This month I’m delighted to welcome author Matt Ralphs to my hellopipski blog, and I can’t wait to hear about his new book Fire Witch.
So Matt, what’s Fire Witch about?
Fire Witch and the prequel Fire Girl tell the story of Hazel Hooper and her dormouse familiar, Bramley. They live in England in the 1660s, a place steeped in magic, demons, witches and merciless witch hunters. Hazel’s beloved mother is stolen from her by a demon, so she sets out to rescue her.
In Fire Witch Hazel travels to London and has to infiltrate the dreaded Order of Witch Hunters to speak to a prisoner they hold who might be able to help her.
Tell us about Hazel!
Hazel is pushed to the limits, and in those darkest times she discovers depths of courage and determination she never dreamed she had. She’s fierce, loyal, and tenacious, but she’s funny too and she adores Bramley – even thought she’d never tell him that to his face!
What was the initial spark that started the story in your mind?
The initial idea for Fire Girl was an image that flashed into my mind – from where I do not know – of an old man in a long black coat and a captain hat, and a girl with a shock of red hair. They had their backs to me and were talking to each other in a conspiratorial way. I wanted to know who they were and what their story was.
I’ve since learnt that the initial spark of inspiration is the easy bit; it takes time, care and effort to turn it into a proper story.
What draws you to the world of witches?
Since I was young I’ve been fascinated by dark, macabre and mysterious tales – especially if they have their roots in history. And there was a time when people believed in magic and demons, and when witches really existed. Usually they were harmless women who used a mixture of herb-lore and magic to cure the sick. Nevertheless, witches were subjected to the most appalling prejudice and violence, particularly in mainland Europe. The more I learned about it the more it seemed to me to be a fertile place from which to grow a story.
How has your writer’s journey been?
I always wanted to be a writer, but it took me a long time to start – I was terrified that I’d do my best and still fail miserably. Eventually I overcame the fear and got down to work on Fire Girl. I took the writing seriously. I treated it like a job. It was difficult, especially as there was no guarantee that I’d find an agent or publisher, but I did end up with a finished draft; it was rough, but the best I could do. And then someone suggested that I enter it into the Undiscovered Voices competition…
Did Undiscovered Voices change things for you?
It certainly did! Being a finalist for Undiscovered Voices brought Fire Girl to the attention of the publishing world and helped me land an agent, which in turn led to its publication by Macmillan Children’s Books. Undiscovered Voices is an incredible springboard for new writers, and the sponsors and volunteers who run it are the best, as far as I’m concerned. If you dream of publication and have a manuscript, then enter the Undiscovered Voices competition. What have you got to lose?
What’s your writing routine?
I’m at my most productive first thing in the morning – I think it’s because my conscious and subconscious minds are still sleepily entangled – so I get to work straightaway. If I’ve written a few hundred words before breakfast that sets me up well for the rest of the day. Afternoons, especially around 3 pm, are fallow periods so I give my brain a rest and do other things. Then, if there’s still fuel in the tank, I’ll pick up again in the evening and get back to work. I have good and bad days, but I never forget how lucky I am to be doing what I love most for a living.
And what’s next for you writing-wise?
Well, Fire Witch is released on August 25th so I’m excited to be getting ready for that! And, because I’m a writer who never stops working and daydreaming, I’m also developing a brand new story idea. It’s at the early ‘anything goes so just chuck it into the ideas pot and see if it smells good’ stage. Fun, chaotic, a little nerve-wracking.
Read an extract here! Find Matt on twitter @MattRalphs2
And if you need to catch up on Fire Girl, here’s the trailer!
Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to do this interview 🙂