Speak Up, Save a Life
What would you like to read about?
Past blog posts
Today I’m delighted to have Bea Davenport on the blog today.
Bea Davenport is the pen-name of former newspaper and BBC journalist Barbara Henderson. She holds a Creative Writing PhD and is the author of five published novels: ‘In Too Deep‘ and ‘This Little Piggy‘ (Legend Press), ‘The Serpent House‘ (Curious Fox), ‘My Cousin Faustina‘ (ReadZone Books) and ‘The Misper‘ (The Conrad Press). She divides her time between Berwick upon Tweed and Leeds and she teaches journalism and creative writing.
Barbara has been an incredible supporter of mine for many years and I’m thrilled to have her on the blog to talk about everyone’s interest in witchcraft. My thanks to Barbara for taking the time to talk to us.
Everyone’s talking about witchcraft. Why are more young women suddenly being drawn to it, why is it all over Instagram, why does it feature in so many current autumn dramas on TV? A piece in The Observer asks these questions, and it comes shortly after Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour explored exactly the same subject.
It’s fascinating to see this sudden spike in interest. My children’s novels have all featured some elements of magic, be it time travel (The Serpent House, 2014) or shape-shifting (My Cousin Faustina, 2015). My latest teen/YA novel The Misper began as a story about a girl who goes missing, and it was going to be a realist novel set in Normal Town. But then two of the main characters started dabbling in magic and it was impossible to stop them (teenagers, you know – what’re you going to do?).
In the novel, Zoe tries witchcraft as a way of bringing control into her troubled life. Anna is led along, even though it scares her. At first it appears to be working – but then things go horribly wrong. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the magic is real or all in the girls’ heads.
I have to confess to a bit of irritation at the suggestion in some of the coverage that this is a new phenomenon. Many are suggesting that the attraction to the witch as a feminist figure is the reason behind the recent lure of the occult, particularly for young women. That’s actually a change that came about as long ago as the 1970s, when writers (particularly in children’s fiction) started to reimagine the witch not as an evil, child-eating old hag of traditional fairytales, but as a figure of strength, wisdom and knowledge, a rule-breaker and a healer. These are the books I read as a child.
During those formative years, there were other inspiring resources for me to draw on (including the fabulous Bewitched series!). Now that my generation is grown up and writing drama and fiction, it’s perhaps not surprising that strong and interesting witch figures tend to feature. And now that young women can access like-minded people online, it’s hardly surprising that they’re forging communities out of these shared interests.
In The Misper, magic (or is it?) can’t help to bring back a missing teenage girl and so the novel is also about the effects on those who have to cope with a friend or family member who’s simply disappeared. So although there are some elements of magic (or not, depending on your interpretation!), the story is at heart about a real situation.
For me as a writer, it combined two of my interests: crime/mystery and magic. The intended teenage readership – a new one for me – meant I could go a little darker with the content than I would for a younger audience. It was an enormously satisfying book to write! I hope readers will enjoy it too.
‘The Misper‘ is available now.
Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune is based, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set in motion, and it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. As the residents become nervous, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, while someone seeks revenge.
Susi Holliday has taken the trend for combining crime with gothic horror and has produced a tantalising story that will thrill readers. ‘The Lingering‘ features a cast of compelling characters living within what is potentially a cult.
Throughout the novel, there is a creeping sense of discomfort that sits with the reader as they delve deeper into this intriguing mystery. The tension created by the creepy setting and unsettling events is insidious and often had me turning around to check what was behind me.
Holliday has come up with a highly original concept, interesting characters and captures the sense of place perfectly.
This story will linger with you long after you turn the final page…
I’m pleased to have Judy Penz Sheluk here today to talk about her forthcoming release ‘Past & Present‘ and how her own family’s journey inspired it.
I’m so grateful to Judy for sharing such a personal experience with us.
I’m Canadian, born and raised in Toronto, and I’ve lived within a two-hour drive of that city all my life. My parents, on the other hand, were first generation Canadians, having immigrated to Canada in the early 1950s.
Their stories are similar to so many of the time. My father was born in Apatin, Yugoslavia, a small town on the Danube that is now part of Serbia. My mother was born in Stettin, Germany, now known as Szczecin and part of Poland. Both of them, teenagers during the war, and displaced after, made their way to England and settled in Nottingham for a period of time.
By the time they met at a local dance, my father was set to immigrate to Toronto, Canada, in February of 1952 (such a brave soul—Toronto in February is, at best, cold and snowy, and at worst, colder and snowier). At any rate, it must have been love at first sight, because my mother applied for her own papers and arrived in Toronto in July 1952, on a hot, humid day. They married that October.
Fast forward to September 21, 2016, when my mother, Anneliese, passed away from complications of COPD, following my father, Anton “Toni” Penz, who had died of stomach cancer in 1970 at the age of 42. Among her things was an old train case, and within it, her old passport, immigration papers, and documents and postcards from the T.S.S. Canberra, the ship she sailed over on. My mother had never talked much about her life “before Canada” and I became fascinated with finding out everything I could. The resulting research sparked an idea for a book, and my protagonist’s research into the past often mirrors my own, right down to the frustrating bits.
I’ve dedicated Past & Present to my mother, and the release date of September 21, 2018, falls exactly two years after her passing. I like to think she’s with my father again, watching over me as my journey continues.
About Past & Present:
Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…
It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?
Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.
It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.
Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto and Southwestern Ontario.
I’m here to introduce readers of the blog to writer to David Ahern, author of the Madam Tulip Mysteries. I hope you enjoy learning about David and his work and find some of his advice helpful.
Thanks to David for sparing some time to chat to us.
Tell us about your books.
The Madam Tulip Mysteries follow a young actress who moonlights as a fortune teller at celebrity events. Fortune tellers get told the most surprising things. But where you have money and secrets you’ll soon have trouble and crime.
What inspired them?
Actors are wonderful people, dedicated to their art but who have a hard time making a living. What do you do to pay the rent if you act and you’re a teeny bit psychic?
Where do you get your ideas from?
Staring into space, mostly. If I stare for long enough, ideas will come just so I can get something to eat.
Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
All of the Madam Tulip books have hilarious scenes between Derry’s divorced parents, her Irish artist father and her stupendously successful American art dealer mother. Readers love them, and I do too.
Are you a plotter or a pantster?
Both. A bit of plotting and bit of pantsing. I write character-driven stories, so I have to let the characters take me where they want to go. On the other hand, a mystery has to be cleverly put together, so you need to plan.
Can you read when you’re working on a piece of writing?
Not fiction, but I devour non-fiction.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
My mother (who is a wonderful actress and writer) said: ‘Apply seat of pants to seat of chair.’ It works.
What can readers expect from your books?
The most believable heroine out there, lots of laughs and page-turning tension.
Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn to punctuate fluently. You won’t believe the freedom it will give you.
What do you like and dislike about writing?
Love making myself laugh out loud (or blub). Hate being stuck at a desk.
Are you writing anything at the moment?
Madam Tulip Book #4.
What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
Seeing the galley proof for the first time.