom was Ichabod Crane. Some of the others who I had them issued to are actual historical figures, and a couple of others are people I made up. These crosses also have the ability to stave off death, basically. So, the coven of Serilda wants to use them to try to resurrect Serilda, and Crane and Abbie are trying to basically stop that from happening.

One of the things they have to do is find out where the heck Crane’s own cross wound up, because he never received it because they had to be created by a French silversmith, and they didn’t make it across the ocean until 1785. And Crane doesn’t have any actual family to give it to. After his encounter with the Horseman, his son was sent off to a orphanage. Katrina was on the run, and the only other family he had was his father, who was on the other side. They weren’t about to give the medal to him.

So, he’s got to find out where it is. He’s got to find the other ones and keep them from getting stolen. Crane, Abbie, Irving, and Jenny are all working together trying to keep the crosses from being stolen and also track down the one that Crane had – and also figure out what they’re being stolen for, because they don’t know that at first. Everybody gets something to do. I thought that was very important.

N: You’ve written several characters in different universes. How do you get into their heads and match their dialogue and delivery? Do you have to binge a series before you begin writing?

KD: I usually do. I mean even if it’s something I’m already familiar with, I tend to immerse myself in it. Because Sleepy Hollow had such a short season, the whole first season had aired when I got the assignment so I was able to blow through it, basically, in one shot. But I’ve done that with all my projects for the most part. I did a Leverage novel last year, and even though I’ve religiously watched Leverage for its entire run, I still sat down and binged it anyway because you notice things when you watch it straight through that you may have missed the first time. And it gives you a chance to really pay attention because then you’re watching it for character insights and nuances and stuff that you don’t necessarily look for when you’re just watching it for fun.

N: I’m curious. Did you have a favorite character in the show versus a favorite character to write in the Sleepy Hollow book, or did they end up being the same?

KD: I like all the characters on the show. I’m particularly glad that I set up my plot in such a way that I got to write several scenes with Corbin. There are a couple of flashbacks that involve Corbin as well as toward the end – there’s a sequence where a spell is cast on all four of the main characters, where they find themselves basically living lives that they would’ve lived if all this craziness didn’t exist. In Abbie’s case, she’s working at the FBI, and Corbin’s still alive, and she gets a phone call from him and talks to him. There were a couple of flashbacks with Corbin involving Jenny and one other original character in the book who both worked with Corbin prior to where the show started. And that was mostly because it’s just an excuse to write Clancy Brown whom I love.


Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution will be available on September 30. Look for my review of the book soon, and if you need more Sleepy Hollow in the meantime, don’t forget to listen to SleepyCast: The Official Sleepy Hollow Podcast on the Nerdist Podcast Network.

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  1. Bustopher Jones says:

    This answers questions I’ve had for a while about the world of tie-in writing.  Thanks for asking the right questions, Nerdist.