Meet Laurie Forest.
Let’s start with something fun. What is your favorite social media outlet and why?
Pinterest! Because I love pulling visual ideas from it. For an idea of what I mean, see my page at: https://www.pinterest.com/forestlaurieann/
So… your Goodreads bio says you enjoy sitting “in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands.” What dragon, dryad, or wand (aka experience or person) first inspired you to start writing The Black Witch?
It was a werewolf, actually. Remus Lupin. I started writing spin-off romantic fan fiction about him just for fun. I had a literary crush on him and that was my first foray into fiction 😊
The Black Witch, itself was inspired by all the wonderful fantasy fiction that my then pre-teen daughters were handing me to read (I had never read fantasy before – I was reading non-fiction pretty exclusively). Harry Potter was my first experience with modern fantasy – I adored it. That was one influence. The other influence was an experience – being involved fighting for marriage equality here in Vermont and seeing how much horrible prejudice gripped the state during that struggle. During this time, an idea for a fantasy story lit in my mind – a world where there are winged people who are reviled by all the religions of the realm for absolutely no sound reason. I envisioned the first scene and the story spun off on its own trajectory from there.
What author or book has impacted your life the most recently and why?
A Girl Like That, by Tanaz Bhathena. It doesn’t come out until 2018, but everyone should put this on their TBR shelf. It’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read. It’s about teens in Saudi Arabia, and its uplifting message of choosing humanity over division is universal. It’s on par with The Hate U Give, another important and brilliantly written book. Both these books had a huge impact not only for the flawless writing, but for their beautiful and important messages.
When you began your journey with The Black Witch what did you envision happening in the novel and how has that changed as you work on book two?
I actually wrote Book One (The Black Witch) and Book Two (The Iron Flower) of The Black Witch Chronicles as one book. But no one will publish a 1,200 page book by
a new author (well, usually, anyway). So we had to split it. What’s developed since then is my prequel Wandfasted (which is out now as an e-book and tells the love story of Elloren Gardner’s parents, 20 years before The Black Witch takes place). I’ve also written another side-e-book called Light Mage which is out this summer (the story of Sage Gaffney, the girl who has the Icaral baby and who gives Elloren the White Wand in the beginning of The Black Witch). When my book was picked up, my publisher asked me to write the two novellas. What’s changing is the narrative for Books Three and Four (half of Book Three is written and only an outline for Book Four, so I’m in the discovery phase there, which is exciting).
What social constructs did you try or want to tackle in The Black Witch? Spinning off from that, what would be the main thing you wanted readers to take away from their journey with MC Elloren Gardner?
I’m tackling a lot in The Black Witch – prejudice based on religion and the rise of fascism, mainly (I hope in an easy to read and entertaining framework). But also homophobia (again, mainly based on religion in my world), sexism, classism, exploitation of workers, abuse of refugees and immigrants and in later books – sexual assault (which is aided and abetted by religious systems that oppress women), early enforced marriage, drug addiction (and compassion for addicts) and then a huge turn in the narrative towards environmentalism (spoiler alert – it is a story about Dryads – some readers have seen this coming from a mile away, so perhaps it’s not the spoiler I think it is). So, basically everything that’s troubling me in the world.
The main thing I want readers to take away from The Black Witch is that people can change. People raised with prejudiced ideas can change. But it takes time and the road is rocky. And that it’s a good thing to be open to being schooled, especially about other people’s historical, religious and cultural viewpoints. Confusion is good.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?
I want to thank all the fans who have contacted me or posted reviews – you inspire me with your enthusiastic embrace of The Black Witch’s anti-prejudice message. Getting to know so many of you has been the highlight of this journey so far.
Thank you Laurie for joining us at A New Look On Books!