‘The Wren Hunt’ is the kind of book you read, and then immediately want to reread it because there’s so much more you could take in. Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.
Find out what happened when we sat down with ‘The Wren Hunt’ author, Mary Watson.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us! First up, for those who haven’t heard of ‘The Wren Hunt’ how would you entice them to pick up a copy?
‘The Wren Hunt’ weaves together myth and magic, romance and betrayal as Wren undertakes a secret mission among age-old enemies. It should appeal to those who like their books with atmosphere, and prefer things a little grey. Also: a creepy doll, an enigmatic woman searching for a mysterious something, and four cruel wrenboys.
Where did you pull your main inspirations from for the title?
The title refers to the old practice of the wren hunt, which is still performed in some places in Ireland on Boxing Day. My version is a little darker because instead of the traditional bird, the boys chase a girl called Wren. But there are other searches or hunts in the book, including around identity and sense of self, and the title draws all of these together.
‘The Wren Hunt’ is set in a contemporary Ireland where the ancient druidic traditions are still in play, what were your reasons for setting the story here? Did you have to do a lot of research around this?
I moved to Ireland from South Africa ten years ago after marrying an Irish man. Writing this book was my way of trying to fit in. It’s inspired by the world around me, the magical landscape and the rich sense of story and myth I feel here. I did plenty of research and combined this with imagination to create the world of ‘The Wren Hunt’.
We spent most of the book hoping and praying that Wren would come to see her talent, the spinney eye, as a gift and not a curse. If you were a character within the book, what talent would you have?
I didn’t want Wren’s talent to suddenly become something that was secretly good and beautiful all along. It does have its strengths, and she has an idea of this by the end, but it’s also a burden. If I could choose a talent, it would be the effortless ability to intuit and divine the patterns of stories. Or else I’d want Simon’s ability to read body language.
Can you tell us what a typical writing day looks like for you?
Some days I start at five or six in the morning and finish early. Others I start around nine-thirty and stop at three. Much tea is drunk. I love early morning writing the best. I work in my study which is currently decorated with ten hanging brídeogs. I use notebooks for thinking, a huge bound book for plotting and write on computer. My favourite writing music is ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ game soundtrack.
What advice would you give to people looking to start a career as an author and become published?
Get the first draft out without too much dithering. It’s easy to get caught in the habit of perfecting sentences and paragraphs and not moving forward, but this makes it harder to cut later on. The first draft is the raw material to be shaped into the book.
What’s one book you could read over and over again?
I’ve probably reread ‘The Monk’ by Matthew Lewis (1796) more than any other book. It’s a gothic romance, with many of the tropes of the genre, and tells the story of the monk Ambrosio’s descent into depravity. Drama!
Lastly, can you tell us a bit more about the next book in the series?
The next book takes us further into the draoithe world where tension is escalating, but from another perspective. I felt I’d told Wren’s story – for now at least. So this is David’s story. He shares the book with Zara, a girl who has recently moved into the village and is reeling from a loss. But could it be connected to what happened with Wren that night on the village green?
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