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Author Interview — Gill Arbuthnott — Dark Spell

Posted on 06/06/2013 in Author Interviews

In case you missed it, here’s the interview with Gill Arbuthnott, author of the engrossing Dark Spell.

Q: What inspired you to write Dark Spell?

Gill Arbuthnott [GA]: I created the characters of Josh and Callie for an earlier book — Winterbringers — and I wanted to find out what happened to them after that book ended. I also wanted to include some of the local history and myths from the St Andrews area. I remembered how creepily atmospheric the tunnels under St Andrews castle were, and decided to use them, and then a friend told me a very strange story about a place called Longman’s Grave, and I was off. I’m not going to tell you here what the story was — you’ll have to read the book!

Q: Do you have a favourite character in the book?

GA: I had great fun writing Bessie, who is an elderly witch with a very mischievous sense of humour. I had to keep a firm grip on her though, or she would have taken over the entire book…

Q: What do you like best about being an author?

GA: Getting to meet my readers and hear what they really think! I love doing school events and getting the chance to chat to people about what they enjoy in my books, what they don’t like, and what they’d like to read next. I’m always learning from events like this: they definitely make me a better writer.

Q: Dark Spell is set in St Andrews, what is your favourite place in St Andrews?

GA: Fisher and Donaldson’s cake shop! Yum yum. I spent five years living in St Andrews, so I’m very fond of lots of places in and around the town — not just the cake shop. I love the Castle and Abbey ruins, and the gorgeous golden West Sands beach in summer.

Q: If you were a witch, like Callie, what spell would you most like to use?

GA: I’d love to be able to make myself invisible to spy on people and escape if I didn’t want to see them.

Q: Did you base any of the characters on someone you know in real life?

GA: Rose and her witch friends are very loosely based on my mum and three of her friends, who worked together in a local post office for many years and were a formidable team! The witches definitely took on lives of their own once I started writing them though — I love it when characters do that. The Smithy (which almost counts as a character) where Callie’s grandparents live is based on an amazing house owned by friends of mine and, no, I’m not saying where!

Q: What character from Dark Spell would you most like to be?

GA: Because I am by nature a very lazy person (except I never get the chance to indulge that side of my nature) I would like to be Chutney Mary the cat. When I get old, I hope very much to be as disgraceful as Bessie.

Q: What was your favourite book as a child?

GA: Oh, there are so many, but here are a very few of them. I loved all sorts of myths, and my brother gave me a beautiful book called Tales of the Greeks and Trojans which I read over and over again. Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence thrilled me as a child and still does. Among the many books about King Arthur I devoured, my favourite is still The Once And Future King by T H White. And I adored Anne of Green Gables and its sequels. And Little Women. If I don’t stop now, it’ll turn into a very long list…

Q: Are there any authors that inspired you to become a writer?

GA: Everyone who ever wrote a book that I loved! I thought, I want to do that too: I want to create a world and the people in it, and see what happens to them. I probably first fell in love with the idea of being a writer when I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I definitely wanted to be Jo. Still do, really.

Q: If you weren’t an author, what would you be?

GA: Very frustrated, because I’d still be writing and sending things off to publishers, but I’d just be getting rejection letters! I am a teacher as well as a writer, so I’d still be that. But I do from time to time have the very weird idea that I might have liked to be an undertaker.

Q: Do you have a particular place where you like to write?

GA: I would love to say I have a beautiful and well organised desk with everything neatly arranged, but in truth most of the time I write on the sofa in a welter of paper, with the cat treading all over me. I can write almost anywhere, as long as I can plug myself into music to shut out the rest of the world.

Thanks, Gill!

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