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 fairy tale 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 fairy tale, 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: fairy tales, 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 fairy tales? 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.