Fiercely feminist and darkly addictive, Krystal Sutherland’s new witchy YA novel, The Invocations, is an unapologetically queer and grisly tale of misogyny, female rage and a burning desire for retribution. To celebrate the release of this wonderfully stressful and endlessly thrilling read, we had the chance to chat with Krystal about balancing reality with the supernatural, female power and more.
Hi Krystal! I’m so happy to get to talk to you again today, this time about your gloriously grisly new YA paranormal thriller, The Invocations. For readers who may just be learning about it, how would you best describe it to them?
When I was writing it, I always pitched it to people as a supernatural serial killer thriller. It’s about three girls all caught up in the occult in some way – one cursed, one a cursewriter, one desperately searching for magic to resurrect her murdered sister – and the brutal killer who brings their stories crashing together. When the bodies of women – witches – start appearing in London, the three girls have to team up to figure out who is committing the murders… before they’re next on the list.
The Invocations was such an excitingly original read. Can you tell us a little about how the inspiration for it came about?
I first had the idea for the magic system when I was on tour in Bath for the release of Our Chemical Hearts in 2016, so it’s been percolating for a long time. When I visited the ruins of the Roman baths, I was captivated by the “curse tablets” that had been unearthed there – hundreds of little pieces of lead rolled up and tossed into the water, each inscribed with a curse. They were often mundane – cursing the person who’d stolen someone’s sandals, for instance – but I loved the idea that magic was such a part of everyday life in ancient Rome. I took that idea – curses written on lead by specialist cursewriters – and ran with it.
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Zara, Jude and Emer each have such strong and unique voices; did you find yourself relating to one of them more over the others whilst writing?
They were all so different to write. Jude was the most fun; she has a big personality, she’s swashbuckling and brash and devil-may-care. Those kinds of characters are always a good time! She’s also the cursed ex-socialite daughter of a billionaire, so we don’t have that much in common. Emer is an orphaned witch raised by a demon, so again, we’re quite different. That leaves Zara: she’s desperate for magic to be real (just as I was a teenager) and she’d go to the ends of the Earth for her sister (I’m one of three girls), so I suppose I relate to Zara most of all.
The Invocations doesn’t shy away from its messages surrounding feminism and female rage. How did you go about balancing the stories supernatural elements with the very real issues you explored and did you come across any stumbling blocks at all?
I think witches and their persecution are a natural vector for exploring feminist rage, so it made sense from the outset. I wanted to explore power: who has it, who wants it, who tries to take it away from others. Witches have long been a symbol of female power – and their burnings a symbol of male fear of that power. The balance was already there, in-built.
The Invocations would make such a great TV series. If it were to be adapted, is there a song that you think would make the perfect intro/theme song?
Oh, great question! I see Lana del Ray’s Season of the Witch used a lot on social media when people post pictures or videos of the book, so it’s stuck in my mind as the book’s theme song now.
Finally, I have to ask: if you were to receive your own invocation (demons and side effects aside), what power would you ask for?
The power to freeze and unfreeze time at will (and not age while it’s frozen!). I’m forever behind on deadlines and I just had a baby. If I could stop time, I would write and write and write.
Get your copy of The Invocations by Krystal Sutherland here.