Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Blog Tour: Interview with Paula Brackston

Today I am very pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston. I love a good story about witches and I couldn't wait to interview Paula about her reading and writing habits. 

    Please describe The Winter Witch in 5 words.
Wild places make wild people.

What made you want to be an author?
I've always written, and began to see that other occupations were simply getting in the way of what I really wanted to be doing.

How have your life experiences affected the way that you write?
They must have, though it's not always easy to see how and where experiences surface in one's writing. Certainly growing up in Wales has informed the way I depict the landscape in The Winter Witch. Beyond that I think that living in a place of wildness and peace allows me to be how I need to be in order to write. That sounds a bit artsy, so I'll temper it with telling you that I spend a great deal of my time on the school run, cooking meals, helping with homework, worming the cats, walking the dog, and all manner of everyday stuff. However, when I am actually writing I enter a state that is meditative and dream-like. And in that state I can recall events in my life with clarity. Often it is not the experiences themselves that are useful, rather the emotions or responses that they brought about.

Do you read books similar to those that you write, or a different genre altogether?
Both. I am always interested to see what else is out there that could be seen as similar to my own stuff. That said, I am constantly hungry for something challenging, innovative, or just darn exciting, so I'll read whatever promises one of those things. I love adventures - travel through difficult places, ships in storms, gold prospecting, that sort of thing. Probably because I am a complete wimp and would never undertake such things in my real life.

For you, what components make up a good book?
Something that moves me. I have to be disturbed, shaken up, generally unsettled by a story, so that when I'm reading it I cry or laugh or get angry or afraid, and when I'm not reading about it I'm thinking about it, playing scenes over in my mind. For any of that to happen I have to be fascinated by the characters. I don't have to like them, just find them riveting. If I don't feel a pang when I finish the book I am disappointed. The poignant suffering of the end of a brief almost-love affair should always follow the end of a good story.

If you could be any character from any book for just one day, who would you be and why?
I think I'd enjoy being Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair. It would be wonderful to have her clarity of thinking, her cleverness, her self-confidence, her glamour, and her ability to enjoy herself regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Some authors do certain things while they write, like listen to music. Do you need to do anything similar?
I can write anywhere through any noise, commotion or distraction except that provided by my children. And I must have tea, of course.

Were any of the characters in The Winter Witch, or their traits, inspired by people you know?
I'm sure I draw on everyone I've ever met for material, but that's not to say they will appear, whole and recognisable, in my stories. It might be the mannerism one has with his hands, or the phrase another repeats too often under stress, or the habit another has of answering a question with a question before then answering his own question. Little things tend to transfer well, I think. In the main, however, my characters seem to come to me from some far off place. They start whispering in my ear, or I catch glimpses of them flitting through a doorway or darting behind a tree. By the time I can clearly see and hear them they are pretty much fully formed. I just add the trimmings.

What is your favourite book of all time and why?
This is a dreadfully difficult question, and I confess my answer to it changes depending on when I am asked/my mood/the time of year... I am a huge fan of David Mitchell, so Cloud Atlas has to be always near the top of the list. Such imagination, coupled with such superb prose. Sigh. But I'm also a Thomas Hardy fan, and frequently return to his stories and characters so that they are old friends now. I do like clever stuff, and funny stuff, so the book I have reread most often over the years, and the one of which I always keep several copies, is Voltaire's Candide.

Do you have a favourite book that you've read this year?

Ooh, there have been some really good ones! I'm going to pick Karen Maitland's The Falcons of Fire and Ice. Karen writes with such grace and power, I am always utterly caught up in her stories and whisked off to far away and long ago. I strongly recommend them.

Thank you so much Paula for such a wonderful interview. The Winter Witch is out tomorrow, published by Constable & Robinson. 

Be sure to check out the other posts on the blog tour, which you can find information about below.

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