Interview: The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

Double bubble, toil and trouble! Come celebrate the spring equinox with a bewitching tale of historic fiction, romance, and magic! This spring, you don’t want to miss Paula Brackston’s latest novel, The Midnight Witch.

Brackston is the best selling author of The Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch.  This latest novel is set in Edwardian London where the Duke of Randor has just passed away leaving his daughter, Lilith, as the leader of Lazarus Coven.

I am thrilled to be able to offer a copy of this novel in a giveaway which will be happening all week (see the giveaway post to enter for a chance to win). There is a little preview of the book at the end of this interview too for your enjoyment! Brackston also agreed to an interview with me as part of the release of this magical novel. So without further ado please welcome Paula Brackston to The Lit Bitch!

The Lit Bitch: Which of the three witches from your books is your favorite and why: Lilith (The Midnight Witch), Morgana (The Winter Witch), or Elizabeth (The Witch’s Daughter)?

Paula Brackston: How can you ask me to choose!? They all contain parts of me, and at the same time they all have qualities or talents I wish I had, so it’d be very hard to pick. If I must, then Elizabeth for her compassion, Morgana for her affinity with nature, and Lilith for her quiet bravery. OK, that’s a cop out. Sorry!

The Lit Bitch: What was your original idea for the witch books and how did it first develop? Did you have an idea or an outline for The Midnight Witch before you started writing it? Did the direction change once you sat down to being working on it?

Paula Brackston: It all started with Elizabeth Hawksmith. I didn’t set out to write ‘witchy books’. I wanted to write historical fiction, and my research led me to look at witchcraft in the seventeenth century. I began to ask myself, what if some of those women accused of witchcraft were actually real witches?

As for The Midnight Witch, I had a hankering for a glamorous setting this time, and a wealthy protagonist. We are accustomed to the idea of women being victims in history because they often had so little power, even over their own lives. This time I wrote a woman who, on the face of it, had everything: privilege, wealth, a title, beauty, a powerful family. I wondered what sort of witch such a woman would make. What obstacles and conflicts might she face?

I do write something that could be called an outline before I dive into a book. It is a patchy document, with many gaps and things that don’t quite add up, so I add to it and alter things as I go along. It is less a plan, more a sketchy map. With very few place names. And lots of shadowy areas where there could indeed be dragons.

The Lit Bitch: Are your heroines based on something you found missing in the fantasy/witch genre?

Paula Brackston: No, I don’t think so. In fact, it took me a while to realize I was writing for the fantasy/witch genre! After all, witches are a matter of historical fact, so perhaps my books should just be seen as historical novels.

The Lit Bitch: How much research went into The Midnight Witch as well as the other novels? With the historic parts and the witches/magic components I imagine your research was extensive. Can you discuss how that all came together for you.

Paula Brackston: You are right to think that. Luckily, I enjoy the research very much. In fact, I have to ration myself, or I would spend so long delving into the past I’d have no time left to do the actual writing. I look for details regarding the historical period in which my book is set, and for information about the type of magic I have chosen for my witch. It’s important I try to see the witchcraft or magic in its historical context, rather than from a modern viewpoint. For example, Morgana lived at a time when country people still believed in the power of curses, and many people would pay someone they thought capable of placing or removing them to do so. There was genuine fear of anybody who could be described as a witch.

The Lit Bitch: Did you travel to many of the locations in the novels as part of your research, if so please discuss what that experience was like for you.

Paula Brackston: I was born in Dorset, where Elizabeth lived. I grew up and live now in Wales, where The Winter Witch is set. I lived for six years in central London a few streets away from Fiztroy Square, where Lilith had her home. It was helpful to have a knowledge of these settings, and I think it lends a certain authenticity to my writing if I can recall personal experiences that took place in them.   I do try to get to specific places (towns, mountains, and so on) within these broader areas while I am working on my books, but of course some have changed hugely over the course of time. They do say the past is foreign country, and it is certainly one I can only visit in my imagination.

The Lit Bitch: If you could have one magical power what would it be and why?

Paula Brackston: It would have to be flight. It must be such wonderful freedom, to soar through the sky, particularly if it were effortless. Think hawk rather than duck!

The Lit Bitch:Who is your all time literary crush?

Paula Brackston: I’m not entirely sure I know what you mean. Shall I choose a writer whose work makes me swoon, or one who I secretly carry a candle for? In the first instance, I am awestruck by the brilliance of Rose Tremain’s writing. Her book Restoration is very special to me because it was honestly the book that made me want to write.

As for the second interpretation of your question….well, it wouldn’t be a secret if I told you, would it?

The Lit Bitch: Of the three witch books which is your favorite historic setting? Which setting was the most challenging for you to write in?

Paula Brackston: The Midnight Witch begins when the art nouveau movement was well under way, and ends at the start of art deco. I adore both these artistic styles, even though they are so different. But the first five decades of the twentieth century must have been a terrible time to live in Europe. Two generations utterly blighted by war.

I’m drawn to the Victorian era because it was such a time of change and invention and innovation. But it wasn’t a good moment for women, despite having a queen on the throne of England. Eliza could not practice as a surgeon in her own right because of her gender. And those dreadful corsets!

The easiest setting to write (if you’ll forgive me altering your question) was definitely 1830s Wales. The countryside is not so very different even now. If you stand up on the hillside above Tregaron it is a tiny step to imagine how farmers lived there two hundred years ago, and a simple matter to picture Morgana galloping across the moorland on her fiery Welsh Mountain pony.

The Lit Bitch: In what ways does the use of witchcraft in your stories help strengthen your stories and in what ways is it limiting?

Paula Brackston: That’s an interesting line of thought. I’d like to know what my readers think about that one!  There is a joyous freedom to writing magic, as it allows a writer to really let their imagination loose. And, crucially, I think, endowing my heroine with magic gives her power. Strength. Self-determination. Options. All things that women have fought for down the centuries. And continue to fight for.

I don’t see it as limiting, but it can be challenging. I have to come up with a new type of witch and a different kind of magic for each book. This takes me into all manner of weird and wonderful areas of research. I have to admit I particularly enjoyed finding out about necromancy for Lilith and her coven.

The Lit Bitch: What are you working on next?

Paula Brackston: I’m just finishing my fourth witchy book. This one has two time settings, one of which is early tenth century Wales. There is very little written about this time, so my research has involved a fair amount of detective work, which I’ve loved! I have a new heroine who is unlike any other I’ve written. I’m very excited about sharing her with readers, but they will have to wait until next year…!

About the Novel

Lady Lilith Montgomery is the daughter of the sixth Duke of Radnor. She is one of the most beautiful young women in London and engaged to the city’s most eligible bachelor. She is also a witch.
When her father dies, her hapless brother Freddie takes on his title. But it is Lilith, instructed in the art of necromancy, who inherits their father’s role as Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. And it is Lilith who must face the threat of the Sentinels, a powerful group of sorcerers intent on reclaiming the Elixir from the coven’s guardianship for their own dark purposes. Lilith knows the Lazarus creed: secrecy and silence. To abandon either would put both the coven and all she holds dear in grave danger. She has spent her life honoring it, right down to her engagement to her childhood friend and fellow witch, Viscount Louis Harcourt.
Until the day she meets Bram, a talented artist who is neither a witch nor a member of her class. With him, she must not be secret and silent. Despite her loyalty to the coven and duty to her family, Lilith cannot keep her life as a witch hidden from the man she loves.
To tell him will risk everything.

About the Author

Paula 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. You can follow Paula on Facebook or on her website.

If you haven’t had a chance to read any of Brackston’s novels then you can get a little taste for her writing style here with a short except from The Winter Witch!

Book Trailer

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