Into the Mists is a mystical magical novel that follows the journey of Carlie, a teenager who after her parents are killed in a car crash, struggles to find her place in life. She finds herself on a plane leaving behind her home country Australia to live with the grandmother she never knew existed in the UK.
What was your influence when choosing the UK as your destination?
The British Isles are a place of myth and magic – and mists – and a lot of my own magical experiences took place there, so it seemed right to base much of the book there. The mists are almost a character in themselves in Carlie’s story, and I needed to ground her experiences within these mists in my reality, and that is where I have encountered them. One summer solstice eve I found myself trapped by the mists atop the tor in Glastonbury, England, stranded up there until the sun rose the next day; one pre-dawn autumnal morning I walked into the swirling mists as I wandered through the sacred stones of nearby Avebury; another time the mists descended on me while I was climbing a mountain in north-west Ireland, on a grey and truly Otherworldly afternoon. And I’ve danced in stone circles there, been licked by a calf as I sat meditating within one, entered sea caves and clamboured into ancient burial tombs, walked through green fields and ruined castles and places of myth and legend there, all of which wove themselves into the story somehow.
The characters within your book all have strong, unique personalities that allow them to stand alone but blend nicely as a team. This creates a story that touches the heart. Are there any particular techniques you use that help you create your characters in this way?
Not really, there was no technique (at least that I was aware of), they just developed along with the story. I must admit I was a little surprised by how much everyone loved Rose, the grandmother – I got a lot of messages about her, and how much they wished they had a Rose in their life. But while she and Carlie had a fraught relationship at first, and Carlie is scared of her, and angry at her, I didn’t want to leave her without some support in her life – she needed to know (even though it takes her a while) that she is still loved. Mostly though the story is of Carlie’s journey in becoming her true self – what can happen through loss but also if you’re brave enough to really look within.
Are there parts of Into the Mists that resemble your own life?
My first response when I read this question was no – especially as my parents are still very much alive, and sadly my grandparents are not. But a lot of Carlie’s experiences did emerge from my own. Many of the rituals she takes part in are based on my experiences, her questioning and scepticism around magic and spirituality does echo mine, and she drinks her tea the same way I do. So while Carlie’s life-defining moment was very different to mine, I guess there is a little of me in her, or her in me, I’m not sure which way that goes.
Two cats play an important role within your book. Was there anything in particular that influenced the events involving the cats and their personalities?
I’ve never really thought about this, but they were very important to the story. In a broad sense, Luther is Rose’s witchy black cat, her familiar, but when Carlie arrives at her grandmother’s she feels very isolated and alone and out of her depth, and scared of this woman too, and angry at people and at the world. So Luther is her way to communicate – she can confide in him, without having to speak to her grandma – he is a sounding board she uses to understand how she’s actually feeling and what she thinks of things. He enables her to start feeling love and affection, without having to let her grandmother in, and the support of the natural world, without having to accept magic. Luther was a melding of two black cats I’ve spent time with – one was my flatmate’s cat Luther, who I loved (and hence the name), and the other was Mowsie, who resided upstairs from me for a few years, but who basically lived with me, just going home for meals. And Shadow was based on Mowsie’s sister Freckles, who used to jump up on the table when I was doing healings and put her little paw on the person too. In the book Shadow embodies magic, healing and possibility, and a link for Carlie to her mother. And she is perhaps less real, but still equally important to Carlie on her journey…
You started writing Into the Mists the day after you finished your book Witchy Magic, as part of the thirty-day National Novel Writing Month. Do you feel this had any influence on the writing of Into the Mists?
It influenced the book in so much as I had thought I would spend October planning Into the Mists – writing up a chapter outline and plotting it all out. Instead I was still working on Witchy Magic (and the book launch, the US release, the website etc) until October 31, so on November 1 I just had to dive in, and make it up as I went along :-) And it was fascinating, how the story wove itself together through the process of writing. I think in a way my first book, Seven Sacred Sites: Magical Journeys That Will Change Your Life, had more of an impact on this novel, as that included many of my magical experiences in sacred places around the world, as well as all my research on the history and culture and legends of those places, all of which threaded itself into Into the Mists in some small way I’m sure.
How do you feel books on paganism are accepted by society today? Would you say this has changed since the writing of your first book?
I was surprised while writing Witchy Magic, and researching the history of witchcraft and paganism through the centuries, and interviewing people for the book, how little acceptance there was even thirty years ago for pagans of any kind – witches, druids, shamans, priestesses and more I think it’s easy to forget how hard so many people had to struggle, against the law, against people’s perceptions – and misperceptions – to be able to openly follow their spiritual path. And although it is better now, and books and rituals and gatherings and wisdom are more widely accepted, I’m conscious that I live in a big city and all things are more accepted here. I was contacted recently by a student from LA who wanted to interview me about witchcraft – and she was convinced it was related to Satanism, which couldn’t be further from the truth. So, it’s getting better, but there’s still a way to go…
At the back of the book you state that Into the Mists started as a fun challenge with a few friends - to write fifty thousand words in thirty days for National Novel Writing Month. What advice would you give to those who are attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time?
I’d definitely recommend NaNoWriMo to anyone interested in writing. I’d written five non-fiction books before this, but I’d never tried fiction, so I figured this was a good way to find out if I had a story in me. And it worked – Into the Mists was pretty much written in that month. I rewrote a little and added a bit more later, but Carlie’s story was definitely born in that month. My second attempt the following year was much more difficult – I wrote the 50,000 words by November 30, but not all of them ended up in book two, and much of the story came later. But now I can’t imagine starting a novel any other way :-)
What helped me was that I told people I was doing it and posted my word count each day on Facebook – it kept me accountable. Not that I would have quit (I’m very stubborn), but it was even more reason to write every day. And doing it with a few friends also helped, as we inspired each other to keep going (seeing that one friend had written more than I had definitely spurred me on – I discovered a competitive streak I wasn’t entirely aware of, ha ha)… And for what it’s worth, my advice is to be fearless. Just dive in, and don’t think about it too much, or second guess yourself, and don’t edit as you go. Just write, let the words spill out onto the page, as fast as you can, almost stream of consciousness. I didn’t plot my book at all (I’d planned to, but work got too busy in October), so I started with just the vaguest idea, of a girl and her grandma and a cottage in the mists that may or may not have been real. And it amazed me, how the plot revealed itself to me slowly over the thirty days, and that only happened because I kept writing, even when I had no idea where it was going. I’d write a scene, and that would lead me to another scene and so on. And don’t worry about whether what you’re writing is any good – at least half the days I thought my story was total crap and there was no point continuing, but I kept on writing anyway, and by the end I realised I actually really liked my story :-) So this November I’ll be launching into book three of the trilogy, and hoping the story will reveal itself to me again. Threads are already starting to weave themselves together, so I’m looking forward to being able to pour it all out.
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