We are delighted to invite author Amy Wilson into The Reading Realm today to talk to Kevin Cobane about her fabulous and magical new book Shadows of Winterspell…
This is a magical story of the wonderful world of Winterspell filled with faes, imps and sprites. Having lived with her Nan on the edge of Winterspell Forest, Stella is lonely and is desperate to have friends. When she enrols at a local school she meets Yanny and Zara and discovers that it is her destiny to break a curse that has blighted Winterspell and the lives of the faes for many years. With themes of bravery, family, friendship, loneliness and loss, Shadows of Winterspell is a magical, fast-paced adventure that will enchant readers of all ages ~ Kevin Cobane
Without giving too much of the story away could you tell us a little bit about Shadows of Winterspell and the inspiration behind it?
Shadows of Winterspell is about a girl called Stella, who lives with her ghost nan and an imp called Peg on the edge of a magical forest, between the worlds of fae and humanity. She’s lonely, and the forest is forbidden, so against Nan’s wishes starts to go to the local school. What she finds there is friendship, and a way back to the forest, where her family once ruled.
In Chapter Three Stella benefits from a random act of kindness from the Lady in the Bakery who gives her a Teacake. Have you ever benefited from a random act of kindness?
I have, many times. It’s one of my very favourite things about people, how with just a small gesture we can make such a big difference to somebody else. I love the lady in the bakery, and how she gives Stella a tangible little bit of love to take with her on her first day of school.
There’s a wonderful quote when Stella meets the lady in the Bakery on the way to school:
‘There’s a sparkle in her blue eyes that makes me wonder, just for a second, if she has a little magic. Some people do. A little bit of fae blood, passed through the generations, or an affinity with the words in books of magic.’
Do you think we all have magic inside of us?
Yes! It’s in those random acts of kindness, or of bravery, of compassion and understanding. And in allowing ourselves to be surprised by others; there are so many layers to people, sometimes we just need to get past the first couple to find it.
If you could be any type of fae which one would you choose to be and why?
I think I’d like to be a centaurides, calling in the dawn.
I really liked the inclusion of the chapter breaks with their descriptions of the faes and their ratings for Fight, Flight, Magic and Disguise as it gives the reader a real insight into the different types of fae. Where did you get the idea for this?
I had quite a few fae character types, and it was really important that they all have their own qualities, and that they acted as such. The short descriptions were a good way for me to establish that, for readers and also for myself!
The names of the characters such as Stella (Star) and Zara (Bright and Shining), seem to be important to the story. Did you deliberately choose these to provide a contrast with the shadows and darkness that plague Winterspell?
Yes, I did. It’s how I find most of the names for the characters in my stories. I think of what they need most in their adventure and try to find the sort of name that encapsulates that meaning. Stella is star and her surname is Brigg, which means bridge, and for Winterspell she is quite literally those things – a bridge back to the stars, and out of the shadows.
I love the way that Peg explains a familiar to Stella on page 101:
‘Your bond will be unassailable, she will be by your side until the day you die- or even after. She will be your champion when you need one, your advisor, your closet ally, your most magical weapon in times of need. She will sacrifice everything to be with you.’
If you could choose any creature to be your familiar which creature would you choose and why?
I’d love an imp just like Peg. I like the mischief in him, balanced with the tricksy wisdom he gives. And I like that as much as he’s loyal and brave he’s also fallible, which is especially true in his fear of spiders. In my human life, I have a dog called Rocky, and he’s a very good substitute.
Throughout the book Stella wears a silver acorn on a chain. What is the significance of the silver, gold and amber acorns?
I wanted something that would help Stella to feel that she is part of this family, that it still is a family, even though they are now lost to her. As she finds her mother and father’s acorns, they join to become part of her own, and that is true of her parents; they may not be present, but they are a part of her, and all of the love they had for her is not lost.
When and how did you start writing?
It started with a passion for reading: a real love, especially for fantasy adventures that would transport me to new places, with new friends. My first writing was poems, and I’d sing them to myself as I wrote. I was never confident enough to sing in front of anybody, but I loved the rhythm of words, and that’s where it all started.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
The first book I remember was Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, which my father got out of the library for me many times. He was a wonderful storyteller, which is something I’ve only just begun to appreciate fully. Later on, I discovered Diana Wynne Jones’ books, and my favourite of hers is The Magicians of Caprona, which I devoured in a night shortly after my father died. That was the book that showed me the true magic of stories, and after reading it I knew I wanted to be a writer.
I absolutely loved the magical world of Winterspell. Are there any plans for a sequel?
There’s nothing in the pipeline at the moment, but when I finished the story I knew there was more to tell, so maybe one day…
Finally could you describe The Shadows of Winterspell in three words?
Magic, loss, friendship.