3 Dec 2015

Blog Tour / The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

A year after her husband’s sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat’s death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her – a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she’s near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.

On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.

In her own time, Tilda’s grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake’s ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each others, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren’s prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more.

1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?

Ooh, how to choose! For the language? Hilary Mantel. I am in awe of her writing. For sheer storytelling fabulousness? George R R Martin. Ill wait for their calls.

2. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?

In term time I work very much to school hours. That means Im usually at my desk by 8.30, fetch myself a cup of tea at 11.00, break for lunch at 1.00. Then stick my nose outside, tend to livestock (two guinea-pigs and a few chickens, so nothing too strenuous) and maybe walk the dog. Then I work again from 2.00 until the children get home at 4.00pm. If Ive a deadline looming (pretty much always) I try to fit in another stint of writing after 10.00pm when the house is quiet.

Not that Im tied to times, you understand!

Its easier to write in the school holidays now than it used to be, as my children are of an age where they will happily sleep in late, so I can get a couple of hours done before they are up.

I think new writers have an idea that to succeed they must spend a LOT of time actually writing, but it isnt until you are doing it, full time (or working round the day job), meeting deadlines, working to commissions, and so on, that you really feel what that means.

I plan my target word counts and plot them on a planner a year in advance. And if I get even close to falling behind, I begin to get a tightness in my chest, the only cure for which is putting in some extra shifts.

I either work at my desk under the stairs (oh, the glamour!) or in our little summer house by the pond. The pond is rather a distraction, so I have to limit myself. And I have a super-high-tech chair at my desk, which every writer should invest in if they value their back!

3. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?

I would say the hardest part is staying focused on one idea. I am currently writing two different series of books, as well as working on stand alone projects, so my mind is a pretty hectic place.
It is normal practice for a writer to be playing around with ideas for one book, actually writing another one, editing a third, and promoting a fourth. Its just the way the business works sometimes. Keeping my attention on one thing at a time does not come easy to me. It is definitely something I have to work at.

4. When and why did you first start writing?

Ive always written and made up stories, even as a child. I didnt start showing my work to anyone until I was in my thirties. It was a huge step, going from privately inventing new worlds, thinking up stories, and creating characters, to letting strangers read and critique my work. You feel very vulnerable when people take your creation apart! When I was at home having my babies I embarked on an MA in Creative Writing, and I think it was the nearest I came to giving up writing! It is hard having your ideas challenged and your talent questioned. Looking back I can see it was hugely helpful, both for making me evaluate my work, and for developing that crucial pachydermal epidermis!

5. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I live close to Llangors Lake where the story is set. I am fascinated by the history of Wales, and this area is just alive with it. There really is a crannog on the lake, built for a Welsh prince, and so I was able to build on what we know of it to develop my story.
With The Silver Witch I focused on Celtic shamanism and beliefs, as well as thinking about the way how we see something influences what we feel about it. Vision and visions are very important in this book.

6. Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?

I read late at night, often sacrificing sleep to stay with a good book. I love historical fiction, and fantasy, but Im easily persuaded by a review, so if a book or a writer sounds interesting I cant resist giving it a go.
At the moment I am reading (and loving!) The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Cant believe its taken me so many years to get to this gem!

7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

Its tempting to say run! Save yourself! But I know that if you are really a writer, no amount of anyone telling you to give up will make you stop. You have to be prepared for the long haul. True, there are overnight successes, but they are really rare. Most writers work away at their craft for y-e-a-r-s before they start to get anywhere. And even then there are no guarantees.

I wrote seriously and determinedly for nine years before my first novel was published. Thats a lot of rejections slips. During that time I sold some short stories, had some non-fiction published, and got shortlisted in a couple of competitions. I also did an MA and got an agent. In the end, though, what worked was just keeping at it. There came a point when I realised that even if I never got published, I would still write. That was quite a liberating moment.

Having said that, I am thrilled that my books are out there, and I never get tired of the thought that there are people in faraway corners of the world reading what I have written.
So I think my advice is, dont give up, but also, you have to enjoy the actual writing. Its no good being in it for gold and glory - there is precious little of either! If you arent excited every time you get the chance to get back to your characters and your very own world and spend time spinning their tales, youre in the wrong job.

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