Mary Sharratt Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt

An interview with Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt explains the history behind her novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, set in early 17th century England.

In bleak midwinter 2002, I moved to rural Lancashire, in northern England, an incongruous place for an American expat. The first months were so oppressively dark, I felt I was trapped inside some claustrophobic gothic novel. But then came spring in a tide of bluebells and hawthorn. The wild Pennine landscape cast its spell on me.

Pendle HillI live at the foot of Pendle Hill, famous throughout the world as the place where George Fox received his vision that moved him to found the Quaker religion in 1652. But Pendle is also steeped in its legends of the Lancashire Witches.

In 1612, seven women and two men from Pendle Forest were hanged for witchcraft. The most notorious of the accused, Bess Southerns, aka Old Demdike, cheated the hangman by dying in prison. This is how Thomas Potts describes her in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster:

She was a very old woman, about the age of Foure-score yeares, and had been a Witch for fiftie yeares. Shee dwelt in the Forrest of Pendle, a vast place, fitte for her profession: What shee committed in her time, no man knowes ... Shee was a generall agent for the Devill in all these partes: no man escaped her, or her Furies.

book jacketOnce I read this, I fell in love. I had to write a book about this amazing woman. Bess became the guiding voice and power behind my new novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill.

Reading the trial transcripts against the grain, I was astounded how her strength of character blazed forth in the document written to vilify her. She freely admitted to being a healer and a cunning woman, and she instructed her daughter and granddaughter in the ways of magic. Her neighbors called on her to cure their children and their cattle. What fascinated me was not that Bess was arrested on witchcraft charges but that the authorities turned on her only near the end of her long, productive career. She practiced her craft for decades before anybody dared to interfere with her.

Bess's life unfolded almost literally in my backyard. To do justice to her story, I had to go out onto the land--walk in her footsteps. Using the Ordnance Survey Map, I located the site of Malkin Tower, once her home. Now only the foundations remain. I board my beautiful Welsh mare at a stable near Read Hall, once home to Roger Nowell, the witchfinder and prosecuting magistrate responsible for sending Bess and the other Pendle Witches to their deaths. Every weekend, I walked or rode my mare down the tracks of Pendle Forest. Quietening myself, I learned to listen, to allow Bess's voice to well up from the land. Her passion, her tale enveloped me.

History is a fluid thing that continually shapes the present. As a writer, I am obsessed with how the true stories of our ancestors haunt the land. Long after their demise, Bess and her fellow witches endure. This is their home, their seat of power, and they shall never be banished. By delving into their story, I have become an adopted daughter of their living landscape, one of many tellers who spin their unending tale.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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Books by this Author

Books by Mary Sharratt at BookBrowse
Revelations jacket Ecstasy jacket The Dark Lady's Mask jacket Illuminations jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Mary Sharratt but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Melanie Benjamin

    Melanie Benjamin

    Melanie Benjamin was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. An avid reader all her life - as a child, she was the proud winner, several years running, of the summer reading program at her local library - she still firmly believes ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Illuminations

    Try:
    The Aviator's Wife
    by Melanie Benjamin

  • Geraldine Brooks

    Geraldine Brooks

    Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Daughters of the Witching Hill

    Try:
    Year of Wonders
    by Geraldine Brooks

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