Crone is the story of two women. One is a bereaved mother, Heather, grieving for her 17-year-old son, she believes died in a tragic accident, and the other is a 2000 year old witch, Aefre, who stalks the inhabitants of a small town and feeds off them. When Heather discovers Aefre was to blame for the death of her son, she vows revenge. Along the way, there’s an interesting cast of quirky characters and some nifty detective work. Can Heather get the better of Aefre? You’ll have to read it and find out!
What will Heather’s detective work uncover? Author Jeannie Wycherley, has kindly caught up with me today to delve into the detective work that propels Heather through her journey within the pages of ‘Crone’. Jeannie, thanks for sharing a little of your time with the readers and I today. Let’s rewind time back to return to the origins of Crone. What sparked your initial thoughts of this journey?
I live in East Devon in the UK, which is the kind of place you envisage in fairy tales. It’s all green rolling hills and ancient forest, tumbling down to the sea. You can barely fit two bicycles down some of the roads here, let alone two cars. One day I had to pull into the hedge to let a truck past me, and worried for my paintwork I glanced across into the dense foliage. For just a fraction of a second, I imagined the face of an old woman staring back at me … and that was it. I started writing Crone that evening.
When Crone started unfolding that night, did you find yourself delving into any topics that you found required further research to ensure Crone was a solid read?
Some. I drew on my background as an academic and a historian, but I did need to do some research into Boo Hags and well-known witches such as Peg Powler. On the whole, I tapped deeply into my imagination for what I needed.
And what ideas did your imagination suggest were the most important to tap into?
I wanted to explore grief and anger and fear. I’ve reached an age where people I love and people I’ve spent great times with are passing away, some of them far too young. It fills me with fear. I think loss and the emotions that go with that can be very hard to bear.
I’m sorry to hear that people you love are passing away. How have you found these experiences have shaped Crone?
I definitely drew on my own grief, but also Crone is very firmly rooted in nature, and the wild and mysterious environment where I live, so I spent a lot of time out walking my dogs in the woods and talking to trees!
What rewards have you found from the intersection of your emotions and environment within the pages of Crone?
There were times I was writing Crone when the story simply seemed to pour out of me. Those were deep scenes that were very lyrical in quality. I wish writing was always that way! I found that one or two characters, such as the magical Mr Kephisto, who were supposed to be minor characters, suddenly took on much more importance. They had so much to say. I had to let them have their heads. It was great fun.
Tell us more about the fun you had with the cast of Crone.
When I started plotting I knew I needed Heather, Claire, Trent and Aefre. I spent a good few weeks considering them and their motivations and where they had come from and what they wanted. The other characters – Fraser, Max, Mercy, Rose and Dorothea – started to take shape once I understood the main four. Several characters such as Mr Kephisto, Euan and Brian were never in my outline, so they really charmed their way onto the pages.
Looking back, do you feel that some of these characters charmed the plot to the point of actually changing the story to suit themselves, or did you feel that the plot pushed the characters into line?
A bit of both. The plot hangs on Heather and she was difficult to write initially because I felt her grief made her brittle. To coin a British phrase, I had to remove the broom from her backside, as the plot went on. I didn’t want her to be unlikeable even though she probably didn’t like herself much; such was the depth of her despair at the beginning of the novel. Aefre on the other hand was delightfully wicked, so she was fabulous fun to write. She definitely gave the plot direction because I needed to know where she had come from and why she was so nasty. Mr Kephisto was a total surprise – what a wonderful find! He added so much to the story, as did Euan. I had to rewrite the beginning in order to get Euan into the story.
You describe your characters with such joy, have you considered actors who might be able to bring them to life suitably if the novel was turned into a screen production?
Oooh that’s difficult. Hollywood blockbuster? Rachel Weisz for Heather, and Daniel Craig for Trent! Would they ever work together? Rachel has that seriousness I see in Heather, and her vulnerability. Kate Mulgrew for the older Aefre – she has great depth and passion. She’d need a barrel-load of make-up though! I think Jeremy Corbyn (leader of the Labour Party here in the UK) would make a wonderful Mr Kephisto.
*Laughs* Now I never would have picked the inclusion of Jeremy Corbyn for your cast, but why not! What did you feel that you learnt from working with these characters through the pages of Crone?
It wasn’t my first completed novel, but it was my first completely edited novel, so I learned a great deal about editing. I ended up cutting 20,000 words, mainly from the first four chapters. The feedback I had from professionals was that I needed to cut to the chase quicker.
If you were to start again would you approach the writing process differently to try and save yourself cutting such a large number of words?
I wouldn’t do anything at all differently. It took three years from starting to write to publishing, and it has been a wonderful experience. I am so proud of Crone.
I’m so glad that the experience has been so positive for you! And I’m guessing this positive reception has translated into fuelling new writing projects. What are you currently working on?
I have an anthology due out in July 2017 called Deadly Encounters. I’ve gathered together 9 previously published short stories and three unpublished ones and put them into one handy volume. I also have an ebook on dog bereavement (Losing my best friend) due out on 29th July, which people who read Crone will understand from my dedication and acknowledgements. I am currently editing my next novel, The Jumpers, a psychological horror, which should be out by the end of 2017.
Wow, that’s a lot of writing and publishing on your plate! What has driven with such gusto to keep writing and publishing?
I have always written, but somewhere along the line, I had to go and earn some money, so I took degrees and jobs and things, but I was never happy. I was made redundant in 2012 and I started writing again then. It took me a while to learn the craft, but I think I’m getting there now. I view the world in words, but when I’m writing, I write very visually. Words are wonderful, reading is the best thing. Ever.
*Laughs* Yep, you’re not going to get any disagreement from me about the awesomeness of reading! As you’re writing in a visual manner I expect from time to time you might get flashes of a random situation or idea. Do you document these flashes of inspiration, or just allow them to whizz on by?
I have notebooks full of ideas. I use them like scrapbooks. They are full of post-its and pictures and quotes. I know my next three novels already and I’m considering a little sidebar story, an offshoot of Crone.
As you’ve already decided your next three novels, you must be putting some effort into planning before you start typing. How much of the plot is locked in during the planning phase?
I changed the ending of Crone (no spoilers here), after I’d written the first draft. I felt compelled to do so. But yes, I generally plot my stories and know where they are going. Sometimes I don’t know how to get there, but once I know why they need to end a certain way, the characters do the business for me. Thank heavens.
It really is wonderful when characters just take off and do the hard business for you. Are there any techniques that you use when writing to summon your characters to assemble and start making those hard yards in the plot for you?
I have a wonderful view of the hills, the trees and the valley from my desk, so writing in my study is pretty amazing. I try to do all my paid work (I’m a copywriter too) in the morning and then dig into my own stuff in the afternoon.
Well, as you live in fairy-tale like surrounds I can see how it would be easy to get typing each day. Do you ever flick on some music to get that fairy-tale magic working on your writing projects?
I prefer a radio on somewhere in the house but not close to me, as music and talking are too distracting. I am usually surrounded on all sides by my dogs (we have three) and so I am accompanied by their snoring.
*Laughs* Working by the gentle snores of the dogs. What could be a better soundtrack than that? Are there ever days when the gentle snores don’t lull you into the easy rhythm of writing? Are there any tricks you use to blast past writer’s block and towards more words?
I grit my teeth and I write. No excuses. Sometimes if I’m really not feeling it, I’ll do a timed prompt. I will write for ten minutes to a theme I find in one of my many writer’s prompts’ books. After I lost my beloved dog last July, I just couldn’t write at all. There are times in life you have to be kind to yourself and simply let things slide. I started writing again in November.
Thanks for highlighting that contrast between applications of grit and kindness. Writers are humans, and sometimes writing just isn’t the right thing to do. But when the writing process is the right thing to do, how do you tackle editing? Are you a self-editor?
Yes. I did a redraft, a rewrite, and two or three full and hard edits on Crone. By the time I sent it to my editor it was the best it could be. Or so I thought. Hahaha! Amie (McCracken) sent it back with some ‘suggestions’ and I edited again. And now it is shiny, shiny.
I’m loving its shininess. Have you applied this same level of dedication and finesse to the self-publishing process and the creation of your author brand?
I’m in a strange place where I can see the enormous benefits of self-publishing, and yet I’m writing as though I’m a trad. My books are standalone, and they will not all be dark fantasy. The next is a horror. The one after that is Victorian Gothic. I have been advised by people who know all about this kind of thing, that what I am doing is not a good idea. That I need to brand myself and write a series of books, and write to market. At the moment I see myself much more as a story-teller, and my stories are standalone, so I don’t have a game plan. No doubt I will have to come up with one.
I’m sure you will come up with game plan your experience evolves. After you publish the next few projects you have in the works, I’m sure it will be much clearer! What clarity have you found from your experiences self-publishing so far, that you can share with fellow and aspiring writers?
Go for it, but do it well. Good book cover, good editor, a good finished product. Read all you can about marketing and promotions. Don’t imagine it is cheap and easy because it is neither. Be true to you.
What’s the best way to be true to you?
Write fast, edit slow.
Has your past experiences in the workforce helped you develop the strategy of ‘writing fast and editing slow’?
I used to be an academic. You can see some of me in Crone for sure (in Trent), but none of it in my next few novels. In my time I’ve worked in theatre, in a pub, in a library, in a fish and chip shop. You name it, I’ve done it. Writing is the only thing I’ve ever loved.
So there’s no other careers could you see yourself enjoying?
None. Been there, done that. Had enough!
*Laughs* I love it! Why mess with careers that just aren’t as good! Other than staying true to yourself and not wasting your time with careers that don’t satisfy you, what are some of your other philosophies on life?
I believe that we are merely renting our space on earth and that mankind are doing irreparable harm to the planet. That makes me incredibly sad, so I try to make sure I respect all living beings – people, wildlife, flora and fauna. I’m a motorbike riding, incense waving, tree hugging hippie at heart.
So what’s your hippie perspective on morality?
We all theoretically do. The problem is that we don’t all choose who our leaders are (no proportional representation) and it is our leaders who decide how we will all be educated. At its worst, we are brainwashed into believing some very damaging stuff and so morality becomes skewed. In the UK I would like to see education taken out of the hands of politicians, because every time someone new is voted in, they change the system, and they end up making something that’s bad, a whole lot worse.
I’d never really considered the idea of taking education out of the hands of politicians, but I think it probably is an idea worth exploring. Exploring a little more on you, can you share your zodiac sign?
Me too! I’m hoping that your position as a water bearer will give you a great position on the next question. What is your favourite ocean?
Oh – can I say a sea?
Yes, I’ll accept seas.
The Mediterranean. It’s warm, it’s clear, and I love snorkelling. Failing that I’ll say the Atlantic. So wild!
*Laughs* I love how the two seas you’ve picked are almost diametrically opposed, one with the warm and calm and the other cold and wild. Keeping the concept of those diametrically opposed ideals, what do you think is the separating line between insanity and creativity?
I think being creative keeps me on a more even keel than any of my previous jobs.
May you never have to work outside of a creative frame of mind again! Which hand helps you most in your creative pursuits?
And what’s right and first? The chicken or the egg?
Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
*Laughs* I didn’t think the question was that funny! Okay, let’s keep up with the high humor, have you tangoed in the snow?
We don’t get a lot of snow where I live. Thank goodness. I hate being cold!
We wouldn’t want that! To keep you warm, let’s move our discussion towards invention. If you could invent a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
I did. He is called Tye and you’ll meet him in The Jumpers.
Ooohh, thanks for sharing another little taste of Jumpers. Keeping our minds on the ideas of monsters, what happens if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?
A million vampire bat offspring would inhabit Gotham city.
Hmmm, with a million vampire bat offspring moving it, it might be time to think about moving out of Gotham City. Expanding our mindset from the city to the world, if all of the world is a stage, where does the audience sit?
In an ideal world, we all have a starring role.
I love that idea. Keeping our eyes turned upward, how do you think that the colours in rainbows made?
From the shattered dreams of everyone who ever loved and lost.
Although I don’t really like the idea of shattered dreams, but I like the idea that something beautiful can be made from the remnants of dreams that haven’t been fulfilled. If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
I’d breed a bear and a dog, because I love both. Hopefully I’d have a small lovely teddy bear type companion, who’d walk on two legs and share my tuna fish sandwiches.
Would it be cuddly too? If so I want one! And with my cuddly ball of teddy bear like fluff I’d like to kick back and enjoy some ice-cream. What ice-cream should I get for you to join me with to go with the tuna fish and teddy hugs?
*Laughs* Tuna fish sandwiches, teddy cuddles and coffee ice-cream. It sounds like a wonderful time! To cap off this wonderful time, can you tempt us with a little taste of what readers can expect when they settle down with Crone?
Words strung together like fastenings, clinging to each other to form sentences, weaving ivy around my limbs, tying me to the bench, weighing me down, preventing movement and escape.
Jeannie, thanks for weaving through the strands of words within the depths of Crone with the audience and myself today, and I wish you the best of luck for the new writing projects to follow your success releasing Crone.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Crone ( ASIN: B072BHCSQF )‘.
Want to find out more about Jeannie Wycherley? Connect here!