To celebrate the release of Barry Durham’s new books: Familiar Territory and the rerelease of ‘The Demdike Legacy’, and also to celebrate the start of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d share some of Barry’s answers to a questionnaire I sent him about writing so you can get to know more about him as an author and also writing in general!
- Did you do a lot of research into the Lancashire witches in preparation for these two novels?There was far more research involved in The Demdike Legacy than Familiar Territory – especially as I actually wrote Familiar Territory first.That stemmed from an incident I became involved in during a year I spent as a professional Tarot Card Reader around 20 years ago. It wasn’t intended as research at the time but it did give me an insight into a few of the stranger folk that you come across on the Psychic Fair circuit – and the problems that can arise if vulnerable people allow themselves to be drawn into the wrong circles.
- What was the most disturbing thing you found out?With regard to ‘Demdike’, the most disturbing thing that came out of my researches was just how paranoid King James I was – and the lengths people would go to to obtain royal favour.
- What about the information you found made you want to write these books?My conclusion about the so-called Pendle Witches was that they were victims of the time. Maybe they were Wise Women and Cunning Men, but such folk had been around in rural areas for centuries using traditional herbal remedies. They were the only form of doctoring that most people got, and don’t forget that country folk really only paid lip service to ‘The Church’ (whatever denomination was in power at the time.) The ‘Old Religion’ was still there in the background.
- Do you think that all of these new paranormal/supernatural books nowadays are giving witches a better/worse reputation than they obviously used to have?Hermione Granger has certainly improved the image of witches, but overall people will believe what they want to believe.
- Your favourite book (Fiction/Non-Fiction) based around witchcraft? Favourite witchcraft books? For non-fiction I think I would have to go with two, both called ‘Natural Magic’. One is by Doreen Valiente and the other by Paddy Slade and both give real insight into how ‘magic’ works.For fiction, again hard to choose just one. I love Marion Bradley’s ‘The Mists of Avalon’ with its Arthurian themes, but I find Janice Elliot’s ‘The Sadness of Witches’ very evocative. For out and out fantasy magic I don’t think you can beat The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher.
- What started your interest in witchcraft?I suppose I can put my interest in ‘witchcraft’ down to my maternal grandmother. She taught me how to ‘read’ ordinary playing cards when I was about 12 years old.
- What were some of the challenges in writing these books for you?The rewrites and honing the stories into the finished product were probably the biggest challenges. The initial idea is usually quite easy to get down on paper (or computer screen) but my characters sometimes take on lives of their own and move in directions I hadn’t intended. If that happens I tend to just go with the flow.I did have a problem towards the end of ‘The Demdike Legacy’ though, in that I really did not know how it was going to end. I was stuck for literally weeks until one Saturday morning my cat woke me really early and, as I couldn’t get back to sleep, I booted up the computer and, well… turn to Chapter Forty.
- If you were sent back in time to the 1600s, how do you think you would survive?Sent back in time to the 1600s? Knowing what I know now about the period I would probably survive OK as I would simply keep my head down and try not to take my shirt off. (I have a pair of vestigial nipples that would mark me out as a witch for certain!)
- Considering your journalism background, how do you think that writing novels differs?There is a considerable difference in writing a novel.A news story needs all the main facts in the first couple of paragraphs – the five ‘Ws’: Who, What, Why, Where and When. Then fill in the background.
In a novel you tease those out throughout the story building the background as you go and populating it with your own characters.
- After reading ‘The Demdike Legacy’, it’s pretty obvious that you are on the side of witchcraft and, as a reader, I became really sympathetic towards it too. Was this your aim when writing the books?The only real aim I had in writing ‘The Demdike Legacy’ was to produce a really good story, but yes, I was on the side of the witches as I think that over the last thousand years or so they’ve had a pretty bad press.
Personally, I loved reading through Barry’s answers and I would love to hear what your thoughts are!
Don’t forget to join in with the giveaway, linked here!
The second half of this Q&A will be up shortly and will be focussed on more random things, not just writing 🙂