There’s a new voice in Fantasy and her name is Laurie Forest. Her first book, “The Black Witch” is arriving on book shelves and online May 2 from HarlequinTEEN. Even though it’s being pitched as young adult, I found great pleasure in reading her work and could easily see older adults enjoying it as well.
It’s a thick 600 page fantasy that reads more like 300 pages. You may find yourself having a hard time putting it down and consequently some late nights. Filled with a mix of traditional characters such as Elves, Witches, Shapeshifters, and Dragons as well as some new ones that make “The Black Witch” a solid entry into the fantasy genre.
The story’s lead character is Elloren Gardner. She is believed to be the heir apparent to her grandmother Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch who drove back enemy forces to save her people during the Realm War. While Elloren looks exactly like her Grandmother she’s shown no evidence of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else. After being granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University. Her educational journey is more than the magic she studies, and the people she meets. It’s about discovering that life and what you were taught to believe is not always the whole story.
Allie Hanley: I read an early, uncorrected proof of THE BLACK WITCH and I think I might have seen one error. Your book is 601 pages! Tell me a little about your process in writing.
Laurie Forest: I wrote the first books in the series by writing pretty much every day for a year. Almost without fail. For at least an hour. It was an incredible experience to immerse myself in the story that intensively. One of my favorite writing quotes is “the muse can’t resist a working writer” and I think that’s so true.
AH: Your main character, Elloren Gardner, discovers that the history she was raised with isn’t necessarily the truth. How did that plot point come about and does it reflect anything in today’s world for you?
LF: That plot point came about because I feel it’s very relevant in today’s world. History books can be very subjective. And I think that history, when seen through the lens of a group that views outsiders as “evil” or “lesser,” can be a dangerous thing. We can find examples of this all throughout history and certainly in the world today. I think it’s a very good idea to study history from multiple points of view – and as Professor Kristian tells Elloren, the resulting confusion can be a positive thing. Because the confusion stemming from multiple points of view is better than a simplistic idea of history that demonizes others and can inadvertently promote injustice.
AH: When Elloren gets to school she’s housed with some very unlikely characters, tell me about them?
LF: Tricky question to answer without spoilers (so don’t read past here if you haven’t read the book!). Elloren is thrown in with Ariel and Wynter, two Icarals—winged people who are despised by pretty much everyone in the Western Realm for no sound reason really, save cultural/religious tradition. Both Ariel (a Gardnerian) and Wynter (an Alfsigr Elf) have been deeply impacted by their outcast status, but in very different ways. And Elloren (along with the reader, perhaps) initially sees them as demonic. As that’s what she’s been taught to see.
AH: They say one of the keys to writing a great book is to pretend you are writing it to your biggest fan. Who were you imagining reading this book as you wrote it, and what did you want them to take away from reading it?
LF: Honestly, I wrote the book mainly to entertain and challenge myself Toni Morrison famously said: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” That’s kind of what was going on here. Past that, I’m writing my book for my close friend who has terminal cancer—to entertain her and I have to hurry up and finish the series so she can read it (she has charged me with the task of finishing a rough draft of the entire series this year, and I’m going to do it—because we’re running on borrowed time). She is one of the best people I have ever known and it is my greatest author honor to have been able to give her some reading excitement and pleasure.
AH: You have a wide cast of characters. Is there one in particular that you really love and why?
LF: Right now I’m kind of in love with Ariel Haven—because I feel like she has the heart of a true hero deep inside of her. She’s been broken down by the society she’s been born into, but they haven’t been able to break her completely. Can’t say more without spoilers!
AH: When this is released I anticipate readers will devour it. Have you written part 2 and can you give a small preview of where Elloren is headed?
LF: Book Two is written, as is half of Book Three (and the outline for the entire series). Elloren is headed towards a collision course with her hidden powers. And it will be a pretty dramatic reveal! And she’s a flawed character—so she’s got a steep learning curve ahead of her if she’s going to become strong and heroic in this world (and shed the last vestiges of her people’s destructive ideas). There’s also conflict on the romantic front for poor Elloren 😉 (I read somewhere once that authors should torture their protagonist – Elloren isn’t going to have an easy road, I will say that).
AH: In support of your book, will you be doing a book tour and how can fans find out more?
LF: I’ll be doing a book launch tour from May 2nd – May 18th and bringing news of THE BLACK WITCH all over the country! Very excited. My epic tour schedule can be found on my Facebook page as well as my website.