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Author Interview with Sara Pascoe (Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For)

Saturday, May 27, 2017
Today, I'm delighted to host author Sara Pascoe on the blog with an interview. I recently read and loved her latest novel Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For.

Welcome to the blog, Sara! Tell us a little about yourself.
I come to writing fiction after a career in psychology. I had a lot of interesting and inspiring experiences from teaching chimpanzees language, to working in the US Congress. I am originally from the US and moved to Great Britain in 2004, where I now live on the south coast where we run a B&B for English Language students.

The main characters travel through space and time in your latest novel. What did you learn in writing Being a Witch?
I learned quite a bit about the history of both England and the Ottoman Empire around the time of the story, the mid-seventeenth century. What I found particularly fascinating was the stark contrast between the two places in the mid-1600s. Things were awful in England at this time. There were food shortages due to long-term weather conditions, the water was so dirty it was safer to drink ale, the average lifespan was 16 years of age, and ordinary folk, both men and women had very few rights.

But in Istanbul (called Constantinople by Europeans) life was amazing. There was hot and cold running water! Proper toilets! There were soup kitchens for the poor, schools for boys and girls, free hospitals for people and animals. It was considered a good deed to feed stray cats :). Women could own businesses, and bring cases to court. I read quite a few (translated) original court documents, and diaries of European women who ran away to Istanbul for a better life. I also read original writings by two of the real-life historic figures in the book, Matthew Hopkins, the notorious witch hunter in England, and Katip Celebi, the celebrated scientist and scholar of the Ottoman Empire. I am happy to send anyone the links and references for any of the research.

It's neat how much you can learn while writing a novel! What life experiences did you draw from in the writing of Being a Witch?
There were two main areas of personal experience that fed into the book.
  1. Foster Kids. I'd worked with foster kids over many years in my role as a psychologist. And I always was, and continue to be, very moved by what this is like. You never have a 'forever' home. You know the grownups can throw you back if you're just that much too much of a pain. And then, at 18--flick--you're out on your own.
  2. Traveling to Turkey. We visited friends in Izmir, where there is now the Katip Calebi University, and in Istanbul. That had been my first time in Turkey, and I adored it. I had been in the middle of writing the book, and decided to bring the story there, so I had a good reason to learn more about this amazing place and the history still gloriously evident.

While reading Being a Witch, I found myself wondering what other kinds of skills witches could learn. If you had a speciality as a witch, what would it be?
To always be patient and in a good mood! My life is just lovely, and I am so lucky in so many ways, but I can easily slip into getting caught up in any of life's ordinary frustrations and setbacks. So, I would give myself the superpower of Constant Greater Perspective!

I understand completely. When life happens and ruins our carefully laid plans, it can be so easy to get frustrated and let it ruin our day. Describe your witch familiar.
Ooo, I don't think I could limit myself to just one. Of course, I'd have a trusty cat familiar who would suss out people who aren't who they seem, or pretend to be. But I also adore rats, and find they are a very under-appreciated species, so I'd have a rat familiar who would ride on my shoulder, and I think they would sense oncoming danger from natural things such as food that's gone bad, storms, earthquakes and the like. And I'd have a goat familiar whose power would be to draw in wonderful friends. It would be a very well-behaved goat who could go on walks, and people would be drawn in to him or her, to say 'hi', as people do with dogs.

I agree. Rats are really intelligent and underappreciated. One of my first pets was a rat, and I loved playing with her. What's your favorite baked good? Do you have a recipe to share?
Wow, another hard choice. My favourite at the moment is a banana cake with cream cheese icing. It's a big hit at gatherings and a good one for making ahead. (You'll see the part about putting it in the freezer right after baking -- this is correct. You can just freeze it from there, then thaw it out and ice it on the day you want it.) I've attached the recipe for all to enjoy. This is my altered version; the original was from another writer, Della Galton.

That sounds delicious. I'm looking forward to trying out your recipe! If you could visit any time period, which would you visit and why?
I may have this wrong, but I think I'd like to go back to the 1920s in the US or Europe. From what I know, this was a time of hope and expansion both culturally and socially, with the Impressionists, some of the early greats of photography, and the start of real, and positive developments for ordinary working people. It was after the horrors of losing millions in World War I, but before the global hardships of the Great Depression. Jazz was coming into it's own, the dancing was great. And they had cool clothes :).

I love jazz music. What are you working on right now?
Sabrina Jones' Blog from the Future (working title) is a science fiction novel aimed at adults. Sabrina, in her late twenties, lives in a entirely self-contained high-rise 'hive' where food is grown on the roof, your TV tells you when your brain chemistry is off, and sex is no longer taken personally. But her life is turned upside down when her boss is found dead, and she accidentally uncovers a government cover-up to hide the President's brain damage. The President's behaviour is putting the whole world in danger, but will anyone believe her?

That sounds like an interesting book. I look forward to checking it out when it's released!

Blog readers, don't forget to scroll down and enter the international giveaway of Being a Witch (and a cool pen to go along with it!).

About Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For

When you’re fourteen and life has been nothing but hurt and disappointment, maybe it’s time to strike out on your own. But after leaving the boring village and foster home for the excitement of London, Raya finds out she’s a witch, with this annoying habit of time-travelling – by accident. And this sarcastic witch’s cat Oscar tags along for the ride. But why would she fling herself into the midst of the Essex Witch Trials in 1645 England? After being arrested by Matthew Hopkins, one of history’s most notorious witch hunters, her social worker and witch mentor Bryony goes back to try to save them from the gallows. But returning to present day London remains out of reach with Raya’s powers still out of control when they find themselves in 1645 Istanbul/Constantinople. There, life is more amazing than she ever dreamed. Can she stay? And at what cost?


Sara Pascoe came to writing fiction after a career in psychology. She's had great fun in a lot of interesting jobs including bicycle mechanics, teaching chimps language, studying brains under the microscope, and working in the US Congress. She also worked as a clinical psychologist, which she found to be rewarding and moving.

After living on in various parts of the United States, she now resides in the United Kingdom, where she runs a B&B with her husband for English Language students in a beach town. Of course, she also writes.

For more information, visit her website. You can also connect with her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.


Thanks to the author, I have the following to give away to a reader of the blog. The giveaway is open internationally!

Being a Witch and a Being a Witch pen

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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