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A quick word from Bobbi Dumas, your host.
Hi everyone! Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month. You can find out more about this fun, month long event here. And check out all the great authors taking part this year on the calendar, here.
The theme this year is The Romance Of Reading, The Magic Of Books and we have an awesome assortment of writers – both romance and mainstream fiction authors – sharing about books, reading, romance & magic. I hope you’ll visit everyday.
(Also, be sure to check in to The Romance Of Reading FB page, where one of the RARM authors will be hosting the page each day in August. Today Paula will also be on the page.)
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Paula Brackston – The Challenge & Adventure of Books and Magic
Like many readers, I have long relied upon the magic of books to transport me away from the everyday to another time and place. The joy of being someone else, somewhere else, somewhen else, is very real, and very necessary, I believe, in the stressful lives we live. So, naturally, when I began to write books, I wanted to take people away from what they knew and immerse them in a different world. I wanted to give them experiences and adventures beyond those they might have in their own lives.
I love historical fiction but could not choose a specific time in which to set my first book. I wanted to explore the 1600s, which were such a turbulent time in England, but I also wanted to recreate the gritty darkness of Victorian London, the sweeping drama of the first world war, the visceral lives of people in the ninth century, the wild nature of early nineteenth century Wales, and so on. How to choose?!
Which is when I started playing the writer’s game of what if? What if I set my first book in multiple times? But I wanted one, powerful, female, lead character. So, what if that same woman could live through those different times? But how was she going to do that? What if she was somehow able to live for many years? What if she had magic in her soul? And then I had it: I would write about witches.
There have been times when I have questioned what I choose to write about. Is it a job for a grown woman to spend her time writing about fantastical and magical things? Is it worthwhile to spend years producing books focusing on things removed from our own lives? Is it the work of a Serious Writer (whatever that is!) to create entertainment as a diversion from the problems and challenges we all face? It is the responses of my readers that have given me answers to these questions. When they tell me they have endured difficult times by escaping into the pages of my books, I know they are worthwhile. When they tell me they see themselves and their loved ones reflected in the eyes of the characters who people my stories, I know that what I do matters to people. We all need the magic of the meditative activity of reading to ease our troubles.
If writing about magic doubles this effect, by removing us from what we know entirely, challenging our ideas of ourselves and the world around us, then surely that is an adventure all the more worth having!
A Bit About My Books
My first book about witches, ‘The Witch’s Daughter’, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into five languages. Told through the Book of Shadows of near immortal witch, Elizabeth Hawksmith, it is set in seventeenth century Wessex, London in 1888, and Passchendaele during the first world war. Its sequel, ‘The Return of the Witch,’ continues the story. There are five other witches to adventure with ‘The Winter Witch’, ‘The Midnight Witch’ and ‘The Silver Witch’ all exploring different magic and set in different historical eras.
My new series begins with ‘The Little Shop of Found Things’. The main character, Xanthe Westlake, has the gift of psychometry. This means she can detect the hidden stories in some of the found things she and her mother acquire for their antique shop in Marlborough, Wiltshire. It is through these objects and the curious ancient building in the garden of her new home that she is able to travel back in time where she must solve the mysteries connected to the special treasures she has found. Book two in the series, ‘Secrets of the Chocolate House,’ is out in October.
An Excerpt From The Little Shop of Found Things
It is a commonly held belief that the most likely place to find a ghost is beneath a shadowy moon, among the ruins of a castle, or perhaps in an abandoned house where the living have fled leaving only spirits to drift from room to room. To believe so is to acknowledge but half a truth, for there is a connection with those passed over to be found much nearer home. Every soul that once trod this brutal earth leaves their imprint upon the things that mattered to them. The things that they held, the things that once echoed to the beat of their hearts. That heartbeat may yet be felt, faint but clear, transmitted through the fabric of those belongings, linking us to the dear one long gone through however many years have passed. Or at least, some may feel it. Some can hear its fluttering rhythm. Some can sense the life force that once thrummed through the golden metal, or gorgeous gem, or even the tattered remnant of a wedding gown. Some have the ability, the sensitivity, the gift to be able to connect to those lost ones through these precious objects.
Xanthe Westlake was such a person.
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2019 RARM Questions:
Tell us about a time in your life that felt magical to you.
I went to visit the Rollright Stones, a small but beautiful circle of standing stones in Oxfordshire. Such an atmospheric place. Even with quite a number of people milling about you could feel the unique energy of the place. As I stood with my hand upon one of the ancient monoliths which had been warmed by the sun, a peacock butterfly flitted about my head and then landed on my heart. It stayed there for a full minute, gently opening and shutting its fabulous wings, before flying off again. I felt I had been touched by a timeless soul.
Tell us about a book that was magical for you.
‘Like Water For Chocolate’ by Laura Esquivel. It was the book that really changed my understanding of magical realism and greatly influenced my own writing.
Tell us about a “magical moment” in your writing or your career?
When I was working on my second book I wanted to set it in the Welsh Longhouse where we lived. I was uncertain about using a setting I knew so well. I wanted to convey the magic of the ancient mountain dwelling, but I lacked the confidence to believe I could do it well. One day I was walking with my three year old daughter and we stopped to play in a stream. She asked me who the man was. I asked her what man, as we were on our own. She pointed up stream and said ‘The man sitting on the rock up there.’ I looked but couldn’t see anyone. She looked up from the pebbles she was playing with and checked the spot. ‘Oh, he’s gone now,’ she said with a shrug, and went back to her game. It was a powerful moment and showed me anew how magical the landscape was. We lose that ability to connect with liminal things as we grow up, but children still have it. Her openness gave me the courage to write Lamp Black, Wolf Grey.
For writers who use magical aspects in their books, what attracts you to those elements? For those of you who don’t, are there specific themes or elements you’re attracted to and find yourself going back to? Why do these resonate with you?
When I wrote The Witch’s Daughter I was inspired by the idea of a strong woman who had a gift that she used wisely and well. As I developed the series of witch books I wanted to explore different kinds of magic for each witch and found it fascinating! It required a great deal of research, which I enjoy, and I learned so much about different belief systems and magic from all over the world. I wanted to share that with my readers.
Creativity is a kind of magical experience. What inspires you, keeps you going, helps you when you lose focus, etc.?
I have been writing books for nearly twenty years and I still don’t claim to fully understand the process! There are days when it feels quite logical, and a matter of putting in the hard work and planning and attention to detail that are required to bring a book into being. There are other days when I feel I am merely a cipher, writing down the stories of my characters, listening to their voices and allowing them to be heard through my books. That is a very special kind of magic indeed!
DRAWING – Paula is hosting The Romance of Reading page, and her giveaways will take place there.
However, all comments will also be entered to win a bundle of books from the Week 3 participating authors. You may enter by commenting on this original blog post and/or on the Read-A-Romance Month Facebook page post, here.
Each first unique comment at each space offers an extra chance to win, so check in with each author. Must comment by 8/28/19 11:59pm Eastern to enter.
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Paula Brackston is the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter. She has written four other novels in the collection about witches and also writes historical-crime-comedies under the name PJ Brackston.
Paula lives in the ancient city of Hereford with her partner, their two children, and far too many pets.
Her new series began with The Little Shop of Found Things, which came out last year. Book two in the series, Secrets of the Chocolate House, is out in October.
Discover all of Paula’s books:
*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and text links connect to an affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!