Magic and myth...
17th Feb 20

Magic and myth...

Look out for a magical travel bag, a mythical island, pirates and treasure in A SPRINKLE OF SORCERY. Author MICHELLE HARRISON tells us more!

The Widdershins sisters make a dramatic return in A SPRINKLE OF SORCERY, the sequel to A TOUCH OF MAGIC, with a life-changing adventure that takes them to a mythical island with pirates, treasure and will-o-the-wisps along the way. Expect surprises, unexpected heroes and a very satisfying ending.

We asked author MICHELLE HARRISON to tell us more about A PINCH OF MAGIC and its follow-up, A SPRINKLE OF SORCERY:

Q: Was there something you saw or read that first inspired A Pinch of Magic?

A: It began with a book called The Lore of the Land, in which I found a snippet of Essex folklore. It's said there will always be six witches in the village of Canewdon, and whenever one of them dies a stone falls out of the church walls.

I loved the idea of this, and it formed the basis of the curse in A Pinch of Magic: the witches became a sorceress and the church evolved into a prison tower.

Q: What happens in A Sprinkle of Sorcery, the sequel to A Pinch of Magic?

A: A runaway turns up in the night at the home of the Widdershins sisters - a runaway the prison warders are searching for. The girls attempt to help this person, but disaster strikes. Before the night's out, one sister is missing and the others are on a perilous mission to get her back, as well as unravelling the mystery of who the runaway really is.

Their journey takes them away from Crowstone and in search of an island that only exists on a magical map.

Q: Why did you want to return to the world of Crowstone, and what is it about this world that draws you as a writer?

A: I get very attached to my characters. Once I'd finished A Pinch of Magic I couldn't bear for it to be the end for the Widdershins sisters, as I enjoyed the dynamic between them.

I also loved writing such a gloomy, atmospheric setting with swirling marsh mists and a hulking prison. It felt as though there were more stories demanding to be told.

Q: The stories follow the adventures of the Widdershins siblings - Betty, her younger sister Charlie and her older sister Fliss. Why three sisters, and how did their characters develop?

A: It was a fluke. Initially I only intended it to be Betty, but as the planning of the first book shifted from witches to a family curse, I needed to give her a family to raise the stakes.

I'm the youngest of three sisters so I knew this was something I could write about convincingly, with warmth and humour. The three characters needed a lot of work in the early drafts to make them all distinct from each other. At first Charlie was a bit too whiny, and Fliss rather weak. I tend to focus on plot first and work on the characters after.

Q: Their grandmother is fabulous - is she based on anyone you know?

A: She's loosely based on my mum, who used to run a bar and could be fearsome when she needed to be. Unlike Bunny Widdershins who's nearly always tipsy and sneaking off to puff on her pipe, my mum never smoked and was virtually teetotal. She might indulge in the odd Baileys at Christmas but even that would leave her dizzy!

Q: There is a lot about will-'o-the-wisps in A Sprinkle of Sorcery, has this folktale image always drawn you?

A: I never gave much thought to will-o'-the-wisps until I invented Crowstone. I've always been more interested in the folklore of fairies and witches, but as soon as I wrote about the marshes they seemed just the place for these mysterious orbs of light. I've never seen anything like that, but I live in hope...

Q: The Widdershins have three magical objects - A carpet bag that takes you travelling; Russian dolls that can make you invisible; and a mirror to see what people are getting up to. Which one would you choose for yourself?

A: I'm torn between the bag and the dolls. As someone who travels a lot for events and school visits, a magical bag would be lovely. Having said that, long train journeys are great for catching up on reading, so I'll choose the dolls. Being invisible would offer so much potential for mischief!

Q: Which of the islands in the story would you visit, if you could?

A: I'd love to go to the main isle of Crowstone and hear one of Fingerty's stories by the fire in the Poacher's Pocket - as well as meeting the Widdershins. I'd also like to sneak around the prison on the island of Repent - but only if I could use the dolls to be invisible.

Q: Where is your favourite place to write - and what are you writing now? Will we be seeing more of the Widdershins?

A: I always end up writing in my living room armchair, it's where I feel most comfortable. I'm about to start the third in a younger series for Stripes, called Midnight Magic (the first is out in October), and after that I'm delighted to say there will be a third Widdershins book. I've discussed the outline with my editor and have been given the go-ahead. Exciting!

Q: Your main character, Betty, loves maps and the idea of travel - are you a traveller? Where have you visited that has stood out for you or inspired a story?

A: I'm not as adventurous as Betty - I'd choose a good book over sailing the high seas! Having said that, I enjoy opportunities to nose round old or unusual places for story inspiration. Both the witchcraft museum in Boscastle, Cornwall, and the Pitt Rivers in Oxford have inspired a YA novel that's in progress.

I also spent a weekend on Osea Island in Essex which partly informed Crowstone and the surrounding islands. One of the best places I've been is Chambercome Manor in Devon, whose ghost stories I built on in Unrest. And I'll be drawing on the history of that place once more in the third Widdershins book - watch this space...

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