Thursday, January 26, 2012

Author Interview + Giveaway: Ruth Warburton (A Witch in Winter)

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.

First of all, your debut novel A Witch in Winter has been released at the beginning of this month. Congratulations! What does is feel like to be a published author?

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.

  • You have to be a GFC follower of Fictional Distraction, since I'm going to pay for international shipping myself.
  • You have to be at least 13 years old. By entering you confirm this.
  • You can gain extra entries by commenting on this post, liking FD on Facebook, following me on Twitter and tweeting about this giveaway.
  • Fill in the Rafflecopter form to enter!
  • Please don't leave any personal information, e.g. e-mail-addresses, in the comment section.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Omg I so want to read this! I love witch books they're my favorite paranormal stories and I've had my eye on this for a while. Old English IS fascinating I've studied it a bit for a project and it's really interesting. Great post!

  2. This book just keeps catching my eye and taunting me that I haven't read it yet! Definitely sounds amazing and the cover is beautiful!!! Great interview!

  3. This sounds like a fantastic book. Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Ohh and if I could be a like Anna, I don't know what I would do. Could I freeze time? There must be a spell for that. That would be cool. I could get a lot of reading done!

  4. I absolutely adored your interview! My favorite part is when Ruth talks about why she writes - I feel much the same way about my own writing.

    If I had powers like a witch, I would probably travel all over the world. I think that would be a great use of my power, as I'd get to see and experience a whole host of different cultures :)

  5. Thank you for this giveaway! Loved the interview (:

    If I could be a witch for a day, I would go back in time to visit all the places we learned about in history class. How cool would that be? :D

  6. Hmm...If all magic has consequences I would probably try and do something where the consequences wouldn't be too horrendous. Maybe get myself some chocolate hopefully that wouldn't be to bad.

  7. I'll get myself a new wardrobe. Haha. Lord knows, I HATE shopping, but I need them to go out with my friends, so, yep. That and try to see into the future or something.:P

    Haha, great interview! And thanks for this awesome giveaway. Oh, and I noticed you're 3 followers away from 1000 on GFC, Carina! Good job, and congrats in advance!! :)

  8. i would like to have healing powers so i could cure my diabetic brother ( if the result of that day last for a lifetime of course)

    all the best

  9. i would *cliche* save the world! :)

  10. Hmm, if I could have powers for just one day I'd like to be able to teleport or something like that. I've never even been out of my own timezone and I'd really love to visit places in Ireland, Scotland, Britain, STONEHENGE especially.

  11. If I could have powers for one day, I would put it towards making all of my story ideas appear magically on paper...and yes, I have a lot of different story ideas! lol Would make writing go by so much faster. :)

    Great giveaway!

    Wendy @ Escape Into Fiction

  12. I'm always fascinated by Old English, too. After reading Beowulf, my interest really piqued. I can't wait to see how it's used in A Witch in Winter! Thanks for the interview! :)
    - Lauren

  13. I would give everyone a happy glow so everyone can be happy even just for a day :)

  14. Hmmmm... I don't know what I would do if I had powers for just one day. Probably just do whatever I can to improve my life and the people I love lives.

  15. If I had enough magic power for just one day I would banish cancer in all its forms from the world of the living.

  16. I would make people happy, trying to eliminate the problems.

  17. I would want everyone happy and peace all over the world...

  18. I would love to be able time travel or at least become invisible :) And I love Lewes, my hubby had a wonderful flower shop there for a while, and I used to work there on Sunday. Such a pretty little town! :)

  19. I'd probably get up to some mischief. Whatever I do it would be heaps of fun.


  20. I would heal the sick. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book.

  21. I would have some fun with people.(Maybe not fun to them!)

  22. Thanks for the giveaway!

    homework and chores magically done ha ha

  23. Maybe I would make some love potion))))

  24. If I had powers of a wich then I would travel the world,save the world and finish my homework*evil grins* ;)


  25. I'd love to control other people's love lives:)

  26. I honestly don't know what I would do. That's a question that requires a lot of thought! Thanks for the giveaway, book looks awesome!

  27. I would fly all over and take aerial shots of the scenery

  28. Haha. i want my house neat and tidy. No dust at all.

  29. Hmmm, if I got witch powers... I would brew a few potions, get myself a black cat (to keep up appearances, of course!) and maybe start practicing flying with my newly acquired broom!

  30. Very interesting question, uhm, let me see... I'd love to make someting good with it. Would love to stop the war, the poverty and the diseases all over the world =)


  31. With some witch powers, the first thing I'll do will be saving helpless and wounded animals :) My weakness :)

    Thank you for the giveaway :)

    Best regards, Diana

  32. I'd read other people's minds!

  33. This has been on my TBR list for months, glad to hear it's out now :D
    Hm... it's a tough question what I'd do. Maybe I'd teleport and spend the day in San Francisco, I've always wanted to go there. Or maybe I'd spend the day as a guy... even though that could go horribly wrong XD
    Thanks for the giveaway, I really enjoyed reading the interview :)

  34. I'd love to teleport myself to other places!

  35. I think I would manipulate nature. You know, make water float and stuff :)

  36. I would love to fly/float for a bit - it would the rest the feet and let me wear heels - I can't walk in them but if I could float I wouldn't have to walk! :-)

    Mel S

  37. Teleporting is cool. I would do that or create a bunch of cool healing potions.

  38. I'd love to fly and make rainbows :) I love rainbows!

    Thank you for the giveaway!

  39. I'd love to be able to teleport (or fly very fast instead!!) as I live too far from family to visit very often and I'd be able to visit every day then!!

  40. If I have witch power, I would probably use it to make things appear out of thin air or something. Or maybe, be able to travel anywhere I want in an instant. :D


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