When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Instead, guilt and fear led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona invoked the privileges of a witch; she cursed them. But such a spell always comes with a terrible price, and in punishing the island’s residents, Rona also bound her family ever tighter to them.
Fast-forward to the present day and all Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. And she has reason to hope that she may have escaped the thorny side-effects of the family matriach’s curse. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother – seems capable of performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.
A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.
Interview with Leslye Walton
Why did you want to write THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT?
It started as a preoccupation with witches. Honestly, I just wanted to write about witchcraft. I also wanted to write about a witch that questions her powers, even tries to run away from them. Then I took a trip to the San Juan Islands off the Washington coastline, and was mesmerized by it’s natural magic. You can see bioluminescence and the Aurora Borealis all in one place. If witches are real, they’d do well living in the San Juans.
What is it you hope readers take away from your books?
Some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read deal with issues of grief and pain. I hope these little books of mine will help someone struggling be it from trauma or loss or mental illness. I hope my characters make someone feel less alone, or more alive. I hope they give someone strength. I hope it helps them see there is beauty in sorrow, and more than that, there is life beyond that sorrow as well.
Do you have any interesting research tidbits you can share from when you were writing THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT?
I learned a lot about old wives tales surrounding witchcraft while writing PRICE GUIDE. For example, stones with a naturally occurring hole through the center are called hag stones, and are said to have a lot of magical qualities about them. One of those is protection against evil spells.
Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
Before I was a writer, I wanted to sing professionally. My career aspirations have always been realistic and attainable.
Any advice on how to brighten your day?
Puppies. Even looking at pictures of puppies can turn around a bad day.
Tea or coffee?
Finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
One reason I typically write characters that are struggling with mental health issues is because depression is something that I struggle with everyday. I guess I wish people would be willing to talk about mental illness more openly. I think we’re headed in the direction, but we still have a long way to go.
Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps because of this, Leslye has developed a strange kinship with the daffodil–she too can only achieve beauty after a long, cold sulk in the rain. She was named a William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist for the publication of her novel The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. The book received several accolades, including the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Pacific Northwest Book Award, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award, and was short-listed for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. The book was also number one on the Spring 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List, and was named one of the best books of 2014 by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Boston Globe, Bustle, Hudson Booksellers, Amazon, and more.
Leslye is a full-time writer currently living in Seattle, Washington with her chihuahuas, Mr. Darcy and Doc Holliday.