2015 Feature: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

On the last day of Christmas -- I mean, my 2015 feature -- the book gods gave to us...... a preview of a super exciting historical fantasy that I am DYING to read! Virginia Boecker, author of The Witch Hunter, was kind enough to agree to be interviewed about the book. But first, here's a little intro:

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker.

To be published June 2, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. When she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to die at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can track down the person who laid a deadly curse on him.

As she's thrust into the world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and all-too-handsome healers, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
Virginia is here to answer a few questions I had about some of the things we can get excited about for when The Witch Hunter comes out this summer! Welcome, Virginia!

Jess: Describe The Witch Hunter in 5 words or less.

Virginia: The hunter becomes the hunted.

J: What would you say is your main character Elizabeth's best quality? What is her worst?

V: Elizabeth’s best quality: Fortitude. She’s got a great deal of courage and mental strength, and that sees her through the conflicts she finds (and puts) herself in. She’s also fiercely determined: she never gives up.

Elizabeth’s worst quality: She’s self-absorbed! She has a tendency to be preoccupied with herself and her own drama, so much so that she can sometimes miss things that are happening right in front of her.

J: Which of your characters besides Elizabeth are you most excited for readers to meet?

V: Fifer Birch. She’s a witch, and she’s irreverent, smart and smart-mouthed, but she’s also fiercely loyal. I also like John Raleigh. He’s a healer, and he’s studious, quiet, and self-possessed. He’s also very conflicted, and very attractive. :)

J: They definitely sound like people I'm interested in meeting... especially Raleigh!
Say I wake up in the middle of your story's world. What do I experience when I first awaken?

V: That would depend on where you woke up! At one end of the spectrum, you could wake up in prison on a cold stone floor strewn with straw and rat-droppings, waiting for the king’s guards to take you to the square to be chained to a post and burned alive. On the other, you could wake up in a nobleman’s house on a feather-mattressed tester bed, waiting for a servant to feed you, bathe you, and dress you. Obviously, the latter is better.

J: What was the strangest thing you came across in your research for The Witch Hunter? What was the most interesting?

V: I was living in London at the time I researched, and really, I didn’t think of it as research! I was fascinated with British royalty, and I read everything I could get my hands on, from the 1100s to early 1600s. From Eleanor to Elizabeth, I like to say. I read biographies and historical fiction about kings,
queens, knights, wars, and wives, then I’d hop on a train and go visit whatever towns, castles, cathedrals, prisons, museums I could reasonably get to. Seeing in person the places where history took place really set them firmly in my mind, and made details easier to recall once I sat down to write.

The most interesting thing? Castles and palaces are a lot smaller than you’d think. The great hall at Hampton Court, for example. It looks huge in pictures but in truth, it’s really not that big--or at least, not as big as I had envisioned it to be.

I think the most amazing (if not strange) thing to me, in everything I’ve read, is that Henry VIII created his own religion in order to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. You’ve really got to unpack the euphemisms to get to that, though: it’s always he “initiated the English Reformation” or he “appointed himself Head of the Church of England.” But let’s not mince words: he created his own religion. That act would seem insane today, imagine how it must have seemed then! And all that, only for him to execute the very wife he upended his country over just two years later. The turmoil of those times, both politically and socially, it’s endlessly fascinating to me.

J: Henry VIII was indeed, ahem, unique. I'm very fascinated by those times as well. There's so much to explore there!
How did you work at coming up with your rules for the magic that takes place in the world of The Witch Hunter?

V: To create the magic in this book, I borrowed a bit from the Buddhist principle of the middle way: the idea that magic is a reconciliation of extreme opposites, that there are consequences to every action. That in order to create magic, you must achieve balance. Of course, much of what happens in the story are consequences of not maintaining that balance.

J: Ooh, that's intriguing! 
Can you share a favourite quote from the book?

V: “Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear.”

J: Can you share any secrets or fun facts about the book?

V: Many of the names of towns, villages, palaces, harbors, even people, are borrowed from the names of stops on the London Underground.

J: That's so cool! I'll definitely be on the lookout for those. Thank you so much, Virginia, for answering my burning questions about the book! 

I think this will give people plenty to look forward to as we patiently (or not so patiently, in some cases *cough* me *cough*) wait for June and the release of this exciting fantasy!

Preorder The Witch Hunter here: Amazon Canada // Amazon US // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // The Book Depository

Find Virginia here: Twitter // Website

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