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.
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.
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!
Twitter: Jo Clarke
Author: J C Clarke
Publisher: The Book Guild
Genre: Middle grade, Children’s fiction, YA, Fantasy
Release Date: 23rd September 2021
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?