Saturday, 14 January 2017

Q&A Emma Restall Orr

Emma Restall Orr is one of the best-known names in British Druidry. Joint chief of the The British Druid Order for nine years and founder of The Druid Network, Emma has published more than a dozen books on Druidry and Paganism. She now focuses much of her time on Honouring the Ancient Dead, a project promoting the respectful treatment of ancestral remains. Find out more about her on her website.

Hi Emma. Many people know you from your work with the British Druid Order, the Druid Network, and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. In your biography, you say that you no longer term yourself a Druid. Would you mind talking a little about that?

Thank you for starting with such a sharp question: straight to the heart of it. To state publicly that I no longer consider myself a Druid took serious thought, and I have received responses from some whom it upset and unsettled. The majority of responses were, however, from people eager to understand. The truth is that it was not about a change in my beliefs. My spiritual, my religious and my philosophical perspective is no different from what it was. Indeed, I would say that my beliefs are deeper than ever, my practice more profound.

However, for me, the word Druidry does not describe a specific belief system. My beliefs are animistic, pantheistic, deep green, polytheistic, and I have met Druids who are Christian, who are wholly polytheistic, who are anthropocentric. Druidry, I think, describes instead a path of service. The work of the Druid is to be a teacher, a priest, a leader, a guide. You cannot decide one day to be a Druid. It not only takes years of serious study, but also the acknowledgement and acceptance of your peers and your community before a person should consider taking the word to describe oneself. Of course, we can study Druidry, and practice within the traditions of Druidry, without ever taking the word Druid, but I was known as a Druid. I worked as a priest and teacher for some twenty years. When I stepped away from those roles, I laid down the word as well.

The reason I stepped away has another answer. The deeper mysteries were pulling apart the structure of my being. The universe was breathing its dark emptiness into my soul, calling me to explore places that are formless, wordless, timeless. My ability to hold space, gently and with wakeful responsibility, was eroding. Furthermore, as a person who was widely known as a writer and teacher, the sense of my self was becoming unbearably uncomfortable. People wanted me to be who I had been, who they needed me to be, who they expected me to be, rather than what I was becoming. In the end I had no choice but to let go, to run with the wind on soft paws, into a silence where there was no I.

Now that you no longer term yourself a Druid, how do you feel towards your earlier works, such as Living Druidry and Druid Priestess?

Now and then, someone will ask me about some particular point that I wrote in one of my earlier books, and I will dig out a copy to reread it. “On page 127 you said… What did you mean by…”.  More often than not, I am surprised at how much I am still wholly in tune with what I wrote, albeit 10 or 15 years ago. Of course, you must give me the possibility of having matured in my thinking, and at times the perspective does seem to hum with a youthful energy and naiveté that I may no longer have; at times embarrassingly so. I don’t know how much of that is obvious to the reader!  Certainly, the anecdotes that are scattered throughout those two books are from a life I no longer live, but that isn’t to say that I don’t have warm feelings about those days. The stories make me smile, reminding me of people and places I knew, many of which I loved deeply.

A direct answer to your question would be: yes, I am still the person who wrote those early books – just a little wrinklier, quieter, more peaceful; a little further down the same old track.

The London 2012 Paralympics included a reading from a gorsedd ritual written by yourself and Philip Shallcrass. Did you know about that at the time, and how do you feel about it now?

Yes, we knew.  I was contacted some months before by one of the team creating the closing ceremony, and asked if they might use the gorsedd ritual. We spoke about options and I went to Philip to see what he thought. It was important to me that the magical spirit of the ritual was allowed to feed into the ceremony they created, so that – performed as a piece of community art, not a religious ritual – it retained that magic. However, in the end, Philip and I signed the forms to allow them to use it without knowing what the end product would be. We had to have faith that our words would hold their power, and in many ways I think they did.

It was an honour to be involved in the event. The Paralympics are such an expression of human strength; individuals rising through and above such tangling challenges. Furthermore, Philip and I had worked so very closely for so long with the British Druid Order, it felt like a wonderful gift to that magical relationship, and I am grateful for that. I believe he is too.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Where do you write, do you enjoy writing, and how organised are you?

I love writing. Words fill me with delight and wonder, in the same way that others are delighted by little children or butterflies. As an animist, I perceive words as creatures: spirits, patterns within nature, coherences within the whole that have evolved over time, that arrive in moments then slip away, leaving the world quite changed. As powerful creatures with the power to affect relationships, they need to be respected. I write in part to play with words, as we might blow bubbles on a summer’s day, or splash paint upon a canvas, but far more importantly I write to explore the bridges of communication. Not all of my words are set down, or offered as communication to other human beings. If not, they are still part of the experience of communication, as I converse with the gods, my ancestors, the spirits of the landscape around me.

When I am writing a book, I tend to write for an hour or two a day, often on a laptop, on the sofa, on my bed, or outside; seldom at a desk. I have prepared the structure of the book carefully in advance, and sketched the structure of each chapter in a dozen lines or so – then I write. I may sit for twenty minutes, finding a word or sentence, but I don’t edit much. Once a book is finished, I might rewrite the first few thousand words, bringing it in line with the character of the completed text, but otherwise I don’t edit. I’ll give it to a few key readers, and take note of their suggestions. Usually there are sentences that sound archaic which I bring into modern English.

I wholly detest the marketing process. When I worked as a Druid I did book tours and lectures, TV and radio. Now I tend to hand a book over to the publisher and let them do what they wish. The occasional talk or interview is all I concede to. Once a book is done, my soul moves on fairly quickly, immersing myself in the next project.

In your article This Much I Know for The Guardian, you mentioned that Asterix first sparked your interest in Druidry as a child. Do you still look back on Asterix with fondness? Do you think the things that fascinate us as children often shape what we pursue as adults?

I still love the Asterix books.  My brother was given them as a child and we’d sit and read them together for hours on end, not just in English – I’m quite sure we had versions in French, Spanish, Latin. As a child, I was fascinated by the Getafix/Panoramix character. As for how much childhood heroes shape us, I would guess that would depend on the individual and their hero. For myself, I was not strong physically as a child and I loved to read about this funny old man who kept the whole Roman Empire at bay with nothing more than, what seemed to me to be, soup.  I can make a pretty good soup…

In the write-up for your book Kissing the Hag, it says that it brings us face to face with the raw elements of womankind, and ‘all that makes [women] unacceptable and badly behaved.’ Do you consider yourself badly behaved, and has writing this book changed your own relationship with the Hag?

Badly behaved? - not any more. I was an angry soul through my teens and into my twenties, dealing with physical pain, but the study of nature that is at the heart of Druidic practice includes human nature, our own nature. I find it almost impossible to behave badly now, when I have the slightest inkling that it may be so. I tend to freeze until I can reconfigure my perspective. As human beings, the emotional and instinctive drives can be so powerful, it is a task to learn what these are, how they rise within us and propel us into action, and how not to allow ourselves to be flooded, behaving badly as a result. Emotion should be a guide, another source of information, not a decision-maker. I think most bad behaviour is based on emotionally-fuelled reaction.

Unacceptable is another matter, though. In terms of social conventions, there are still a good many elements of my life that are unacceptable. In many ways the book, Kissing the Hag, is about understanding the distinctions between social rules, human woman nature, honourable interaction and disrespectful actions. The lines can be fine at times.

Of all the ancient places you have visited, do you have a favourite?

The places that inspire me most are those where human impact is minimal or absent. Being in the Amazon rainforest, with untouched forest for many hundreds of miles in every direction, was a formative experience. Of human-made ancient places, as I pause to consider an answer, dozens of images and memories slip into my conscious mind, of many places across Britain: chanting in trance through the night at West Kennett Long Barrow, at Stonehenge, at Rollright, at standing stones in Dartmoor, glorious moments, and so many of them. Then there are places rich with history where I have spent time around the world, ancient Shinto shrines in Japan, Mayan temples in Guatemala. I have no favourite, just a fat pocketful of memories.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you during a ritual? (That you are willing to share).

Your parenthesis helps me answer, because most ritual is private and to share stories would be to break confidences. Having said that, the elements of ritual that I have most enjoyed for the unexpected have mainly been moments of divine presence. I’m sure most of your readers will have experience of ritual where gods are invoked, and nothing happens. In most open ritual the prayers are of appreciation not invitation, and there are many whose prayers of invitation are never answered.

I recall being at Stonehenge at a Christian Pagan Druid ceremony.  I had brought with me two friends, a Druid who worked with the dark gods of the Welsh tradition, and an evangelical Christian. It was delicious to feel their invocations, both empowered by utter devotion and sincerity. To stand in that old temple with Yahweh and Ceridwen was rather cool. Not so cool was the conference, the organisers of which I will not disclose, where a roomful of people were asked to invoke their own particular deities to bless some aspect of the event. Most people called out their liturgy, then sat down in ignorance, but some invoked their gods effectively as if it were an almighty contest of strength.  The room was suddenly seething with gods of every era and pantheon, most of whom had no desire for peace. I left, along with a fair few others.

The strangest, however, was perhaps a public rite held in the middle of a large English city. I had been asked to create an opening rite for an event that was to showcase different kinds of Paganism.  Not knowing many in the crowd, I was guided by locals, and found four different groups, each of whom would honour a cardinal direction. I don’t recall the details, but I seem to remember that there were fairly traditional Wiccans to honour the west, sturdy great Asatru to honour the north, a shamanic band in feathers and fur to honour the south, and in the east a group who followed Star Trek. I shrugged and agreed, keen not to offend the locals. There were a few hundred at the rite, and there was an awkward moment when the police, who were roaming the perimeter, were somewhat unsettled by the well-armed Heathens assuring their gods of their commitment to feasting and fornicating. What unsettled me, though, were the Trekkies. They made their prayers in Klingon, and they had more of a magical vibrational response that any of the others. I might emphasise that I had requested no one invoke anything, but simply honour with appreciation. I don’t know what these silver-painted folk said, but they called upon something, and that something arrived.

There are so many stories, and many are far more strange than amusing. There was drumming up power at a concrete Stonehenge replica on the Columbia River gorge in Washington, there was an event with Brian Blessed and a helicopter, there was Blackpool - but the Klingon always makes me smile.

Are you still involved in organising festivals? Have you noticed any difference in the types of people attending over the years, or has the community stayed fairly steady?

No, I no longer organise festivals, nor do I attend many. My journey has taken me from those huge people-full gatherings to quieter paths of service. However, from what I have attended, and news I hear from others, it seems a key difference is that there were many more youngsters in years gone by.  It seems that those who were young have grown and remained faithful, but there is no longer such an inflow of new youth coming into the traditions as there was. Where are they? Playing make-believe on the internet, perhaps. I think the truth is that most come into spiritual and religious traditions for the community, not the mystery. The mystery requires hard work, commitment, devotion, and that means the ordinary things of life are set aside. Few are willing or able to make the necessary sacrifices. The majority who came to gatherings, festivals, public rituals and gorseddau, came to be with other like-minded souls, to share all the fun of the fair within a magical Pagan context – they didn’t come for the intense ecstasy of mind-blowing communion with the gods. Young folk now get their community online, and those that want it can find the magical element in games written with those realities. Who knows, perhaps the would-be priests amongst them are finding their divine encounters in digital ways that I am not versed in.

No doubt, when this younger generation are in their fifties and sixties, they will be wondering what on earth their children are doing...

In the Philosophy section of your website, you talk about ‘wakeful respect without prejudice or assumption.’ Are you particularly engaged with politics in Britain at the moment? Do you have any thoughts on the current climate which seems to favour disrespect and prejudice towards others? Is this a storm we will weather, or a sign of something deeper and harder to remedy?

Politics is a fascinating aspect of human nature, of human culture.  Politics entered into my awareness in the mid 1970s, having been brought up in fascist Spain, coming to England as punk exploded, developing a strong socialist belief, which in turn has gently fragmented into a co-operative anarchism. What troubles me most is bullying. It seems to me that there is a tide rising once again.  The US has just voted in a capitalist thug as president, Russia is led by another capitalist bully. Such thugs run pharmaceutical, energy, media, financial and other vast corporations. Broad human society is captivated by its various screens. People witness such bullying in factual and fictional stories, day by day in a thousand contexts: in the news, on social media, in movies and TV shows. It becomes increasingly more normal to bully.  It becomes easier to bully.  It becomes common. It becomes OK.  And it becomes OK for the victim to respond by becoming the bully themselves.

The question is, how should one face a bully?  How can we honourably respond to someone who expresses their own fears and a consequent need for power by stirring up fear, anger and hatred in others? How can we communicate with someone unwilling to listen or reason? It is often easier to give in, just adapt, bruised and disempowered but still alive.  The reasoned path of peaceful resistance can be far harder.

We know that Asterix was a big influence as a child, but what have been the three most important books, or authors, in your adult life?

It is not possible to choose three. I can give you a scattered list of books that come to mind. Books that I have most loved and valued through my life:

Ethics by Spinoza
Ethics by Peter Singer
Walden by Thoreau
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius 
Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu
Confessions by St Augustine
Anarchism by Peter Kropotkin 

Not to mention Kant, Schopenhauer, Seneca, Chomsky, Bergson, David Abram, Whitehead, Mary Midgely, the poetry of Yeats, Emily Bronte and Wordsworth.

If you had a magic pen capable of forming your lost thoughts into a story, what would you like to write about that you haven’t already?


Could you tell us a bit about Honouring the Ancient Dead?

HAD is an organisation that asserts a very clear and simple perspective: that there should be no difference in the way we treat someone who has died whom we have personally known and loved, and someone who died many years ago. Whether a Saxon skull exhumed in a road development, a medieval king searched and found, a body preserved in peat, a box of bones found in a collector’s attic, an ancient thigh bone or urn of ashes, a soldier from 20th century Ypres or 14th century Crecy, whether the individual’s name is known or not, each and every ancestor is no less a person than our own mother, spouse or child. We should treat each with no less respect than we would treat the body and bones of our immediate family, of those we ourselves dearly love. For HAD, that means allowing each person to be laid to rest in peace, and remain at peace.

There are hundreds of thousands of ‘human remains’ in museums and other organisations, boxes of bones with no associated information, bones on display as if they were simply sherds of pottery, skeletons manipulated into poses for gory exhibitions, bones held in store for scientific research for which no funding is ever likely to be found. Of course, there are some who simply don’t care, whose metaphysical standpoint is such that they would be happy for this to happen to someone they love most profoundly. HAD’s remit is not to judge or attack others people's beliefs, but to work for those whose values and interests in the dead accord with its own. From that position, it calls for consultation about ancestors when decisions need to be made. It gives guidance where asked to those whose path brings them into contact with ancestors. It creates best practice guidelines for reburial, for display, for the housing of ancestral bones, and it has what we believe is the most comprehensive current list of ancestors in museums across Britain. Like many charities, its aims far exceed its funding and capacity, but it tries!

What are you working on at the moment?

My day to day work is the creation of a nature reserve and natural burial ground. Like many whose work is with nature, it’s a full-time job, seven days a week, all year through. As a writer, I have spent a year documenting the natural history of the nature reserve; a gentle book of daily observations that will be published online with photographs in time. My hope is that it will be a book that inspires others to notice the moments of beauty, and do more to care for this precious planet.

My next writing adventure, however, is one I’ve been thinking about for some time. A book that follows on from my Pagan ethics, Living With Honour, and my animist metaphysics, The Wakeful World. It explores the politics of human society and religion, how decisions are made and societies formed. Essentially, it is a book about god and anarchy from an animist perspective. However, at the moment, the call of silence is often far stronger, so it may take some time.  

Friday, 13 January 2017

New Year Reflections

After posting a link to a New Year autobiography exercise, we invited PWC members to share their own reminiscences of 2016. River Mourningstar answered that call.

And Then, She Stepped Off of the Edge

It was high summer, last year, when my life took a ninety degree turn and I, not expecting it, stepped gleefully over the edge of the sheer cliff face and into free fall. His easy manner and kind eyes tripped me up in the most beautiful manner and I found myself having to trust my all too broken wings.

We had been friends for some time, years.  We enjoyed each other’s company tremendously, but life never allowed us to have time alone, until that point. He believes in being a gentleman. He believes life is to be explored.  He believes the unknown should become the known. He believes to be fully human is to live fully. He believes that he is not human, but other.

The two of us, coming together, two halves of a whole, yet complete unto ourselves created ripples in the aether.  Without a word spoken, we know what the other needs. Without a painful word, we know what the other thinks.  We came together last summer, two children of the night, recognizing in the other that kindred spirit.

Our hearts had been shattered by others.  Our souls splintered and afraid of what was to come.  Our bad days outnumbered our good days. Our lives were full of people, yet we stood on the periphery, watching, listening. Individually, we stood and looked at those we loved and admired and we looked at those who loved and admired us.  We couldn’t understand why.  We couldn’t understand why they loved us, why they insisted upon being in our company. As individuals, we could see and feel just how different we were from them, but we wanted to belong. We wanted the friendship. We wanted the camaraderie. We wanted to be seen and appreciated for who and what we were.

It wasn’t until our coming together did we understand that what makes us different also makes us a beacon for others.  It wasn’t until our coming together did we understand that we do not, necessarily, need those around us, at least no in the same way that they seem to need us.

Our romance was whirlwind.  In two months, we spent nearly every spare moment together.  We gave to each other the things we knew, instinctively, the other needed. He brought me gifts unlike any I’d ever received: incense, robes, a sword. I gifted him body jewelry and (my pride as a southern woman) hearty, home cooked meals. We shared knowledge we had gained on our individual spiritual paths. We opened up latent gifts within each other.

As children of the night, we peered curiously into each others abyss. We gazed into that darkness, always the same, yet different, and embraced it. We looked into each others oft tortured souls and acknowledged the pain and hurt there, soothed it with the balm we each so terribly needed. Without judgment, we opened ourselves to each other.

In another month, we began planning a wedding. A month after that, we wed.  In less than six months time we realized that each other was what our life had been missing.

Becoming the Sacred Fool, stepping over the edge of the cliff, has opened a great many doors. The only trouble now has become deciding which door to walk through.  No matter the shadows, no matter the light, no matter the obstacle, we work as a team. Life is not easy by any means, but it is easier because we work together.

I let my demons out to play with his and they began a dark and macabre dance. He and I reveled in their joy. We reveled in their happiness. We reveled in their bloodletting. We still do. We stand in awe of each other, flanked by our demons, accepting each other for who we are. Oh, we still butt heads. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Yet, when our demons decide to not play nicely together, we manage to find a way to tame them.

The last year of my life, 2016, did not even begin until June. My own eyes were closed to life and living until that moment. It was only when my darkness touched a kindred dark did I begin to see.  When I began to see became the moment I began to live again. It took another child of the night to remind me that sometimes we must waltz with the shadows to be fully awake.


River Mourningstar is a writer, wife, and Priestess of the Craft, among other things. She has been writing most of her life because the people in her head just won't shut up. She tends to be a jack of all trades, prankster, and a mystery to those who meet her. She lives in the Midwestern US with her husband, cat, and an aquarium of aquatic oddities. You can find her on her blogs Waltzing with Shadows and Ramblings of a Confused Muse, and on Facebook.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Q&A Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier is a multi-award winning author of historical and folkloric fantasy. She lives in New Zealand and has travelled extensively in pursuit of a good story. Juliet is also a member of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. You can find her via her website (which includes her blog) and on Facebook.

We are so excited to be interviewing Juliet Marillier today.

Thank you to all the PWC members who sent in questions, we've tried to get through them all. We've also got a sneak preview of the cover for Juliet's latest novel, Den of Wolves, out later this year. We've included it at the end of the interview.

Hi Juliet. One of our members cited you as the influence behind her own story, The Enchanted Swans, due out later this year. Christy wanted to ask what first inspired you to novelize fairy tales?

I didn’t make a conscious decision to do so. When I was writing my first novel, mainly as therapy after a particularly challenging period in my life, I was drawn to the fairy tale of The Six Swans – one of my favourites from childhood, and a story with a strong woman at its heart. The theme was particularly relevant for me at that time. I asked myself what would happen if the devastating events of that story – the brothers changed into swans, and their sister set a terrible task to win them back their human form – happened to a real life family. Who would stand strong? Who would fall apart? How would the experience change them? 

I have loved traditional stories all my life, from the time before I could read, when my parents read to me or told me made up stories. Myths and legends, folklore and fairy tales contain deep wisdom. Many of them were first told around the fire at night to make sense of the world’s challenges and to give people heart. The lessons in them are still relevant today – they teach us about love and loyalty, strength and courage, faith and honour. They teach us how to live our lives more wisely. 

Out of my 19 novels, only four are built around particular fairy tales (Daughter of the ForestThe Six Swans; Wildwood DancingThe Twelve Dancing Princesses/The Frog Prince; Heart’s BloodBeauty and the Beast, and more recently Dreamer’s Pool, which owes quite a bit to The Goose Girl.) I do include uncanny elements in all the books, though, even the more historically-based stories, and there are many folkloric or fairy tale motifs and ideas in them. 

I’ve also written two shorter stories based on fairy tales: the award-winning By Bone-Light, a modern take on Vasilissa the Fair, and a novella called Beautiful, an unusual version of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which will be published later this year.

You do it so well, do you have any hints on your creative process?

My background as a musician helps. I studied music to honours level at university and worked for quite a long time as a singing teacher and choral conductor as well as being a composer. Alongside my love of traditional storytelling, that background has helped me develop a particular rhythm and flow in my writing. In terms of process, I plan everything out in advance, initial idea and research first, then an outline, a synopsis, probably a chapter plan before I begin actually writing the book. I keep on editing the previous parts of the manuscript while writing the later parts, so it gets a lot of polishing and refining along the way. I don’t do a series of complete drafts, it’s more like one continuous draft over many months. 

That may sound quite rigid, but of course rules can be broken and plans can be changed in the interests of better storytelling. It usually takes me a year from initial idea to finished polished manuscript. Writing is my full time day job, though I also look after five needy dogs, all rescues, and they gobble up both time and emotional energy. But I love them!

You are a member of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Can you tell us a bit about your path to joining, and what part your spirituality plays in your writing? 

When I was writing my first novel, Daughter of the Forest, set in early medieval Ireland, I needed to include a druid character. I started researching ancient druidry, rather a challenge since it was strictly an oral tradition and extremely secret, so there are no reliable historical records. It happened that Philip Carr-Gomm, chief of OBOD, was visiting Australia at that time. I attended a talk he gave in which I found out about modern druidry and the wealth of lore and knowledge available on both contemporary and ancient druidic practices. I was delighted to find a spiritual path that chimed with so many of my existing beliefs. I completed two grades of the OBOD correspondence course and I am still learning – it’s a lifelong path. 

My spiritual beliefs influence my writing strongly. I don’t mean writing about druid characters and druid ritual, though I have done that a few times. It’s a more general thing. The underlying values of my spiritual path are likely to permeate everything I write. Three beliefs are particularly important to me: that storytelling has a great power to teach and to heal; that god, goddess or spirit is not set above us, but resides within all living things and links them together; and that we need to live the life we have as wisely and well as we can, rather than dwell on what might come afterwards. I never hammer home moral lessons in my stories, and I’m happy if people read them solely for entertainment. But there are some deep-down values and some wisdom there for readers who choose to look for them. 

There are six series to your name. Do you always know how many books will be in a series? Do you plan it out beforehand, or do you only know how many books there will be once they're written? 

These days I submit a proposal to a publisher, not a finished book or series. That is, I sign a contract before I write the series. So I do have to know in advance how many books there will be, and have at least a rough plan for each one. The exception was the Sevenwaters series, originally intended to be a trilogy. I was asked by a publisher to write three follow-up novels, so it became a six book series. 

Do you find it hard to close a series and let go of the characters?

Yes, it can be very hard to say goodbye to characters I love. For me, the characters live on after the end of the series.

Do you have a favourite childhood fairytale or folk character?

Lots! These days I would choose Baba Yaga, the fearsome old woman who lives in the forest in a hut on hen’s legs, and who possesses the gift of fire. As a child I might have chosen a strong young woman from a fairytale, either the girl in The Six Swans or the brave young wife in East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Admirable role models! 

Which authors do you admire? Who helped to shape and inspire you?

Without a doubt, what shaped and inspired me as a writer was traditional stories: fairytales, folklore, myths and legends. I admire many authors across a wide range of genres and styles. I love accomplished writing that pushes the boundaries but I also love great storytelling, so my favourite writers tend to be those who combine the two. For historical fiction I really admire the late Dorothy Dunnett. I re-read Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels every year, and also Daphne du Maurier’s Cornish novels. All those writers are great stylists. As a young reader I adored Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. That novel helped give me my romantic streak.

You have travelled a lot in pursuit of research for your books. Is there anywhere you haven't been that you still want to explore? Is there anywhere you would like to return to? And please could you tell us a bit about Transylvania and Wildwood Dancing?

Yes, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to travel quite widely for research purposes, thanks to the kind readers who buy my books and allow me to earn my living as a writer. There are plenty of places I haven’t visited and would love to see, for instance Brittany, Cornwall, Russia, South America. It’s becoming harder to get away now that I have so many dogs! I would love to return to Orkney, where my Viking novel Wolfskin is set, and indeed I am intending to do so in mid-2017 for a writers’ retreat. I’ve visited Orkney three times before and it remains one of my favourite places for all sorts of reasons. 

My visit to Transylvania was memorable! Most of my novels are set in my own ancestral territory – Scotland and Ireland – and writing a story set in such a different culture was challenging. I was lucky enough to find a Romanian guide who was a history buff and very ready to take me to out-of-the-way places in search of what I needed for the book. With a regular guide, I might have ended up just doing the well-trodden ‘vampire tourism’ route; and on my own I would have struggled with the language, not to speak of the driving. 

The landscape and historic buildings in Transylvania are stunningly beautiful and full of character. We stayed in local B&Bs. People were not very keen to talk about folk traditions – I would have had to stay much longer and win trust to bring that sort of information out. Rural Romania was a place of stark contrasts: we’d be travelling past flower-dotted fields where workers were cutting hay with scythes, and right next to them there would be a huge derelict factory, stark evidence of the mismanagement of the Ceausescu era.

I did use a lot of what I learned on that trip in writing Wildwood Dancing. And I’m sure I still built many errors into the book! It’s a fairy tale story rather than a historical novel. I hope I conveyed a general flavour of the Transylvanian setting, at least.  And then, of course, it was off to Turkey for the sequel, Cybele’s Secret.

You have won multiple awards for your writing. Is there one that is especially memorable or dear to you?

I appreciate them all! The Prix Imaginales deserves a special mention. This award is for best fantasy novel in French translation – I won it for Soeur des Cygnes, which was the French title for Daughter of the Forest. The memorable part was the trophy: a large, bright red statuette of Puss in Boots. Puss is too big for the trophy shelf so he lives on top of a bookcase. Most dear to me: a tie between my first major award, an Aurealis for Son of the Shadows, and my only short fiction award, another Aurealis for By Bone-Light, my contemporary version of the fairy tale Vasilissa the Fair.

How different do you find it writing short stories to novels?

Each has its own difficulties. With short fiction you need to refine and refine again, pare the writing down to the perfect words, the perfect turn of phrase, the most economical, effective and powerful way of telling your story. I find writing short fiction rewarding but difficult, and I am very slow at it. Novels come more easily to me, even though they still take a while to write! But some writers find it hard to create a workable structure and to maintain focus in a longer work.

We recently interviewed the co-founder of #FolkloreThursday, to ask about the success of their hashtag on global folklore. Over the time that you have been writing fantasy and historical fantasy, do you feel there has been a resurgence in reader interest in folklore and fairytales? Did it ever go away? 

I don’t think it ever went away completely, but I agree there’s been a recent resurgence in writing based on fairy tales in particular. It shows up in novels and short fiction, as well as in movies and television series such as Once Upon a Time

Have the marketplace and reader interests changed much since your first book was published?
The marketplace has certainly changed in the 16 or so years since I wrote Daughter of the Forest. The publishing business was hit badly by the global economic downturn; publishers had to rethink how they functioned with the rise of the e-book; and then there was the proliferation of self-published work that digital publishing made possible. As a result, publishers are far less ready to take risks and writers have to do far more of their own publicity and marketing, with a lot less support than before. There’s a trend currently toward a darker, grittier kind of fantasy, exemplified by writers like Joe Abercrombie. The fantasy genre is very broad, though; there’s room for romantic historical fantasy alongside hip urban fantasy alongside so-called ‘grimdark’.

Is the feeling different getting your twentieth book published to getting your very first book published? 

It is still exciting when a new book comes out, especially if it has a beautiful cover like the ones Arantza Sestayo has done for the Blackthorn & Grim series. But nothing beats seeing your very first book out there on the bookshop shelves. 

How much say do you get on the cover design for your books?

It ranges from zero to quite a lot! With some of the foreign language editions I didn’t even get to see the cover art until the book was published, and there were some highly inappropriate covers as a result. Over the years my US publishers in particular have commissioned some beautiful covers by distinguished illustrators such as Kinuko Y Craft, John Jude Palencar, and more recently Arantza Sestayo, and I count myself very lucky in that.

How do you feel about your earlier works now that you have written so many? Do you ever wish you could go back and change anything?

There are certainly many things I would change if I were writing some of those books now – in particular, I’d fix the errors I made with the history in my earliest books, back in the days when it never occurred to me that readers would expect historical accuracy in a story that was full of magical transformations and Otherworld beings. And I would pare the wordage down in some of the longer books to improve the pacing. Only, of course, I wouldn’t actually do it because I’d much rather write new stories, not revisit the old ones. I hope I keep on learning from my errors.

If a black hole opened up in the middle of the room and you only had time to save three books from your bookshelf, which three would they be and why?
What a terrible question! It would have to be the books I couldn’t replace: my mother’s edition of The Golden Staircase (an anthology of classic poetry with colour plates, published in the early 1900s); her edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales; and her hand-written diary.

What are you working on now, and what can we look forward to in the near future?

Den of Wolves, book 3 of the Blackthorn & Grim series, comes out in September here in Australia, and in November in the USA. Look for my novella, Beautiful, later this year in an anthology called Aurum, from Ticonderoga Publications. And I’m currently writing a proposal for a new adult fantasy series, but as my agent hasn’t seen it yet, I can’t give you any further details. 

Anyone interested in finding out more could keep an eye on my blog, where I will post news when I have it.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Q&A Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

We are really lucky to welcome Judith Hewitt, Co-manager at Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, here to answer questions posed by PWC members. You can find out more about the museum via their website and blog. They are also on Twitter and Facebook, and have a Friends Of site.

Hello Judith. Thank you so much for taking time out from running the museum to come and talk to us about its artefacts. 

Perhaps we could kick off with a little history? How did the museum begin?

The Museum was founded in 1951 by Cecil Williamson. He had been interested in witchcraft from childhood and collected many items during his travels. He also took in items which people didn’t want as they saw them as taboo or cursed.  Cecil was a practising witch and when he died the Museum inherited much of his personal collection.

The Museum moved around a great deal in the early days. Early locations included Bourton on the Water, Windsor and the Isle of Man. For a time, Gerald Gardner was the “resident witch” at the Museum but Gardner and Cecil differed on many issues and the two men went their separate ways. Cecil brought his collection to Boscastle and opened the Museum here in 1960. 

What is the oldest item in the collection?

The oldest object in the collection is probably Harriet the skull. This tarred human head was kept in a box. Recent research suggests it is a mummy from Ancient Egypt.

And the newest?

The newest items in the collection would be the objects we collected for the Halloween exhibition which is running for 2016. The newest of all are probably the sweets in our Halloween food section.

Is there an item you don't have at the museum that you would really like to add?

So many things but we have so little space! The collection is always growing due to donations and acquisitions. In the near future, we will try to acquire a toadstone ring. We would also like to collect more written charms. We would like to expand our ritual magic collection to include some older examples – something owned by John Dee would be amazing!

Have any strange things happened at the museum? Is it haunted?

I have worked here for over two years and I can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything but we are always hearing accounts from people who have seen or felt things in the Museum. One lady said she felt like she was being pinched, another described experiencing a strong headache, other people have said they have seen a woman wearing a long dress. In the early days, the Museum housed an entire human skeleton which was known as Joan Wytte. This has now been buried as it made many people feel uncomfortable, the owner at that time was convinced that Joan was unhappy on display in the Museum and that she was making her unhappiness felt in various ways. 

Why are people still so fascinated by witchcraft?

To many people witchcraft means mystery, it intrigues them and they don’t know why. We don’t really want to take that away and think an element of mystery and the unknown is an important part of the Museum’s identity. The appeal of Witchcraft as a religion is probably easier to explain as it is so unlike other world religions. It is rooted in the natural world and the seasons, it has a place for a female deity, it is non dogmatic and enables people to connect  with the ancient world and their ancestors. Many people like the Museum because they find it “dark” and seemingly timeless and they find the modern world too “light” and technological or transient.

Boscastle was flooded in 2004. Do you still worry about that? How do you protect the displays?

We do worry about it sometimes when the rain is really heavy or the tide is really high but Boscastle now has first rate flood defences which seem to be protecting us - touch wood! On the ground floor, none of the displays touch the ground so if there were a minor flooding, they wouldn’t be affected. We have flood boards and sand bags just in case! We also have a comprehensive insurance policy and an emergency plan with a “pick list” of objects to save if the worst came to the worst. Ultimately, we can’t eliminate the risk of flooding in our current location but we have no plans to move so we have to make the best of it! 

What have been the biggest changes to the museum over the years?

Since its move to Boscastle in 1960, the Museum has had three owners. I think the change of ownership and the different styles and approaches of the different owners has probably been the biggest change. Cecil Williamson was the first owner and his displays were based on his relationships with local witches and also his experiences in the film industry. Some of his displays were deliberately intended to shock and confirm rather than challenge visitor stereotypes of witches. When Graham King took over the Museum in 1996 he wanted to make it more of a centre for Paganism and a site of pilgrimage for practising witches so the tone of the Museum changed a great deal. Graham also introduced more museological standards such as the online catalogue. In 2013, Simon Costin took over the Directorship of the Museum and there have been many changes in the look and feel of the displays. The Museum is bigger than any one person, some people view change with trepidation but change is a sign of life and the Museum is definitely thriving! 

Do you get any strange feedback from visitors?

Yes, people are very interested in telling you anything odd that has ever happened to them. Most people react very positively to the Museum and go away impressed with the collection and happy to have visited.  One lady told me a long story once about a child who levitated and whose mother was persecuted by the police and accused of abuse because of her child’s paranormal behaviour. We also get sent things people don’t want in their house any more and receive letters from people who feel themselves to be cursed. We really are much more than just a Museum.

Are there any books you'd recommend for people interested in the history of witchcraft?

Yes, lots.  If people are interested, they are very welcome to make an appointment to visit the Museum library or search its contents online for book ideas.

I would recommend:

  • Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic
  • James Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness
  • Owen Davies, Witchcraft, Magic and Culture, 1736-1951

Are there any books you'd recommend for people interested in modern witchcraft?

If you’re interested in the history of modern witchcraft try Ronald Hutton, Triumph of the Moon.  If you’re more interested in practice and an “inside view” then Gemma Gary’s Traditional Witchcraft or Levannah Morgan’s A Witch’s Mirror are both great. A personal favourite which gives an overview of all aspects of magic, sacred sites and folklore is Cheryl Straffon’s Between the Realms which focuses on Cornwall.

Do your curators feel a particular attachment to any of the displays? Do they have favourites?

Yes, definitely. Peter particularly likes the corn dollies which are deeply embedded in the British magical tradition as symbols of fertility, life and death, and goddess worship – latterly they have been made by witches in the 21st century. Simon likes the Richel Collection a great deal, although I don’t know if this is his favourite. The Horned God section also resonates strongly with him. My favourite object is a stone altar which was used by witches on Dartmoor. It is small and made to be portable. It is made from three different types of stone found on Dartmoor. They used to burn a fire in front of it and drink their own brewed mead on the moors at night while they communed with the spirit world. It is so simple, beautiful and timeless, to me it represents the essence of witchcraft in the West Country.

Do you get many international visitors? Are there similarities between witchcraft in the UK and in other countries?

We get a lot of international visitors and also international researchers and film crews. People are always pointing out similarities between customs and rituals in Britain and in their part of the world. Many of the objects in the collection are from far flung places and we are always delighted to know more about them. Last year, a visitor from Israel identified some Hebrew words which were written on an object. We are always learning more about the collection.

If you could meet any witch from history, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Tough question! I think it would have to be Joan of Arc. She is now a saint but she was burned as a witch. She seemed to have such power and charisma, she was so young and so different to other women at that time. I don’t know what I would ask her - I would just like to meet her and see what she was like. Maybe I would ask her if she really could perform miracles? Or how she feels about being considered a saint now?

What do you think the future of witchcraft will be? What might you be adding to the display in twenty or thirty years time?

That is an impossible question to answer, I predict that witchcraft will always be unpredictable! Whatever happens we hope to represent the changes and continuities in an engaging and accurate way. 

In terms of collecting, I predict big things for the Museum. Simon Costin, the new director, has already added some diverse yet hugely significant objects: from an original Goya etching to ritual artefacts from the Order of Artemis. We also welcome donations from practitioners as the Museum will sympathetically interpret and care for items and preserve them for future generations to understand.

How can people get involved and support the museum?

The best thing is to simply visit us as we rely on visitors to keep us open and the bills paid. You can also join our Friends organisation which is a charity and these membership fees help to pay for new cabinets, conservation of objects and so on. If you are local or have time to spare you can also offer your time – just recently we have had a group of volunteers photographing the collection, another helping us to clean the museum and collections in the off-season, another doing some cataloguing – there is always lots to do!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Q&A Folklore Thursday

If you're on Twitter, you can't help but notice the hashtag #FolkloreThursday (@FolkloreThurs). It's become something of a phenomenon, even attracting BBC attention. There's now an accompanying website, helping to bring together folklore from around the world. This week, Dee Dee Chainey (@DeeDeeChainey), one of the founding members of #FolkloreThursday, dropped by to answer some questions.

Hi Dee Dee, thanks for joining us. Thursdays are perhaps our favourite day of the week since #FolkloreThursday took off.

For those who don't know, please could you tell us what #FolkloreThursday is and how it came about?

#FolkloreThursday is a weekly hashtag day on Twitter where people can share all things folklore related! Willow and I had been chatting on Twitter for a while, and thought it would be really great if there was a place to go to find out all about folklore. We were already taking part in a lot of the hashtag days, and then the idea came to us that a hashtag day would be a great way to get people together talking about folklore! We planned it for a while, set a date for the launch, and it all went from there!

Why is folklore important in the modern age?

Great question – I really do think folklore is important! I think, in the past, it was a great way to convey social norms and expectations – as well as important lessons – from generation to generation. While many of our social rules today have changed to the ones we see in folklore, narrative folklore really does act as a system of archetypes that give a focus point for us all to reflect on the issues that do still affect us today, particularly through examining the symbols and memes many of us take for granted. Narrative, and other types of folklore, are a great way of connecting to a shared heritage, and an excellent way of learning about cultures: our own and other peoples, allowing us to negotiate ideas, not only about how we’re different, but about how we are all the same; the passing on of traditions and stories are intrinsically human, and something we can all come together to share.

What's been your favourite piece of folklore posted by a participant?

My absolute favourite? Well, that’s a difficult one! I do love ‘body parts’ folklore... so I suppose I have a particular penchant for the Hand of Glory: the ‘guilty’ hand of a hanged murderer that can be lit like a candle, and then be used for all kinds of mischief. Some sources say it will paralyse anyone who sees it, others that it will open a locked door.

Why did you decide to start a website?

We thought it would be great to have a place to gather a lot of the stuff shared on #FolkloreThursday, and have a ‘hub’ for the hashtag that everyone could come to throughout the week. A lot of people said they wished everyday was #FolkloreThursday. I suppose, with the website, it can be!

Does #FolkloreThursday predominantly focus on British folklore, or is it global?

It’s definitely a global thing. We have people from all over the world joining in each Thursday, and they share folklore from all over the place. We’d love to see more diverse folklore each week. We love seeing folklore from people and places we’ve never heard of before!

Have you noticed any similarities in folklore around the world?

Definitely! A lot of the stories shared have very similar themes and plots, particularly those from across Europe and Scandinavia. Some folklore that does stand out to me personally is some of the Japanese stuff, the Yōkai for example. It’s so unique... reading a Japanese folktale is like an adventure – you never know where it’s going to take you!

What's the scariest folklore monster so far?

Ooh, great question! I think I’d have to choose the Encantado from the South American folklore. Legend tells that they are spirits that take the form of dolphins from the Amazon River, then take on human form at night, leaving the waters to seduce unsuspecting human women. They sometimes kidnap humans, and can cause illness, or even death... creepy!

Do you have any theories on why #FolkloreThursday has become so incredibly popular? What is it about folklore that attracts people?

I think maybe it’s different for everyone. We see people using folklore in so many ways: academics, writers using it for inspiration, artists, people relating to it as part of their belief system, others engaging just for fun or escapism. I do wonder how much the interest might be in response to the increase in technology in our daily lives, and things like that. Historically, you do see people turn to the past, as well as to myth and story, for a sense of grounding and reassurance at times of political and social instability.

Personally, I think the current political climate and the trend towards globalisation might have something to do with the resurgence in story, but also with reconstituting a sense of identity and heritage for people. From a #FolkloreThursday perspective though, I would say we’re just pleased that people love it as much as we do, and we’re happy they’re engaging, whatever their motivations! We keep saying it, but we firmly believe that folklore belongs to everyone – it’s a treasure trove of information, and really quite magical at the same time – it’s a way of bringing wonder and awe back into everyday life, and it’s important to have that.

Is folklore in danger of dying out?

From what we’ve seen on the hashtag day, I’d definitely say no! It’s amazing how many things are going on around the world using folklore – from books, to films, theatre productions, as well as a host of local community projects working to get people excited about folklore! I think the popularity of folklore and legends must have risen over the last few years. I’m not sure whether books, films and TV shows like Harry Potter, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Song of the Sea, and the like, have led to the increased interest or have been made because producers realised it’s popular, but you can certainly see a definite trend. And people have responded to that. Folklore has become something that most people are aware of now, in varying degrees.

What are your hopes for the future of #FolkloreThursday?

At the moment we’re still working on getting the website filled with top-notch folklore articles. After that? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned and wait and see...

How can people participate?

#FolkloreThursday runs every Thursday on Twitter, from 9am to 8pm British time (with a few short breaks in the middle!). To participate, people just need to post their tweet with the hashtag on the end: that means just type the hashtag symbol followed by the words ‘Folklore’ and ‘Thursday’ with no spaces. The tweet will appear in the hashtag feed publicly and everyone will be able to see your post if they’re following the hashtag!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Guest Post: Rayne Hall - Writing About Love Spells

Rayne Hall has published more than sixty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. 

She is the editor of the Ten Tales fantasy and horror anthologies (11 titles so far, including Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance) and the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series (17 titles, including Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes and Writing About Magic)

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, Rayne has settled on the south coast of England in dilapidated seaside town of former Victorian grandeur. She enjoys gardening, reading and long walks along the sea front.

Rayne has worked as an investigative journalist, museum guide, apple picker, tarot reader, adult education teacher, belly dancer, magazine editor, publishing manager and more, and now writes full time.  Her black cat Sulu – adopted from the rescue shelter - likes to snuggle between her arms while she writes, purring happily.

You can find Rayne’s books on AmazonTo find out about new releases, special offers and writing contests, subscribe to her Writer’s Craft newsletterFor writing and publishing tips, as well as cute photos of Sulu the book-loving cat, follow Rayne on Twitter.

Love spells make great fiction, full of secrets, conflict, drama and passion. 

Your character can cast her own love spell, or she can seek professional help from a magician (from a witch, a ritual wizard, or other type of mage). 


The most common ingredients used  in the ritual are roses (often red or pink),  something from each of the two people (usually a lock of hair, and in modern times, a photograph),  red candles, a fruit (for example, an apple), a crystal (rose quartz is a favourite), herbs (such as dittany or balm of gilead), spices (especially cinnamon),  red wine, and a ribbon (red or pink).  

However, the ingredients vary between different types of magic. For example, an Enochian may use different ingredients from a Wiccan.  Also, individual magicians have their own preferences.  The actual ritual also differs. 

Typically, the magician may cut the fruit in halves, insert the locks of hair, and tie the fruit back together with  the pink ribbon.  Or she may brew a love potion which involves red wine simmering in a cauldron with rose petals, herbs and cinnamon. 

If both people are present, the magician may link their hands and tie them with a ribbon or scarf. 

If only one person is present, the spell won't be complete until the second person has become involved, for example, by drinking the love potion.


Most clients are besotted with someone who doesn't requite their feelings. They are convinced that this person is the one for them, that they're meant to be together, that they will not be fulfilled and happy until that person is theirs. They also believe that the love spell is in the best interest of that person, and that the relationship will be a happy one if only the person would return their love.  They are desperate, can't bear the pain of their unrequited passion any longer, and are willing to pay almost any price for a love spell. 

Other clients are lonely and looking for love. They want a spell to help them find a mate. These include teenagers whose self-esteem is low because they don't have a boyfriend,  single women whose biological clock is ticking, and men who can't get a date.

On rare occasions, a couple may seek a magician's help to save their crumbling marriage.

In historical fiction, parents and politicians may resort to love spells to bring about an advantageous match, or to bring affection to an arranged marriage.


Most modern magicians consider it unethical to interfere with a person's free will. Although they will happily help the couple who wish to strengthen their bond, and the lonely heart in search of a mate, they will refuse to force a specific person's feelings. 

However, not all magicians have the same qualms, and in earlier period, many made good money from love potions. Even today, many magicians advertise on the internet, promising to deliver one's heart's desire.

Some magicians compromise by creating spells which work only if there is already some affection between the couple.  For example, the desired person must drink wine from the same cup as the client, immediately after he has drunk from it - something she wouldn't do if she hated him. An ancient Egyptian love spell required the man to anoint his member with a potion before having intercourse with the woman of his desire - and for that to work, she already had to fancy him quite bit.

Other magicians try to dissuade the client from focussing on a specific person. Instead, they recommend a general love spell, one which will help the client find a suitable mate.

For the strictly ethical magician, requests for love spells can lead to terrible dilemmas. Here are some ideas you may want to play with:

  • What if the client is suffering terrible pain from unrequited love, and the magician wants to ease his suffering? What if the desperate client is her own sister, her best friend, her son? What if turning down the request for a love spell causes a rift between them?
  • What if if the client won't take no for an answer? What if the client is the king, the chief inquisitor, or other powerful person? What if the client threatens to punish the magician for her refusal?
  • What if the client is rich and willing to pay a lot for a love spell? What if the magician desperately needs money to save her lover or to feed her starving child?
  • What if a ruthless magician agrees to waive his principles and grant the heroine the love spell she craves ... but only if she pays a terrible price for it?
  • What if the magician herself suffers from unrequited love? What if her ethics forbid her to manipulate someone's will, but she is convinced that it is for that person's own good?  What if her need overrides her conscience?


Love spells interfering with someone's free will can lead to disaster. Here are some plot ideas:

  • What if the love spell works at first, but wears off after the wedding? What if the person finds out that their spouse had trapped them with a love spell?
  • What if the two people love each other, but their relationship is desperately unhappy - and they can't get  out of it? What if they blame the magician for their misery?
  • What if the client loses interest and wants to end the relationship - but the other person is still obsessively in love and won't let them go? What if that person stalks the client for the rest of his life?
  • What if the client regrets his action, and wants to undo the love spell - and it can't be reversed?
  • What if a paedophile uses love potions to seduce minors? What if a serial killer applies magic to lure victims to their doom?  
  • What if a fortune hunter tries to trick an heiress into drinking the love potion? What if she's been alerted to his intentions, and has to be constantly vigilant to thwart him? 
  • What if the family hires a bodyguard or detective to protect their heiress daughter from love spell assaults?
  • What if the victim's family find out that the girl has been the victim of a love spell, and try to save her? What if they make great sacrifices to enable the spell to be undone - but she doesn't want to be saved?
  • What if the heroine discovers that her best friend's intended is a ruthless man who forced her feelings with a love potion - and the friend refuses to believe it? What if the victim of the love spell is a man whom the heroine has secretly loved all her life, and now another woman has ensnared him with magic?

The fiction potential of love spells is endless. I hope this article has inspired your creativity.

Will you write about a love spell? Or have you already written about one? Have you read any exciting books involving love spells? Leave a comment, and I’ll reply.