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An Interview with Author Rachel Littlewood

littlewood

Ceaseless creative with a penchant for history, mystery, and magic.

Has never knowingly taken herself seriously.


Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I should’ve known when my mum had to apologise to my school because I’d been up all night reading that I was going to be a writer, but I took the scenic route. Those nights were filled with Stephen King and James Herbert, but as I’ve gotten older, Angela Carter—particularly the sumptuous descriptives in the Erl King from The Bloody Chamber—and phenomenal wit of Sir Terry Pratchett have changed my way of seeing and ultimately describing the world.

This story was directly influenced by Fez Inkwright’s book on botanical curses and poisons—I mean, I was literally reading it when the idea came to me, and to think I’d originally only bought it for the cover!

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Honestly?

My life went to shit. In the space of a week I lost my job, my travel plans for the following year (along with the money)—oh, and was diagnosed with skin cancer…and it kept going. I lost my beautiful grandmother, was unable to find work, and my landlord was ripping me off, making me categorically refuse to renew my contract, so my home was on its way out too.

I started thinking I must’ve eaten babies in a previous life. I told a friend as much in a text one Sunday morning. In a rare moment of enforced calm, I’d decided to sit and read a book I’d gotten for Christmas on botanical poisons, and somehow the two ideas came together in a glorious “what if?” moment… After a lifetime of feeling like I had a book in me, within 10-15 minutes I had the basic premise for not one but four stories.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

“Gold Guns Girls” by Metric, perhaps? But if Craig Armstrong and Ashnikko could find a middle ground to collaborate on, then sign them up!

Describe your dream book cover.

Oh, that’s easy: it would be moody, slightly gothic, totally dramatic. I’d love there to be an embossed hardcover version like the book on botanical poisons I was reading that inspired it. Hopefully designed by my beautiful friend Holly, although she’ll probably tell me to do it myself! We’re our own biggest critics and each other’s biggest fans.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Oh, wow. All of them? Ha! From chef to professional dancer, to fine wine saleswoman to carer for children with severe autism, to where I am now working in tech and digital innovation and writing for the History Channel website.

That my readers wouldn’t know…it’s crazy to think that I have readers! I have ridiculous hobbies, like spinning fire poi and aerial acrobatics—I’m a trained aerial hoop instructor. I make cheese, like proper cheese red Leicester, and camembert and things. Oh! and I run away as often as possible to do wildlife conservation…there’s a sloth in Costa Rica named after me because when we rescued her as an orphaned baby she would bite people when she was hungry! I can neither confirm not deny that is a factual likeness.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather is my comfort blanket. It devastates me to think that a day will come when I will have no more of his books to read for the first time.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I guess the takeaway is resilience. Women are often still painted as these frail, delicate creatures and we can be, but sweet mother of Hades do we take the shit and power through it. My character becomes wiser in this first book…I wouldn’t say she becomes nicer as a result of that. As someone who’s battled CPTSD for the last 10 years, and been judged by others for that, I think it’s important for people to realise that trauma changes you in ways you have no control over. And that’s ok. You don’t see the world as all candyfloss and butterflies anymore no matter how hard you try, you see the cracks. And that’s okay too, because eventually you find beauty there, in others who broke a little before they learned to bend.

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