Today I join the blog tour for Bell, Book & Candle, book one in the To Catch A Witch series, and I am thrilled to be hosting the author Jay Raven on my blog. The gothic horror and fantasy writer talks about the allure and potential pitfalls of using magic in books. I’ll tell you all about the book in a sec, but for now, over to Jay.
It’s a trap that too many writers fall into – especially fantasy writers. We create plot holes that need to be glossed over, have events taking place so far apart geographically that it would take days, sometimes weeks, for our heroes to rush to the rescue, make our protagonist so outnumbered and overwhelmed that only a ridiculously convenient and implausible way of breaking free or turning the tables can resolve the jeopardy and save the day.
And we turn to that narrative band-aid – the get out of free card of story-telling – magic. The hero clicks a finger and summons his superpowers, his trusty sidekick mutters an ancient spell to open the impenetrable wall , the brave wizard points his staff and lightning bolts shoot out killing the orcs, giant eagles swoop down to carry the goodies aloft and transport them hundreds of miles, the wand suddenly shines an eerie light on the faint inscription containing the answer to the mystery.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I see this sort of thing in a film or read it in a book it makes me groan. It completely destroys my suspension of disbelief. It also makes me feel a bit cheated. Was the protagonist ever really in peril if she had the means of escape literally at her fingertips all along?
It’s made me very cynical about the use of magic in storytelling and means that when I include magic in any of my tales I desperately strive to make it as real and fallible as possible. I quiz myself to make sure that the necromancy is a vital component in the story and not just a lazy device for getting out of self-created plotting problems.
And it’s given me a personal take on all things magical – a philosophy that I (almost always) stick to. There are two main threads to my approach – that magic must be limited, difficult to control and unpredictable and, more importantly, that it must be terrifying; something that any character would only consider under the most extreme of circumstances.
On the limitations of magic, I see it as a power that can only be employed in small doses and only by an incredibly knowledgeable few who have studied it for years – perhaps decades. There’s not a one-size-fits-all enchantment that can be used, but hundreds of very tricky hexes and spells that can only conjured up in a precise and skilful way. Each spell has its own purpose – curing a singular ailment, warding off a specific threat, working as a love charm on a particular type of person.
Even with a talented practioner, there are no guarantees of success. There’s so much that can go wrong.
On the frightening prospect of using magic, there is no doubt in my mind. Magic is like nuclear power. It can bestow great benefits but comes with so many dangers. There is no white magic or black magic – only this primal force that is likely to inflict as much harm to those who invoke it as those it is aimed against.
Control is an illusion and there are always consequences to those who dabble – both physical and psychological. Necromancy ages humans before their time, enfeebles their bodies and can drive the unwary to madness. There is always a price to be paid.
In my To Snare A Witch historical horror series I’ll be examining all these chilling aspects. In part one: Bell, Book and Candle I’ve tried to show just how difficult it is for the heroine Elizabeth Fiennes to gather the ingredients it takes to put together the spell she needs to try to save her lover, and in the future instalments I’ll be highlighting the havoc magic brings to her life – no matter how well intended she is.
One thing is guaranteed, her future will be full of scares and surprises…
Many thanks Jay. As a novice fantasy writer myself, this is great advice. Now, onto all the book info.
A Chilling historical tale of lust, sorcery and devastating revenge
No female dares spurn the lecherous advances of Sir Henry Cruttendon, 17th Century England’s most reviled nobleman. To do so risks a retribution that would terrify the Devil himself.
But Elizabeth Fiennes is no ordinary woman, blessed with stunning beauty, intelligence and guile. Coming from an influential family, she believes she is safe.
What she doesn’t understand is that the Earl is determined to satisfy his lust and plans to use the wave of witch trials, fear and superstition sweeping the countryside to force her into his clutches.
And as he springs his malicious trap it triggers a chain of unholy events plunging hunter and prey into a maelstrom of deceit, terror and depravity – leaving them both staring into the face of true evil…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jay Raven is the author of Gothic chillers and historical horror reminding readers that the past is a dangerous place to venture, full of monsters and murderous men. He blames his fascination with vampires, witches and werewolves on the Hammer Horror films he watched as a teenager, but living in a creepy old house on the edge of a 500-acre wood may have something to do with it.
If you would like to be informed of new releases, enjoy free short stories and access exclusive giveways and competitions, please subscribe to Jay’s monthly newsletter on his website at http://www.jayraven.co.uk
For more information about the To Snare a Witch series, head on over to the other blogs taking part in this tour.