GUEST POST: Sarah Mussi

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the ‘Here Be Witches’ blog tour! 

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‘Here Be Witches’ is the second novel in Sarah’s Snowdonia Chronicles – a young adult fantasy series retelling old myths and legends of Wales – continuing the story of Ellie Morgan, the protagonist we were introduced to way back in book one. 
For the post today, I’m going to pass you over to Sarah, who’s going to tell you all about how important setting is to a story…
I’m totally thrilled to be with Everything Alyce for my blog tour for book two in The Snowdonia Chronicles: Here be Witches

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME EVERYTHING ALYCE!!!!!

During my blog tour I have been interviewing myself on HOW TO WRITE A SEQUEL!

And today…

Sarah continues her interview of Sarah on how to write a sequel in a thrilling and compelling romantic fantasy.

Sarah: Welcome to the world of WRITING A SEQUEL. I am going to use Here be Witches to explain my thinking on how to give it a go.

Sarah: Okay. I’m going to continue to ask Sarah lots of questions to find out all her writing secrets! 

Q. Can you recap on Here be Witches again?

A. Right, Here be Witches is the second story in the series The Snowdonia Chronicles.

Here be Witches
THE SEQUEL TO HERE BE DRAGONS – A PERILOUS ADVENTURE INTO THE MAGICAL AND MURDEROUS REALM OF MYTHICAL SNOWDONIA 
Q. Ummm, mythical Snowdonia eh? So why did you choose Snowdonia as a setting and how did you make it fresh in book two?

A. Choosing a setting is so important, but to tell you the truth, I’ve always loved the mountains of North Wales ever since I went on family holidays there as a child. So on this occasion I was choosing what I knew and loved. However Snowdonia also has all the right ingredients to make a very special setting for a fantasy YA novel.

Q. Perhaps you can tell us what you think is important to go into a setting?

A. okay, well first let’s recap exactly what a setting is and then I can say what I think it does for a story. So a setting sets up the:

  • Where
  • When
  • Genre
  • Time (in history) 
  • Space (in the universe)
  • Atmosphere
  • Other people (family/community)
  • Sensory details
  • Weather
  • Context

Well, those are the major things, but it can do more than that. I chose the setting of Snowdonia because I wanted it to do a lot of things, some of which includes using the:

Setting as character:

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The setting functions here as a prod to get the hero going. The setting is somehow part of the main character, for instance, Frodo in Lord of the Rings, is very much an extension of his beloved Shire. Or Ratty in Wind in the Willows is very much a part of the riverbank.

In the Snowdonia Chronicles the backdrop of the misty mountains and dangerous chasms and cliffs not only act as a challenge to Ellie, but are also part of her character. She is first and foremost an outdoorsy mountain girl. She prides herself on knowing the mountain. However much she claims to wish to live in an inner-city flat, we know better. We know that she belongs to Snowdonia just as Snowdonia belongs to her. This means she has a lot of attibutes of mountains. Mountains are exciting, mountains can be dangerous, mountains need to be explored, mountains can offer us a view when we get to the top – so all of these characteristics can be found in Ellie.

Q. That’s very interesting…

A. There is more…

Setting can act as a metaphor:

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When you choose your setting, it can say more about your story on a sub-textual level. For example:

Sunny places are usually happy

Cold places are usually scary

Dark places might be evil etc.

In Here be Witches, the extraordinary beauty and relative inaccessibility of the Welsh mountains acts as a metaphor for all that is magical and unobtainable – like Henry is for Ellie. The deep feeling of awe and beauty inspired by Snowdonia has fostered many myths and a real belief in magic. I was able to harness all of this in Here be Witches.

Setting can as as weather too and weather conveys the mood of both story and character.

Weather is not just part of the scenery. It can be used in the plot. A good example of this is in Narnia where it is always snowy. 

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In Here be Witches it is always snowy too and if anyone has ever been to North Wales they know this to be true in reality, after all the mountain range is called Snowdonia.

Setting can be an emotion:

The setting may show a character’s emotions. When the character issad it may rain. When the character is angry a storm may brew up. In Here be Witches everywhere is cold and this is how Ellie is feeling without Hentry’s presence and the hope of seeing him again. 

Q. I can see why you wanted to write The Snowdonia Chronicles! Can you give us a teeny weeny excerpt to capture the setting – until our next blog post?

A. Sure… It’s from the middle second of the story… 

The ponies struggle on. The temperature drops. An Arctic wind springs up and rushes down the slopes of the mountains straight at us. The afternoon sun shines high above. The snowfields glint bright. I pull up my hood, and button my coat tight against my chin. The ponies stick to a trail that I can hardly make out. Their hooves crunch softly into drifted banks of white. In our wake, the punch holes quickly fill again with fresh snowfall. 

Beside sedge and stonewall, lake and hill, we plod on.

But no sooner are we in sight of Cadair, than the breath of the great kind descends. The Brenin Lywdd is on us like a fist. Cold mist smacks out all vision, stinging bare skin, bruising our chests as we struggle to breathe in frozen air.

A spectral breath and a grey mist descend around us. Strands of icy air slice into eyes and assault nostrils; snowflakes whirl.

Instantly we are isolated. Total whiteout. I can’t see further than one metre ahead. There just isn’t a path. When I do catch a glimpse of it, there’s a sheer drop: first on the left, then on the right.

I’m not joking.

One metre from the trail.

Sheer drops.

I actually close my eyes, squeeze them shut. My heart thuds. I feel dizzy. I hang on to Keincaled’s mane, grip it, icicles and all and whisper:

Oh my God.

Wow, I have goosebumps right now. That excerpt is so menacing, it sent chills straight down my spine! I’m going to be reading and reviewing ‘Here be Dragons’ and ‘Here be Witches’ in March, so keep a eye out for those posts going up soon.

I hope you enjoyed my stop on the ‘Here be Witches’ blog tour.
Check out Sarah’s final post with Maia and a Little More where she’ll be interviewing herself about how to deliver a satisfying stand-alone ending without a cliff-hanger as such – inside an on-going series. Not as easy as it looks!