Author Interview: Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask for by Sara Pascoe
Hello everyone! Today I’m doing interview with Sara Pascoe, author of Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask for.
Read my review on this book HERE.
So, here is more about author and book—–
I come to writing after a career in psychology. From the Chimp House to the Halls of Congress, with a lot of brain slicing in between, I had great fun and a lot of fascinating experiences.
I adored the adventure of research, of being an explorer, as we carried out experiments to see what nature would reveal. I worked with some extraordinary scientists teaching chimps how to use language, studying how an enriched environment alters brain development, and how natural diseases ravage the human brain.
I also worked as a clinical psychologist in the US and the UK including the National Health Service, all rich and moving experiences. A public policy job in Washington, D.C., gave me a chance to work on programs designed to give more young people access to university.
Originally from the United States, I’ve lived on both coasts and in the middle—Chicago. I moved to Great Britain in 2004 with David, my husband, when his work moved him back to his native UK. We now live in Bournemouth, on the southern coast where we run a B&B for English Language students. (Website Link)
Q & A:
Q. When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing fiction in a serious way three years ago, but I had dabbled over the years, mostly starting things and not finishing them, and submitting the occasional story (to no avail). But I had always enjoyed writing more generally, including long, funny descriptions of my travel adventures back home to friends and family. I liked writing reports in school. And I remember my father’s friends telling him my thank you cards were really funny (And I hadn’t even meant to be funny).
I also always enjoyed professional writing in psychology, and the rigor of writing research articles. I learned a lot about not being precious about your work, and the fact that writing needs to do a job, varying on the specific type of writing you’re doing.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
It all started with a skinny, balding stray cat hanging around out house. He was so shy, I thought he was feral. Then, one day as I was gardening, he came up to me and gave a very sweet meow for such a large cat. That was that, he was ours. Although this was in a small English village where everyone knew not only each other, but each other’s animals, no one knew who Oscar belonged to, or where he’d come from.
So, my husband came up with a theory: ‘He must have fallen off a witch’s broom as she flew over the field next door.’ Thus, the seed was planted. At the time, I was working in my former profession, as a psychologist with children, and the plight of foster kids has always gripped me. But rest assured, besides Oscar, all non-historic characters are completely fictitious.
Q. What sort of research did you do to write this book?
Lots! I read academic history books on England and the Ottoman Empire during the time the story takes place, the mid-sixteen hundreds. I also read original works by two of the historic characters, Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed ‘Witchfinder General’, and Katip Celebi, the fascinating and famous Ottoman Turkish scholar. (I read an English translation of the Turkish book.). I also read books about other aspects of both places during this time, and history that came before in order to get a wider picture. I read some fascinating diaries of European women who ran away to Istanbul (‘Constantinople’ for some people who like to argue about this) because they had a lot more rights in 17th Century Istanbul than in Vienna for example! This comparison of social and legal norms in Western Europe compared to the Ottoman Empire at that time was fascinating. For the English historic research, I also read the original court proceedings as they are now available online, newspaper and ‘pamphlets’ from this time. I visited Colchester Castle a number of times, where Raya and the other victims were held in jail before their trials, and spoke to the historian there, and an archivist for the Chelmsford court documents.
Q. What books have most influenced your life?
Different books have had a wonderful and profound influence on my life at different times. Staring with those I loved in childhood, these include:
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
Stuart Little, by E.B. White
On Aggression, by Konrad Lorenz
Biogenetic Structuralism, by Eugene G. d’Aquili and Charles D. Laughlin
Intelligence in Man and Ape, by David Premack
Naked, by David Sedaris
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Q. What have you written? (Books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.)
I’ve written one self-help book and two novels so far.
Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For – YA Historical Fantasy
Oswald, the Almost Famous Opossum – Beautifully illustrated Middle-grade fantasy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: The Essential Guide – Psychology Self-help
My Blog – is on my website (http://www.sarapascoe.net/thoughts/) and also uploaded to Goodreads.
Q. Where can we buy / see them? (Include relevant link(s)
Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For
Available online and can be ordered through bookstores.
Oswald, the Almost Famous Opossum
Available online and can be ordered through bookstores.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: The Essential Guide
Available through Amazon and other online retailers.
Q. What genre are your books? What draws you to that particular genre?
Being a Witch, is a Young Adult, Historical Fantasy. Oswald, the Almost Famous Opossum, is middle-grade fantasy, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a psychology, self-help book.
I feel compelled to tell certain stories in the case of the novels, or share information and experiences from my previous professional life, in the case of the self-help book. Then, I work to figure out what genre the book is closest to. I research the genre to try to understand what people tend to expect. Being good is terrific, but you also want to consider what readers have come to want from certain types of books. It would be foolish to put in a lot of gruesome violence into a novel marketed as Romance, for example.
Q. What is your favorite book(s) and why?
This changes for me as I read more books. But as I just recently read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, I’d have to say this is my current favorite. I loved the voice, the characters, and this was a book that combined both a compelling emotional narrative along with critical social issues of racism, in a way that remains ever so pertinent today.
Q. What was your favorite chapter (or part) of writing this book and why?
‘Barking’ was my favorite chapter as it allowed me to enter the character, Raya’s world and feel ‘her feelings’. I still feel them when I read it now!
Q. What was the hardest part of writing the book? Was there anything that you deleted or altered?
Lots and lots was altered and edited over a number of drafts. And quite a bit was deleted. Mostly in the form of paragraphs, and ‘brain dumps’ where I had put in too much background information about the historical places and periods. This is a common problem for authors. Because we’ve found the research we’ve done so interesting, we can end up spilling more of it out than is necessary to carry to story forward. And you’re always serving the story—not you as the author!
I also cut out a whole character, ‘Fabulous Phyllis’. She is Bryony, the social worker’s mother, and a very self-centred, and famous TV psychic. She was a minor character, but did explain why Bryony is the way she is – not very confident, doesn’t take the best care of herself (her hair looked like it was combed with a whisk, and so on). And the character, Phyllis, also explained Oscar, the cat’s prior bad experience with witches, as he’d been with Phyllis. But my editor didn’t think Phyllis really served the story, and would have needed to have been more fully developed if I left her in. So, I decided to save her for the prequel, which I’m developing now.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you hope readers will grasp?
For me there are a few messages that run through the book. One is about healing from your past. The main character, Raya, has had a tough life including foster care, and has developed a hard exterior to keep out more hurt. But it also kept out people, and over the course of the story, she finds how to let people in again. Another theme is about how different cultures all have good and not so good aspects, and that it can be foolish to blindly love any culture, even our own.
Q. Do you read book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Reading reviews is a funny experience. On the one hand, I know that in the big scheme of life, it doesn’t matter if I get a bad review, or if it seems someone’s misunderstood the book. Yet, my stomach always does a little flip when I start to read a review.
While working on a manuscript, getting reviews, both professional editors’ input, and beta readers’, is extraordinarily helpful. If I get the same complaint or criticism more than once, then I always pay attention and work to remedy it. But what you like is very subjective, and if I get a one-off critique about something other people really liked, then I don’t usually change it.
Q. What are your future project(s)? What’s it about? (*if relevant)
I’m working on two projects at the moment.
Sabrina Jones’ Blog from the Future (working title). This is a genre-crossing sci-fi for adults. It’s all about a future where everyone lives in energy self-sufficient ‘hives’ (tall apartment-like buildings), there are sex rooms at work, and your TV tells you when your biochemistry is off. The main character, Sabrina who is in late twenties is thrown into a layered mystery when her boss is found dead, and she stumbles onto a cover-up of the US President’s brain damage.
We Are Not Donuts (working title). This is the prequel for Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For. This is Oscar’s story – his life with Fabulous Phyllis, the famous, but mean TV psychic, who is Bryony’s mom. Oscar is one of Phyllis’ familiars (animals that help witches and magic people). He helps expose Phyllis’ fraudulent ways, and helps a girl who time travels into the story, from an ancient Celtic tribe.
Q. Are you planning to adapt any of your stories to the screen? If your novel made into movie which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters?
‘Am I planning on adapting my books for the screen’? If only it were that simple! I’d love it, and think both novels would be great movies, with Oswald, being an animated film. Getting your story picked up by anyone who wants to make it into a movie is no small feat, and involves a whole lot of luck! I won’t dare say who I could see in the various roles, except to say, I think Robert DeNiro would be great doing Oscar’s voice!
Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I would like to give my whole-hearted thanks to everyone who’s taken a chance on reading a book by a new writer. Truly. Thank you.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be prepared to work hard, make mistakes, and keep going. Self-publishing involves learning all aspects of the business, from the craft of writing, to book formatting and design, and then the big one – promotion. Read about all of it – there’s loads out there about every aspect of creating and selling a book. And get professional input if you can afford it, especially for the editing, book design, and cover.
Q. What is your favorite motivational phrase?
‘It’s later than you think!’ This is from the song, ‘Enjoy Yourself’ originally done by Guy Lombardo, and covered by The Specials amongst others. As I understand the song, and the lyric, it’s about grabbing life by the horns and really living now, because none of us have as much time as we think, or like it feels (especially when you’re young!).
Q. Currently reading
This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein
A Farewell to Ice, by Peter Wadhams
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Strangers in Their Own Land: by Arlie Hoschschild
Q. Favorite foods / Colors/ Music/ TV show/ Film
Favorite food – it’s hard to pick just one! I guess I would have to say mangoes. I prefer saturated colors – ‘jewel tones’ I’ve heard them called, rather than paler shades.
As far as music- I like Funk, Chill, Latin, House, Blues, Classical, and Dance (if that’s different from House?).
My favorite TV show- ‘Rita’ the Danish comedy-drama.
My favorite movie- ‘Brazil’ with Terry Gilliam.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
No, I can’t think of anything.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Website |Blog |Author page on Amazon
Facebook |Twitter: @pascoesara | Instagram: sara_goldsmith_pascoe
Book Links: (Amazon)
Being Witch (US) | Being Witch (UK) | Oswald (USA) | Oswald (UK) |
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (UK) |COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (US)
Thanks again and best wishes,
Bournemouth, England, UK
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
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