There are certain books you hear about and just know that you have to read because you are going to love it. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab is one such book. A powerful witch, a stranger, missing children, and a tricky wind blowing over a dangerous Moor bring to life a beautifully written story that will leave you feeling like you’ve actually entered the world of Near.
I’m so pleased to have Victoria here at the Inkpot today to share with you the fairy tale world that she created.
Ello - Hi Victoria! Thanks for coming to the Inkpot! I have to say that I especially loved your book for being the kind of witch fairy tale that I always adored growing up. And yet what a completely original story! So what came first for you? The characters or the extraordinary world you have them inhabit?
VS – Hey Ello! Thanks so much for having me. I have to says, setting almost always comes to me first. I get brush strokes of the characters, quirks and snippets and broad lines, but the part that has to be fully painted in my head before I can really start is the world itself. Because once I have the world, then I start to understand why the people in it are the way they are. Our world shapes us. It’s no different for characters.
Ello – And it must be said that I applaud your main character! Lexi is a strong, no-nonsense, fearless girl who truly believes that a girl can do anything a boy can do, and better! I love that about her. How did Lexi come to life for you?
VS – Lexi is a girl I’d love to be, or be friends with. You get the sense she doesn’t make friends easily, but when she does, it’s a fierce bond. Lexi came to life as a reaction to her world. She is a response to two extremes, a classic, more conservative environment, and her father, a dreamer, a storyteller, and the strongest person she’s ever known.
Ello – Children disappearing from their beds in the middle of the night is a classic horror novel set up. And that’s what is so cool about your book. It’s not just a fairy tale, but it is also a scary ghost story. Was this what you envisioned when you first began writing or did it unfold as you wrote?
VS – What’s funny is that I scare SO easily. As in, I’ll never say Bloody Mary in the mirror at midnight, never go to haunted houses or scary movies. My imagination takes a seed and runs with it at so little provocation. I think NW is a different kind of scary. The best way I’ve heard it described is that it’s scary in the way things are scary when you’re very young.
Ello – I have to tell you that my twelve year old devoured Near Witch in a night because she loved it so much and then complained about being a bit freaked out during the night. Now that’s atmosphere! Did you like ghost stories when you were young?
VS - Haha, this kind of goes with what I said above about being scared SO easily. I used to watch Are You Afraid of the Dark, and I couldn’t sleep after.
Ello - You clearly spent a lot of time world building and creating your own folklore and history. Did you have to do a lot of research for your book?
VS – This is the funny thing about fantasy. Near is obviously a purely fictional place. It’s loosely based on the small hillside towns of northern England, but otherwise, it’s all in my head. And the time period is carefully and intentionally ambiguous (it was important that it feel as much like a fairy tale as possible). Where the research came in was in the WAY stories are passed down. I studied folklore and fairy tale at University, and I’m passionate about the way cultures pass down knowledge and fable and relative truths (in NW, no story is entirely true). The thing is that over time it becomes embedded, woven right into the people. I wanted to do that with the residents of Near.
Ello – Is there any chance of another Near book in the near future?
VS – *sideways glance* It’s intended, yes :) And in case anyone is reading this and screaming BUT YOU TOLD US NEAR WITCH WAS A STAND-ALONE, it is. It was written to stand alone. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t much more to tell. A few people have caught on to one or two questions left unanswered in THE NEAR WITCH. Those were intentional.
Ello – (clapping hands like a madman!!!) You have made me very happy with that answer! Well, I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll have to be cryptic. But I love the whole story of the strange boy (Cole) that comes into town, who can fade like smoke. You created three distinct worlds—the town of Near, Cole’s world, and then the moors themselves. But in the Near Witch we don’t actually get to see the world beyond the moors. How different is the outside world to Near? Would you want to write about that world?
VS – The world outside Near is, in my mind, incredibly different. Near is an isolated town, and because of that, fable and lore have blossomed in a unique way. I’m fascinated by the potential for the same seeds of stories/magic/knowledge to become something entirely different in another town’s hands. But it did prove a wonderful challenge to write something in such a small world. I think (well, hope) it allowed me to create something very textured.
Ello – I know that I could happily read a whole series of books about the world you created. But then I could happily read any book that you write. So what can we expect to read next from you?
VS – My next book is one I am OH SO passionate about, and it sits at the exact opposite side of the spectrum, while still being mine. I first dreamt it up while waiting on edits for NW, and it is called THE ARCHIVED. I like to describe it as Buffy meets supernatural library meets The Shining. I think it will come out next fall :)
Ello – Oh my gosh that sounds so good! I'm salivating over it!!!! Ok, and now for some fun author questions. If you could have written any book in the world, what book would that be?
VS – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Hands down.
Ello – What is your favorite food in the world to eat?
VS - Chocolate. It’s no surprise to the people who follow me online, since I’m pretty sure my tweeting breaks down to 70% chocolate, 20% diet coke, 9% writing (I’m not actually so good at tweeting about writing, mostly bc I roll my eyes at myself when I try), and 1% narwhals.
Ello – You are on a deserted island and come upon a genie who can’t get you off the island but can fill one small suitcase with 10 of your favorite things. Assuming that food and clothing is already taken care of, what would that suitcase contain?
VS – That is SUCH a hard question. Let’s see...
1. The Princess Bride (book or movie).
2. A notepad (the sad thing is that my handwriting is so illegible, even to me, that half an hour after writing something longhand I would be screwed). Okay, scratch this one, and I’ll say LAPTOP, with magically recharging battery, of course.
3. My dog, Kuma, because I just lived in the UK for 3 months and it was sad not having him. He’s kind of a butt, but I love to cuddle him.
4. I want to say Twitter. I tried to resist saying Twitter. But, sadly, I’m a Twitter addict.
5. A telescope. I bet the stars would be wonderful.
6. A narwhal stuffed animal.
7. Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
8. This little metal chinese balls that make a small soothing gong noise when you roll them in your hand.
9. A camera.
10. Sunglasses ;)
Ello – This would be a nearly impossible question for me to answer! Glad it was you! So thank you so much for coming to the Inkpot and talking about your wonderful debut!
VS - Ello, I can’t thank you enough for having me. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Near Witch, and I hope your readers here do too! I cannot wait to get my hands on YOUR release in the next year or so!