Are any of the spells real?
Some of them are based on real spells and charms, for example the idea of putting a broom across the door to stop an evil-doer from entering. And the piece that Liz reads aloud about a wife putting blood in her husband’s wine is actually an old voodoo spell (although in voodoo tradition you add the blood to his coffee). But some of them are straight out of my imagination (like the spell where she eats earth and ashes) and the incantations are all made up.
What language are the incantations written in?
Old English – also called Anglo-Saxon. It’s a real language which was used in England before about 1000 AD.
How do you pronounce the words in the spells?
We don’t exactly know how people pronounced Anglo-Saxon – we don’t have any recordings from that time (obviously!) so scholars have had to make their best guess, based on things like how the words are used in poetry and how they changed to become our language today. In any case, like today, pronunciation would have varied from region to region. There’s some information here about how we think Anglo-Saxon was pronounced, but since no-one is around to tell you otherwise, just have a crack and make it up yourself!
Do you believe in magic?
No – but then neither does Anna at the start of the story. I’ve never seen anything that completely convinces me that magic exists – but I love the idea that there’s more out there than we know about. I guess part of A Witch in Winter is about not being too sure about what you think you know, not taking too much for granted.
Have you tried any of the spells yourself?
No. I’d be much too scared! Which, now I think about it, doesn’t really agree with my claim above about not believing in magic.
Why do the characters sometimes need spells and sometimes not?
Well, the way magic works in my books is that it’s partly a question of will-power and strength, partly a matter of training, and partly psychological. So whether you can do a piece of magic depends on how strong you are, how much you want it, and how focussed you are on the result. The spells are to help with the last part. Ultimately if you don’t have enough magic, you can’t make something happen, and if you have more than enough magic, you can do it without needing a specific spell. But for somewhere in between it can help to use a ritual to focus your mind – to force you to really analyse how much you want this, and what exactly you want.
All the witches in my book work in different ways – they all have different strengths and ways of working. Some of them prefer to work from spells and tried-and-tested methods, some of them prefer to work off gut instinct. The way I imagine it, it’s a bit like sword fighting – a certain number of fights you’re going to win just by being strong and quick, even if you don’t know much about technique. But for a really difficult fight you’re going to have to learn specific moves and parries. The stronger you are, the more you can just rely on power; the more difficult the fight, the more practice and techniques you will need. You might develop those yourself, or you might learn them from somewhere else, it just depends.
Certain types of magic do require specific knowledge – to call and bind demons you need to know their name, for example, so Anna couldn’t have called up the storm demon without using the Grimoire.
Are any of the characters based on anyone that you know?
No. Some of them share a few characteristics with people I know or have met, but none of them are based on a real person. I’m often asked if Seth is based on a real person – sadly, no, is the answer. But then I’d have to say that, or I’d probably get dumped.
What does Anna look like? She describes herself as being quite ordinary. Is she just being modest?
I think she’s one of those people who looks quite ordinary most days, but on a good day can look pretty. She’s telling the truth when she says she’s no grade-A hottie and is not being fake-modest. In my head she’s quite average looking, but I think one of the side-effects of the (extremely beautiful) cover has been for people to assume she’s actually totally gorgeous and is just being modest or dumb about the fact. The girl on the jacket (Elizabeth May) does look quite like the Anna in my head, but she’s a lot more beautiful than I imagined Anna to be when I wrote the book.
Seth of course thinks she’s beautiful – because he’s in love with her.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Read lots and write lots. Nearly all the writers I know are voracious readers. I read somewhere that you have to write a million words before you become any good. I don’t know if that’s true, but I probably wrote a million words before I got published.
How many books are there about Anna and Seth?
Anna’s story forms a trilogy. Book one is A Witch in Winter, book two is A Witch in Love, and book three is A Witch Alone.
When is A Witch Alone going to be published?
A Witch Alone is due out February 2013.
Are you going to write any more books after the Winter Trilogy?
Yes! I have two new books under contract. They are set in the same universe as the Winter books but have different characters and are set nearly 100 years earlier in Victorian times. The main characters are called Luke and Rosa and the books are a similar mix of magic, romance and action as the Winter Trilogy. Trivia snippet: if you have read book two of the Winter Trilogy, A Witch in Love, the Malleus Maleficorum make a reappearance in this series in a BIG way.
Can you send me a review copy?
My publishers are in charge of all this side of things. If you are a reviewer, please contact Hodder with details of your blog or the publication that you write for. The email address to write to is email@example.com
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