Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your YA fantasy novel, Witches of Ash and Ruin, through Hachette/Little! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
E. Latimer: Thank you so much!
Okay, so when I was first drafting the book, I referred to it as the “Literal Man-eating Irish Bisexual Witches” book, but that’s just entirely too long to fit on the cover, and it doesn’t make a great blurb either.
My short, little pitch is “rival covens must band together to defeat a witch-murdering serial killer, before one of them is next.” It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what inspired the book, if I’m honest. I’ve always been obsessed with witchy women. I think my witches were born of a mashup of all my favorite characters: Molly Weasley, Sabrina, Maleficent, The Owens from Practical Magic, Blue and her family from The Raven Boys. And, of course, I absolutely love Irish mythology, and serial killers, so it was only natural for me to just…mash it all together in some way.
BD: The novel deftly combines ancient Celtic mythology with modern witchcraft. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
EL: I like your “deftly combines” description better than my “mash it together.” We’ll use that going forward.
What I love about Irish mythology is also the very thing that can make it a bit of a difficult subject to tackle. There’s a lot of holes in the stories, missing information, and conflicting narratives. It’s all very mysterious, simply because of how it was passed down to us. Nearly all of it was filtered through Christian monks and people like Julius Caesar, which resulted in the stories being “edited” with considerable creativity.
It sort of feels like there’s not a lot set in stone, so you can play with it a lot more freely, and I was able to make it fit in really nicely with a more modern form of witchcraft. A lot of witches actually do worship the old gods, many of them Celtic, so it seemed natural to me. From there, I tweaked the mythology to fit my world, and also the witchcraft, to give the magic more obvious and immediate results.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Dayna and Meiner’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
EL: Dayna’s story, in particular, had some very personal elements for me. The form of OCD that she struggles with over the course of the story is my own, and writing it was both challenging and therapeutic. Dayna and Meiner also both struggle with being queer women in a conservative religious town. I really wanted to explore my own feelings about growing up bisexual in a conservative Christian home. In Witches, Dayna is past the point of wrestling with herself and is trying to deal with family, but my own experience was much more insular. I really was my own worst enemy, which is something I’d like to explore in future books.
I’m hoping queer women can see themselves in Meiner and Dayna, in both their frustrations and triumphs. We don’t get enough queer women in YA fiction (though 2020 seems to be a much better year for it!), and we certainly don’t get to see enough f/f in fantasy at all.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
EL: I like this question, because YES, I would love to write a second book. I’m not done with these witches. I’ve actually got the plot for a trilogy all written out. It all depends on how Book One does, though, so folks, pre-order Witches of Ash and Ruin, please! I can promise queer witches, serial killers, and blood magic.
As for other mediums, there is an audiobook being released on March 3rd, as well. It’s narrated by the fabulous Katharine Lee McEwan, who has the most amazing accent.
And I mean, yeah, I’d love to expand it into other things. I’m completely obsessed with Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and I feel like witches are a big thing right now. So, if a film or TV opportunity came up, I certainly wouldn’t say no.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
EL: Right now, I’m editing another book about witches. This one is a middle grade and is set to be released in 2021 by Tundra Books.
I’m also drafting a book I’m currently referring to as “Bisexual Plant Druids & Demon Kings: A working title.” I don’t think that one will fit on the cover either.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Witches of Ash and Ruin and your other work?
EL: You can find everything over on my website, under the “books” tab.
E. Latimer is the author of the Young Adult fantasy novel WITCHES OF ASH AND RUIN (March 3, 2020; Hachette/Little) and a Middle Grade novel, THE STRANGE AND DEADLY PORTRAITS OF BRYONY GRAY (Tundra Books), which was nominated for the Red Maple Fiction Award. She lives with her partner in Victoria, British Columbia, and, in her spare time, she makes silly vlogs with the Word Nerds about writing, and reads excessively.
Synopsis for WITCHES OF ASH AND RUIN:
Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch. Plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating granddaughter of their coven leader, Meiner King.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester—an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. Whose motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, which Dayna and Meiner find themselves at the center of.
And if they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.