Today I am delighted to be able to share with you a guest post from Matt Wingett – the author of The Snow Witch!!
The allure of magic, by Matt Wingett, author of The Snow Witch.
When I was a boy, I fell in love with magic. I fell in love with it in all sorts of ways. From the Deep Magic in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, to the mages in A Wizard of Earthsea, through to the wizardry in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, I found the whole notion of magic fascinating, deeply intriguing – and somehow, in my child’s mind, true.
Experiments in magic as a teen, however, gave mixed results. Magic, tarot reading, curses, levitation and witchcraft were some of the things I read about and tried for myself. I had scant success. Eventually, as I grew up, I realised that magic was not something I could work with. And so there came the drudgery of daily work, to tame the boyhood imagination.
And that might have been the end of my love affair with magic, had I not read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I felt a boyish sense of wonder and joy when reading about the arrival of the gypsies with their own forms of magic – the everyday “magic” of false teeth that made an old person look young on the one hand, and on the other hand, real flying carpets.
It was then I understood a little better: there was magic.
It was in storytelling.
In my 20s I read plenty of Carl Jung, and began to see how ancient religions and magical practices represented certain turns or stages in the development of the individual. Perhaps , I reasoned, the magic I loved to read about so much appealed to me because the truth I was being told was a psychological one.
In my 20s, I also had a brief affair with a witch. Yes, a real witch – a Wiccan who broke my heart. This experience made me think of magic as somehow an extraordinary power to do with the emotions in some way.
At around this time, I got work as a scriptwriter for Thames TV, on a tv show called The Bill, and there wasn’t really much time to think about magic. Over the years I have written advertising copy, scripts, poems, adverts – basically, anything that a jobbing writer can do to get by. But somewhere at the back of my mind, there was always the knowledge of magic.
Sometimes I wrote stories with a ghostly feel. I’m the publisher of a series of collections of short stories by local writers in my home town of Portsmouth. Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups sees three of my stories with a fantastical twist included, Day of the Dead – tales of death and dying to disturb, perturb and delight is another with a fantastical element – yet I never wrote a book that featured magic, though by now I had read the Harry Potter series. In fact, I read them all in a weekend.
Then, one day, I saw a violinist playing on the street in Portsmouth. She was tall and slim, with an incredible charisma. When she finished playing, I asked her and her partner to join me for coffee. They told me they were from the Appalachian Mountains, and were about to catch the ferry from Portsmouth to the mainland, where they would travel across Europe making money from the notes they sent into the air. Supported by nothing but their craft: this, too, struck me as a type of magic.
When they left, I couldn’t get that violinist out of my head. Her smile, the lightness of her talking style, the joy of a young person in love with life. I suppose I was under her spell.
And so I began to write a story about a woman who arrives in a British seaside town to play violin. I initially thought that I would write something joyous, like Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, in which the protagonist changes lives with her art, in this case her chocolate making.
But for some reason, in my imagination, the violinist surfaced from my unconscious walking through the snow as she arrived in the town. She changed in my imagination from an American, to a mysterious Eastern European with a hidden past.
When I began writing the book a kind of magic took hold of me. I knew nothing about this woman. I had no plot at all, just a woman walking in the snow. But soon other people coalesced around her from out of the ice, and I realised she had a dark, horrifying past that she was trying to outrun.
And so, the unconscious took over. I look at The Snow Witch now, and I see it is a story that contains a series of archetypes within it – the ancient magic that I had learned about when I was a child. And this time, the archetypes are free to express themselves through the craft of the witch, because this woman is a woman with a magical past. So, I am free to tell a story that includes magic, and which is also a symbol for something we all experience.
The story has a series of echoes throughout it, in which there are metaphors of horror and of healing, and a philosophical narrative which queries accepted wisdoms.
The witch herself is called Donitza, and she is psychologically frozen, like the snow, and waiting to break out again. Thus, just as I learned from Carl Jung when I was a boy, the magic is conjured in the way the story is shaped – and the healing that comes with it is integral to the story’s structure and narrative.
I like this book.
I hope you like it, too.
I am told it is beautiful.
Thank you for listening. Matt Wingett, author, The Snow Witch.
You can purchase a copy of the book with free post and packaging in the UK from the publisher, here:
It can also be ordered from Amazon, and through booksellers such as
Waterstones and Blackwells.
I will be sharing my review on 6th December 2017 so make sure you check back to my blog then!!