Interview with Ruth Warburton

I’m really excited to welcome the lovely Ruth Warburton, author of the Winter Trilogy.

A Witch in Winter and A Witch in Love are available now, and A Witch Alone will be released early 2013.

You can find my reviews here:
A Witch in Winter
A Witch in Love

Ruth Warburton

Let’s get started!


Do you get excited seeing your books in shops?

Yes! It’s incredible, and I still find it quite surreal, 6 months on from first being published.  But it’s also a bit annoying that I can’t enjoy bookshops in the same way anymore, because the first thing I wonder is if they’ve got my book and if not, why not 🙂

A Witch in Winter had Anna dealing with the Ealdwitan, essentially her own people. In book two it’s the Malleus – witch hunters – what can you tell us about them?

I first stumbled on the idea for the Malleus when I was researching witchcraft history for book one, and my sister lent me her copy of a book called The Malleus Maleficarum, which is a 15th century guide on witchcraft and witch-hunting.

I was fascinated by the psychology of the writers, who were quite clearly batshit crazy, and unashamedly hostile to women. In The Malleus they give detailed instructions on how to detect and try witches, and it’s incredibly disturbing reading.

Witch-hunting came to a height in the centuries following the publication of this book, but then began to die down, and eventually there was a change in the law so that witchcraft itself was no longer illegal – the law only covered claiming to be a witch. Even if you were prosecuted, you were only treated as a con artist. Suddenly the witch-hunters were out in the cold, without a legal leg to stand on. I began to wonder how that would have felt – to have all that power and then have it snatched away. And so I started to imagine a group of people who had carried on the work of the Malleus in secret, right up to the present day.

Did you spend a lot of time researching Witch trials? What did you learn/think?

I did quite a bit of research, mainly by reading The Malleus Maleficarum but also researching real witch trials and practices. I suppose partly it was historical research – although my witches are modern they’re very much rooted in the real history of folklore and witchcraft in the British isles – and partly I guess it was to try to understand the psychology of someone who hated witches so much that they would torture (and perhaps kill) a fellow human being on the strength of that hatred.

I didn’t enjoy reading the Malleus at all, and in fact a lot of what I read didn’t go into A Witch in Love because it made me feel ill, even at a distance of 500 years, and I wasn’t about to inflict that on the reader. I wanted Anna to run up against something that makes her realise that magic is not the strongest force in her universe – in A Witch in Love she encounters both love and hate, and at first she underestimates the power those emotions give to ordinary men and women. I wanted Anna – and the reader – to come face to face with the power of real hate. But I didn’t want to traumatise her beyond all bearing (or the reader).

Yes I looked up some of the things mentioned *shudders* that was plenty for me…

Is it easier plotting a trilogy then a standalone book?

I don’t know. This was always a trilogy in my head – at least from very early on. I didn’t sit down and choose to plot it out that way, I just gradually came to realise that to answer all my questions it was going to take a lot more than 70,000 words. But I didn’t work it all out from the beginning, I knew how it would end, and some of the things Anna would encounter along the way, but only in really broad terms. It wasn’t until I wrote it that I knew what path they’d take to get there.

Any tips for writer’s block?

Some people will disagree with me, but I’d say don’t force it. I’ve written all through my teens and twenties but only when I wanted to – if I wasn’t enjoying it I’d put the pen down, sometimes for months or years at a time (I don’t think I ever went more than 2 years without writing though). I think of my imagination as a bit like a well that sometimes needs a bit of time to refill. A week off here and there isn’t the end of the world – it’s better than struggling joylessly with a blank sheet of paper. Having said that, there’s nothing like having an editor’s deadline looming to concentrate the mind!

What do you think are the differences between UK and US YA?

I don’t know – I guess we only get the creme de la creme of the US market over here, so we probably aren’t getting a full picture. I would love to know what you think are the differences?!

*Luna ponders*
I sometimes feel like we get a lot of the same type of books from the US. I have so many I got through the Book Depository that don’t have a publisher over here and that’s a real pity.
Because of the The British Books ChallengeI’ve read a lot more UK YA books lately, I don’t know if it’s because I understand where the MC’s are coming from better but I’ve found UK stories to be grittier.

Apart from writing what do you love doing?

Cooking and eating (the two go hand in hand I think – I don’t think you can be a good cook if you’re not basically rather greedy). My idea of bliss is a day spent pottering in the kitchen and then a huge spread of a meal with friends in the evening.

What is the best thing about being published?

Getting paid to do something I love (and would be doing anyway, if I’m honest). It’s also given me the feeling that I’m allowed to prioritise my writing. For years I fitted it in after everything else – after work, after dealing with the kids and my family and the housework, and all the other 101 jobs on my to do list. Writing felt basically selfish so it came pretty low down, somewhere above painting my toenails and below hoovering the carpet. Now I feel I’m allowed to put writing a bit higher up on the list. After all, I don’t get paid for hoovering the carpet.

If you could, what would you want to ask all your readers?

Who would you cast as the characters in A Witch in Winter? People are always asking me, and I never know. It would be quite handy to know who my readers see when they imagine the characters.

Ok people, answers in the comments please! 

What can you bribed with to tell us more about book 3?

I accept bribes in the form of cheese. Preferably ripe, melty cheese.
Assuming you have some cheese to offer…

Luna: I work near a specialist cheese shop, how much cheese would you like? 😉

I can tell you that a largish chunk of book 3 is set in Russia and I got to go to St Petersburg for a research trip which was ace. I thoroughly recommend it – and the food was very good. Our host, Andrey, welcomed us with blinis and caviar, served with frozen butter and frozen vodka. It was completely delicious. I wasn’t expecting to like Russian food as much as I did. (Jesus, I’m sounding like a total pig in this interview. I promise, I don’t think about food 24/7)

The Russian witches in book 3 are a bit crazy which is no reflection on the Russian people I met who were pretty incredible.

Also the book is called A Witch Alone. Which might be a clue. Or might not.



Ok, I like this part best.
Are you ready? Set? Go!


Quickfire round:

Last film you saw at the cinema?

Puss in Boots!

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee! And it has to be real (not instant). Sorry.

One thing you couldn’t write without?

My laptop. I used to be able to write longhand but my handwriting has deteriorated so much now that I’m not sure I could read it.

If you could have one of Anna’s powers, which one would it be?

I’d quite like to be able to mind-read with my best friend. It would be very handy and save on texting.

Favourite TV show?

Currently Game of Thrones. But I’m fickle.

Is Marcus going to be important in book 3?

Awesome *awards self points*

Do you read books more than once?
(If yes, name the last one.)

Yes. All the time. I just re-read A London Child of the 1870s which is gorgeous (it’s the memoir of a woman who grew up in Canonbury in London in the 1870s and she sets out to debunk the myth that Victorian children led a stultifying existence. It’s lovely.)

What word describes you best?


Can I start an Emmaline fanclub?

Of course. Can I be secretary? Certainly. We should have badges…

Favourite place?

Home. Wherever that is.


And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?

Would you like cheese on that?


Thank you for much for visiting.  🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.