November is supposed to be magic free, at least according to Jennifer Claessen ‘s A Month of Magic universe. But where are all the witch-hunting knights and the all-engulfing flames coming from? Find out in the sequel of this thrilling trilogy, The November Witches.
We have the honour of having Jennifer Claessen on our site today to chat how being called a witch can make you feel so small, but make you bigger too. Stay tuned for a chance to win a set of the books and some nice goodies!
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think about magic. Sometimes I was scared of it: The Witches by Roald Dahl sat barely read on my shelf after I’d seen that terrifying 1990s film adaption when I was way too young. (No spoilers, but there’s a face peeling bit which still makes me want to vomit).
But there was also The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy and poor accident-prone Mildred Hubble who I so strongly identified with.
So I knew from an early age that witches could be both: terrifying and magnificent, silly and disastrous. Very evil and very daft too.
But I do remember the first time I was called a witch. It was by a boy (obviously) and he was trying to be mean. We were small, otherwise he would probably have found ruder words.
He was calling me a witch to make me smaller. ‘Witch’ as an insult for women sits in a long line of words: hag, crone, hellcat, harpy and worse of course. That boy was no one in particular but as a representation of misogyny, he was either scared of me or wanted to laugh at me.
But being called a witch definitely made me bigger. Maybe I was scary, even silly too. Perhaps, aged seven, I thought something like this: aha – so I am a girl – maybe a woman – and that means I might be… magic? And that means full of incredible possibilities and power.
The characters of my A Month of Magic series are the age I am mentally: twelve to fourteen. I’m not actually twelve anymore – and I think that’s a good thing as I didn’t find twelve easy. But this trilogy of witch books take Clemmie Merlyn as their protagonist and, before anything else, even before being a witch, she is lonely and self-conscious (same, Clem, same). She wants to avoid everything that comes with magic: she doesn’t want to be scary or silly. (Spoiler: she’ll have to do both.)
The A Month of Magic trilogy gently reclaims some of those words rooted in fear of women. My covens affectionately call each other ‘young hag’ which we made into badges and stickers for my book launch. Magic and misfits always go together and I was surprised by how many people were ready to wear a ‘young hag’ badge. But then, who doesn’t want to be a witch?
We can move far beyond simply ‘scary’ or ‘silly’ into fully realised and beautiful witch characters. I love the sweet book and film Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono and definitely became a writer in part due to the way Diana Wynne Jones writes magic. Eva Ibbotson is another magic-writer from my own childhood who made me want to be a witch too and the world of Dhonielle Clayton’s The Marvellers is one I’d love to visit.
There’s a small joke across the whole trilogy that wizards are an unthinkably silly thing (magic goes down the female line) but of course I love reading magic in all forms. I share an incredible audio book narrator with Amy Sparkes’ joyful The House at the Edge of Magic which makes it a wonderful comfort listen.
Before being a published author, I inhaled books about magic (inhaled them almost magically, the books just becoming part of me somehow) but now I’m more careful. I know magical world building is hard, that the systems and rules that govern a magical world can take a lot of editing to get just right. And I don’t want to accidentally absorb, magically, anyone else’s magic.
I read a lot of YA and adult books too with Her Majesty’s Secret Coven by Juno Dawson next on my list and the Alice Hoffman books all time favourites. The ingredients of The October Witches include castles and windswept coastlines, grumpy old aunties and watchful birds. The November Witches continues and adds knights, swords, quests and trains.
I’m still thinking about magic (All. The. time.) and my witches magnificent and silly. And confident and witty and questioning and a million other things. There are, after all, as many different ways to a witch as there are to be a woman.
We are now giving one of you a chance to win a bundle of goods, a copy of The October Witches, a copy of The November Witches, and a pouch of hot chocolate from Chocolate Tree. To enter the giveaway, simply follow the instructions in the tweet below: