A Q&A with Paula Brackston
Author of The Silver Witch
Thomas Dunne, April 2015
Q: First things first: Could you summarize The Silver Witch for us in ten words or less?
Q: The Silver Witch is the latest book in your ongoing companion novels about women and witches in historical times. Could you tell us what inspired Tilda and Serena’s respective journeys?
The Celtic beliefs and stories that sustained people here for so long still feel current today, in the way they connect with the power of nature, and look at our own relationship with the landscape and the creatures that inhabit it. Both Seren and Tilda feel this very strongly.
Q: While readers will always have their own interpretations of a book, what’s one take away that you hope readers will have from The Silver Witch and the rest of your witch-based historical fiction?
For the books more generally, I like to hope that readers will be tempted to think about how the past is always with us in the present; about how what went before echoes through the centuries, and we have much to gain from it.
Q: Not too long ago, several mainstream newspapers and magazines wrote articles saying that witches in fiction were “…the next big thing”.
While witches in fiction are certainly nothing new, why do you think there’s been this resurgence in popularity? What is it about books like yours, or TV shows like The Witches of East End that appeal to today’s readers/viewers?
As a writer I found witches rich material because of the potential and variety they offered me, but also because of the strength common to these women (and yes, there are male witches too, but most of the ones I write about are women). I believe readers and viewers are attracted to those things too. And after all, who hasn't wished they could fly/heal someone/turn someone else into a toad?!
Q: Outside of witches, are there are any other historically significant topics that you might like to cover in future books?
Q: Let’s talk about your writing process! You’ve published a number of books throughout the years, and have developed quite a sterling reputation around the world.
Looking back on it, how has your understanding of publishing changed over the years?
I've also learned how many and various are the things that influence the way a book might do once it is out there. Fashions and fads change, other books come out, names take on new slants because of events you couldn't have foreseen, it goes on and on. You can't control any of it! You have to accept that you have done your best, you've written your book, and now it has to go out into the world and make its own way.
Q: And on a related note, with the experiences that you’ve accumulated, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give to any writer who is looking to get a get a foot in the publishing door?
Secondly, don't try to chase the market. The process is too long, and the variables too unfathomable (see above).
Thirdly (oops, sorry, you asked for one thing, but there is so much to say...!) don't give up - it took me nine years of writing and submitting to get my first novel published.
Q: Has your writing process also evolved, as you’ve gone further down the road of your publishing journey?
E.g. I’ve heard writers say that the first book is both the easiest and the hardest, because you don’t have concrete deadlines or expectations, but you also have the freedom to take as long as you would like to write something.
They’ve had to rethink their understanding of writing when it’s come to their second book, because they now have writing deadlines, editorial deadlines, etc. Have you felt anything similar, with the writing process for each book?
There are subtle shifts when you move from speculative to commissioned writing, yes, definitely, though what those actually are surprised me. There is the relief of having a modicum of financial security. There is the sense of validation (told you I could do it!) and being able to justify the many hours you will spend writing. There is the sense of purpose, coupled with the excitement of knowing your book will see the light of day. Set against that is Expectation with a capital E. Your publisher expects you to deliver what you promised when you promised. Your readers expect you to produce the same thing as before but different and better. Your family, friends, pets expect you to become a huge success, make them proud, and keep them in the style to which they would like to become accustomed. And your own expectations of yourself, well, those are the ones that keep you awake at night.