Thursday, 29 October 2015

Q & A with Sarah Painter

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1.    Did you always dream of being a writer?

     I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first 'book' when I was seven or eight. It was about a cat called 'Miracle' and I wrote it on rainbow-coloured lined paper and kept it in a ringbinder. As you can tell, I was a stationery-addict from a young age, too!

2.    Your newest novel The Garden of Magic was published in August, what is it about?

The Garden of Magic is a novella-length prequel to The Language of Spells. Iris Harper is aware that her days are beginning to fade. Her sumptuous garden is turning against her, the sweet scent of rot potent, and now a young girl has come begging for a solution at her door. However, the problem she brings causes Iris to remember the man she once loved...

3.    What was your inspiration for the book?

     I had lots of lovely messages from readers about The Language of Spells and many of them complimented the character of Iris Harper and wanted to know more about her, so when Carina asked if I would write a novella I knew exactly who I ought to focus on!

4.    Can you tell us more about the main character(s)?

     Iris Harper is in her eighties and is aware that her power is failing, but she is still helping those who come to her door. Bex Adams has been accused of stealing by her employers and is so desperate to clear her name that she swallows her mistrust and goes to the town witch for help.

5.    Where and when do you write your stories?

     I am very lucky as I have a garden office. I had it built a couple of years ago and I adore it.  I used to write in bed, but it wasn't doing my back any good. I have to admit, though, old habits die hard and I still write in bed first thing in the morning before I make a mug of tea and 'commute' to my office for the rest of the day.

6.    What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

     When I'm not writing, I'm busy doing all the other things that go along with being an author such as marketing, blogging, and social media. I also run a podcast called The Worried Writer in which I interview other writers about overcoming fear and self-doubt (which we all feel) and their creative process. When I'm not working, I like spending time with my lovely family, walking, watching good TV and films, and, of course, reading.

7.    Your debut novel is called The Language of Spells, can you tell us more about it?

     Gwen Harper left Pendleford thirteen years ago and hasn't looked back since. When she inherits her great-aunt Iris's house, she is forced to return to the mystical world she thought she had escaped. The women in the Harper family often have strange gifts (Gwen's is the ability to find lost things) and when she returns to Pendleford she finds she cannot suppress her powers any longer. She has to face up to her past and find her place in the town that drove her out after branding her a witch...

8.    It was followed by The Secret of Ghosts, what’s the story behind this book?

     The Secrets of Ghosts is a standalone follow-up to The Language of Spells. It is set after the events of the first book and focuses on Katie Harper, Gwen's niece. Katie has been eagerly awaiting her Harper-family power, but when it shows up it is rather more complicated and dangerous than she had imagined...

9.    If you could switch places with a characters from a book, who would it be and why?

     I love Jennifer Crusie's books and the worlds she creates; I'd happily swap places with any of her heroines.

10.  What books have most influenced your life most? 

     Like many authors, I have to say Stephen King's On Writing as I credit it with getting me to complete my very first book.

11.  What are you working on at the moment?

     I just handed in the final edits on my next novel (out Spring 2016 with Lake Union). It's a dual narrative set in a hospital in Brighton with both a present-day story and a strand which is set in 1938, and is called In The Light of What We See.

12.  What do you enjoy most about writing?

     I love being in control of everything and working alone. Of course, that's what I find most difficult, too. The way that it's all down to me and that every single decision is mine and mine alone.

13.  Imagine The Garden of Magic would be turned into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?

     Great question! I often make book collages for my stories and find 'casting' the characters really helpful (especially in the beginning when I don't know them very well). I think Judi Dench would be perfect to play Iris and I'd pick Shailene Woodley as Bex.

14.  Pick three authors you want to have dinner with and tell us why.

     Oh, gosh. That’s a tough one... I will choose based on those I believe to be both kind and highly entertaining company: Stephen Fry, Nora Ephron, and Neil Gaiman. Can you imagine the anecdotes around that table?

15.  You live in Scotland, what makes this country special in your eyes?

     Scotland is very special. It has beautiful, wild scenery and wide open skies, and an amazing cultural and scientific heritage. Plus, men in kilts. Just saying...

16.  Coffee or tea? Tea and lots of it, please!

17.   Paperback or e-reader? 

     I love both, but I'm supremely grateful for e-readers when going on holiday or when contemplating my full-to-bursting bookshelves and small house!

18.   Mountains or the sea? 

     I grew up by the sea and love the fresh air and scenery of the coast. However, my current favourite places (Italian lakes and Scottish highlands) involve mountains in a big way (not that mountains come in any other size).

19.   Summer or winter? Winter all the way. Which is handy in Scotland...

20.   Sweet or salty? 

     My treat of choice is almost always savoury. Crisps, salted cashews, smoked almonds, more crisps, dip, torilla chips, fresh bread and butter, crisps again...

Sarah lives in rural Scotland with her children, husband, and a grey tabby called Zelda Kitzgerald. She drinks too much tea, loves the work of Joss Whedon, and is the proud owner of a writing shed.


The Language of Spells

The Secrets of Ghosts

The Garden of Magic

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