Friday, 15 June 2012

Fortnight of Guests 2012: Laura Powell (Burn Mark Blog Tour)

It's a huge honour to have the lovely Laura Powell here today to take part in both FoG and her blog tour to promote her brand new book Burn Mark!  Check out her  Twitter and  Facebook page, as well as her site!  I loved Burn Mark so much so I'm majorly excited to share this with you!! :D  

Q&A With Laura Powell

Hi Laura!  It's such a pleasure to have you here today!
Burn Mark has just come out!  Could you give us a quick synopsis of your book, for those who haven't read it (btw, people who haven't read it, read it!  It's amazing!)?
It's set in an alternate modern Britain, where witches are a persecuted underclass and those who commit crimes are still burned at the stake. It's the Inquisition's job to hunt down witches, many of whom form criminal gangs known as covens. My heroine, Glory, belongs to a coven and longs to be a witch herself. But then she meets Lucas Stearne, the son of a High Inquisitor, and things get messy...

Burn Mark really wasn't what I was expecting at all - but in the best possible way!  Is that what you intended, for it all to be totally surprising and unique when compared to other witchy books out there?
I think authors always hope they've got something new or different to say. You have to follow your instincts, and go where the story takes you. Though I try and plan my books, the characters and plot have a way of taking things into their own hands.

And just where did you come up with the idea behind this amazing book - modern day witch trials?
I'd studied the European age of witch-hunts (16th and 17th centuries) when I was at school, but I knew I wanted to write something set in our time. There had been quite a bit in the news about contemporary witch-hunts going on in Africa. When I thought about this in combination with the endless headlines about the War on Terror, something clicked.

I know that some of the techniques of testing if someone was a witch were ones actually used way back when.  Did you have to do much research on the witch trials before writing Burn Mark?
Lots! There's a really creepy book called "The Hammer of the Witches", which was published in 1486 and is a kind of inquisitors' handbook. A bestseller in its day, it tells you how to identify a witch, torture them and prosecute them in court. A lot of witch-hunters were sadists and con-men. But some of them truly believed they were fighting a terrifying supernatural force.

With so many similar witchy books out there, the fact yours was so different was amazing!  Where, where, where did you come up for the amazing idea of having covens as gangs?!
Witches have many ways to outwit or escape the law, what with their abilities to see through walls, fly through the air and possess somebody's mind etc. An inspiration for the covens were the infamous Kray Twins, a pair of bloodthirsty mobsters who terrorised London's East End in the 1950s and 60s. What if they'd been twin sisters, instead? I imagined a pair of beautiful blonde girls with magic powers - the Starling Twins, Glory's grandmother and great-aunt - and then tried to work out what kind of criminal and family legacy they'd leave behind them.

Where did the magic in your book come from?  It's not like, say, Harry Potter magic, which is what I'm sure loads of us instantly think of when you say magic.  There are no spells, wands or potions, just... magic within.  Is that what you think magic would be like, if (fingers crossed) it existed?
I don't use the word "magic" in Burn Mark precisely because I wanted to get away from the usual ideas of wands and potions and unicorn horns. Instead, the power my witches use is known as “fae”. The witches work by channelling mental powers similar to ESP (telepathy, mind control, psycho-kinesis and precognition) into other people, animals and objects.
I got the ideas for this from the African-American magical practises known as hoo-doo (n.b. this isn't the same as Voodoo, which is a religion) as well as traditional British folklore. I've always been interested in Extra Sensory Perception, and our so-called Sixth Sense, and that's why my witches' fae is described as a Seventh Sense. I don't think magic should be like a superpower, though. It should involve preparation, patience and a bit of mess! 

Most of the witchwork in the book involves spit - can I ask why?  It all just intrigued me all the way through!
Tee hee! Well, I thought bodily fluids would be an important part of the witch putting their physical essence into their work. Any bodily fluid would do - sweat, blood, tears, wee ... But I thought that spit would be more practical, most of the time.

Your world was amazing, all the detail you put into everything!  How long did it take to build the world and get together all of the details?
Thank you! :-) Fantasy writing is all about the weird and wonderful, but the world or system you create needs to have its own logic too. Without rules and restraints, it won't feel real. So I started with the rules. The limits on witchcraft, the constraints on inquisitors. What was possible and what wasn't. After that, things came together quite quickly and naturally ... like magic...

And Glory herself is a really complex character, a girl with many layers who's kind of distanced herself and toughened up.  Did you always see her like that, or did she evolve as you wrote?
Lucas was the character who came first to me, and I know I needed a counterpart who was his complete opposite in many ways. So while Lucas appeared almost fully-formed in my head, Glory sort of sneaked up on me. But then she wouldn't leave me alone - always yapping in my ear!

I love both Glory and Lucas, so I must ask: Where are Glory and Lucas going next?
Glory and Lucas have more in common than they think, but there's still an awful lot dividing them. It's not going to be easy for them to get past that.

And also: will Troy Morgan be in the next book?  (Random question again!  I just found him kind of intriguing!)
Wherever Gloriana Starling is, I suspect Troy Morgan won't be far behind...

Yay! If you could give Burn Mark a sound track, what songs would you pick?
Find out on Monday 18th June over at Book Angel Booktopia:

What's the hardest part about getting published?  The actual writing, editing...?
I was lucky in that I got a very good agent shortly after writing my first book and she did all the hard work of getting publishers to read my stuff. For me, the hardest aspect of writing is the isolation - when you get stuck, you're the only one who can sort the problem out. That's why I like the editing process. Finally, there's somebody else to bounce ideas off and help untangle the mess!

Now, I know loads of writers have really specific writing habits.  Do you have a strict regime or do you just write when you get an idea?
I write best first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so that's when I do my most intense work. During the day, I can't seem to concentrate for more than twenty or so minutes at a time before checking emails or going off to find more biscuits. So it's little but often.

Is there a writer or book that really inspired you, who you really admire, and maybe made you want to be an author?
I'm inspired by so many writers it makes my brain hurt to think of them all, but the one who made a big impression on me as a kid was my grandfather, Vaughan Wilkins, who died before I was born. He was a best-selling historical novelist in his day, and though his books are out of print now, they've stood the test of time. I was lucky to grow up believing that making a career out of stories or pictures (my father's a painter) is an entirely reasonable thing to do.

How does it feel to see your book on the shelf, to know all these people will see and (if they have any sense) buy it?
It's SCARY. I don't have control over the story anymore; I can't make any more changes or last minute tweaks. My little book is out in the big, bad world and needs to find its own way. (And, hopefully, lots of nice readers.)

Burn Mark is an action-adventure-magic-fantasy book.  But what's your favourite genre to read?
I read pretty much everything! I choose crime novels and thrillers to relax (as long as they're not too gory) and love the nineteenth-century classics, like Austen and the Brontes. I read lots of YA stuff too, but not when I'm right in the middle of writing my own stuff, in case it puts me off my stride.

Random Question: If you could be best friends with any character from any book, who would it be?
Oooh, good question! Tricky! I think I'd get on really well with Cassandra Mortmain, the heroine of "I Capture The Castle" by Dodie Smith. While my family isn't as crazily bohemian and eccentric as hers (and I didn't grow up in a castle, alas) I did completely relate to her when I read the book as a teenager. One of the other characters in the book describes her as "Jane Eyre with a touch of Becky Sharp", and that sounds like my kind of gal.

Yet another totally random question: If a magic fairy popped up and said you could live in any fictional world ever, where would you go?
I'd like to live in a Georgette Heyer novel. She wrote historical romances full of dashing Regency rakes and high-spirited young heiresses, with happily-ever-after guaranteed. What's not to like?

Final Question (promise!): So, what are you planning next?  A second in the Burn Mark series?  A whole new world?  Could you maybe give us a teeny tiny teaser?
Take a look at my post from Thursday 14th June over at to find out the answer to that one...

Thank you so much for stopping by, Laura - it's been great having you!  Everyone, don't forget to check out all of the other stops on Laura's blog tour - and pick up Burn Mark too, 'cause it's awesome!

Previous Stop on Burn Mark Blog Tour: SisterSpooky: BookFangirl
Next Stop on Burn Mark Blog Tour: Overflowing Library
Check Out All the Stops on the Burn Mark Blog Tour: Here

Ooh, I'm heading there right now!  Thank you so much for joining us Laura!  It’s been a pleasure having you!
Everyone, if you liked this post, make sure you follow all the FoG events on Twitter at #FortnightOfGuests

1 comment:

Cliona said...

Amazing interview! Such interesting questions and answers! I have Burn Mark at home, and I can't wait to rad it now! :-D