During the summer, I spent a lot of time researching witchcraft for my latest novel My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.
Without giving too much away, readers will (I hope) be left wondering what is magic realism and what is the unreliable narrator’s thoughts.
During this time, I have learnt a lot about witchcraft. I also found out (slash am convinced) that when I write a novel, I am powered by an unworldly force (such as witchcraft).
I wrote My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister in less than four months (from the end of June to the end of September).
This kind of writing speed earned a gasp in the audience at Todmorden Book Festival when Joanne Harris revealed she wrote Chocolat in four months.
(I don’t have a young child or a full time job though).
I have spoken before about my weird reversed writer’s block (I’ve just freaked myself out Googling this). I do have lesions on my brain because of MS maybe this is the cause of my mild case of hypergraphia.
Or it could be witchcraft.
Whenever I am coming to the end of writing a novel, I start to think about the next one. Not on purpose… it is REALLY annoying; picture the scene… Yay! I’m about to finish writing this brilliant book… this is going to be the one! Brain says, I’d like to introduce you to some fictional characters. Get to know them now because you’ll be writing about them soon (and you’ve only got four months to do it).
This is what happened with the characters from My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister. One of my best friends, Claire gifted me the name Epiphany (Pippa for short). Soon, I had imagined a world for this new character. Pippa works as an accountant, has a younger boyfriend and she lives in the flat upstairs in her mother’s pub. Then the world changed and my ideas really started to take shape. Pippa soon became a forty year old woman trying to rebuild her life after lockdown. She discovers that her mother (Jacquetta) and sister (Heather) are witches, but only after she is visited by her half-sister’s half-sister (Sadie).
The above is concise for me; I hate writing blurb… the book came together so quickly after months and months of writing on bits of paper, backs of envelopes, sending myself text messages, writing on the insides of empty medication boxes. Anything I could get my hands on when Pippa, Sadie, Jacquetta or Heather popped into my head. You could say I was compelled to write it; almost as though I had been bewitched (and also like the description of hypergraphia on the internet).
And it wasn’t because I was bored writing the last two in series of Curmudgeon Avenue when this happened; when I came to the end of writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, I accidentally started writing my next book.
I’m not giving the title away just in case I don’t write it (probably will, though if the above is anything to go off).
The more I researched witchcraft, the more it was in my head. This is not a new fascination, I loved witch themed books and TV when I was younger (maybe because I am named Samantha). I wrote a post about this when I first started imagining that I would write My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, click HERE to see that post.
I found out some really interesting things when researching paranormal/supernatural/psychological fiction (so many names)
Some of it I was scared to know. We’re all aware of Queen Victoria making black a mourning colour after her husband, Prince Albert died. I read in a dark book that ‘the Victorians’ were not only emulating their queen, black was considered to be the colour to wear to avoid seeing ghosts. I’m not sure about this, because Victorian culture is said to have welcomed clairvoyance, and where better than to see a spirit? (I’ve also read that wearing black at funerals pre-dates Victorian times).
However, my friends have not lied to me during my witchcraft quest. So excited was I about my next novel, I started boring my friends by telling them about it on nights out. My friends Janaki and Neil told me that they had watched an episode of QI, and learnt that plants associated with spells such as eye of newt are actually plants (now called Hemerocallis Calico Jack in the UK). The words eye of newt and toe of frog are from Shakespeare’s Scottish play, (check me out for superstition). Toe of frog is actually buttercups… I kid you not, during the summer my lawn was covered in buttercups (when it isn’t usually).
Gardening is magic. This year a few plants I haven’t seen for a while reappeared in my garden. I’m not a gardener, but thinking things through logically, these mystery plants appeared because of my compost bin.
This gave me an idea for a short story ‘Bit of Me’ about a couple who live on a pig farm. Unpublished as yet (I’m still hoping to collaborate on a short story collection). The compost bin features heavily in the plot; see what I mean? My garden is speaking to me.
I’m sure that there are other writers whose worlds have become very small since the pandemic, more than ever it feels as though something good can finally happen. Let me know if your garden has inspired you.
I’ll stop here, because recent mini-dramas have both inspired my writing and frightened me (plus I don’t want to go on too much about the time I thought someone had put a spell on me but it turned out I am becoming absent minded).
Last thoughts for today
Either this sunflower is really tall, or I’m really small (I am leaning on a stick).
Happy October everyone, Samantha 🙂