Monday, April 20, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Interview - Review - Paula Brackston – The Silver Witch

I'm so pleased to bring back yet another go-to author for me, her witches are enchanting and powerful and I can't wait to find out all about the Silver Witch too so be on the lookout soon for my review. Right now enjoy a little chat that Paula and I had about the book and other things too. Then stay and enter for a chance to win your very own copy of Paula's new book, sponsored by Paula's publisher, St. Martin's Press.
Giveaway details below!

  • ISBN-13: 9781250028792
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2015
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320


A year after her husband's sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat's death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her - a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she's near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.
On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.

Giveaway is One Print Copy of
The Silver Witch
please use the Rafflecopter form below
Thanks Paula and St. Martin's Press
Good Luck

Read an Excerpt:


All is darkness. Blessed night. Freed from light and troubled vision, my thoughts are fed instead by the howling of the wind outside. The sound forms pictures in my mind, where I see the trees moving in the raging air. Willow and hazel pull at their roots as they dance. Birch and ash bow to the mighty force from the skies. But the oak will not bend the knee. He stands stubborn and steady. Would sooner break than yield. My mind is like the willow; it flexes and springs. My heart is a knot of oak. Let them try to wound me. Let them try.
Feet find firm ground, thudding into dry mud. Nike on hard earth. Breathe in. Breathe out. In on second left footfall. Out on second right. Lengthen stride, a couple of inches, no more. Pace, rhythm, run, step, the poetry of movement, of exertion.
Tilda loves to run. Tilda needs to run. Her style is loose, fluid, easy, but with power and purpose. And with every step she lets her mind overlay the beat with plump, juicy images—images she will gather together for when she returns home, a crop harvested from the amber autumn landscape through which she now runs. All her best work has been created this way. Running charges her body and her mind. If she does not run, her thoughts become composted in her head, overheated and overcrowded, potentially fertile but unusable. Too much of a mass to be employed as separate artistic ideas. She turns off the woodland track and follows the slender path out of the trees and across the open fields.
Breathe, pace, breathe, pace. Heart strobing against ribs. Lungs efficient, trained, strong. Turf opening up, stretching out. The vista is uplifting. Lush, plush, velvet grass. Green is the color of life.
Her left foot hits a small stone and her mind is momentarily jolted out of its meditative state, her rhythm disrupted. Cold air stings the back of her throat. The day is cool but dry. The year is turning the corner away from summer, but the fertile rot of autumn has not yet taken hold of the landscape. The smell of fungi is just faintly detectable. The crunch of broken nutshells underfoot still only occasional. Another full moon will see shortening days and lengthening shadows.
Tilda’s long legs stride over the meadow to the bordering hedge. She finds the narrow gap and squeezes through, her breath loud in her ears as she stoops to pass beneath the brambles. A squirrel dashes out and fluffs its way up the nearest trunk. Tilda picks a glossy blackberry and pops it in her mouth, then presses on, winding a now-familiar route between neglected hazel and blackthorn. At last she is in the open again, alongside the lake. A smile, as involuntary as a hiccup, curves her mouth. As on each occasion that she runs here she is reminded of how she is drawn to what she fears. Deep water is the nightmare of her childhood that she never grew out of. Nothing she can imagine would induce her to step off the path and break that silky surface. And yet she loves to run here, to be close, to be fascinated by the terror and the beauty of it. Laughing at her fear a little each time. Like the thrill of watching a horror movie. A reminder of what it means to be alive. And how close at hand death is. Any death. His death.
Mustn’t think of it, not now. Mustn’t falter. Quicker now. Up a gear. Legs and arms help each other. Calf muscles tightening, ignore that. Run, girl, run. Fleet. Fast. Foot sure. I see you, waiting water. I see you. One more mile. Turning for home.
Home. Though she forms the word in her head it is still hard to think of the cottage as anything other than the place where she lives. For, what is home? Surely more than a set of rooms, a roof, an address? Home suggests belonging. Suggests warmth, safety, companionship. Love. When Mat died, all those things died with him. So she returns to the cottage. It is the place where she lives now, has lived for a month, almost. It is the place where she must live. Where she will work. Where she will simply be. Home is too much to ask of it. For now.
She has not completely circled the lake today, but loops back, so that she passes St. Cynog’s church and the Old School House a second time. The church is solid Norman, boxy and stout, built to withstand time and the damp air from the lake. Its graveyard is kempt and well-used, but even so there are some ancient tombstones which lean toward each other at angles that give away their age.
Like so many old men huddled in conversation after a few pints.
The Old School House is a building out of place. A nineteenth-century idea of rural perfection, with its mullioned windows, low eaves, and rustic charm. No longer a school, but the cozy home of an evidently proficient gardener. Tilda jogs on by, taking the footpath to the lane beyond. She crosses the narrow road that will be busy with visitors to the lake at weekends and leans into the steep slope to the cottage.
Ty Gwyn is a humble farmworker’s cottage, positioned high on the hill and approached via a testing climb. It sits steady and serene, and ever-so-slightly smug, as if enjoying the view, and laughing just a little at the puffing people who struggle up to its blue front door. The whitewashed stone gleams in the autumn sunshine, sharp against the fading colors of the mountain pastures, while the slate roof is an exact match for the stone walls that mark the boundary of the garden. Breathing heavily, Tilda unlatches the wooden gate at the end of the bumpy track and secures it behind her against opportunist sheep. She reminds herself that one day she will enjoy tending the modest lawn and flower beds and recovering the neglected plants. One day. A path of uneven flagstones leads around the side of the little house to the back door, which she unlocks with the chunky key she keeps beneath a pot of thyme. The temperature inside is not noticeably warmer than out, but she is too warm from her run to mind. She raises the blinds to let the young day into the low-ceilinged room and places the filled kettle on the hot plate of the Rayburn stove. The aged beast heats so slowly it will take some time to boil. Already, in the few short weeks she has been here, she has formed habits. There is comfort to be had in the repetition of simple tasks. Reassurance to be found in ritual. Routine has a way of helping to make the new familiar, of filling the mind with purpose and, in doing so, leaving less room for unwelcome doubts and fears. She takes milk from the fridge and pours herself a glass to drink where she stands, leaning against the sink. She can feel her heart begin to steady after its exertion. The milk refreshes and chills her in equal measure. She glances at the kitchen clock and notices it has stopped.
Another dud battery. So much for value brands.
Tilda levers off her trainers and heads upstairs to the tiny bathroom. The shower is old and temperamental and coughs unpromisingly when she turns it on. She leaves the water spluttering and pulls off her beanie and running clothes before deftly undoing the heavy plait that has restrained her hair. Steam begins to mist the mirror, so that her reflection is even more ghostly than usual. She wipes the glass and peers at the pale young woman who peers back at her. Swirls of vapor blur the image.
I could fade away entirely. It wouldn’t require effort. Just grow a little fainter every day.
She steps into the shower and lets the hot water cascade over her. Her white-blond hair becomes slick, darkening to pewter. Her skin flushes. Now she is the most colored, the most opaque she will ever be. She should have come with instructions: To render visible, add warm water. Her mother once told her that when she had first held her baby daughter in her arms she doubted anything so fragile, so thin skinned, so seemingly insubstantial, could survive. But Tilda had shown her. Had grown tall and strong. Had proved her wrong. As in so many things.
By the time she has dressed, dried her hair so that it hangs straight and loose, a crystal curtain down her back, the day is properly awake. She takes her mug of tea and steps out onto the small patio of mossy flagstones beyond the front door. As always, the view is like a deep breath of pure oxygen.
This is why we bought this place. This.
The flat piece of garden extends only a few paces to the low stone wall that separates it from the dizzying drop to the valley below. The landscape falls away abruptly, so that Tilda is gazing down upon a thick copse of trees—still more green than gold—and beyond to the sweep of small fields that lay around the lake. The water is glassy and still this morning, undisturbed by any breeze or activity, save for the movements of the families of waterfowl that have made the place their home. Beyond the lake, the Brecon Beacons rise up, an ancient shield of mountains against the wild weather and people of the west. When she and Mat had discovered the cottage, had stood on this very spot for the first time, he had taken her hand in his and they had ginned at each other in silence. They had both known, in that instant, that this was the place they would start their married life together, would live, would work.
Except that fate had other plans for them.
Three rooks are startled by some unseen danger and fly from their perch, flapping and squawking. The sound is sharp and discordant and provokes in Tilda a fierce reaction. She is taken back to the moment of Mat’s death with such brutal speed and vivid colors that she is forced to relive those heartbreaking seconds again. She is no longer in the garden beneath the September sunshine, but back in the car, Mat’s car, on their way home from their honeymoon, rain lashing the windshield, watery lights of the motorway traffic flashing past. It was she who had been driving, she who had felt the pull on the steering wheel as the tire rapidly deflated, she who had slowed and halted on the hard shoulder. Mat had got out, walked around to examine the tire. She can see him now, in the cruel memory of her mind’s eye, stooping to look in through the window of the driver’s-side door. The rain, pouring onto Mat and the glass, has washed his features into a blur. He opens his mouth. He is speaking, trying to tell her something, but there is too much noise. She cannot hear him. He points, forward, and toward the edge of the road. She wipes the inside of the window with her hand, frowning to make him out, to make out what he is saying. And then, in a heartbeat, he is gone. Vanished. She has never been able to recall so much as the color of the truck that swept him away. She was told, later, that it had been empty, returning to the continent after a long haul, its driver not negligent, but not as vigilant as the speed and conditions required.
Tilda shakes her head, rubs her eyes, gasps against the pain of the vision, the renewed shock of the realization, the dragging weight of grief, all assailing her for the hundredth time.
Again. Again. And for how long? More than a year now and still every time as clear and as violent as the first. Will it never ease? Will it always be so unbearable?
She keeps her eyes closed for a moment longer. When she opens them the brightness of the sun makes her flinch. She tips the last of her tea into a pot of geraniums, turns on her heel, and heads back into the cottage. Once inside again she is reminded by the boxes in the narrow hallway, and in the sitting room, and indeed all over the house, that there is still unpacking to be done. She cannot imagine what she can own that fills so many boxes. She has not yet missed any of it, though soon she will be forced to search out a winter coat and some warmer bedding. The cottage is plenty big enough for her needs, but its rooms are small and cannot be used comfortably while the packing cases remain. Tilda knows it is a job she will not enjoy, but she will feel better for having done it.
Like a visit to the dentist, or filing your tax returns.
She can hear her father gently nagging her on both counts. Soon her parents will insist on visiting. To see she is all right. To make sure she has settled in. She must make sure every last book is unpacked by then, if her mother is not to shake her head and purse her lips.
Soon, but not quite yet. Today I begin work. Proper work.
The little barn attached to the cottage had been used as a garage for years before she and Mat became its owners. It had been a fairly simple matter to change the door—fitting in glass sliding ones to allow plenty of natural light—sweep it out and move in shelving, bins for clay and glazes, a Belfast sink, extra lighting, a small wood-burning stove and, of course, the kiln. Tilda regards the iron oven warily, wondering how long it will be before she is ready for a firing. In their old studio, before they had ever thought of moving out to Wales, so many times she and Mat had waited on tenterhooks for the thing to cool sufficiently to be safely opened, and to reveal the success—or otherwise—of the firing. At two thousand degrees Fahrenheit, the heat inside a potter’s kiln would reduce a human hand to charred bones in a matter of seconds. Such terrifying temperatures are necessary to create the required chemical reactions within the glazes so that they are transformed from dull dust to colors of shimmering brilliance and mesmerizing intensity. Tilda is ceaselessly amazed by what transformations can occur amid that heat. The process of firing clay within such a domesticated dragon is a timeless and mysterious alchemy. Raw earth is slabbed from the ground, then worked and pounded, then teased and caressed, before being persuaded into forms to suit the craftsman’s wishes. The piece is subjected to a biscuit firing, rendering it, as the name suggests, dry, brittle and ready to receive its glaze. These magical powders mixed with water in a thousand variations—a pipkin more antimony oxide, a pinch less chrome, or a spoonful of cobalt to a measure of manganese—cling somberly to their given bodies, awaiting the crucial application of fire to bring about their chrysalis-to-butterfly moment. Every opening of the kiln door is an instant pregnant with expectation and hope, an occasion that will reveal the results of weeks of work and thought and art. It is a moment of exquisite agony every bit as intense as the heat inside the crucible itself.
Well, Mat, at least you are spared any more disastrous firings. I’ll just have to face those on my own, won’t I?
A part of Tilda believes it might, in fact, be easier. Easier not having to suffer Mat’s disappointment as well as her own. She can recall all too well the occasions where they had both despaired of the wasted months of work when a glaze had failed to behave as it should, or a volatile piece exploded and wrecked the entire firing.
And now she needs to begin again. To find the pace and rhythm of her work, as sure-footedly as the pace and rhythm of her running. She rolls up her sleeves and takes a lump of earthenware clay from the green plastic bin beneath the sink. She drops the smooth, heavy clod onto the scrubbed wood of the bench and begins to knead it, letting the repetitive action of wedging the muddy substance steady her mind. Lifting and slamming the clay down with increasing force, she can feel the texture begin to change beneath her palms, the material begin to yield. Lift and slam. Lift and slam. Pummel, turn, scoop, lift and slam. Dull thuds of weight and effort growing louder with every focused, determined movement.

Paula Hi! It’s great to have you back at The Reading Frenzy.
Tell us about your newest witch, The Silver Witch.
Hi! It’s lovely to be here with you again.
The Silver Witch tells the story of Tilda, a ceramic artist in the present day, and Seren, a witch and shaman in the tenth century. The book is set on the shores of Llangors Lake in the Brecon Beacons, in Wales, which is deep and ancient and full of myths and secrets. When Tilda comes to live in a cottage overlooking the lake she finds the place has a disturbing and powerful effect on her. She begins to discover some of the truth behind the secrets of the lake, and this puts her in danger from a magic that is more than a thousand years old.

This novel unlike your last two novels this is set in the present although it has an alternating timeline from the past.
What was the most fun about writing in two timelines?
I loved finding both contrasts and similarities between the two times. The landscape and the lake have changed very little, so that is a constant and a strong link between the two women. Their day-to-day lives differ greatly, of course, but their experiences as women are naturally similar: they both suffer grief, heartache and longing, both have hopes and dreams of the future.
I was also interested in the different ways their respective societies regarded them. Both Tilda and Seren have an unusual appearance that sets them apart (I don’t want to give too much away!). In the present day this means Tilda is often regarded as strange or somehow deficient, whereas in Seren’s time her looks marked her as someone to be revered and treated with respect and deference. Of course this has a formative influence on their personalities and the way in which they relate to other people.

You’ve come back to Wales with this tale.
What about your homeland inspires these magical tellings?
Wales provides me with a never ending supply of magical places and myths and legends to draw upon for my work. The landscape is so dramatic and ancient and wild, how could I not be inspired? And it is home, and that moves us all, doesn’t it? I don’t always set my stories here, but when I do I really enjoy that extra special connection with the material. The only danger is that I get so engrossed in the research my output slows horribly.

Paula now that you’re an accomplished writer and no longer a novice.
Have you made any significant changes to your writing method, style, etc…?
Well, you just swap one bunch of doubts and insecurities for another bunch of ‘em! It’s true that you gain confidence in your work, of course, but we writers are conflicted creatures. There exists within us at any given moment the cherished belief that what we are working on is good and exciting and worthwhile, and the absolute certainty that it is in fact no good at all! I’m here to tell you this does not change, no matter how many books you write. What helps, though, is the experience of imagining, writing, re-writing, publishing, and living with whole completed real live novels of your very own. You know you’ve done it before, you can do it again.
As to method, hmm. I like to think I am more organized. I know I am less daunted by the various stages - sketching ideas, planning, plotting, expanding, actual writing, editing - and the particular challenges they bring. I need to be. There are greater demands on my time now. The key for me, and the most difficult thing sometimes is to maintain focus. With so many projects in the works, it is hard not to let your concentration slip. Writing fiction demands we stay in the time and place of our stories and it’s important nothing breaks that spell while we are spinning our yarns.

Paula it’s hard for me to imagine you flustered by a deadline, I in fact see you twitching your nose or waving your hand and the edits magically correct themselves.
But in reality how is deadline times handled in the Brackston home? Do they fluster you or is it just another day at the office?
I could certainly use a magic wand! Until I find one, I will just have to rely on lists, diaries, calendars and what I like to think of as commitment but other people have told me borders on obsession.
Actually, I don’t fret about deadlines, which is a good thing, because they are many and appear often! This year, through an unusual set of circumstances, I’ve got five books coming out in the US. That means five lots of copy edits, five lots of proof reading, plus manuscripts to deliver and edits of those, and input on blurbs, cover copy, press releases and so on. I make that roughly 25 deadlines between now and Christmas before we start factoring in interviews!

Paula you were gracious and contributed in a month long read and discussion of The Winter Witch on my blog.
Do you make personal appearances in book clubs in Wales?
I try to get out of the house and meet readers when I can, but I have to be careful not to lose too much writing time, or everything slips backwards. I aim to do a handful of festivals and signings each year, but that’s about it. My family quite like to see something of me occasionally!

Paula a little bird also told me that you’ve been busy writing crime-fantasy and your protagonist is Gretel from the Hansel and Gretel Fairytale. How Very Cool!
Tell us a little about this.
Is it a series?
How many novels?
Tell us about the first one.
Your little bird is very well informed.
This is a new Crime-fantasy series set in 18th century Bavaria, following the adventures of Gretel, now 35, still living with her brother, grown very large, and working as a Private Detective.
Gretel is not your normal type of heroine, and I have a lot of fun writing her. The first book in the series ‘Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints’ is out now in the US with Pegasus Books. The ‘prequel’ to this, ‘Once Upon A Crime’, is due out in the summer, with the third book, ‘The Fickle Mermaid’ planned for just before Christmas. Reviewers have found common ground with Jasper Fforde and Douglas Adams, and you could think of the tone as somewhere between MC Beaton and Terry Pratchett.

Paula so the final edits are in and your newest manuscript is in the capable hands of the publisher.
Are there any special celebrations, traditions that the Brackstons follow when a book is completed?
A collective sigh of relief goes through the house. I’m always so immersed in the completing of a book that my family feel pretty hard done by until I declare it finished. The children pounce with all the things they’ve been wanting me to do for weeks – trips out, help with homework, friends for sleepovers – and I’m happy to oblige, feeling quite light-headed to be free from the tyranny of the word count or the relentless loop of the editing process. And I get to read other people’s stuff! I always have a tbr pile waiting for this moment, as I only allow myself to read things relevant to the period and subject of what I’m writing until I’ve finished. It is a treat to venture into different territories and genres.

Paula thanks so much for your kind visit. Good Luck with The Silver Witch and with your Brothers Grimm Mysteries too!

Thank you!

My Review of The Silver Witch

The Silver Witch
In the past
Many centuries ago when the old religion was still practiced side by side with Christianity and wise women were still valued there lived, Seren, a shaman/witch caring for her prince and his peoples on a hamlet near the shores of Llyn Syfaddan (Lake Llangors).
In the present
A year after the tragic death of her husband in a car accident returning from their honeymoon, potter Tilda Fordswells finally takes possession of the cottage where they were to live. The small house is in the village of Llangors, near an ancient lake of the same name, nestled at the foothills of the Welsh Brecon Beacons mountain range. Moving on is harder that she expected and for more reasons than just her grief. Strange things are happening and shes also experiencing troubling visions, very different then flashbacks she endured immediately following Matts death, no these have a prophetic feel to them. Is she seeing ghosts, is it a message from the distant past or has she simply lost her mind? Shes convinced the answers lie with the lake and its history and shes determined to find out what is happening and why.

Master storyteller Paula Brackston takes readers back to her mystical homeland for this haunting and fascinating witchs tale. Theres magic not only in her story but in how she melds two timelines with fiction and fantasy, reality and imagination and myths and legends into a beautifully bewitching yarn by way of her mesmerizing visual narrative that draws readers right into her folktale. Her characters, the good, the bad and the scary are all indelibly real in their portrayals and absolutely convincing in their actions. The effect is an all encompassing, unforgettably emotional experience for her readers.
Paula you
ve taken me on some incredible journeys, this being no exception I loved Seren and Tilda and I cant wait to meet your next spellcaster!

Connect with Paula- Website - Facebook - Goodreads

Meet Paula:
Paula Brackston (aka PJ Brackston)is the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter, The Winter Witch, and The Midnight Witch(2014).
Paula has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. In 2007 Paula was short listed in the Creme de la Crime search for new writers. In 2010 her book 'Nutters' (writing as PJ Davy) was short listed for the Mind Book Award, and she was selected by the BBC under their New Welsh Writers scheme.
Paula lives in Wales with her partner and their two children.

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  1. I haven't tried this author yet but I love books set in England, maybe because I really want to go there someday plus, I love that this has to time frames so while maybe not completely historic, it will appeal to my nerdy side. :P

    Great interview Debbie and thanks for the chance to win!

    1. Hi Ali, my fingers are crossed for you. She also has novels set in the wilds of Wales where she lives. The Winter Witch was one of my all time favorite reads, a very different read from The Midnight Witch, which is also right up there on my LOVE LIST!

  2. Paula's novels are captivating and intriguing. The locale as well as the character's trials and tribulations makes this novel so appealing and unforgettable. Thanks for this wonderful feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. I have read all of Paula Brackston's "Witch" books and absolutely loved them, so I am so excited about the opportunity to read "The Silver Witch"!

    1. Hi Susan, ah a woman after my own heart. I LOVE Paula's storytelling, she enchants, educates and entertains all together. Thanks and good luck!

  4. I have read a couple of her other novels and have enjoyed them. It would be great to finish the series.

    1. Hope you get a chance to read it Karen, but they're not a series. All Stand alones :)

  5. I have actually read and enjoyed some of her other witch books and I am excited about the Silver Witch. I love the two timelines that intertwine. Fantastic and informative interview Debbie. I love getting to know the author behind the books I read,

    1. Hey Kim, I'm running behind I was hoping to have this one read by the time I posted her interview. Ah the best intentions :)

  6. no, looks different

  7. I haven't read any books by this author but first the cover is unique and the story sounds refreshing. Thanks for the chance!

    1. Hi Marissa, thanks for the comment and good luck!