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Friday, April 10, 2015

Interview & Giveaway: Paula Brackston, author of The Silver Witch!

Yesterday, Bonnie shared an excerpt of the upcoming The Silver Witch over at A Backwards Story. Today, I'm chatting with the book's author, Paula Brackston, about all things The Silver Witch, and giving YOU a chance to win a copy -- TWO chances, actually. The fine folks at St. Martin's Press have offered up a copy to give away for both of our blogs, but you only have to do the "hard" work of entering once, and we'll draw to winners. 

So check out our chat below, and then enter to win your very own copy of The Silver Witch, in stores April 21st!

And don't forget to stop by A Backwards Story to get a feel for the book, with Bonnie's excerpt!

Hi, Paula! Welcome to Fairy Tale Fortnight! 
What sort of folklore did you weave into your brand-new novel THE SILVER WITCH?

I reread the stories of the Mabinogion, which are the Celtic tales that are at the heart of Welsh legends and folklore. They are so marvellously imaginative and exciting, and full of sharp wisdom. There is also a playfulness about them that encouraged me not to hold back when creating my own story. They usually include animals, and often shapeshifting. Hares were mostly used to represent witches, and the hare is Seren's emblem.
I also used local myths concerning Llangors Lake, which is where The Silver Witch is set. It was lovely to absorb the stories that had been told for generations around the campfires of those who chose to make their homes there. When I visited the lake it was easy to imagine how the place inspired storytellers. Also, although the valley in which the lake sits is sheltered and fertile, so perfect for a village, the lake is very deep and cold. I think people made up stories about it to address their fears about what might lurk in those dark depths, and their very reasonable anxiety about drowning in it, too!

What was the hardest part about writing THE SILVER WITCH? The easiest?

One of the biggest challenges was working with such an early setting. There really isn't a huge amount of information about tenth century Wales. Yes, you can find out what people ate, what they wore, what their dwellings looked like, and so on, but it was hard to find those little personal details that really take you in close to what it must have been like. When you set your story in, say, the Victorian era, there is are a huge number of primary sources and contemporary writing that can help. With 916? No. Which meant that, on the plus side, each tiny crumb of historical reference I did find was all the more important. The dugout canoe housed in the Brecknock Museum - dated early 10th century - just zinged with a sense of the past. Standing next to it I swear I could hear the breathing and feel the heartbeats of the people who must have rowed it across the lake all those centuries ago.

What kind of research went into developing the world and atmosphere of THE SILVER WITCH?

As I live close to the lake I visited often. It was tremendously helpful being able to experience it in different weathers, at different times of year, in different lights. I also chose two 'real' houses in which to place my characters. So, if you ever come to Llangors lake you can find Tilda's cottage and the Old School house where Professor Williams lived.
I read lots, of course, and spent time with the wonderful artefacts at the local museum, many of which found their way into the story.
Once I began writing I had to make sure that the Seren sections stayed true to the historical time, and kept that archaic feel. Had I been writing the whole book in her viewpoint this would have been easier. I think when there is more than one viewpoint - and in this case time setting - in a book you spend a lot more time editing and rewriting. Or at least, I do!

Would you ever consider writing a novel that's a full-on fairy tale retelling?

Hmm, it's funny you should ask that.... In my other life, writing as PJ Brackston, I have updated Hansel and Gretel. They are now in their thirties, grown very large (all that sugar), and Gretel is Bavaria's most famous Private Detective. Set in 18th century, the first in the series, Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints, is out now.

What are your favorite obscure fairy tales?

As I've mentioned, the Mabinogion is a delight. I'm also a fan of the use of silhouettes/cut outs in the telling of fairytales, which is a tradition in Central and Eastern Europe. Take a look at the stunning work of Jan Pienkowski.

Which fairytale mode of transportation would you want to try out?(eg. Cinderella's pumpkin
coach, seven league boots, ship, flyingcarpet, etc...)

Please can I have the Snow Queen's sleigh? I can't remember the specifics, but she must have had a fabulous one. Of course I'd have to go somewhere wild and frozen to use it: we haven't had a decent fall of snow here for two winters.

If you could own any magical object from a fairy tale (spinning wheel, magic mirror, glass slipper, poison apple, etc.), what would you choose and why?

Well, writing about witches I think I need a magic cauldron. There is a very important one in part of the Mabinogion, and I've mentioned it in The Silver Witch. I fancy being able to boil up something powerfully magical, either for healing or more dangerous spells. I confess I do have a black cooking pot shaped like a witch's cauldron, but I promise I've never made anything more otherworldly than stew in it.


Dragon or kraken?
Dragon - I'm from Wales!

Mermaid or princess?
Mermaid, for the lake.

- Prince or knight?
Knight - they tend to have the better horses.

Befriend the birds or the mice?
Oh mice. As a child I had a hamster and I would have been so thrilled if he had talked to me!

Baba Yaga or a Djinn?
I was brought up on Rudyard Kipling, so Djinn.

Thanks so much for joining us, Paula!
Thank you for inviting me, and I hope your readers will let me know what they think of The Silver Witch.

To celebrate the upcoming release of The Silver Witch, the awesome folks at St. Martins have offered up not one but TWO copies of the book, for two lucky Fairy Tale Fortnight winners!
This giveaway is US only, and ends April 22nd at midnight, EST.
To enter, make sure you are registered on the FTF giveaway registry, and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston
Get It | Add It
 320 pages
Expected publication: April 21st 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books
A year after her husband’s sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat’s death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her – a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she’s near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.

On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.

In her own time, Tilda’s grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake’s ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each others, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren’s prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more.

Paula Brackston (aka PJ Brackston)is the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter, The Winter Witch, and The Midnight Witch(2014).

Paula has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. In 2007 Paula was short listed in the Creme de la Crime search for new writers. In 2010 her book 'Nutters' (writing as PJ Davy) was short listed for the Mind Book Award, and she was selected by the BBC under their New Welsh Writers scheme.

Paula lives in Wales with her partner and their two children.

Want more fairy tales? Return to the main schedules
by clicking here for The Book Rat or here for A Backwards Story


  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful interview. Paula Brackston is one of my favorite authors, and I've read all of her "witch" books. I'm so excited to hear that a new one is coming!

  2. This book looks really interesting. I have not read any books by this author, but I'm intrigued.

  3. I cannot wait to read this book. Paula Brackston's writing style is gorgeous and flows beautifully. Great interview!


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