Hi guys! Happy release day to The Black Witch and Laurie Forest (among soooooo many others I’m excited for)! Today we have Laurie on the blog with an interview about her debut novel.
If you’re wondering what her book is all about click here for a link to my review and synopsis of the book.
Here’s a little bit about Laurie:
Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. The Black Witch (May 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first novel, and Wandfasted (The Black Witchprequel, Summer 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first e-book novella.
Without further ado let’s jump into this interview!
Sophie: Hi Laurie! My name is Sophie and it’s pleasure to speak with you/work with you. I enjoyed the exploration you took while writing The Black Witch and I found everyone in the book fascinating! What inspired you to write this story?
Laurie: About eight years ago, my then pre-teen daughters started putting Harry Potter in front of me (I’d never really read any fantasy before, I preferred non-fiction almost exclusively). After watching them devour the books, dress up like characters in the books, style birthday parties around the books and get so excited about the movies, I broke down and cracked open the first book. I read through the entire series in less than two months.
I was instantly hooked and stunned that J.K. Rowling was able to tackle so many serious issues so effectively (and inspiringly) in a metaphorical/fantasy way. I started to read every YA fantasy book my kids handed me, and then some.
During this time, as I was immersing myself in vivid stories of dragons and werewolves and witches and wizards, a dramatic, real-life story was going on around us here in Vermont – the fight for marriage equality. My husband and I were involved in supporting marriage equality, which was a surprisingly hard battle. Prejudice I never knew existed came out of the woodwork against LGBTQ friends, completely blindsiding me.
This real-life story did have a happy ending – Vermont legalized marriage equality in 2009. But the darkness I had witnessed reverberated in my mind. It set me mulling over prejudice in more general terms (religion-based, gender-based, etc.) as I was reading The Golden Compass series. The spark of a story lit inside me – a fantasy story where people with wings are rejected by pretty much every religion/culture for no sound reason save tradition. On a lark, I started writing that first scene down and found myself as instantly hooked by writing as I had been by fantasy fiction (it felt like magic). My fledgling story rapidly found its own trajectory and rapidly veered off into pure fantasy territory.
S: Elloren is a character who is entrenched in her prejudices, what was it like writing a character like that? Why did you decide to write her brothers so different from her?
L: In The Black Witch, I really wanted to delve into where a prejudiced way of looking at the world springs from, so it was an interesting challenge to not only create a dangerous, destructive world-view, but to make it seem rational to the main character (via how sheltered she is and how many lies she’s been told – and there’s a strong religious justification for her world-view as well). My idea was to thrust the reader into that world-view along with the main character and then turn everything completely on its head. Elloren is a naïve sort who doesn’t start out very rebellious, so I think her easy acceptance of most of her cultural prejudices makes sense. Her brother Trystan, being gay, is already privately at odds with the culture, so I think it makes sense that he’d be a bit cynical about it all, although he becomes more of a rebel as the series goes on. They all do. And Rafe’s nature is free-thinking and open-minded, so I think he has a natural tendency to question everything and go his own way.
S: This book is riddled with difficulties Elloren must overcome, not to mention the political turmoil between the classes in that world. What was the most difficult part about writing this book?
L: The most difficult part was pulling so many threads into a coherent whole, especially since I wrote the book’s scenes out of order. I had to go back and streamline all the different cultures and the political timeline.
S: I found myself drawn to the Ulrich twins. Their sensitive natures and undying support really connected with me. Do you relate to any of the characters? Who?
L: At the moment I feel closest to Prof. Kristian. Or at least I want to be like him. He’s quietly heroic and very active, behind the scenes, in the Resistance. He has no magic, but he makes good use of the talents he does have (mainly his intelligence and knowledge of history) to try and shine a light on injustice and right it (we learn more about him as the series progresses).
S: My favorite character is definitely Diana! I love her fierce loyalty and strong character. Do you have a favorite? Why?
L: Right now my favorite is Ariel Haven, because she’s been so abused and misunderstood for so long, but she still hasn’t been completely broken. I feel like Ariel has the heart of a true hero underneath all the trauma.
S: Ariel is a great character. I really liked her rough edges. I don’t know how much you are aware of the negative reviewer on Goodreads, but I found her when I was adding The Black Witch to my “currently reading” shelf. Frankly, I was appalled and I disagree with what she is saying. Is there anything you’d like to say pertaining the message of your book?
L: The Black Witch, at its heart, is a critical exploration of the harmful nature of prejudice in whatever form it’s found. I think a narrative like this, with its condemnation of hate and dismantling of internalized racism, is quite relevant. My goal for the series is to promote diversity in an entertaining story. My overarching theme (I hope) is that any government or culture or religious system of belief that does not promote diversity can lead to a very dark place. Kind of the path to Mordor.
Or in the case of The Black Witch, Marcus Vogel’s vision for Gardneria.
S: The ending is such a cliffhanger! Are there any current projects you’re working on that you could share with us?
L: Book Two of The Black Witch Chronicles is written and I’ll be leaping into the editing/sensitivity readings of that very soon with my editor at Harlequin TEEN and sizable team of readers inside and outside of my imprint (it’s been important to me to have this narrative read by people from many different backgrounds to check for sensitivity – and I also get a lot out of online sensitivity discussions which have given me much guidance as well). We’re hoping to put
Book Two out next year. The e-book prequel to The Black Witch, Wandfasted, comes out July 1, 2017 (it’s currently up on Amazon for pre-order and the cover reveal is coming soon!). It’s being sold as a novella, but it’s around 250 pages – I can’t seem to write short, lol. Wandfasted happens 20 years in the past. It’s the love story of Elloren’s parents, Vale and Tessla (oh my, romance is fun to write). I like to think of it as Pride & Prejudice meets Lord of the Rings .
You get a glimpse of the original Black Witch on the front lines in this book (which was extraordinarily fun to write) as well as many characters from The Black Witch as young people – Aunt Vyvian, Uncle Edwin, Prof. Jules Kristian, Lucretia Quillen and Fallon Bane’s parents. And baby Gareth Also, there are battling dragon armies in this e-book.
S: Thank you so much for your time, I had a pleasure chatting with you! Are there any closingcomments you’d like to make?
L: I’m looking forward to the book getting out there and hearing from readers. And I hope the book provokes further discussion! Thank you for taking the time to interview me and thank you for your review of The Black Witch
Be sure to check out The Black Witch! I encourage you to read it and see what you think of it 🙂 If you lucky ducks live close to these places be sure to go see Laurie while she’s on tour!