Today I'm welcoming Ruth Warburton, author of the 2012 YA debut A Witch in Winter. Click here if you're interested to find out why I enjoyed her novel so much and can't wait for the sequel. Thank you, Ruth, for taking your time to answer my questions so elaborately. I really loved reading your answers!
Goodreads Summary of A Witch in Winter:
Anna Winterson doesn't know she's a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that's controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.
Although a perfect fit for the paranormal romance genre, A WITCH IN WINTER avoids fangs, excessive body hair and submissive female leads, and tells the heart-wrenching story of a couple meant to be together, but being forced apart. Seth is utterly irresistible and Anna is an empowered, proactive young woman with unimaginable magic inside her. This is fast-paced, sensuous writing with believable incantations inspired by Warburton's research into witchcraft legend and old English.
It feels really good! Also quite scary – I'm only just getting used to the idea that all these characters who lived in my head will be out there in the big wide world for people to love or hate. But mostly it's great – I feel incredibly lucky and still have to pinch myself every now and again.
I love hearing authors’ stories about the process of writing their novels. How did you start A Witch in Winter and what motivated you to continue?
I've always written stories ever since I was able to write, pretty much. For me writing is like reading, it's just something I do for the pleasure of living in another world and inside another head for a while. But I never did anything with the books – they just went under the bed because I work in adult publishing and felt it would be too weird and too embarrassing to sub to people I worked with.
Then A Witch in Winter just came out as YA. Right from the initial seed, I just knew it would be a story about a teenage girl. And when I finished it I realised I could send this one out, because it was a whole different set of agents – ones I'd never met and was never likely to meet in the course of work.
I have read that the spells Anna uses in A Witch in Winter are based on your love for the Old English language. And while those parts were quite hard to understand (especially for a foreign reader like me) they’re one of my favorite parts of your novel. But I’d love to know what exactly fascinates you about Old English that you decided to make it a part of your story?
Old English is basically another language with completely different grammar (in some ways it's closer to German than modern English) so it's not surprising people find it hard to understand. You need to know a bit about the grammar and learn some of the vocabulary to get started, though you can guess at some of the words, as they sometimes sound like their modern equivalents.
I suppose my fascination with Old English started at university when I studied the language for a couple of semesters. I never got very good (I think that would take a lot longer than a short course), but I loved picking my way through the ancient texts and feeling like someone from a thousand years ago was speaking to me directly. I also found it fascinating figuring out how that language somehow morphed into ours.
What I came to realise is that all the strongest, most elemental words in modern English are derived from Old English. If a word is polite or refined or intellectual then it's probably an import – usually from French, Greek or Latin. But the core words – the strong, simple words that really pack a punch – they're usually from an Anglo-Saxon root. Love. Hate. Life. Death. Those are all words from Old English.
So when I was trying to come up with the most powerful words I could think of for spells, I turned to Old English, hoping that the strength of those ancient words would help give my spells the power they needed to jump off the page.
Winter, the town Anna moves to, is both intriguing and mysterious. What inspired you to create this setting?
Winter grew quite gradually in my head but it's got lots of elements of places I've stayed and holidayed – it's definitely influenced by Cornish and Breton fishing villages, but probably the biggest influence was my home town of Lewes. Lewes is not on the sea (it's a few miles inland) but it has some of the same elements – a ruined castle for one.
What was your favorite part of writing A Witch in Winter? What was the hardest part?
Gosh, that's a really tough question! I was writing it for fun, not for publication, so it was all pretty enjoyable. If I was stuck or bored then I just put it down and came back to it another day when I'd had a good idea and felt like writing.
The sequels are a bit different in that respect because I have to finish the books to a deadline, and I know they'll be published at the end of it – they are my first experience of having to write and feeling the pressure that it really has to be good!
But for A Witch in Winter, I'd have to say the hardest part was subbing it to agents and then having my agent sub it to publishers! It felt like waiting for exam results all over again.
If you could be a witch like Anna for just one day, what would you do with your powers?
I think I'd be too worried to do anything! Magic in my books is always uncertain and dangerous – there's a consequence to all actions, and if you aren't prepared to pay the price, you shouldn't act.
But if I had to choose a spell, maybe flying because it would be really fun and I don't think I'd be likely to hurt anyone – unless I landed on them.
My next question is very egoistical: While I love Seth, I have also developed a little crush on Abe. Will we see more of him in your second novel, A Witch in Love? And are there any small details about this sequel that you are allowed to share with us and that might make the wait a little bit more bearable (or even more excruciating)?
YES. You will definitely see a LOT more of Abe. I like him too, so you have no worries on that score! What can I tell you about A Witch in Love? Well, it opens six months on from where A Witch in Winter finishes. After what happened in A Witch in Winter Anna's determined not to use her powers again. She's also determined to find out what happened to her mother.
But while she's following her mother's footsteps into the past, a new enemy is watching from the shadows. Anna's about to find out that there are worse things out there than witches...
That's all I can say!
Do you already have any ideas for novels you might want to write once you’re finished with the Winter trilogy? Could you imagine writing and publishing an adult novel one day?
I have lots of ideas – the problem will be finding time to write them all! I could imagine writing for adults one day if the right idea came along and gripped me, but at the moment I am loving writing YA so I don't think I will be leaving this niche any time soon.
What books do you like to read yourself? Are there any favorites you would recommend to everyone? Which books are on your to-buy-list for 2012?
As I said above, I work in adult publishing so I read a LOT, but mostly for work, and almost all adult literary fiction.
Outside of work I am really excited to buy Night School by CJ Daugherty – CJ is a friend and by a really bizarre coincidence her first book came out the same day as mine. I have a proof but I am really looking forward to getting the real thing!
I have also heard really good things about Hollow Pike by James Dawson, which sounds brilliantly spooky – it feels like witches are going to be big in 2012. It also has one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in a long time.
As for favourites – anyone who loves reading about witches and magic should read the Earthsea books by Ursula Le Guin (the first one is A Wizard of Earthsea) and anything by Diana Wynne Jones (try starting with Charmed Life or Fire and Hemlock). I adore their writing and come back to them both again and again. They write very differently about power and witchcraft, and their characters inhabit very different universes, but one thing they share is an imagined system of magic which is layered, compelling and completely convincing, each in their own individual way.
Thank you for having me Carina, and for such brilliant questions – I had a great time!
With huge thanks to Hachette Children's Books I can now announce that one (1) winner can win one (1) copy of Ruth's debut novel A Witch in Winter.
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