Mary Sharratt is an American writer who lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed novel, Daughters of The Witching Hill which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers (read more in her blog post for BookBrowse.)
Previously she lived for twelve years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write her award-winning Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, which explores the dramatic life of the 12th century Benedictine abbess, composer, polymath, and powerfrau (read more in her blog post for BookBrowse.)
Mary's most recent work is The Dark Lady's Mask, a historical novel which imagines the star-crossed love affair between William Shakespeare and his Dark Lady, Aemilia Bassano Lanier (1569-1645), the first professional woman poet in Renaissance England.
Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Gold Award, the 2005 WILLA Literary Award, and a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Mary has also written the novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, The Vanishing Point, and co-edited the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, which celebrates female anti-heroesstrong women who break all the rules. Her short fiction has been published in Twin Cities Noir and elsewhere.
Mary's articles and essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Publisher's Weekly, Minnesota Magazine, and Historical Novels Review. When she isn't writing, she's usually riding her spirited Welsh mare through the Lancashire countryside.
(Adapted from the author's website, January 2016)
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How I Became a Daughter of the Witching Hill
by Mary Sharratt
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.
I 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:...
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