Debora Geary is producing novels about witches at a fantastic pace. Since March of last year she has published the first three books of her A Modern Witch series, and all three books of the related Witchlight Trilogy. The fourth book of the Modern Witch series will be released around the coming Solstice, and she has plans (always subject to change as she writes, of course) for seven books in the series as a whole. I love the series, and so I am greatly honored that she has agreed to be interviewed for The Juggler.
So, Debora, tell us a bit about yourself: what brought you to the point where you wanted to and were able to write these novels at such trans-Proustian rates?
I’m a forty-two year old mom and former data analyst with one degree in International Studies and another on Zoology. It never occurred to me that I wanted to write a book – I’d never written a word of fiction (as an adult – I make no claims about what I did in third grade!) until the first chapter of A Modern Witch. It’s still sometimes odd to think of myself as an author, but I’ve spent my life as a reader and lover of stories.
The speed I can only blame on two kids and a full life. I’m fortunate that the words flow quickly – I can only assume I’ve been storing them up all of my life .
Magic is a central part of these novels. You have incorporated a bit of Western magic traditions into your books, but the magic of the Modern Witch series differs in fairly significant ways from most modern Pagan traditions (there is no system of initiation, for instance). And, yet, you do share a vision of magic as something numinous which goes beyond mere spell-casting that I think most Pagans would agree with and embrace. How have you come to see magic through the process of crafting your books?
I’ve always loved books about witches and worlds with magic – so my magical foundations are more in the dragons of Pern and the telepaths of Darkover than in modern Pagan tradition. It’s a path I respect (and I hope that rings clear in the books), and I’m grateful that modern witches have embraced my rather large fictional liberties and the spirit behind them.
Let’s talk about love. Your novels seem to have a sprinkling of eros, a splash of amour, a good drenching of agape and a veritable flood of communitas. Why did you choose to that as the focus of the novels and your vision of a witch community?
It chose me. I read a fascinating article recently that said we are drawn to books that share the central messages we grew up with. Belonging (or not). Being understood (or not). So I write of a community that loves broadly and deeply, a Witch Central where anyone can imagine themselves understood and embraced. It isn’t the story I set out to tell – I really did think I was writing a light story of witches online. Those conversations we grew up with apparently sneak in all the cracks!
I’m not sure exactly what all your characters look like, but I know exactly what they had for breakfast. Could you speak to role that food plays in your novels? Are you always hungry while you write?
LOL! I don’t describe most of my characters because it doesn’t feel important – and I love that people can imagine my characters looking as they need or want them to be. And food… back to those unconscious things sneaking in the cracks again. I had a life-changing experience when I was seventeen – I went to school in Italy for two years. My first experience of true belonging in a wider community – and it came with a never-ending stream of food. I’m pretty sure my brain equates the two .
Abbondonza! Where did you study in Italy?
In the tiny little town of Duino, near Trieste. Right on the Adriatic Sea, and a very quick hitchhike (um, train? Mom, are you reading this?) to Venice.
Your writing process seems to be pretty organic. You mention at your site that you did not really intend Aervyn to play as large a role in the Modern Witch series as he did, and now he’s pretty much your (four-year old) Merlin. And yet, even there, he differs from his mythological and literary predecessors in that you are weaving this huge community of family and friends around him before he even steps into his own novel. What was and is his coming into being like for you?
I wrote Aervyn to help characterize Nell as a busy mom – I had no idea my books were going to be full of witchlings! That’s not unusual for me, however. Some writers plot and plan and outline and know exactly where their books are going. I used to be a data analyst, so I plot and plan very well – but then I sit down and something entirely different comes out. And my creative brain tells far better stories than my analytical one, so I leave it in charge.
I often sit down with a vague shape of a new character in my head, and an interesting question. And then I start. Sometimes I know where it’s going – after seven books, I think I know where Aervyn’s story will end (there is a Merlin story to tell…). Or maybe I don’t. Part of the excitement of writing for me is discovering where the story is meant to go, and watching the stories grow up as I uncover more of the pieces.
Thank you so much for your time in responding to these questions. Is there anything else you’d like your Pagan fans to know about your plans for upcoming books?
As Moira says of Irish legends at the end of A Reckless Witch, plans are very flexible things . My list of books to write has grown from my original ideas for four or five into a running tally of thirty one.
31? But then what will you do with all the extra time on your hands in 2014 when you’re done with those? I kid. I kid.
I assume that by then my fans will have insisted that there are more stories to be told. Maybe even one or two (gasp!) without witches .