Bestselling fantasy author Paula Brackston discusses her new novel, The Winter Witch, and why witches are set to replace vampires and werewolves as culture’s next supernatural sensation.
Zola: How and when did you first become interested in witches?
Paula Brackston: I’ve always enjoyed stories featuring magic and fantasy figures. Who wouldn’t want to be able to cast spells? Imagine! When I started my research I began to ask myself, “What if some of those women accused of witchcraft were in fact real witches?” After that I became really interested in the way that witches and magic have been viewed in society through the ages.
Zola: The story takes place in Wales, where you were raised. Was that a spooky place to grow up? Why did you choose it for the setting, as opposed to, say, England, where your previous novel, The Witch’s Daughter, was set?
PB: Although I was born in England, my family moved to Wales when I was only five, so this is home. I wouldn’t call it spooky, but it is highly atmospheric, with wild hills, lush valleys, an ancient language and people, lots of castles, and a tradition of songs and stories that frequently include magic.
Zola: The Witch’s Daughter was a huge success. Did you consider writing a sequel?
PB: The characters Elizabeth and Tegan are very dear to me, so, yes, I would love to spend more time with them. Maybe a sequel one day…
Zola: What kind of research did you do for The Winter Witch? Did you come across any interesting folklore or history surrounding witchcraft?
PB: I always get thoroughly absorbed by the research for a book. Wales is full of myths and legends and fascinating folklore, lots of which found its way into The Winter Witch, but I don’t want to give too much away!
Zola: Are witches due for a pop culture revival similar to vampires and werewolves?
PB: I say yes, definitely! Seriously, I think they do all speak to that part of us that is fascinated by “other” and by supernatural strength. We are moved to pity those who are set apart and victimized. We are drawn to people with an indefinable, “magic” quality. We are stirred by the power witches, vampires, and werewolves are fabled to have. And don’t we all like to be just a tiny bit frightened now and again?
Zola: What are your favorite books and movies about witches and the supernatural?
PB: Ooh, how long have you got? Picking just a few: I spent much of the time I should have been studying for school examinations reading The Lord of the Rings. More recently I have enjoyed Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, and Lani Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I have devoured George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
The Company of Wolves is a favorite film of mine, and I’m always happy to re-watch The Witches of Eastwick.
Zola: If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?
PB: Teleportation, no contest. I loathe flying. How marvellous to be able to simply close your eyes, click your heels like Dorothy, and instantly be transported home. Or to the south of France. Or New York!
Zola: Are there any current public figures you’d suspect of dabbling in the dark arts?
PB: I don’t doubt it. But if I named names, I risk being either sued or hexed!
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.