Congratulations on the publication of Red Witch! What inspired you to start writing novels?
I’ve been writing a long time but previously to Crow Moon I was writing poetry. I started writing for teens after I’d been working at BookTrust a couple of years and had been seeing all these books around; at that stage I wasn’t that familiar with children’s books apart from the ones I’d enjoyed as a child and a young person but the more I looked at, the more interested I got.
For those who are reading but haven’t read your books, could you describe them in 10 words?
Ecopagan community in Cornwall faces threat from corrupt outside world.
Where did the idea for the Greenworld come from?
It evolved quite slowly. I started off with an idea about survival and living on the land and children, and slowly I integrated a pagan community and witches and last, a global fuel crisis. I watch a fair few survival documentaries with my other half as he’s into all that and I think that was the very original inspiration.
Has magic always interested you? Why did you choose to include magic?
Yes, always, and as the story developed to have green themes I realized that I really wanted to write a story that made it clear what an intrinsic relationship magic and the practice of witchcraft has with protecting the environment. It’s not a theme that’s often covered in magical stories, which is ironic, as it’s the real basis of magic – which can be defined as understanding and being sensitive and reverent to the natural flow of energies in the world and co-creating with them. Clearly, natural energies include weather, vegetation, animal species, water sources, etc etc. I think both that magic doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s inextricably involved in day to day life as there is no division – and it’s far more revolutionary to suggest that normal, non-supernatural people are capable of enacting powerful change.
With your characters, did you draw any inspiration from your own life?
Yes, I think you always do that to some extent. Many of the characters have my characteristics in some ways as well as people I know or have known. Not all of them, though! And like all writers I think, I take bits from here and there and fictionalize the rest.
A really central theme of both Crow Moon and Red Witch is the issue of oil running out and to a certain extent, climate change. Why did you choose to include this theme in your book?
It’s pressing in our lives. It’s very important. I remember being in my early 20s and realizing suddenly that I didn’t have the luxury of not worrying about the environment, because things were going to go bad in my lifetime. I like writing about magic and strange things, but I also like to keep a contemporary concern in my writing. Dystopia and scifi has always referenced the social concerns of the writer – Orwell, Atwood and Huxley, Arthur C Clarke, Le Guin, Robert Heinlein were all / are all (in Atwood’s case) commenting on the real stuff that’s happening in our increasingly dystopian society.
How do you write your books? Do you have a specific process?
I start at the beginning and end at the end, once through in the vomit draft, then rewrite and weave all the stuff I’ve forgotten I need to put in, delete all the crap (hopefully), make the voice sound right and make it sparkle.
Did you ever expect that your books would become this well loved and so acclaimed?
Ha! I don’t really think that they are particularly well loved or acclaimed at this point in time, but I hope they will be. But of course it is lovely for anyone to read and love them at all. I always thought, if I can reach just one teen and really make an impact on them, then that’s fantastic, and I have at least achieved that.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing book 3 of the trilogy at the moment and that comes out in March 2017, and I’m working on a few new projects. All hush hush for now! I hope to be able to write many more books.
And finally, what tips do you have for any aspiring authors who may be reading?
Keep going! It takes time. Like, years. The only difference between success and no success is grit, I think, in many cases. Talent is some of it, but work is more. Keeping going, learning and improving. I mean, you have to learn and improve, otherwise keeping going with the same old crap isn’t any good either.
Just try to improve and write regularly, every day if you can, write something, even just a little bit, even just your diary. Read a ton, and preferably good writing – though you can learn something from most books, even if the thing you learn is “that’s terrible” or “I don’t want to write like that”. And, last, know how good you really are! There’s always someone better than you; some unassailable genius you admire. But you’re so much better than so many other people too.