Vampires and werewolves are crazy popular right now, of course, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of witches and witchcraft. Bewitched was one of my favorite shows as a child, but then so was Dark Shadows (anyone remember that one?) and pretty much anything spooky and scary…I always adored the idea of alternate worlds and other dimensions, particularly when they came into our “normal” world and mucked things up. And though vampires and werewolves and other creatures in fiction these days are often the targets of amorous interest, I liked the idea of having my protagonist be the one with the magic, the one set apart. In my new book Secondhand Spirits, Lily Ivory’s not to be trifled with; she’s the one with the powers, and the regular humans have to learn to deal with her one way or the other.
As I was scrolling through earlier contributions to this blog, I happened upon Jennifer Lyon’s post about creating “witch worthy” heroes– specifically, Lyon mentioned that the Darrin character from Bewitched wasn’t nearly good enough for Samantha. I couldn’t agree more: Darrin was never worthy of such a powerful, interesting witch (though I have to mention that I also hated how accommodating Samantha was – I wanted her to stand up for herself and tell Darrin exactly where to go – and maybe change him into a garden slug, while she was at it!)
When I set out to write a book featuring a witch with a vintage clothing store in San Francisco’s quirky Haight Ashbury neighborhood, I decided I wanted to be “witch worthy,” myself. And though I loved Bewitched when I was a kid, the last thing I wanted to do was to lean toward what I think of as the “fluffy” or “silly side” of witchcraft. Yes, I like to have fun with the theme, and keep things light and easy to read. But there’s no denying that witchcraft is a serious business, and has been throughout history and across the globe.
I love research, and I did a lot of it as I developed the characters and story of Secondhand Spirits. I looked things up on the web and in the library, of course, reading about the history of witch hunts in Europe, the current problems in parts of Africa and Asia today, and the traditions of botanical study amongst those labeled “brujos” in Latin America. But I also attended various coven meetings, and interviewed people who call themselves “witches” – from Wiccans to so-called “traditional witches”. I peppered them with a million questions, and then sat back and listened and watched.
So although Secondhand Spirits is considered an urban fantasy sort of mystery, it is grounded in true history and strong belief. And I do hope that I’ve managed to create a fictional world that is witch-worthy. Lily Ivory, and all those witches out there, deserve nothing less.
Juliet Blackwell, aka Hailey Lind, is the pseudonym for a mystery author who, together with her sister, wrote the Art Lover’s Mystery Series--including the Agatha-nominated Feint of Art and the IMBA bestsellers Shooting Gallery and Brush with Death. The fourth in the series, Arsenic and Old Paint, will be released in fall, 2010.
Juliet’s new paranormal Witchcraft Mystery series begins with Secondhand Spirits (July, 2009), about a witch with a vintage clothing store in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. A Cast-off Coven will be the second in the series.
If These Walls Could Talk, to be released in 2010, is the first in the Sophie Tanner Historic Home Renovation series about a failed anthropologist running her father’s high-end construction company.
A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She currently resides in a happily haunted house in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist, portrait painter, and recipient of the overly zealous attentions of her neighbor’s black cat, who seems to imagine himself her new familiar. Juliet/Hailey is two-term president of Northern California Sisters in Crime. Visit http://www.julietblackwell.net/.