Hello, L.M. David here. Today I am interviewing Judy Goodwin, author of Heart of the Witch. The cool thing about Ms. Goodwin is she brought along a book of spells. Together, we put up wards to keep Preston confined to the closet. The upside, he can’t get out. The downside, he was not hiding in the closet but the bathroom. Now he can’t get out and we can’t get in … the spell apparently keeps people out as well. After the interview, we will look for the counter spell or make a run to the local park because we’ve all had a lot of coffee this morning …
Okay, let’s get started
Q. Tell me a bit about yourself.
A. I’m a single mom, and I’ve been writing for a very long time—since I was a child, actually. I tried to write my first book when I was in Junior High, rewrote that book in high school, and then set it aside. I started writing Heart of the Witch when I was in college. It’s been a very long journey and a lot of rewrites. Life happened along the way, which included marriage, several jobs, having a child, and then divorce and finding a new partner in life.
Q. Your book, Heart of the Witch, is about a young boy accused of witchcraft. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
A. I’ve always been fascinated by the Salem witch trials. The idea that tales told by children could start a furor where innocent women were tortured and burned at the stake is a chilling one, and something I wanted to explore. I thought about what it might be like if there was a Puritan-like society afraid of magic—only this time, the magic is real. And so are the demons, and an evil god. The question then becomes whether magic is good or evil!
Q. That sounds like an awesome plot. What about Derrick, which I think is a very interesting name. What is this character like?
A. Zerrick is the third son of the Reverend Delwar Dhur. His father adores his eldest son Delwin while Zerrick’s mother tends to dote on her only daughter. Both parents are critical of Zerrick who is a poor student (letters on the page don’t seem to behave for him) and has an interest in the outdoors rather than the Church or town politics. Zerrick spends most his time with Alden, a local retired explorer and herbalist.
Zerrick tends to be quiet and suffers from low self-esteem. It is his dream to explore the wilderness as well, but he’s afraid of confronting his father. Even though he can’t read, he’s intelligent and creative.
Q. It came as a surprise that Zerrick’s father happens to be the town reverend. How would you describe him?
A. Delwar Dhur is the town reverend, and he is a stern man with a highly judgmental nature. He’s very charismatic and knows how to speak in front of a crowd. He has trained his voice to exude emotion and had deep convictions that are unlikely to be challenged, and he believes that sparing the rod spoils the child. His first love is for the Church, and then for his ministrants. His son Zerrick comes very low on his list of priorities; he thinks the young man is lazy and willful.
Q. At one point, males were referred to as warlocks, not witches. What changed that distinction?
A. In studying history, the word “warlock” is actually quite modern, and was not used to describe male users of magic in the 1600’s. “Witch” was a term applied to both men and women. It was only in the mid-1800’s when the word “warlock” came to be. In staying true to history, I decided to stick with the word “witch.”
Q. The character Zerrick goes on a quest to find out if he’s damned or blessed. Does he get that question answered?
A. He does, but he ends up in places he never dreamed of going! To answer his question, he actually has to find the source of magic, which takes him deep into mythology, as well as the center of the strange land of Argessa.
Q. Writing fantasy is fun. What was your favorite part in this book? And what was your least favorite part?
A. I had a great deal of fun with a particular character named Madame Lotus, a witch who has been turned mad by magic. Zerrick meets her on his travels and sees the worst of what uncontrolled magical talent can do to a person. I had a much harder time writing some of the wilderness adventures, including a swampy lake in the jungle and a mountain climb which nearly turns disastrous. This book required a great deal of research of everything from tropical plant life to tribal customs and languages.
Q. Heart of the Witch is set in the land of Argessa where magic is evil yet native tribes use it as a tool for good. What caused the division within this land?
A. There are three religions (four if you count the evil god Angist) in the book which offer three different views of magic. Zerrick’s people worship Iahmel , a male god up in heaven. They believe magic is evil. The native tribes worship Kumalida, a female earth goddess, and believe magic is her gift to them to be used wisely. There are also the enemies of Zerrick’s people called the Nemites who worship Ainera, a female goddesses who originally was joined with Iahmel. Ainera brought magic to earth, the Nemites believe, and they use it more than anyone else. Power can be corrupting, which has led to wars in the past with the people of this religion.
As it turns out, Kumalida is Ainera. And magic came before any of the gods.
Q. Is this a “coming of age” story for Zerrick?
A. Yes, it is. He’s twenty-one and just about ready to look at courting a wife and starting a journeymanship at the beginning of the book, but emotionally his maturity is stunted. His dysfunctional family has led him to question everything about himself, so his physical journey also becomes an inner journey to find peace and wisdom.
Q. In Heart of the Witch, there is something called a Ravenger. What are they like?
A. The Ravenger is a demon horse with four black wings and human intelligence. He is a messenger of the evil god Angist and has been known to kidnap worshippers of Iahmel to deliver to the dark god.
Q. Heart of the Witch is your debut novel. Will there a sequel?
A. I have begun the planning of a sequel, but this was meant to be a stand-alone novel, and I haven’t yet decided if I will write the sequel. I am currently working another book now which will be a five book series. This series will be very different than Heart of the Witch and features teenage twins in a more medieval setting.
Q. What inspired you to write this story?
A. As I said earlier, I basically jotted down a list of things that I found interesting to read about, and from that I came up with the setting and then the story. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and I didn’t want to write an alternate history novel, so that’s where the world came from. I wanted to do something different than the majority of fantasy out there.
Q. When writing fantasy, what is the hardest thing to keep up with…creating the world in which the characters live or creating characters with unique abilities?
A. I think the hardest thing may be creating characters that readers will love. I like a character with a lot of weaknesses, because those are all things that can change over the course of the novel. However, I had one beta reader who instantly didn’t like Zerrick. You can’t please everyone. The world is easy to keep track of as long as you keep notes. I referred to my maps and notes frequently so that I would know how long it took to walk from this town to that, or what one would find in this part of the continent.
Q. If you had a chance to live in a fantasy environment, what would be in it?
A. I always wanted to live in Rivendell or Gondor when I was younger. I’d still be perfectly happy to move there, particularly once my daughter has moved out of the house. I don’t think I’d choose the world I created for my first book, but the new book is a world I could live with. I was always fascinated by Anne McCafferey’s Pern series where the culture was medieval and fantasy, but in reality it was a space colony from a long lost generation. My next book’s world is similar. There are remnants of ancient technology, but people live with much more simple means.
Q. What writing tips would you give individuals who are just starting out?
Join a writer’s group. They can help you with your writing, give you information on publishing, and be a support network. Writing is a lonely profession, and it’s good to have others who understand the labor of love that it can be. Also, read the blogs of your favorite writers! They may have valuable information for you. My favorite blog is Dean Wesley Smith’s—he’s been one of my mentors for many years now, and I like his messages.
Judy Goodwin has been writing for many years and has had short stories published in small press magazines and anthologies. Her debut novel, Heart of the Witch came our earlier this year. Judy caught the writing bug in elementary school and has been an avid reader and writer ever since. Besides writing, she enjoys gardening, video games and reading up on history. Renaissance fairs, exotic foreign destinations, and places with good beer are all places which attract her.
Judy Goodwin has an author’s page on Amazon.com.
Diamond Print Press