In conversation with the author of ‘The Daughters of Pendle’
Hi Darcy! It’s a pleasure to have you with us! Let’s start with your book, The Daughters of Pendle. There is a brief intro dated 1564, where we witness a terrible practice of the past: witch hunting. It wasn’t one of the most enlightening moments of humankind, let’s be honest. And still, you decided to use it as the pivotal point of your book. Can you tell us why?
That short prologue was a very late addition to the story. I had received notes from an American beta reader who never heard of Pendle or its history, and suggested filling in some of the background by adding historical information. I decided a direct prologue would be more effective. It enabled me to ground the story historically and geographically, and it gave me a chance to give one of the main characters some foundation.
I think that dark period in history is evocative for a lot of different reasons: apart from the very serious abuses and crimes against innocent women (and some men), it was also a time of social control and abuse. It’s a subject which deserves a degree of sensitivity, and despite my effort to create a fun, though dark adventure, I wanted to be respectful. I asked a friend, who is also a practicing witch, if she would give the story a sensitivity pass, as I didn’t want to trample on anyone’s belief system or practices. Being a fun, horror story, she was more than happy with the approach I have taken throughout the tale.
You made an unusual and bold choice when it comes to characters dialogues, i.e. they resemble a film script but lack the genre-specific formatting and economy. This may make the book challenging to read for some. Can you tell us why you opted for this format?
It’s actually been mentioned a few times. I think it ultimately comes down to me not being a writer. I did a Film and Animation degree in my late twenties; as I was only prepping and creating storyboards and scripts for my own use, I developed a hybrid approach, which is pretty much what you see in the book. Also, when I started making notes and plotting this story twenty odd years ago, I didn’t know if I’d ever finish. I certainly never considered I would find or need a publisher, so I continued in the style I was comfortable with.
It hasn’t been a belligerent decision though; my developmental editor suggested I changed it to the more standard format. I tried on a few chapters, but I couldn’t make them flow in the same way. At her suggestion, I decided to get feedback and started to engage with beta readers, who are invaluable by the way (thank you!) and had no negative feedback about the formatting from anyone who read it.
I also sell the book in a local, new-age spirituality shop in my hometown, (it’s the perfect audience for the story) and I have been told by the owner that most of the people who buy it have already flicked through it, so I think if readers are aware, it doesn’t pose too much of a problem. Similarly, the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon should prepare potential readers. If I ever start getting a lot of negative reviews, I might reconsider my position.
The storyline seems to leave some questions unanswered at the end – for example who is the circle of old ladies, or what happened to the cult? I came to think that this was the product of a very specific choice you made. Perhaps it’s because you are already planning a second book in the series?
Most definitely, but initially, when this was going to be a one-off, I was trying to create the same feeling as the one experienced by the main characters: they are somewhat unprepared and ignorant to what is going on around them. I felt withholding the answers to those questions added to that sense of bewilderment.
After planning and plotting more separate adventures, I realised that with minimal tinkering I could tie them all together, and now I have three more instalments which grow in scope as the story progresses, and dip into the past and the future of the different groups of characters.
There are some wonderful images at the opening and closing of each chapter. Who made them and why did you decide to use them for a book that targets adult readers?
Thank you. I created all the artwork in the book except for the cover painting, A Walk in the Woods, which is by the brilliant Lynda Jones. It has never crossed my mind that I couldn’t or shouldn’t have images. I’m so visually-driven that I wanted to recreate the pictures I have in my mind for the reader, and my main purpose in adding images was to enhance the compelling atmosphere that already comes from words alone.
I’ve researched the internet quite extensively, but there is no info whatsoever about you. Can you guide the readers into your world? Tell us about how you decided to start writing, why did you choose self-publishing instead of a traditional approach, if you wrote other things beside The Daughters of Pendle, and, if so, where can we find them?
I’ve come to writing relatively late, I think, though since my early twenties I have always made notes and jotted down characters or plotted stories. I’m inspired by anything that excites me and a lot continues to resonate from when I was a kid: Jason and the Argonauts being on TV at Christmas was one of the highlights of the year! Doctor Who and the sci-fi/adventure comic 2000AD both became staples as I got older. I also remember watching a few films that I probably shouldn’t have at that age, lots of Hammer Horror for instance, and the ones that have stuck with me are those with devastating endings. She, from the H. Rider Haggard novel, The Wicker Man by Robert Hardy, and later, Withnail and I, have all left indelible marks on my psyche and undoubtedly influenced my writing.
I decided to self-publish because approaching publishers was never really on the agenda. Also, because the self-publishing business model has changed massively since its beginnings, and it’s now more approachable and profitable.
My lack of presence on the internet is something I know needs to be addressed, especially now that I’m trying to gain interest around this story. I use Facebook, and many of the groups I’m a member of helped me to finish and then publish the book.
The only other examples of my writing that exist are the films I made while at university 1997-1999. The first, a one-minute, expressionist metaphor, ‘Greed’ and my final year film, a five-minute, downbeat, realist psychodrama, called, ‘Keep Out‘. I’m still quite proud of these two.
Last but not least: any plans for the future?
As well as trying to bring the sequels to The Daughters of Pendle to print, I’m also plotting out a one-off horror adventure, called The Victorian Monster Hunters Club which is turning into a lot of fun. And being a frustrated filmmaker I have started producing mock-up film posters for my stories, with the secret hope that, one day, I will turn my stories into movies.
‘The Daughters of Pendle’ is available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3JuSKJo