Monday Merry Meet: J C Clarke

Welcome to a foggy day in Whitby. Or is it sea fret? Willow is never sure but from the Emporium’s shop window, the old gaslight is just an eerie amber glow and the entrance to Black Cat Alley is hidden in the mist. Luckily, today’s guest, Jo Clarke, author of Spellboda has written directions on how to find the shop and Vincent, Willow’s ginger Maine Coon has been sent to find her. While guiding people to the alley is usually Black Cat’s job, a ghost feline and fog doesn’t mix however determined he is.

Everyone read and loved Spellboda ( review can be found here) and are thrilled to chat with Jo Clarke today.

Monday Merry Meet: Jo Clarke

Willow: Hi Jo, please come through to the back. Be careful of a rogue broomstick. It needs a repair and is fed up with waiting so keeps tripping people up to get attention. Can I get you a drink? We have a selection of tea, including Yorkshire, coffee or maybe something stronger?

Jo Clarke: Hey Willow, thanks – I’d love a cup of red berry tea. The broomstick is on good form today – I had to dodge it, so gave it a quick hug to make it feel better. I’m not sure if it liked it or not though!

Amber: Hi Jo, is it okay to crack the window open? A few of our avian friends heard you were coming and have gathered to listen to you speak. I think they like the idea of a Spellboda. I’d let them in, but the seagull will pinch the cakes and biscuits we have on the table.

Jo Clarke: Hi Amber, yes, please do… and if the seagull promises to behave, then they could make themselves comfortable with us. If you’ve got any spare carrot cake, please send it my way – it looks irresistible.

Willow: We all fell in love with the first chapter of Spellboda with its description of flight. Did this scene inspire you to write this novel or was it the characters and plot which came first?

Jo Clarke: Thank you. I really wanted to be able to show flight from a bird’s perspective and I’m over the moon so that so many readers have responded to the opening and fallen in love with it. Trevor was definitely the instigator of Spellboda. He wandered into my head one day and nagged me until I wrote him and his story!

Rosa: The relationship between Midge and Trevor is beautiful. Have you experienced of a similar relationship with a bird?

Jo Clarke: There are a few times when I’ve really connected with a bird. One was a red kite, who would soar and fly happily above me, and was the gentlest soul. Another time was when I raised a snowy owl, from the moment of her hatching. The wish to be able to talk to them is another inspiration for Spellboda. I find it amazing that it’s possible to have a connection with them, but they remain at heart wild and untamed. The feeling that they are near you because they choose to be is both humbling and awe-inspiring.

Picture of peregrine falcon aka Midge

Willow: We’ve spoken to many authors now and each have a unique publication journey. What has yours been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Jo Clarke: My journey happened through covid, so it was a strange disjointed time of so much uncertainty, difficulty and sadness. Going through areas such as cover design and marketing planning while isolating made it all rather a detached process, but of course it couldn’t be helped. One of the stages I enjoyed the most was working with a professional editor, which helps so much to shape and craft a good story. I wish I’d been brave enough to take Trevor’s advice sooner and believe in myself, but I haven’t met a writer yet who isn’t plagued with self-doubt. Next time I’ll make sure I listen to Trevor and believe I can do it!

Willow: Do you have a specific writing routine?

Jo Clarke: I try to write every day, or five out of seven at least. If I can write 1000 words, that’s a good day! I have a tendency to over-edit as I never think anything is ever good enough, but I think a lot of writers share that habit! After completing a manuscript, I’ll walk away from it for at least two weeks, sometimes longer, and then go back to it with fresh eyes.

Amber: I’m attempting to write stories of my own. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Jo Clarke: My primary advice would be not to give up. The more you write, the better, and always be open to constructive help. It’s scary when first received, but I often found the more I worked on constructive third party ideas and thoughts for the story, the more I would then progress it myself. I find it hugely helps the creative process.

Rosa: Though my son is younger than the age group Spellboda is aimed at, I’m reading it to him at bedtime. It’s helping him understand that some children struggle to talk. How important do you think representing disabilities is in fiction?

Jo Clarke: I think this is super-important, especially for children during this time of social media presentations of ‘perfection’. I feel it’s important to try and protect them from the pressures of having to conform, and to celebrate being who they are, with all their skills and talents, however they present themselves. And to believe that every young person is significant… no-one more or less than any other.

Willow: We sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range in The Enchanted Emporium. They promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Jo Clarke: I’d choose either a good night sleep, or confidence. The first because my brain goes into overdrive at night and I wish it wouldn’t! At home we call this having brain chimps… jumping around, playing and when they really get going they make it impossible to sleep! Or I’d choose confidence to help me with my current writing project…

Willow: I know that brain overdrive feeling well and it’s a wonderful description. We have one candles that invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day, when lit. Where would it take you?

Jo Clarke: It would take me to the top of Shining Tor in Derbyshire. One of my favourite places on the planet, and where Spellboda both begins and ends. It’s magical: wild and breathtakingly beautiful. One of those special places where I feel my heart can rest and be peaceful.

Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have you had any spooky experiences and have they influenced your writing?

Jo Clarke: I live near Pluckley, the most haunted village in England allegedly, with tales of ghosts of a red lady, a highwayman, a coach and horses and various other poor souls who met their ends in unpleasant ways who are said to frequent the village. Although I haven’t seen any there myself yet, I did experience a ghostly apparition once when I was younger. I love all the possibilities of magic, legend and the unknown… anything is possible – and why not keep an open mind?

Willow: If the witches could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Jo Clarke: I’d love to be able to fly, and talk to birds myself, so I guess being able to become a bird for the day would be top of my list. And I’d choose to be a falcon, like Midge, so I could experience a stoop (vertical downward super high speed flight) myself, to see what they see, feel what they feel and understand how it happens.

Amber: I’m nosy, do you have a favourite place to write and read?

Jo Clarke: My favourite place would be at home, in my book room. It’s peaceful, has lots of light, a good view over the garden where I can see oversized rabbits lolloping around, and a cosy little fireplace for winter days.

Amber: That sounds a dream room. The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is dedicated to books with a magical, fantasy or paranormal leaning. What book would you add?

Jo Clarke: Without doubt The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its sequel, The Moon of Gomrath, by Alan Garner. He’s my inspiration and I hope so much one day I can write as well as him!

Rosa: I have a Box of Romance, full of romantic novels for people to borrow. What would you add there?

Jo Clarke: Sorry Rosa, I don’t read much romance but I thought the Twilight novels were very romantic.

Rosa: And finally, what are you working on at the moment? Or is it top secret? 

Jo Clarke: This goes back to my need for a confidence candle! I’ve been asked to write the script for Spellboda – the movie – by an LA production company so I’m working on that now. It’s so exciting but also nerve-wracking! I’m also writing book two of Trevor’s adventures, so busy days!

Willow: That sounds amazing and we’d love to see Spellboda on the screen. Good luck with your new ventures. I’ve slipped a complimentary confidence candle in with some Sleep Well tea. Thank you for visiting.

Author Biography

Photo of JC Clarke White woman with long blonde hair wearing a black top
JC Clarke

Previously a falconer, consultant and writer-presenter of CITV’s Wild World, JC Clarke is now loving the writer’s life and is also a script consultant and copywriter.
She’s been involved in falconry and conservation industries for over twenty years and is passionate about protecting wildlife. Having worked with children and young adults as a youth worker, JC Clarke hopes that her writing will help young people believe they are worth something and should aim for their dreams. An alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children Course, Jo was shortlisted for Best Opening Chapter for Spellboda at the 2019 Jericho Writers Festival of Writing. She lives in Ashford, Kent with her family – and a large number of animals!

Social media:

Website: https://www.jcclarkeauthor.com/

Twitter: Jo Clarke

Book cover midnight blue background, silver silhouette of a bird with wings spread open.
Spellboda by J C Clarke

Title: Spellboda

Author: J C Clarke

Publisher: The Book Guild

Genre: Middle grade, Children’s fiction, YA, Fantasy

Release Date: 23rd September 2021

Blurb

A journey to trust and self-belief… join Trevor in his adventure as he discovers his incredible gift. Share the magic of his journey as he learns we can achieve anything – when we really, really want to.

For fans of Piers Torday & CS Lewis

Trust, belief and a little magic… then maybe they could both fly free.

Since Trevor’s mum died his dad can barely look at him without yelling. Home is awful, school is worse. People just let you down, and Trevor only talks to Mrs. Bingo-Wings, his mum’s cat. But then he meets Midge, a peregrine falcon in danger, and finds out he has a gift that could change his life forever. Trevor is thrown into the heart of a magical adventure that could promise freedom – for Midge and for himself – but can he overcome his doubts and fears, and take on the destiny he’s only just discovered?

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Surprise Merry Meet: Stephanie Hansen

We know it’s not Monday for our usual Merry Meet, but we’re excited to welcome author, Stephanie Hansen, for a swift chat as part of the blog tour for her novella, Altered Helix arranged by Rachel’s Random Resources. Unfortunately Amber is at college, so can’t be here today but she is sorry she has missed this Merry Meet. Altered Helix is a book she can’t wait to read.

Pumpkins and pumpkin mugs

Surprise Merry Meet: Stephanie Hansen

Willow: Take a seat. First question has to be what would you like to drink? We have a selection of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate? Or I’m brewing some mulled cider in the workroom.

A coffee would be splendid. The characters in Altered Helix (my debut novella) often frequent Broadway Café. Though, your mulled cider sounds especially wonderful as a fall drink. You made this decision difficult. We hit our first frost advisory of the season last night and it is bone chillingly cold, so any warm drink will do.

Willow: Your book, Altered Helix, features a haunted house. As we have many paranormal activities in the emporium, we’re intrigued about what inspired your setting?

I worked at a haunted house when I was 20 and fell in love with it. The best is waiting for the right moment to scare people and seeing everyone enjoy it. People scream and hold on to each other. Their smiles after going through the haunted house are spectacular.

Willow: That sounds fun. Your book is also set in a dystopian America where the government has collapsed and homelessness is rife, placing your protagonist, Austria, in danger. What came first, the plot or the characters?

Mostly the characters developed first, but it was also a mixture of plot too. My characters often reveal their emotions through the smallest of gestures. Even though the characters first came to me before my hearing loss, the story was not completed until after I became unilaterally deaf. When you struggle to hear people, you often rely on subtle cues, and I’ve incorporated it into a lot of my fiction. I also create a working outline for books before writing, but inevitably the characters make different decisions than I’d planned, hence the “working” outline.

Willow: It must have been hard dealing with hearing loss but your visual observations add an extra layer to the book. We’ve just had Halloween, do you normally celebrate it? And if so, how?

I love reading scary books around Halloween. I just started White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson and I think it will be a perfect spooky thriller for the season. Complete with what appears to be a haunted house set in a town that reminds the protagonist of The Walking Dead, it’s bound to give me goosebumps of fright. I also enjoy watching scary movies but it’s hard to pick a favourite.

Willow: I’ll have to recommend it to Amber, she loves horror reads. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

If I may, as a literary agent, I’d like to discuss multiple publication journey options. I believe many paths (self-publishing, small press, mid-size house, major house publishing, etc.) can be taken for a successful experience. The important thing is to research each and find the one that works best for you as a writer. Some genres thrive in self-publishing, so it may be the best option. As many self-published authors know, it’s like opening a business and you’re the business owner. You need to either handle all responsibilities or delegate them to qualified individuals. It’s an investment. My agency handles subsidiary rights for self-published authors. We’re familiar with what foreign publishers, audio producers, gaming apps, and film producers are looking for, plus we can organize the process. For instance, I’m currently closing four foreign translation publishing deals for one author and will announce them all together in order to gain attention from film producers. Please follow the Metamorphosis Literary Agency social media for more information.

Willow: We have authors from all types of publication paths popping in and would be writers so will let them know. It must be a fascinating job. We follow our set rituals in the shop when preparing stock. What is your writing routine like?

Many of my story ideas begin as a dream. I wake up and rapidly jot down every detail that I remember. Then I begin handwriting the story into notebooks. I know that adds time as I’ll have to type later, but something about the process allows words to flow freely. With Altered Helix, I made a detective board of sorts to connect inciting incidents, character development and more (see an example below except the one I used while writing was physical and up on a wall). I was quite a novice at that point but had a lot of fun and have integrated it into a lot of what I continue to do. 😊 Once I have some bones and skin in place for the story, I now but didn’t in the beginning, share it with a critique partner. We work on the opening, try to see if there are plot holes, etc. and then I correct what I have and continue with the rest of the story. I couldn’t have done this in the beginning of my writing journey as it may have halted the story creation process. Once complete, I have another partner look at it for errors, problematic wording, things that would trip up a reader, etc. After that, I revise. Then, I have yet someone else review for grammar, typos, etc. What is a witch without a powerful coven?

A plotting board for a writer showing photos of building, creepy night time scene, bed with straps on and a garden wedding

Willow: Working with others does have its benefits and it is lovely to have those you can trust to work with. Many readers and our customers harbour the dream of writing a novel. Before we get round to blending a spell to help with the process, do you have any advice for new writers?

Some of that was covered in the last question, but I’ll add more here. I fear many authors fall so in love with their first manuscript that they can’t shelve it, therefore, restricting future creations from existence (or at least delaying them by quite a bit). By that I mean, they refuse to accept that it shouldn’t be published. Often these first manuscripts are the best writing lessons for an author and for that purpose very useful, but it doesn’t mean it should be published. A very talented agent shared some information about successful authors and what number novel it was that broke them out. I think by seeing this, it might help aspiring authors understand that everyone’s journey is different. https://twitter.com/EmilyKaitlinnn/ So, I guess my advice is to not only create one land of enchantment but many.  

Willow: That is helpful. Thank you. The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range, which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

This one, which helps the user focus while the candle burns. I can be handling paperwork for the business when I see a new publishing deal announcement and it inspires a different direction for an author’s manuscript that I’m currently shopping. Or I can be writing one story when another story idea pops into my head. I have a notebook to keep all of these ideas organised BUT the idea’s there in my mind. It wants to build on it right then. I also have a couple teenagers, so the candle which “makes those around you help without asking” was very tempting. You made another decision difficult for me. Well done. Your magic brewing is extraordinary.

Willow: We have one candle that invokes memories of your favourite season when lit. Where would it take you and what would you be doing?

That’s hard. I’m currently in the Midwest and what I love is the changing of seasons. I probably prefer summer for being outside and seeing green everywhere. My body struggles with temperature changes at first. So, the current 50ish degree temps during the day are freezing me but give it a month and 50 will feel warm. I do really enjoy the activities during fall and spring. Fall is my favourite reading and writing season, which I think is shared by many as I believe the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) month is November. In the winter, when things are covered in snow, it is also very pretty.

Willow: Every season has its beauty and the Midwest sounds a good place to experience them. If we could blend a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

The ability to cure someone of a physical illness or disease. There are a couple of people dear to me who currently suffer from physical ailments, and I’d like to be able to rid them of the burden. Of course, one must be careful. After I lost two of my grandpas, I begged to whatever power that be to have me be the next one to get sick because I know my body could handle it and I didn’t want to lose another grandparent. Within months I came down with a very serious illness which caused my severe, unilateral deafness and 90 dB 24/7/365 tinnitus, but I didn’t lose another grandparent for years. So, I should probably ask before accepting, what is the cost of this ability?

Willow: The cost of some spells can be high, so it is always wise to consider the consequences. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

I love so many books by Seanan McGuire! I absolutely devoured The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab as quickly as possible! Plus, the strength in sisterhood in the Girls with Sharp Sticks series by Suzanne Young is awesome! If you want page turning, heart pounding series, try Crave by Tracy Wolff or The Bone Witch by Ivy Asher. My end all, be all go to is Relentless by Karen Lynch. And now you can see why my family believes I’m turning our house into a library! 😊

Willow: Every house should have a library and with those books my own bookshelf will be overflowing. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

If you have not read One Last Stop by Casey McQuistion, please do. It’s simply divine. This book was so pleasant to read; National Treasure meets Ghost in the most splendid way. Years ago, I was an avid Nora Roberts fan. Have you read any of her books? I think one of my favourites had been The Garden Trilogy. Have you read The Dragon Heart Legacy? I haven’t yet but want to. If you do, please let me know so we can read it together. Also, another one that tugs at the heartstrings is If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.

Willow:  I adore Nora Roberts books and enjoyed The Garden trilogy too but for obvious reasons love the Three Sisters series. Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

I’m currently working on the gaming app adaptation of Altered Helix. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait for it to fully release in 2023! I’m also working on a story that began for me as a short story, then evolved to a screenplay, and now I’m adapting it to a novel (almost backward to my journey with Altered Helix). It’s fun dissecting a story to different platforms but keeping the heart intact. It’s challenging and, hopefully, will help me grow as an author.

Willow: Those sound thrilling projects and look forward to hear about their progress. Thank you for coming in for a chat all the way from America.

Thank you so much for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed your questions and bid you adieu.

Book cover for Altered Helix. Bright blue cover with the silhouette of boy and girl holding each other looking down.
Altered Helix by Stephanie Hansen

Title: Altered Helix

Author: Stephanie Hansen

Publisher: Hypothesis Books

Release date: 19th May 2020

Purchase Link – https://books2read.com/u/mdzJjX

Author Biography

Photo of Stephanie Hansen. White woman smiling with very blue eyes.
Stephanie Hansen

Stephanie Hansen is a PenCraft and Global Book Award Winning Author. Her debut novella series, Altered Helix, released in 2020. It hit the #1 New Release, #1 Best Seller, and other top 100 lists on Amazon. It is now being adapted to an animated story for Tales. Her debut novel, Replaced Parts, released in 2021 through Fire & Ice YA and Tantor Audio. It has been in a Forbes article, hit Amazon bestseller lists, and made the Apple young adult coming soon bestsellers list. The second book in the Transformed Nexus series, Omitted Pieces, released in 2022. Her next novella, Ghostly Howls, releases 2/7/23. She is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community so she tries to incorporate that into her fiction. 

Social Media Links –

https://www.authorstephaniehansen.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/stephanie-hansen ,

https://www.facebook.com/writer.stephaniehansen ,

https://www.instagram.com/stephaniehansenauthor/ ,

https://www.tiktok.com/@stephaniehansenauthor

https://twitter.com/hansenwriter

Monday Merry Meet: Heidi Swain

Happy Samhain! The witches’ favourite time of year. It’s also the only day they wear the iconic witch’s pointy hat. While Willow dons a black hat that shimmers purple in the Emporium’s lights, Amber’s is a more subdued affair. Made of brown felt, it is battered, twisted and entwined with autumnal leaves and toadstools.

Both are ready for trick or treaters that maybe brave enough to wander down Black Cat Alley for some of sweets including Willow’s homemade enchanted lollies. Lucky for them, she refused Amber’s suggestion to hex a few to keep things interesting.

The emporium’s shop window is a blaze with flickering pumpkins, shrouded with cultivated cobwebs, the ghosts are enjoying the possibility they maybe seen. Vincent, the large ginger Maine Coon and ghostly Black Cat are on guard waiting for their special guest, Heidi Swain.

This Sunday Times bestselling author is one of Rosa’s favourite writers so she is sipping yet another chamomile tea to calm her nerves so she can speak. She has also muted her mobile as Alejo is unimpressed his Trick or Treating has been delayed so she can have fangirl moment.

Monday Merry Meet: Heidi Swain

Willow: Welcome Heidi. Please come in from the cold though its not much warmer in here. Our heating is struggling to compete with the extra ghosts that have appeared since Mrs Marley discovered you were visiting. She’s a huge fan of your audiobooks which I usually play for her while I’m at work. Unlike Percy, she has never mastered the art of telekinesis so page turning is a chore. She loves Wynbridge and Nightingale Square.  

Thank you for the welcome and thank you to Mrs Marley. I’m delighted to discover you are a fan of Wynbridge and Nightingale Square. I’m sure both Wynthorpe Hall and Prosperous Place have their own ghosts, but they are yet to make themselves known to me.

Rosa: I love them too. There are several of your books in my Box of Romance and they’re my go to comfort reads. What can we get you to drink? There are many blends of tea including Yorkshire, coffee, hot chocolate or Amber has concocted a special warm Halloween punch? It’s her take on mulled cider. I tried some and it warms you up a treat.

Thank you, Rosa. I would love some of that seasonal punch. It sounds like the perfect tipple for this chilly day.

Willow: Amber is staying on trick or treat duty while we chat. With the many ghost stories the emporium has attached to it and the reputation of us witches draws in some kids. Not as many as I’d have expected though. I think they preferred it when it was a derelict building and played the part as the haunted house to visit as a dare well. Is Samhain something you usually celebrate?

It certainly is. I follow the Wheel of the Year and along with dressing the hearth and enjoying a pumpkin feast, I consider Samhain the start of my magical new year. It is when I make plans and set exciting intentions for the months ahead.

Rosa: Christmas isn’t Christmas without one of your books. What is your latest about?

That’s very kind, thank you! A Christmas Celebration takes us back to Wynbridge and more specifically Wynthorpe Hall, for the festive season. With a few folk temporarily away from the hall, the arrival of Paige (goddaughter to Catherine and Angus), couldn’t be better timed. Unbeknown to everyone else, she’s carrying a secret, but finding herself quickly drawn into helping at the hall and in the town, there’s initially little time to dwell on it.

In the run to Christmas, Paige also makes two new friends, both carrying their fair share of secrets and of course, catches up with Molly, her witchy friend who lives in the Wynthorpe woods.

The emphasis is very much on community spirit and coming together, both for Christmas and beyond.

Willow: It is your 15th novel.  What has your publication journey been like? Is being a writer how you expected it to be?

I keep counting the books on the shelf in my writing room. I’m amazed there are fifteen there already!

My debut, The Cherry Tree Café was picked up after submitting to the Books and the City #OneDay open submission opportunity. That was back in 2014 and the e-book was published almost a year to the day in 2015. Since then, I’ve been writing two books a year for Simon and Schuster, secured a fabulous agent, become a Sunday Times bestseller and been shortlisted twice for an RNA award.

Being a writer has far exceeded my expectations and I’m both grateful and proud that I found the courage to make it happen. When I started out, I used to write from 5 to 6 in the morning before my kids got up, then in my car during my lunch break and again in the evenings. I had a few books published before I made the leap to write full-time but it was worth every chilly, dark start I made along the way. Nothing beats the sight of my books lined up on a supermarket or bookshop shelf. I love the writing life!

Willow: We have many would-be writers popping in for copious amounts of tea or confidence candles, do you have any advice for them?

That’s wonderful! I wish them every success. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is, don’t wait for what you imagine to be the perfect opportunity to start writing. You’ll never have more time – no matter how hard you try to manifest it – you have to look at your schedule and work out where you can squeeze in a few minutes, cast a circle of protection around them and use them! You’ll be amazed how quickly the word count grows once you’ve made the commitment.

Also, be proactive in seeking out opportunities to be published. Once I’d decided I was going to be a published author, rather than thinking I wanted to be a published author, great things happened but I still had to make them happen. Take control and responsibility for your writing journey.

Willow: Mrs Marley would also like to ask a question, if you could choose one character to have tea with, who would it be?

I would love to have tea with Molly, who lives in the Wynthorpe woods. The atmosphere in her little cottage is so warm, welcoming and incense infused, it would perfect. That said, I’m not sure what sort of tea Molly would brew!

Three tarot cards lying next to a crystal. " of wands, a man holding a staff looking into the distance, king of pentacles a king sitting on his throne holding a coin and one of cups - a golden chalice being held up by a large hand.
Image by JOAN A BROWN from Pixabay

Rosa: We love Molly. I’m sure she’d fit in well here. She lives in the woods of Wynthorpe Hall and reads the tarot cards for people. Have you ever had yours read and did it come true?

I’m so pleased you love Molly too. She’s someone readers have really warmed too. She’s cast us all under her spell. I read my own cards and yes, they’re pretty accurate. A while ago I started working with a different deck and we didn’t bond at all, so I’ve gone back to my original cards and I’m much happier. There was an instant energy shift.

Willow: Some cards are like that. The Enchanted Emporium sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

I would choose either financial security or confidence, but between the two, financial security would come out on top.

Willow: One candle we sell invokes memories of your perfect day when lit. Where would it take you?

This is a tricky one! I’ve been blessed with so many perfect days, such as the day my editor said the words ‘we’d like to offer you a two-book deal’! That was phenomenal!

However, I’m going to pick the day my daughter and I travelled to London to see Kpop group, SF9 perform in Hammersmith. The concert in the evening was fabulous, but the entire day ran so smoothly – even traffic lights changing as we approached so we could cross roads without waiting and finding each other straight away in the city even though we’d travelled from opposite ends of the country. There was definitely magic in the air that day!

A pumpkin with two small resin ghosts.
Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Willow: Even when it’s not Halloween, The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

I have lived in both National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties and there were plenty of bumps in the night there! Ghostly goings on haven’t influenced my writing, but I often include a solstice celebration. The one on the beach in Underneath the Christmas Tree was a joy to write.

Rosa: You must have so many tales to tell living in those properties. Normally, we’d ask about what potion you’d have the witches blend for you but in your books, there is a wishing tree in the grounds of Wynthorpe Hall. What would you attach to the tree and what wish would you ask to be granted?

I adore the Wishing Tree! I think it would have to be a notebook and I would ask for endless inspiration. There’s no sign of the well running dry, but it would be a comfort to have a back up.

Willow: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

I know it’s a little early in the year, but every December 1st I read A Christmas Carol and I have quite a few beautiful copies of it now, so I’ll add that timeless tale if I may.

Rosa: You can never have too many copies of A Christmas Carol. There are many stunning editions. What would you add to my Box of Romance?

Not surprisingly, I have a few favourite romance authors, so I had a tricky time picking just one book to add! Trisha Ashley has an entire shelf to herself on my bookcase, more than one actually if you include the hardbacks, so I’m going to add Twelve Days of Christmas. Another festive title, but one I often visit whatever the calendar says.

Willow: And lastly what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

I’ve recently submitted the first draft of the summer 2023 release which publishes next April. It’s called The Book-Lovers’ Retreat and is a standalone read which I am absolutely loving working on. It is set in the Lake District, which is somewhere I have wonderful memories of visiting, and is already available to order.

Here’s the blurb – The Book-Lovers’ Retreat, set in the Lake District, tells the story of three friends who spend the whole summer in a hideaway cottage, the real-life setting of their favourite book. As the summer develops, so will their friendship, they will find love in all its forms and, as a result, their lives will change course forever…

So exciting! I’m also making plans for Christmas 2023 as I need to start writing that book very soon!

Rosa: That book sounds amazing, it’ll be on our pre-order list. Thank you for visiting and good luck with your writing. Happy Samhain!

Heidi Swain Author Biography

Photo of Heidi Swain. White woman in glasses and smiling. Short cropped hair and red dangly earrings

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in literature and flirted briefly with a newspaper career before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster. Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and she became a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. Heidi writes two books a year – a summer and winter title.

She is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in the east of England with a mischievous cat called Storm.

Links

Website: http://www.heidiswain.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Heidi_Swain

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterHeidiJoSwain?ref=hl

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heidi-Swain/e/B00YNN3LDI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1620727029&sr=8-1

Publisher: https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/

                  http://booksandthecity.co.uk/

Book cover for A Christmas Wish by Heidi Swain. Purple with her name in gold and title in white. The bottom shows a winter scene, snow covered fir trees and a mansion

A Christmas Celebration by Heidi Swain

Blurb:


When Paige turns up unannounced at Wynthorpe Hall, she discovers the place she knew when she was growing up has changed beyond all recognition. She’s only planning to stay for a short time, but is quickly pulled into local life.
 
One night while driving home after delivering library books and shopping to residents she stumbles across an isolated cottage and meets Albert, its elderly and rather grumpy owner. She quickly realises there’s more to Albert than meets the eye and the same can be said for the other man she can’t seem to help running into, handsome but brooding Brodie.
 
All three of them have a secret and a desire to hide away from the world, but with Christmas on the horizon, is that really the best way to celebrate the season?

Monday Merry Meet: Alys West

Today we’re excited to chat to Alys West, author of the witchy series the Spellworker Chronicles. We hope you enjoy hearing about Samhain, her books and spells.

Monday Merry Meet: Alys West

Willow: Hi Alys, come in it’s blustery out there. It’s as if you brought your Storm witch with you. We’ve heard the waves hit the harbour walls all day. Usually we’re too far away.

Amber: On the plus side the courtyard has gathered so many autumnal leaves, I can make a wreath.  Can I get you a drink? We have our own blends of tea, Yorkshire tea, as no one can beat that for a proper cuppa, coffee or something different?  

Alys: I’ll have a cup of green tea with jasmine if you’ve got it.  Thanks for inviting me to visit your wonderful shop. I love Whitby. It’s one of my favourite places. I always feel history really strongly here and there’s so many stories to tell about Whitby. I set my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter here and I’m sure I’ll come back to it in future books.

Willow: We’d love to read those. You write novels surrounding witchcraft and the occult. What drew you to that genre? 

Alys: Ooh, thanks for the tea. That looks lovely.  I’ve always read a lot of fantasy and I’m a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Merlin.  I’m also deeply fascinated my folklore. When I started writing Beltane I wanted the magic to be organic, to come from the earth and the folklore of Glastonbury.  I think all of the witches in my books are essentially hedge witches. Their power is mainly instinctive and comes from hedgerows and gardens rather than reading magical books.

Willow: We know all about instinctive magic and it often gets Amber into trouble.

Amber: Willow prefers tried and tested magic from books.

Willow: Not always. I love your atmospheric settings. Beltane was set in Glastonbury and Storm Witch is located in West Orkney. How important are locations for you and what comes first, the location, character or plot?

Alys: Location is hugely important to me. I’m very influenced by the spirit of a place.  With my writing, I start with the place and the story grows from it. Beltane grew out of the landscape around Glastonbury.  Storm Witch was inspired by a folk tale about a girl called Janet Sinclair who lived on the island of Westray in Orkney in the seventeenth century who was believed to be able to call up storms.   

Amber: I found the Storm Witch highly relatable and their emotions cause havoc with their powers. How easy was it to write those scenes?

Alys: I’m pleased to hear you related to the Storm Witch. It was pretty cathartic to write those scenes. It was a bit of a release to allow those emotions out. As a person I feel things deeply but do my best to hide it so I was probably working through some of my own anger by allowing the Storm Witch to let rip!

Willow: As you can see with our pumpkins and window display, we are looking forward to Halloween. Is Samhain something you usually celebrate?

Alys: Yes, Samhain is a really important time of the year for me.  I love autumn. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain is the start of the new year. It’s the time when our energies turn inwards as the days grow shorter.  I’ve got much more comfortable with the idea of retreating and recharging in the winter and Samhain is the start of that period. 

There’s a Samhain tradition which I like to follow; you eat an apple and each seed symbolises something you’d like to grow or develop during the winter months. Traditionally you would then eat the seeds but I like to see that as optional!  

So I won’t be out Trick or Treating but I’ll be celebrating the turn of the seasons at home with candles and the leaves and seeds I’ve gathered on my walks. 

Willow: It’s a beautiful way to celebrate it and we must give you one of our Samhain candles before you go. Every writer seems to tread different paths to publication. What has your journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Alys: My journey has been a bit twisty-turny but I feel I’ve ended up in the right place. Initially I tried to get a traditional publishing deal and had an agent for a while. However that didn’t work out so I indie published Beltane. It’s been hard work but I wouldn’t have changed it. It’s allowed me the freedom and time to write the stories I wanted to tell.  I’ve also met some absolutely brilliant people along the way who have supported my writing and helped me keep going.  If I was to change anything, I think I’d have gone indie straightaway. Indie publishing is right for me and my books. I could have saved myself a lot of rejection letters if I’d embraced it sooner!

Willow: Spells and magic can be very ritualistic. Do you have writing rituals are strict writing regime?

Alys: I always sit in the same green Ikea chair. We moved house a few months ago and the writing chair was not available for a few weeks and it really threw me. Other chairs are available in our house but none of them felt right.  I also need tea when I sit down to start writing.  That’s usually a pot of green tea but I move onto peppermint later in the day. I like to write first thing in the morning but don’t think that means I’m up at six every morning. I like my sleep so for me first thing in the morning is about 9.30am!

Amber: I secretly write. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Alys: There’s masses of advice out there for new writers and it can be overwhelming. When I was younger I absorbed the maxim that you must write every day. I have a long-term health condition which means that’s simply not practical for me and I spent a lot of years feeling that because of that I would never be a writer. I’m older and wiser now and have learnt what works for me. 

In my opinion, many writing books are about what works for that writer. Some of that may work for you but other bits won’t. The most important thing you can do is keep writing and as you do that, you’ll find out what approach works for you. 

Having said all of that, I do recommend reading books on story structure. These are generally written for script writers but apply equally to fiction writers. My favourite is ‘Into the Woods’ by John Yorke. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy of that, Amber.

Amber: I’ll seek it out. Thank you. If we used magic to bring one of your characters to life so you could share a coffee with them, who would you choose?

Alys: Gosh, that’s a tough one because I love them all.  I’m going to go with Winston because he’s got that bad boy charm going on but underneath he’s a bit of a softy.  In the next book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’ we’re going to find out a bit more about Winston’s past.  Over coffee I could ask him a few searching questions but I know him too well to think he’d open up and give me a straight answer. Most likely I’ll get a lot of jokey deflection. Seeing behind that as one of the challenges of writing his character.

Willow: Talking of magic, we sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Alys:  I’m a bit of a people pleaser so the ability to say no would be useful. If you can make that the ability to say no without guilt then that would be even better.

Amber: Releasing the guilt is important and already accounted for in the spell. The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity all year round. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Alys: I’m originally from York which is absolutely packed with ghosts. There are stories of ghosts in most of the pubs, the theatre and various historic buildings. I’ve never experienced anything paranormal even though I’ve worked in a few buildings which are known to have ghosts. The most I’ve experienced is a strong sense of negative emotions in certain places. I do believe buildings can absorb the feelings of the people who inhabit them and I think I pick up on that sometimes. 

Willow: If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?

Alys: Right now, I could do with a superpower that allowed me to travel instantly to where I need to be. My Mum is currently in hospital. It’s an hour’s drive each way to visit her. I’d like to be able to teleport straight to the ward to see her rather than spending ages stuck in traffic and then pop to my parent’s house to have a cuppa with my Dad.

Amber: We hope she feels better soon and teleporting would be ideal. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Alys: ‘Spirited’ by Julie Cohen. I’ve only just finished it and I absolutely loved it. Julie’s a fabulous writer and she packs such a lot into a book. ‘Spirited’ is about Victorian spiritualism but it’s also about sexuality, female power and colonialism.  The characters became so real to me that I’ve kept thinking about them and wanting to know what happened to them after the novel ended.

Willow: We loved that book. Great choice. Our assistant Rosa couldn’t be here today because of childcare issues but she has a box full of romances for people to borrow.  What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

Alys: Oh gosh, it’s so hard to choose! I’m going to go with ‘Thornyhold’ by Mary Stewart. I loved Mary Stewart’s books when I was younger and read them all again when I decided to start writing myself. This is my favourite. It’s a wonderful story of romance and magic which a big dollop of mysticism.

Amber: I’ve heard good things about her. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Alys:  I’m working on ‘Stone Magic’ which is the third book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’. It’s taken a while for this one to reveal itself (turns out living through a Pandemic is not good for my creative process) but I’m really excited about it now.  It’s going to pick up the story from the end of Storm Witch and follow the investigation into the deaths of The Order. After ‘Stone Magic’, there’ll be a fourth and final book in the series which has the working title of ‘The Winter Tree’.  I’m not making any promises as to when they’ll be ready as I don’t write very fast and life has a habit of getting in the way but I will get there. 

Thank you so much for inviting me to visit The Enchanted Emporium. It’s been lovely to sit in your wonderful shop and chat to you both. Thanks as well for the tea, very much appreciated!

Beltane by Alys West

Title: Beltane

Author: Alys West

Publisher: Fabrian Books

Release Date: 8th June 2016

Genre: Fiction, supernatural

Purchase: Amazon

BLURB

Struggling artist, Zoe arrives in Glastonbury seeking inspiration. The small Somerset town is steeped in myth and legend and Zoe’s sure it’ll be the perfect place to work on a book about King Arthur. But behind the shops selling witchcraft supplies and crystals real magic is being practised.
When Zoe meets Finn her life changes forever. Not only is he a druid connected to the ancient energies of the earth but she dreamed about him long before they met. Finn’s life is in terrible danger and Zoe’s dreams start to reveal more of the plot against him.
After dreaming of a deadly battle at a stone circle on Dartmoor, Zoe starts to wonder if the dark magic around her is playing tricks of its own or if she really can see the future. Will she learn to trust Finn, and herself, in time to stand any hope of surviving the powerful magic that will be unleashed at Beltane? Or is it already too late?
This gripping story of magic, romance and the supernatural will entrance fans of Deborah Harkness and Phil Rickman and keep you spellbound until the very last page.

Author Biography

Alys West

Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Her first novel, Beltane was inspired by the folklore of Glastonbury. Her second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a steampunk romance set in Whitby. Storm Witch is her third novel and is set in the beautiful Orkney islands which she fell in love with back in 2010 and has used every excuse to return to since (including setting a novel there!) She is fascinated by folklore and folk tales which are a big influence on the stories she tells.

Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teaches creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. She’s also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet. She occasionally blogs at www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer. She is also on Instagram at @alyswestwriter. To keep up with Alys’s news you can join her Facebook readers’ group ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles’.

Monday Merry Meet: Rachel Burge

Ever since we read Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge, we’ve been wanting to know more about the author and how the story came about. So imagine our joy when Rachel Burge popped in for a drink at the Emporium.

Why not grab yourself a cuppa and take a break to catch up with her too?

A mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream, pumpkin and leaves illustration
Pumpkin and coffee by Image by Irina Alex from Pixabay

Monday Merry Meet: Rachel Burge

Willow: Hi Rachel, come through to the back and have a seat if you can find one. Sorry for mess. Amber has been creating the perfect pumpkin for the window display and we have an excess of them everywhere. In fact, you can take a pumpkin or two with you when you go home, if you’d like?

Amber: Carving pumpkins isn’t as easy as I thought and seeds and gloop go everywhere. If you let me use magic, it would have been tidier.

Willow:  I doubt it. What would you like to drink, Rachel? We have our own blended teas, Yorkshire tea, coffee or something stronger? We still have some parsnip wine, raspberry gin or damson vodka.”

Rachel: I’ve never had parsnip wine and would love to try some. Thank you!

Amber: Congratulations on the publication of Waking the Witch. We were excited when it arrived on the bookshelf. I had a sleepless night when I started it, as I had to read just one more chapter. Can you briefly tell our readers what the story is about?

Rachel: Waking the Witch tells the story of a seventeen-year-old girl called Ivy who is searching for her mother after being abandoned as a baby. She tracks her down to a remote Welsh island, where she discovers a disturbing truth about her past and why her mum gave her up. The story draws on Welsh mythology and Arthurian legend and offers a fresh take on some well loved stories and characters, namely Morgan le Fay and Merlin. It’s feminist, witchy, and very creepy!

Willow: Though we believe witchcraft is a way of life not just for Halloween, there is always more interest in witch related books this time of year. How did you come up with the story? Was your inspiration character or plot based?  

Rachel:
I tend to be inspired by setting first and foremost. I was looking up “remote places in the UK,” looking for a good location to set a creepy story, when I came across Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli), off the west coast of Wales. Isolated from the rest of the world, the tiny island has no roads or amenities and only a handful of residents.

Bardsey has been a site of holy pilgrimage since the 5th century and there are 20,000 saints and holy martyrs buried there. As it’s only about a mile long, you can supposedly dig anywhere and find bones. I was also fascinated to discover the island’s few residents move to the mainland each winter and take their farm animals with them, leaving the place deserted. Could something sinister be happening there in the darker months, I wondered?

I became excited when I discovered that Bardsey claims to be the site of Avalon and Merlin’s last resting place. In some tales, he’s trapped in a tree, cave or tower. Interestingly, Bardsey has a tower in the form of a red-and-white striped lighthouse. After seabirds kept crashing into it (as many as a thousand birds were killed in a single night), they replaced the rotating white beam with a fixed red LED light, which birds aren’t drawn to.

I took these facts and used my imagination to come up with an explanation for what might be happening on the island. The result is Waking the Witch.

Amber: What a fabulous background story.  I found the opening chapters in the butterfly room immersive. The imagery was vivid. What made you choose a butterfly zoo as a setting for Ivy’s job?

Rachel: I wanted to write about a character who undergoes a major transformation. I was brainstorming ideas and the image of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis came to me. Butterflies symbolise metamorphosis, and I had a crazy notion that maybe my character could physically transform too. Once I had this theme and imagery in mind, I decided my character should be fascinated by butterflies and want to work with them.

illustration of cupped hands surrounded by butterflies
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

Willow: It’s a good fascination to have. They’re enthralling creatures. We love to hear about author’s publication journeys. What was yours like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Rachel: I’ve always loved writing and have wanted to be an author since I was at a school. After studying English Literature at university, I worked on a local magazine and then as an online editor and feature writer. As I was coming up to my 40th birthday, I remembered my childhood dream and started working on a novel in earnest. I came up with the idea for my first book, The Twisted Tree (a ghost story based on Norse mythology) while doing a tarot course with Maddy Elruna.

As well as being a gifted tarot reader, Maddy is a Norse shaman and talked a lot about the Norse gods while explaining the meaning of the different cards. One card that really captured my imagination was The Hanged Man, which shows Odin hanging from the world tree, Yggdrasil. The Twisted Tree is based on this particular myth and features the Norns and Hel, queen of the underworld. 

Maddy also led me on several shamanic journeys where she contacted Odin on my behalf. He had some surprising advice for me, and even helped with several plot points I was stuck on. (But then he is the god of poetry and writing!)

The tarot card The Hanged Man A man is hanging upside down
Image by Virgo Gemini from Pixabay

Amber: I need to look her up. She sounds fascinating. I dabble with writing beyond my book of shadows. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Rachel: Try to get as much feedback on your work as possible. There are websites where you can look for beta readers, or you could join a writing group and read each other’s work. I’ve learnt a lot from the feedback of others. Although I now have an editor to read my work, I still try to get my books read by as many people as possible before they’re published.

Willow: I find I need my own space to perform spells and have my own rituals I perform beforehand. Do you have a particular writing routine?

Rachel: I write whenever I have a spare moment, usually in my office at my desktop computer. I don’t have a particular routine, but I will light candles and play spooky music to help me get into the mood to write.

Amber:  We sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

I would probably choose confidence, as it’s something I’ve always lacked, or a good night’s sleep.

Amber: This is a question we ask everyone because the Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Illustration of a ghost reading ghost stories

Rachel: Yes, I’ve had several experiences which happened as a child. I grew up in a small two-bedroom house with my mum and my nan. Mum had me when she was 18 and I shared her childhood bedroom, which was filled with her collection of clown dolls. I don’t mean one or two – every surface was covered with them. One day, I must have been about seven, I was playing on the floor when I saw a doll move by itself. It didn’t fall off a shelf or slip from its stand, its hand moved as if it was beckoning me.

Other things happened, too. A door knob rattled when there was no one on the other side, and once when I was in bed I saw a white mist, like a whirlwind, hanging above my head. I asked my nan about it the next day and she told me that several of my relatives had died in the house. If there was anything there, then they were my family and wouldn’t hurt me.

Willow: I agree with your Nan about your relatives but clown dolls are horrifying at the best of times, never mind haunted ones. If we could blend a potion in our workshop to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Rachel: I often have tarot readings to help me make difficult decisions, so I would probably ask for the power to see exactly what my various futures would look like depending on which choices I make. (I don’t believe the future is fixed. Instead, I think it changes based on our thoughts and actions).

Amber: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Rachel: Michele Paver’s Dark Matter, a ghost story set in the Arctic. It creates such a creeping sense of dread while you’re reading it and I was afraid to turn the light off at night.

Amber: What are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Rachel:
I’m writing another spooky book. It’s set in autumn, my favourite season, and draws on the beauty and horror of the natural world.

Willow: Thank you so much for visiting the emporium. It’s been fascinating to talk to you and you’ll have to come back again when your next book is out. Maybe we can compare tarot card collections.

Rachel:
Thank you for having me! It’s been lots of fun.

Author Biography

Photo of Rachel Burge. White woman, smiling straight long hair parted in the middle. Leaves are in the background
Rachel Burge

Website: https://rachelburge.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelABurge

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelburgewriter/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rachelburgeauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/burge0709/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/rachelburge99

Cover for Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge,
Red and white lighthouse emitting red rays of light. A large black cormorant with wings spread in the fore ground is guarding a person in the foetal position. They are surrounded by a circle of runes.
Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge

Blurb

A darkly spellbinding story of witches, sisterhood and coming of age, steeped in Welsh mythology and Arthurian legend.

Ivy has spent years looking for her birth mother, but when she finally finds her on Bardsey Island, she is shocked by what greets her. According to folklore, the cormorants that fly over the remote Welsh isle are the terrifying witches of Arthurian legend – and they are searching for Ivy.

Her mum warned her not to come and to stay away from the lighthouse, but now it’s too late. As the shadows draw closer, Ivy must look deep within herself if she wants to survive. For not every story in folklore is true, and some evils aren’t what they seem…

An unputdownable new stand-alone novel from the bestselling author of THE TWISTED TREE and THE CROOKED MASK.

Our review can be found here.

Monday Merry Meet: Jessica Thorne

Hello October! It’s officially spooky season and time to celebrate by meeting with another author who has written about witches, Jessica Thorne. Her book The Water Witch is out now and we can’t wait to chat about it.

Black and white photo of umbrella in the rain
Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Monday Merry Meet: Jessica Thorne

Willow: Jessica, please come in. Pop your umbrella in the stand. It’s fitting that we’re about to chat about your book, The Water Witch and the heavens haven’t stopped raining all day. But the plants love it and it makes people linger for longer in the shop and see more things they like.

Did you find us ok? When they’re too many customers the Emporium gets fed up and starts playing games. It hides the entry to the snicket.

You should dry off soon, the fire is lit and —

Amber: I’ve cast a drying spell, so everyone’s clothes should dry quickly

Willow:  Except for Lady Denver’s cashmere coat, which you singed. I apologise for the smell, Jessica, if burning is still in the air.

Amber: How was I supposed to know that spell wasn’t to be used on goats. Your ancestors need to add disclaimers at the bottom of their spells. What can I get you to drink? We have all blends of tea, from Yorkshire to herbal tisanes, coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger?

Jessica: Yorkshire tea is perfect, thank you. The stronger the better. I am Irish, you know.

Willow: The Water Witch is set in Brittany, and we’ve seen some of your videos and photos linked to the location. What made you set it there rather than somewhere more local like, let’s say Robin Hood’s Bay?

Jessica: I have always loved Brittany and spent a lot of my holidays in the region. I love the myths, the legends, the people and everything about it. And we’re fellow Celts, as the Bretons are so fond of saying.

Willow: It is a beautiful place. Your novel is based on a curse, a lost city and love. What came first, the plot or your characters?

Jessica: In this case I think the legend and the setting came first. I just knew I wanted to write about the lost city of Ys. Ari was the first character and everything came out of that combination. But in this case the setting itself is very much a character. I love stories of ancient curses and that sort of twisty way they have of working out or being thwarted.

Amber: We love them too. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Jessica: I’ve been published since 2007 and under a number of names. I’ve written YA and adult, I’ve been published by a Big Five Publisher and smaller traditional ones, by eFirst, and I’ve self published. I think the main thing is to find the right place for a book which isn’t always where you would expect. There may be one or two things I would do differently but on the whole it has brought me where I am now and I am very happy with that.

Willow: That’s good to know. I have set rituals to start my working day. Do you have a certain writing routine?  

Jessica: Not really. When my children were very small  I worked full time, so I learned early on to get the writing done whenever and wherever I could, whether that was in the morning, or late at night or in the car waiting for the outside school. I can write anywhere, although I admit I find it very suspicious if its too quiet. I tend to play loud music these days.

Illustration of books and an ink pot and quill
Image by Janet Gooch from Pixabay

Amber: Many of our customers are secret writers. Do you have any advice for those starting out?

Jessica: Tell the story you want to tell, the thing that interests you most. Don’t try to follow trends. It may take a while but you will find a home for that story eventually. Everything in publishing moves in cycles so if you love a genre or subgenre it will probably come around sooner than you think.

Amber: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Jessica picks up the Little Red Hen candle which inspires those around you to help without asking

Jessica: Definitely this one! Please!

Willow:  One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?

Jessica: Not very far back at all – while researching The Water Witch my husband and I went on a research trip to the locations in the point, in particular the Pointe de Castelmeur. I can’t describe how magical that place is. We had it all to ourselves and sat there for ages, just enjoying the wind and the waves below. There is a particular noise in local legends which is meant to be the gates of Ys shattering and while we were there, I swear, we heard it. Absolutely magical.

illustration of a ghost reading a book

Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague the Enchanted Emporium? Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Jessica: I once worked in a haunted library, does that count? I love all things ghostly, and yes, it always influences my writing. I believe there are paranormal things all around us and one day we will understand them well enough to drop the “para” bit.

Willow: A haunted library could give a lot of inspiration. If we could blend a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Jessica: I’d talk to the dead. (but only for 24 hours, right?)

Amber: Yes, talking to them for longer is overrated. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Jessica: King of Morning, Queen of Day by Ian McDonald – one of the greatest books about Irish Fae I’ve ever read. Dark and scary, generational trauma, and true love.

Willow:  What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

Jessica: Playing for Love by Jeevani Charika – a rom com about secret gamers. And handbags.

Willow: Great choices. Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Jessica: Actually it IS top secret. But after that I’m hoping to get back to writing some epic fantasy romance.

Willow: We can’t wait to see what it is. Thanks for visiting and good luck with your writing.

Author Biography

Jessica Thorne

Jessica Thorne writes romance and fantasy from the heart which often strays into weird and wonderful liminal places. She works in a specialized library of rare & occasionally crazy books.

She writes adult fantasy women’s fiction, which wanders from Space Opera to time travel to epic fantasy, including The Water Witch, The Bookbinder’s Daughter, The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall, The Queen’s Wing, Mageborn and Nightborn. The Stone’s Heart was nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Fantasy novel of the year in 2020.

http://www.rflong.com/jessicathorne/

@JessThorneBooks on Twitter
@JessThorneBooks on Tiktok
@JessThorneBooks on Instagram

Book cover for The Water Witch by Jessica Thorne.
The Water Witch by Jessica Thorne

Blurb

The man smiles at the water witch as he opens the city gates and unleashes the wild sea. All will be destroyed. With her last breath the water witch curses him, her lover who has betrayed her and her people. ‘The sea will take all your menfolk. Until the day you save my city, I curse you and yours to drown’.

Present day, France. Archaeologist Ariadne Walker has always loved Brittany’s steep cliffs, crashing waves and endless shifting skies. But she’s left devastated when her fiancé Simon drowns on a dig searching underwater for the lost city of Ys. Local legend says it was destroyed centuries ago: and that the water witch, once the princess of Ys, still drowns the men of this region in revenge…

Escaping the old myths and stories, grieving Ariadne is walking on the heather-strewn cliffs on a stormy night when she’s approached by a mysterious masked figure. As he removes the mask Ariadne’s heart almost stops beating. She sees a glimpse of Simon’s face before he disappears, laughing, into the waves below.

Only Rafael – a local whose family have lived here for centuries – has answers. He says the water witch has doomed Simon’s soul to become her servant, forever wandering the rugged shoreline. She will soon claim Rafael too. The only way to save them both is to find the lost city, where the secret to breaking the curse is hidden…

Thrown into a magical underwater world of lost treasures, ancient promises, and dangerous betrayals, will Ariadne find a way to finally break the curse? Or will the water witch demand another sacrifice?

An absolutely addictive romantic fantasy read filled with passion and mystery, that will sweep you away to the wild coast of northern France. Inspired by real myths and legends from this magical place, The Water Witch is perfect for fans of Luanne G. Smith, River of Shadows and Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Monday Merry Meet: Kate Johnson

Welcome to the last Monday of September. With celebrations of Mabon over, the staff at the Emporium are gearing up for the busiest times of the year, Halloween. Where as Willow used to have a subtle approach to the season, under Amber’s influence and Rosa’s romantic view of the Halloween decorations have exploded this year. Amidst the chaos, they are delighted to catch up with author Kate Johnson. Her latest novel, The Hex Appeal was loved by everyone and provided chuckles and endless imagination on every page.

Amber sees it as a blueprint of how a witch should live without the constraints of normality while Willow thinks she has enough to contend with with the clashes between Vincent and the resident ghost feline, never mind flying glass parrots.

Monday Merry Meet: Kate Johnson

Cobwebs at old window
Image by Myri Roet from Pixabay

Willow: Hi Kate. It’s so lovely to see you. Mind your head when you come through to the back, Amber attempted to talk to the spiders to make extra cobwebs for Halloween decorations and they’ve taken it to the extreme. It’s like walking into Shelob’s lair. She has convinced them to depart the Emporium while we chat, just in case you are arachnophobic.

Kate: That’s fine. You should see my house. The spiders are both entertainment and food for the kittens.

Willow: That sounds mayhem. Rosa’s putting the kettle on. What would you like to drink? We have a range of teas, including Yorkshire, coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger? We had a good harvest of damsons last year so have some damson gin.

Kate: Damson gin will do nicely, thanks.

Amber: We’ve all read your new novel, Hex Appeal and were blown away by your world building in Beldam House. It was full of small details that made the house feel alive. Did you have as much fun writing this book as it appears on the page?

Kate: So much fun! I sat back and thought about the things you get in witch stories, and the things that had been weird or amusing to me recently, and then just… amplified them. I started growing carnivorous plants in the first lockdown, and they can be quite spectacular. So they had to go in the book. And I really liked the idea of a house that changed to suit your needs, like the house in Encanto (and how’s this for a sign: my new kittens were nicknamed the Encanto kittens by the RSPCA: it was meant to be!). The village of Good Winter is a mixture of the village where I live and others around it—even the names aren’t entirely out of the realms of possibility: we have a Good Easter and a Cold Christmas, and there’s a Beldam’s Lane and Gall End (that being short for gallows) around here too.

Willow: They’re fantastic names. Essie and her family are a fantastic group of witches, each with their unique abilities. What came first in the writing process, characters or plot?

Characters, always. I spent a while thinking about Essie and her backstory, and Josh and his, and how the two would come together, clash, push and pull each other. I kind of thought of the household a bit like What We Do In The Shadows: a disparate group of people who only have one thing in common, but it’s a really big thing, so it’s what binds them. As for plot… I never usually plot. I just went, “Blah blah, Witchfinder General, great evil threatens the earth, somehow they’ll fix it, now on with the witty banter!”

Amber: He brings us to the next question. The threat in Hex Appeal is based on the Essex witch trials and the general witchfinder. What made you choose this part of history as the novel’s foundation?

Kate: Well, he’s the most famous person associated with witches hereabouts. Essex has a strong association with witches, and in fact more people were executed as witches in Essex than any other English county. This is almost entirely down to Matthew Hopkins, who was less a witchfinder than a con artist who profited from the persecution of helpless people, mostly women, and didn’t care much that they could—and often did—end up being hanged. It honestly amazed me that he isn’t considered a serial killer. The number of deaths he’s responsible for is in the hundreds.

An etching of Matthew Hopkins the General Witchfinder. Man wearing tall hat, breeches and moustache and short pointy beard.
Mathew Hopkins The General Witchfinder

Willow: We agree.  Evil man. I’ve also read Little Haunting by the Sea about the relationship between Jen and a Victorian child only she can see. Have you had any paranormal experiences and has that influenced you work?

You’d expect so, but no! But then again I have fierce protection. A while ago one of my cats sat on the sofa beside me, and really took umbridge at a patch of empty air a foot or so in front of her. Hissing and growling like mad. Then she suddenly stopped and began to purr. Now, was she fighting off an invisible demon for me? She’ll never tell.

black kitten hissing
Image by ktphotography from Pixabay

Amber: She sounds a good protector. We’re gearing up to celebrate Halloween, is it something you celebrate or avoid?

Kate: Unsurprisingly, I absolutely love Halloween! I always have. I take my costuming quite seriously and have an impromptu lecture prepared for when people tell me “It’s all very American,” because my friend, it’s more British than queuing in the rain to see the Queen. In fact it’s the origins of Halloween that form an important plot point in Hex Appeal: the festival of Samhain, which wasn’t always a fixed date but fell at the midpoint between the autumn equinox and winter solstice. It’s very much the nightfall of the year, when there is more dark than light and the cold settles in for the winter.

Rosa: We love being nosy. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Oh… long. Recently at a writing event the chair of the panel referred to me as the “longest-serving” and none of us could work out how many books I’d written (including me). I started writing for small presses, then slightly larger ones, then larger still. There have been a few small disasters, but nothing I really regret doing.

 I think the only change I’d make to that journey was holding my horses a bit when I first began submitting, because none of those books were remotely ready! I’m very glad self-publishing wasn’t around back then, because I’d probably have thrown up some very green books and set myself back.

Amber: I like to dabble in writing. What advice would you give new writers?

Kate: It’s like any craft: you’ve got to put the hours in. Read everything in your chosen genre (and outside it too!) and write lots. Be prepared to discard a lot, and I mean a lot. Be sensitive to the world around you but develop a thick skin for criticism.

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Kate: Ooh. A good night’s sleep. Or confidence. (Do you have one that helps with indecision?)

Amber: Now that would be a bestseller. We have a candle that invokes memories of your perfect season? Where would it take you?

Kate: Autumn. A proper crisp autumn, where it’s cold enough to wear a pretty coat and a cute hat. Crunchy leaves underfoot, the scent of woodsmoke in the air, a cosy blanket in the evenings. Bliss!

Autumnal coloured maple leaves
Image by Shirley Hirst from Pixabay

Willow: I agree with you there. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

You know what, I’d like a potion that helps me learn things really quickly. So I could play the piano, speak fluent French, understand the causes of WWI, that kind of thing. So long as I don’t lose the memories after 24 hours!

Willow: Losing all that knowledge would be cruel. The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is always on the lookout for new books. What book would you add to it?

Kate: Jessica Thorne’s The Water Witch. It weaves in wonderful Breton folklore with a modern romance. I love Jessica’s books (also check out her Ruth Frances Long YA titles, which are brilliant and include English and Irish folklore).

Rosa: I’ve seen The Water Witch on the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf and She’s rumoured to be popping in soon. I adore romance novels and have a box full of them to share with customers. What would you add to it?

Kate: My absolute favourite romance author is Jennifer ruise. I pick her up whenever I need to remember how to be funny. I also want to recommend Jeevani Charika, who writes lovely warm romcoms with British Asian characters.

Willow: Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Kate: Hex Appeal has been such a whirlwind I haven’t started work on a new book yet—but I have a couple of projects on the back burner. I’m hoping to do more paranormal romance, but exactly what flavour…? We’ll see.

Willow: Thanks for visiting and if Essie, Blessing, Avery, Maude, or even Lilith are in the area, please tell them to pop in. We will have lots to talk about.

Kate: If Lilith pops in, I apologise in advance.

Willow: Ha ha we’ll have to make provisions for that outcome. She’s a force to be reckoned with.

Author Biography

Photo of Kate Johnson. Smiling white woman with pink wavy hair
Kate Johnson

Kate Johnson is a Romantic Novel of the Year Award-winning author of romantic, mystery, and science fiction and not a stack of cats inside a raincoat, as many people believe. Kate lives in Essex with a small pride of cats, and writes books because actually being a space pirate, witch or murderer sounds like hard work.

Social media

Twitter, instagram & TikTok: @K8johnsonauthor

Facebook: @catmarsters

Book cover for The Hex Appeal by Kate Johnson. Dark purple backgound, white font entwined with green foliage. A cottage is at the bottom and a dungaree wearing woman is on the upper right side while a man is on the left looking at her
The Hex Appeal by Kate Johnosn

Blurb

Encanto meets Hocus Pocus in this perfect witchy romcom. An absolute must-read if you love Erin Sterling’s The Ex Hex and Lana Harper’s Payback’s a Witch!

It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus…

Essie Winterscale lives in a huge and ever-changing house in the village of Good Winter, in deepest, darkest Essex. She lives with various witches of various ages, one of whom is still a bit salty about having been burned at the stake in 1635, one who keeps accidentally casting fertility spells, and one who knits things that create the future.

All Essie ever wanted was to have a normal life but in the end she found herself drawn back to Beldam House because she just can’t stop her witchiness (although the ability to instantly chill wine is pretty awesome, even she has to admit).

Into this coven of chaos stumbles gorgeous, clueless Josh, their new landlord – and he’s just discovered his tenants haven’t paid rent since the 1700s! As Josh is drawn further into the lives of the inhabitants of Beldam House, Essie is determined to keep him at broomstick’s length. That is, until a family secret, lying hidden for centuries, puts Josh firmly under her spell…

‘Funny, smart and sassy…No one creates such brilliant worlds quite like Kate does’ Julie Caplin

Monday Merry Meet on a Tuesday: Elisabeth Hobbes

Yesterday the Emporium, like many places was shut so everyone could pay our respects to our Queen Elizabeth II. This means our Monday Merry Meet met on Tuesday instead and we’re delighted to catch to Elisabeth Hobbes, author of historical romances and thrillers.

Monday Merry Meet: Elisabeth Hobbes

Willow: Hi Elisabeth, come in. The sea breeze is more than a bluster today with the waves crashing against the harbour wall. Make yourself at home and warm up. Amber is at college, so it’s me and Rosa today. What can we get you to drink? Yorkshire tea, many other teas or herbal tisanes, coffee, or maybe something stronger.

Elisabeth: I’m always partial to a good mug of Yorkshire Tea, please. Since moving away from York where I grew up, it doesn’t taste the same, but I buy it anyway to remind me of home. I like an occasional herbal tea in the afternoon, either lemon and ginger or fennel.

Rosa: Mr Harper brought in some posh red wine as a thanks for a throat elixir, which meant he could do the speeches at his daughter’s wedding without coughing. I can open that.

The red wine or the throat elixir? I teach 5-year-olds for 3 days a week so I could definitely do with something to save my voice!

Rosa: Looking at the wine, both would work for that. Your book Daughter of Sea looks beautiful, and we were drawn to it with the mention of Barbara Erskine and Christina Courtenay, who are some of our favourite time slip authors. Christina visited us recently. Have you always written this genre?

I’ve always written stories set in the past, but Daughter of the Sea is my first with a fantastical/folklore element. I love to read them though. I’m a huge fan of stories where the uncanny overlaps or spills into our world. I began it as an entry to the Romantic Novelists Association Elizabeth Goudge contest called ‘The Foster Child’ and I won, so I knew I had to expand and complete it. At the moment I’m alternating books set in France during the second World War with fantasy/folklore historical romances.

Willow: Daughter of the Sea is based on the selkie legends. What was it about them that inspired you to write this story? Did you do much research?

There’s something fascinating about the idea of people who can move between worlds, but I knew I wanted to steer clear of merpeople. Because the prompt for the story was ‘the child from the sea’ I knew it had to start with Effie finding the baby floating in a basket. Discovering her wrapped in fur pushed me in the direction of selkies. The idea of a dark haired, handsome stranger appearing wrapped in furs was an image that stuck with me too, especially when I decided Lachlan, the baby’s father, looked like Richard Armitage in my head with a lovely Scottish accent.

I found quite a few selkie legends, most of which follow the pattern of a selkie either having their sealskin taken or giving it up willingly, and living in human form. As part of Daughter of the Sea I wrote a couple of my own ‘old tales’ which Lachlan tells to Effie and the children. I hope readers will think they sound convincingly authentic.

Underwater scene of a female selkie talking to seals
Image by Dorothe from Pixabay

Rosa: What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

I started off writing medieval romances for Mills & Boon and was very happy doing that, expanding after a few books into the 15th century and Victorian era. When Charlotte from One More Chapter expressed interest in Daughter of The Sea she asked me to write a Second World War story first. It was a leap into the unknown but I’m so glad I took it. I don’t think I would change anything because I’ve been lucky to work with fantastic editorial teams at both Mills & Boon and One More Chapter and I’ve made some firm friends. The only thing I’d do is fit more hours in the day or become faster at typing. I don’t suppose you have any potions to help, do you?

Willow: We keep trying to make those potions but they’re temperamental and have unfortunate side effects. I’d probably be sued if I sold them. I know when I’m working, I have set rituals I need to do to be productive, do you have a particular writing routine?

I start my writing days with a cup of tea (in bed rather than rushing round getting dressed to leave for school) then take my two dogs out for a walk. It’s a good way to clear my head and try get into a writing frame of mind. Then it’s a case of a shower, a second cup of tea and trying to get my head down to work. I dictate into a voice to text app as I drive to school so I always have notes to try untangle.

Willow: Several customers want to write after reading some books from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. Do you Advice for new writers?

I am dreadful for getting tangled up in research. I can lose hours online trying to find the particular name for a type of dagger, or the right sort of cloth, or the length of a journey. One trick I find helps to not get bogged down is to write something like ‘crzclothname’ and move on. If I forget to go back then the spellcheck picks it up and reminds me.

Rosa: That’s a great tip. The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Financial security would make all the difference in the world. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to write on two days a week and teach on three. I adore being in the classroom with the children, but I’d love to be able to cut down another day and write for three (or tidy the house, my husband might say).

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?

It would take me to Serre Chevalier in the French Alps for a week of skiing with sunshine but lots of snow. There’s nothing better for my wellbeing than a blue sky over snow covered mountains (and the promise of a hot chocolate at the bottom of the slope).

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

I never have, which is very disappointing considering I come from supposedly the most haunted city in the world! I’m autistic and atheist, so am more likely to look for a logical explanation even if a ghost sat next to me. It helped me write Effie, who is also very practically minded (and slightly scathing of her grandmother’s remedies) until she’s confronted with absolute proof of the supernatural/uncanny in the form of Lachlan and Morna.

Rosa: In your biography, you mention you lived in Yorkshire but moved to Cheshire after your car broke down. How did that happen?

My husband and I had moved back from Greece, where we had been teaching English. We were both working at summer schools in different part of the country and only had one weekend where we could get together to house hunt. We based ourselves at his aunt’s house in a small mill town and planned to drive into Manchester to find somewhere, but ended up having to look round the town on foot when the car wouldn’t start.

Rosa: If the witches could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Super speed so I could really blitz my house. With 2 teenagers, a husband and 2 dogs, the house it always messy and hasn’t had a proper top-to-bottom clean for far too long.

Willow: We could all do with that spell.  What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

 I absolutely love Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a children’s book, but I think you’re never too old for a good one. I read it as a teenager and I love the Studio Ghibli animated version too. It’s about Sophie who gets put under a curse to turn her into an old woman. She takes a job as housekeeper for the wizard Howl in his castle which moves round the countryside on legs. The story is about how together they break the curses on them both.

Rosa:  What would you add to my box of Romance?

Without hesitation, Persuasion by Jane Austen (don’t ask me about the recent adaptation). It’s such a beautiful story of second chances and finding inner confidence to go after what you believe in. The letter from Captain Wentworth sends shivers down my spine. Lyme Regis isn’t as nice as Whitby of course!

Willow: Whitby is a special place. What are you working on currently? If you can say or is it top secret?

I’m working on a book set in the French Alps during World War Two, but I’m waiting for my editor to get back to me about the one I’ve recently set her. That’s another with fantasy elements about a young boy who meets a dryad in a sycamore tree, forgets her, then meets her again as a young man. I hope she likes it because I loved writing it.

Rosa: Fingers crossed she will so we can read it. Thanks for dropping by it was lovely to meet you

Willow: And here’s some throat elixir for your teaching days.

Author biography

Eilsabeth Hobbes white woman with short blonde hair and dark square glasses.
Elisabeth Hobbes

Elisabeth began writing in secret, but when she came third in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013, she was offered a two-book contract, and consequently had to admit why the house was such a tip.  Elisabeth has published historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon and One More Chapter, spanning the Middle Ages to the Second World War.

Elisabeth teaches Reception but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike four-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them.  When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.

She was born and raised in York but now lives in Cheshire because her car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethHobbes/

Twitter https://twitter.com/ElisabethHobbes

Blog  https://elisabethhobbes.co.uk

Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/elisabeth-hobbes?follow=true

Amazon viewauthor.at/ElisabethHobbes

Daughter of the Sea by Elisabeth Hobbes

Blurb

On a windswept British coastline, the tide deposits an unexpected gift…

It was the cry that she first noticed, the plaintive wail that called to her over the crash of winter waves. Wrapped only in a sealskin, the baby girl looks up at Effie and instantly captures her heart. She meant only to temporarily foster the young orphan, but when news reaches Effie that her husband has been lost at sea, and months pass without anyone claiming the infant, she embraces her new family—her son, Jack, and her adopted daughter, Morna.

Effie has always been an outcast in her village, the only granddaughter of a woman people whisper is a witch, so she’s used to a solitary existence. But when Midsummer arrives, so, too, does a man claiming to be Morna’s father. There’s no denying Lachlan is the girl’s kin, and so, Effie is surprised when he asks her to continue looking after his daughter, mysteriously refusing to explain why. She agrees, but when he returns six months hence, she pushes him for answers. And Lachlan tells a story she never anticipated… one of selkies, legend, and the power of the sea…

Monday Merry Meet: Christina Courtenay

After the shock news about our Queen Elizabeth, it’s been a hard weekend and has affected all in the Emporium. Complimentary ‘hug and love’ tea has been added to each purchase to provide the feeling of a calming embrace to all who require one. She had a more of an impact on everyone’s lives than we realised and will be missed. Only Percy and the Marleys have known other monarchs in their lifetimes.

On a lighter note, today we are delighted to welcome Christina Courtenay, author of many timeslip novels to chat about her books and writing.

Monday Merry Meet: Christina Courtenay

Rosa: Hi Christina, Willow will be with you shortly. She is just dealing with a time crucial spell. It’s a pongy one, and the stench has crept out of the workroom into the backroom so we’ll chat out here on the shop floor if that’s ok? Can I get you a drink? You can choose any tea blend we stock, coffee or something stronger?

Christina: Thank you, any kind of fruit tea would be lovely – blackcurrant, perhaps? With lots of milk and sugar, please.

Vintage cup and saucer of tea
Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

Willow: Hi Christina, glad you have a drink. Did Rosa explain about the backroom? No one wants to sit in a room that stinks of rotten eggs. Amber sends her apologies too: she’s stuck at college today. Have a seat.

Your latest novel is called Hidden in the Mists. Please, can you tell us more about the inspiration behind it?

Christina: Hidden in the Mists was inspired by a combination of the Galloway Hoard (a Viking treasure found in Galloway in 2014) and the west coast of Scotland. During the Covid lockdown, I was trying to come up with ideas for a story where I was already familiar with the setting, as we weren’t allowed to travel. I’ve always loved Scotland and have a friend who lives on the coast just opposite the island of Jura, so that seemed ideal. (She was able to help with details if my memory failed). And the hoard found in Galloway had long been on my mind as I wondered what it would feel like to find something like that and why someone would bury a treasure and then not return for it. The ideas for the plot grew from that.

Rosa: Your novels are a combination of sweeping romances and time-slip. What made you choose this genre mix?

Christina: Ever since I read my first time-slip (or dual time, as some people call it) novel, I’ve been drawn to this sub-genre. I think it’s a combination of the paranormal/magical possibilities and the fact that you get to have two love stories for the price of one, as it were. There are usually two couples, one in the past and one in the present, and they are connected through time somehow. The idea of twin souls or two people destined to love each other for eternity and through the passage of time really appeals to me.

Willow: We love to hear about writer’s publication journeys. What has yours been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Christina: My road to publication was very long! I started writing when my older daughter was a baby as I wanted a job I could do while still being a stay-at-home mum to her, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. (I was very naïve!) I eventually got published the week after she left home aged 21, so things didn’t quite go to plan … But perseverance pays off! I don’t think I would have done anything differently as I did everything I could to learn and improve as a writer during those years.

Rosa: Do you have a set writing routine?

Christina: No, not really. I try to write every day or if I’m not writing; I do research and take notes. But sometimes the words just don’t flow and I give myself time off until inspiration strikes. If I am feeling inspired, I can write all day and all night so it evens out eventually.

Willow: Several customers long to be writers. What advice would you give to those wanting to give it a try?

Christina: Join some kind of writing group or organisation and try to learn as much as possible about the craft of writing. And, if possible, find yourself a writing buddy – someone who is at the same stage in the process as yourself and whose opinion you trust. Writing can be a very lonely business and it’s great to get to know other authors who understand the journey you are on. I belong to the Romantic Novelists’ Association, for example, and they have lots of events and regional groups where the members support each other. That’s been brilliant for me!

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Christina: I think I would choose luck, because that’s always useful, or possibly confidence – as an author, it is very easy to lose confidence in your own writing and start to doubt what you are doing.

Willow: One candle we stock invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?

Christina: Probably to Japan during cherry blossom season. It is one of my favourite countries and there is so much to see and do – I just love it there!

Willow: I agree with you. I loved Japan when I visited and the cherry blossom is spectacular.

Rosa: If you could spend a week in a different era, when would it be and would it be in a particular location?

Christina: Obviously, I’d love to go back to Viking times and it would be fun to spend time in one of the trading towns like Birka or Jorvik.

Willow: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium, have you had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Christina: Personally I haven’t experienced anything paranormal, but I used to stay regularly at a 600-year old manor house which had a resident ghost. The owners had seen him and he was young, handsome, blond and wearing chain mail, so I was very upset that I didn’t get to meet him. I did base a story on him and that house though – The Silent Touch of Shadows – so I got to spend time with him in my imagination at least.

Willow: He sounds fascinating and we’ll have to keep an eye out for that book. It’s added to my TBR list. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Christina: I’d like to be able to travel in the blink of an eye as I hate travelling – traffic jams, long journeys, airplanes … could really do without those!

Willow: Good choice. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Christina: I love Sarah J Maas’s series starting with A Court of Thorns and Roses, it’s fantastic! But I’d recommend adding any books by Susanna Kearsley, Nicola Cornick or Barbara Erskine too.

Rosa: We’re all Barbara Erskine fans here. How important is a happy ever after ending to you and which romance would you add to my box of Romance?

Christina: The happy ever after ending is everything! I refuse to read books that don’t have a HEA (and yes, I have been known to check before buying) as I feel that the real world is too depressing and we need happiness in the stories we read. I read so many wonderful romance books it’s hard to choose just one, but anything by Sue Moorcroft is always guaranteed to be wonderful.

Willow: She is a great author to read at Christmas. Finally, what are you working on now or is it top secret?

Christina: I’m working on the next book in my Vikings Runes series – Promises of the Runes – which will be published in April next year. It’s the story of Ivar Thoresson, a 21st century archaeologist who decides to travel back to the Viking era to see what it was like. And the reality is a lot more than he expected …

Willow and Rosa: Thanks so much for visiting. It’s been lovely to chat.

Christina: Thank you so much for inviting me!

Book cover for Hidden in the Mist by Christina Courtenay

blue cover with red trees poking out through a mist and a woman in a cloak walking towards them.
Hidden in the Mists by Christina Courtenay

Blurb

A love forged in fire lives on through the ages

Skye Logan has been struggling to run her remote farm on Scotland’s west coast alone ever since her marriage fell apart. When a handsome stranger turns up looking for work, it seems that her wish for help has been granted.

Rafe Carlisle is searching for peace and somewhere he can forget about the last few years. But echoes of the distant past won’t leave Skye and Rafe alone, and they begin to experience vivid dreams which appear to be linked to the Viking jewellery they each wear.

It seems that the ghosts of the past have secrets . . . and they have something that they want Skye and Rafe to know.

Author biography

Photo of Christina Courtenay. A white woman with wonderful long ringlety reddish hair. Wearing a black jumper
Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the RunesHidden in the Mists (timeslip/dual time romance published by Headline Review 18th August 2022) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Social Media:-

http://www.christinacourtenay.com

https://www.facebook.com/christinacourtenayauthor?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/PiaCCourtenay

https://www.instagram.com/ChristinaCourtenayAuthor/

Monday Merry Meet: Kat Chant

Logo for Kat Chant. Kat is vertical in purple elaborate font. Chat is horizontal and the C is a crescent moon with ivy climbing it. It's beautiful

Today, we’re thrilled to host debut writer Kat Chant. Her novel God of Summer is released next week, 12th September and is available to pre-order at a discounted price for buyers on Amazon! Scroll down for the link

Monday Merry Meet: Kat Chant

Hi Kat, welcome to the Enchanted Emporium. Come through to the back. Did you find us okay? We’ve had problems with a disgruntled customer, so the shop is on the defensive. It keeps hiding itself when people walk by. Not handy when we have a business to run.

What would you like to drink? We’ve a full selection of teas from Yorkshire tea, Earl Grey to matcha. Many herbal tisanes. Coffee, or  something stronger?

I’m an herbal tisane fan, so any chance of a Pukka tea? Otherwise, anything with cinnamon or cardamom because I’m into spicy!

Willow: We may have some Pukka tea kicking about but if you like spicy, why not try some of our own blend, Autumnal Cosy Chai? The black tea is blended with ginger, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and hits the spot on these cooler evenings. It’s one of our top sellers as we head into Halloween. I’ll get you some.

Amber: Don’t be fooled by the word cosy, that tea has a kick but people like it. Your debut is out next week. How are you feeling?

<Laughs nervously> Excited. Also faintly nauseated. I mean, people I don’t know are going to read this book. People I know will usually say something polite or nice….

Willow:  I’m sure you’ll be fine and other readers will see the magic. We’ve all read the blurb and not only does the hero on the cover look swoonsome, and the premise of a Celtic god coming to the modern world is intriguing. What was your inspiration?

My husband claims he’s my inspiration and he’s… not wrong? After all, he was a tour guide at Newgrange, the home of said Celtic god, which gave me a lot of insider knowledge. But the inspiration was really the question: the Irish god of love was supposed to live there. If he’s still around, why would he show himself now?

Willow: We’ll be reading the book to find out why.  The novel involves a banshee attack which is an uncommon mythical creature to write about. What attracted you to them? Did you do extensive research for this novel?

Banshees are that rare mythical creature people in Ireland still admit to, um, hearing. (Seeing, not so much.) I love that there’s still a thread of mysticism there that hasn’t died, and I’ve tried to respect that in my story. The locals have a pretty good idea of who my Celtic god is, but they keep their distance—just like in earlier days, you’d mind what you said about the Good People whether you believed in them or not, because it wasn’t worth the bad luck if you were wrong.

This takes me to a related story… When Newgrange—the 5,200-year-old temple/tomb where my story is set—was excavated in the 1960s, the locals insisted light used to shine inside the hill and illuminate the trispiral (the design on my hero’s chest). The archaeologists dismissed this until they checked the midwinter alignment and went, hang on… So, Professor O’Kelly, who led the dig, sat in the chamber and waited, and lo and behold, the sunlight comes in through its very own VIP entrance as a beam of light that penetrates the utter darkness until it’s bright enough inside to see the stunned faces of those around you.

That last part was my own reaction because my boyfriend at the time gave me his place one midwinter solstice and I had the privilege of witnessing this truly magical event myself. This is the part where I say: reader, I married him.

Does that also answer the question on research? Sort of? I might have also spent about twenty years absorbing Irish culture while investigating every piece mythology to do with the Tuatha Dé Danann I could find, while also nicking all my husband’s archaeology books.

Amber: That’s a lot of research and you must have enough info to write many books.

Willow: And archaeologists should have learnt by now to trust what the locals say. They often know more than they are given credit for. You’re a bookworm as well as a writer. Do you have a favourite place to read and does this differ from your writing space?

Since libraries have always been my safe space, naturally I’ve created one of my own. My office is a teeny tiny room that is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling filled with Billy bookcases. I’ve tried to create a reading nook by my window but it’s not very comfy. Hmm, I really need one of those hanging egg chairs, stuffed with cushions to properly nestle in.

Willow: That sounds a bookworm’s dream apart from the uncomfy chair. I’ve often considered a hanging chair myself, though Vincent may not like it or if it was a cane one, he’d shred it to pieces. Cats and weaved furniture never mix well.

Hanging egg chair with a cushion on it
Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Several customers tell us their life stories and some of them would make wild, fantastical novels. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Writing is like parenthood. Everyone is ready to give advice about how to do it ‘properly’, but you have to find what works for you.

Willow: Good advice. The Enchanted Emporium sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

It’s tempting to take the Focus candle because I can be scatty, but you know what? I want (good) Luck, because while I do believe persistence pays off, it’s the lucky breaks that lift you to the next level.

The word luck with horseshoe as the u and a four leave clover
Image by Gerhard from Pixabay

Willow: Listening to authors that pop in it does seem serendipity places a role in some cases though it can’t happen if you’ve not written the book in the first place. It requires a particular sort of dedication and mindset.

Amber: That Willow doesn’t have despite liking the idea of writing. The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity? Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing.

<Nods in sympathy> Oh yes, my husband and I (don’t I sound like the queen?) used to live in a 300-year-old farmhouse. Before we took it on, a lot of the guides used to stay the summer there and move on. At least one said she wouldn’t stay because of the resident ghost. He dwelt on the third step from the bottom of the staircase—so he could observe the main room vet who went upstairs. After a couple of years living there, I lost my temper with him being all judgy and told him if he didn’t like us living there, he could move on. That seemed to settle him for a bit. I think ghosts like to be acknowledged.

I put him into an early draft of God of Summer, but he didn’t stick. Hopefully, he’ll find a place in another story, another day.

Illustration of a ghost reading a ghost story

Willow: Ghosts do like to be acknowledged though some are awkward. We have a cold patch on the stairs we believe is a ghost, but no amount of cajoling makes it appear. It just freezes your bones as you walk past.

Willow: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Easy – Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s chock full of witches, sacred gardens, curses and foretelling, but everything comes with a twist. I adore it.

Amber: We need that book. It’s on my TBR list now it sounds ideal, and I can’t believe I’ve not heard of it.  What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

Another easy one— The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. This is a proper Rom Com with enemies-to-lovers and every word flows.

Willow: Another good choice. What are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

I’ll tell you so I have to do it: I’m writing a prequel novella to God of Summer, currently titled Heart of Darkness.

Willow: We’ll be cheering you on to finish it and you’ll have to come back when it’s being released. Thank you for visiting and here is some tea to take with you and a focus spell candle – we need to know more about Angus.

About Kat Chant

Phot of Kat Chant wearing a sleeveless red dress leaning on her hands. She is a white woman with long dark straight hair
Kat Chant

Kat Chant is an award-winning writer. A bookworm who grew into a history buff, she exchanged beaches for castles move from Australia to the UK. There, she fell in love with a lad from Ireland…and fell in love with his country, too.

She and her family live in the heart of Ireland, surrounded by fields in forty shades of green.

God of Summer

Book cover for God of Summer by Kat Chant. The font is is god and the Aztec style edging of the book is also gold.
A handsome muscly bare chested man has a trispiral tattoo on his chest, long brown hair and he is looking up at a ray of sunshine
God of Summer by Kat Chant

Back in the Bronze Age, Angus McCraggan sacrificed his life to break the Celtic curse laid on his kind. He failed. Millennia later, he returns to modern Ireland to find his people have become feral, vengeful shadows. With his hollow hill now packed with tourists, he uses his power to keep his past hidden.

Until an American calls him out.

Since a banshee attacked her as a teen, Erin De Santos has been tormented by dreams of a boy she’s never met. Armed with a new identity, she returns to the Emerald Isle determined to face her nightmare. But her discovery turns fatal.

When the banshee strikes again, Angus surrenders his heart—and his hope of freeing his people—to save her. With his life now hers and his curse descending, Erin must make a terrible choice: kill her saviour or share his doom.

Social Media Links

Web                      https://www.katchant.com

Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/KatChantAuthor

Instagram            https://www.instagram.com/katchantauthor/

Pinterest              https://www.pinterest.com/KatrinaChantAuthor/god-of-summer/   

Twitter @katchantauthor / https://twitter.com/katchantauthor

TikTok                   https://www.tiktok.com/@katchantauthor

Bookbub              https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kat-chant

https://www.bookbub.com/books/god-of-summer-by-kat-chant

Goodreads         https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22710441.Kat_Chant