Wednesday 29 February 2012

Delightful Debutantes #29 - Ruth Warburton and A Witch in Winter.

Please give a warm welcome to Ruth Warburton who has stopped by today to talk about her debut novel A Witch in Winter!

A Witch in Winter is a fun supernatural read, and I can't wait to read more from Anna and co. when the next book in the trilogy releases in July!

Can you tell me five things that inspired the characters, storylines and settings of A Witch in Winter?

 Five things? Wow – that's precise!! Things number one and two are probably my home town of Lewes and the castle there. Lewes is very old and one of the oldest parts of town is the castle, which is almost 1000 years old (though by no means the oldest, there is an iron-age fort on Mount Caburn behind the town). Lewes Castle is an oddity because it has two mottes, or mounds, where most castles had one, as well as another apparently purposeless mound on the other side of the town which has been variously described as a Victorian folly, a failed early castle mound, or a pagan site. I love the amount of history in the town, and the mysteries that lie behind some of it – I suppose I tried to translate that into Winter.

Winter is sort of based on Lewes, and Winter Castle definitely owes a lot to Lewes Castle, but the seaside setting comes from inspiration number three – lots and lots of childhood holidays to Brittany and Devon and Cornwall. I wrote parts of the book in Brittany and parts in Padstow and Lee (in Devon).

The other big inspiration is my love of old texts and Old English. I knew from the outset that I had to create a whole system of magic and a spellbook to go with it – and creating believably ancient spells was a huge challenge. I did a lot of research into grimoires and the kind of language that they used, but for my spellbook I wanted something more rustic and domestic so I also borrowed from folklore and recipe books. The words of the actual incantations are all Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and many are borrowed from the poem Beowulf. But the other themes behind the book are from a different kind of mythology – Cornish and Celtic legend.

I think that must be five by now – probably more than five!

 I can imagine that researching witchcraft and spells must have been very interesting and fun too! Can you tell me any strange spells or pieces of information you unearthed while researching the book?

 My favourite two pieces are in the book – the trick of putting blood in your husband's coffee to make him stick to you, which just seems like a massive recipe for disaster. Can you imagine waking up to that? They don't say how much blood but I sincerely hope not a lot. In the book I changed it to wine - coffee was introduced to England in the 16th century but wasn't very widespread, so wine was more realistic – also I kind of feel like the blood would be less noticeable in wine? You might just put it down to really, really bad wine.

And the other piece of folklore that I love is the instruction to put a broom across the door of a house so that no evil-doer can enter. Mainly because it's such a fantastic example of superstition meeting practicality. Worried about being burgled? Stick a nice trip-hazard across the burglar's path so you hear him coming!

In A Witch in Winter, Anna casts a love spell on Seth, the #1 hottie at her new school. If you could cast your own love spell on any literary character, who would you choose?

Oh I wouldn't want to cast a love spell on anyone. All the literary men I fall in love with have fantastic female counterparts, and the reason I love them is because they are steadfast and true to their women. If they stopped being that, I wouldn't respect them any more.

I've fallen in love with everyone from Ulysses through to Lord Peter Wimsey, but if I had to choose one writer who has the power to make my heart beat faster, it would be the poet John Donne. His poem “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” is one of my favourites.

Feisty Anna is a great heroine, and is, despite her witchy abilities, a realistic character who teenage girls will relate to. Of the other characters in A Witch in Winter, who was your favourite to write and why?

Bran was quite fun to write, because he's such a bastard (and gets worse in book 2) but my favourite is probably Emmaline, because she's so dry and is never afraid to put the boot in. She is probably the character who is closest to me – I can be quite sharp and sarcastic, so I let her give vent to all the things I'd say in that situation.

Can you name three other books you think fans of A Witch in Winter will also enjoy? Any witchy reads to recommend?

 On the “if you like this...” tab on Amazon, I am currently paired with the friend I mentioned before – CJ Daugherty – which is a bit of a strange coincidence, but quite fun! Her book Night School is not paranormal, it's a thriller, but it's dark and gothic and creepy with a touch of romance.

I've also just finished the first book in Holly Black's Curseworkers series, White Cat, which I loved. The whole system of curses and their effects (and counter effects – “blow back”) is brilliantly thought out and conveyed. I can't wait to read the next one in line, Red Glove.

 My favourite magicky read is probably the modern classic A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin. It's about Ged, a young boy who learns how to be a magician and, through pride and arrogance, unleashes a terrible evil which he then has to defeat. It is beautifully written and superbly imagined.
 Can you tell me anything about A Witch in Love, the next book in the Winter trilogy?  I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot more of Abe in this one….?

you are right about Abe! What can I tell you? Well, it starts just before Christmas – about six months after the end of A Witch in Winter - and ends just after Valentine's day – and what happens in between rocks Anna's world, and makes her question everything she thought she knew.

Thanks for the great interview, Ruth. I can't wait to see what happens to rock Anna's world. Eeek!


  1.  Great interview :)
    I loved the first book. And so looking forward to summer where I can buy the sequel :D

  2. So glad I didn't catch my husband by putting blood in his tea! LOL.

    I loved White Cat! Holly Black is one of my favourite authors. Fabulous post. 

  3. Another one for my ever growing wishlist!! - I should avoid your site when I'm trying not to buy any more books :D

    Lovely post, it was interesting to read. 

  4. Great interview! It's got me so excited for the next book. I was hoping there'd be more Abe so I can't wait :)

  5. Awesome interview!! I love the comment about the broomstick in the doorway. Although Ruth is a better person than I am, I definitely would cast a lovespell on a literary character given the chance ;)

    The Cait Files

  6. Haha, I think you could get away with putting blood in wine. It'd definitely be noticeable in coffee, I reckon! :P And I really loved Night School and White Cat too :). Great interview, thanks!

  7. Fab interview and I love the cover to this book, I really must buy a copy soon :D

  8. Okay I'm even more excited for A Witch in Love now! I want to know what happens to rock Anna's world! - Jess Hearts Books

  9. I love reading about an author's research. Great interview and questions!

  10. daisychainbooks2 March 2012 at 17:38

    Ha!  Me too! So many!

  11. I am going to have to get this book. I've heard so many good things about it and I love the sound of Lewes Castle. We have 1000 year old one here too and going in it just fills me with awe. 

  12. This was such a great interview! I loved how elaborate you were with answers, Ruth! When you were describing the five (and more!) things that inspired the book for you, I felt like I was being inspired with you! Your hometown sounds so beautiful and I really want to visit the castle now! x)

    Amazing interview, you two! I still haven't gotten my hands on A Witch in Winder yet, but I'm definitely planning on it soon! :)


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