01-29-2013 10:27 AM
Q&A with Paula Brackston
Debbie - Paula Welcome to the General Fiction forum at B&N.com.
Paula - It's great to be here.
Tell us a little about your new novel The Winter Witch.
The book is set in a remote part of Wales in about 1830, and tells the story of a young girl, Morgana, who enters an arranged marriage with a widowed Drover. She moves to his farmhouse, which is only fifty miles or so away, but Morgana, like many people of that time, has never travelled beyond the horizon she could see from her cottage, so she feels very homesick and lost. The story is about how she comes to love her new home, and how she finds a connection with the place that kindles the spark of magic within her.
I see a pattern in your titles. What made you interested enough to write about witches?
The character of Bess, in my first book 'The Witch's Daughter' came to me along with the idea for that story. The more I wrote about her, and the more research I did, the more interested I became in the idea of real magic, and of the very real power it could give a woman.
I mean, wouldn't it be just wonderful? Imagine being able to cast spells that worked, to heal people, to protect yourself, to help someone in trouble, to fly, perhaps, or to shapeshift, maybe. I write about things I'd love to do myself but know I never will. My witches are my alter egos while I'm writing the books, and then I hope they become that for my readers, too.
The challenge for me now is to find stories that different witches can inhabit, so I can explore the many types of magic there are. And invent some news ones! After all, I write fiction because I enjoy making things up.
What are you working on now and does it involve a witch?
I'm just finishing a book set in London between 1913 and 1920, and yes, of course it has a witch! Lots of 'em, in fact. With luck and a following wind it should be out in 2014.
Along this same vein, on your website, it mentions that you get your inspirations and ideas from “stomping about on the mountains being serenaded by skylarks and buzzards.” What is it about your home in Wales that inspires you?
I grew up here, so part of that inspiration comes from reconnecting with a child-like pleasure in things, I think. It certainly helps if I'm imagining magic!
Also, a wild, open place like this - it makes me feel that humans are pretty insignificant really. Nature is so much more than just our experience of it, and it is full of wonder. How does a tiny bird survive a winter up here? How do sheep not fall off those rocky escarpments? How do the swallows fly thousands of miles back here in the spring to find the same nest each year? Why do the fiery Welsh ponies allow us to ride them when their nature is to run free? And animals appear not to have lost the 'sixth' sense we humans scarcely retain any more. There's something special going on in these places. I feel very lucky to live here.
You’ve also written under the name P J Davy. Why the pseudonym?
I wrote a dark comedy with a mental health theme, so this book was completely different from my historical fantasies. I didn't want to confuse my readers. Although I have to say it confused me, being two different people. Davy was my grandmother's name (we are related to Sir Humphry Davy who invented the miner's lamp). The book, 'Nutters' was shortlisted for the Mind Book Award.
Actually, I am currently developing another series of books - comic-crime-fairytales set in 18th century Bavaria - and I plan to put those out as PJ Brackston.
I notice you have a blog, (I loved your post on the new year). Do you think social media plays a part in giving your novels international attention?
I think it's great that writers can connect with their readers in so many different ways now. Having a website and a blog suits me, and it's great to get emails from readers.
I do have to be careful, though, not to let that interaction become too much of a distraction. I need solitude in which to write. Hours and hours of it. I'm lucky enough to have a family, so my time is already shared out between several people (not to mention dog, cats, garden...). As a result I hardly ever answer the phone. My mobile is ten years old (vintage!) and lives in the car in case I break down, but is otherwise unused.
According to your bio you’ve had a varied and eclectic career path. Do you think these varied jobs and assignments make you a better writer?
I'm not sure about that, but they have certainly given me lots of material to draw upon. That said, I've never subscribed to 'write about what you know' - how limiting! I prefer 'know about what you write' - in other words, if something interests you enough to want to write about it, then find out about it, talk to people who know, use a library, visit locations, watch films, go to museums and exhibitions, and read, read, read, read.
Do you belong to a writer’s group?
No, although I am a member of the Historical Writers' Association. When we get together there is a sense that most of us inhabit the past more than the present.
What’s the ultimate compliment a reader could give you?
That they miss my characters once they've finished the book. I've had that feeling when something I've read has really drawn me in. To have my characters become real in that way, so people are moved by them, that makes me feel I'm doing something worthwhile.
If you could pick anywhere at all to vacation, where would it be and why?
I like comfortable hotels with good room service. I think it's because I live somewhere wild and remote. I don't need to go away to find peace and quiet. I go to London several times a year to go to the Opera or theatre and to see an exhibition or two. So, a nice spot of luxury and culture - replenish the creative well, as it were.
Paula, thank you for spending a little time with us. Good luck on the new novel.
Thank you, and thank you much for inviting me.
Review of The Winter Witch
Cai Jenkins needs a wife, his job, as head drover demands it. He’s been widowed a few years and is ready to marry again and his farm, Ffynnon Las is ready for a new mistress. The wife he’s chosen is as wild as his beloved home deep in the hills of Wales, a pretty, young, silent waif who calls to something earthly inside him. But his new wife comes with secrets and some think they’re dark and taboo.
Morgana Pritchard’s always known she’s different, even before her father’s disappearance silenced her, she’s felt the magic inside. Now at 18 she’s forced to leave the only home she’s ever known, to marry a stranger. Yet when they arrive at his farm, Ffynnon Las, she feels an affinity to the land and the man that runs deep in her soul, deep in her magic. There also something evil here, something that wants her gone. Something only her magic can expel, if she’s strong enough to overcome it.
Paula Brackston’s Winter Witch is a whimsical and mystical tale that’s part romance part mystery part fantasy and all extraordinary. Her beautiful narrative moves flawlessly throughout the story, her inclusions of the Welsh language paints a truer picture of the wilderness, the time, the place and the people, plus gives the read a homespun feel. Her eclectic cast stretched the boundaries from eccentric to ordinary, from the mundane to supernatural and she expertly wove in the witchery both good and evil as she flaunted her storytelling talent. Cai and Morgana were her brightest stars as they struggled with an against all odds dilemma and were both hard to say goodbye to at the end of the tale.
This unique novel will appeal to fans of a multitude of genres from historical to fantasy and will engage fans of all ages as well.
Ms. Brackston this is my first time under your spell but I know I’ll be falling under again.
01-30-2013 09:18 AM
01-30-2013 05:07 PM
Great News gang, Paula has just agreed to be our December 2013 featured author
Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.