I’m extremely pleased to welcome popular children’s author, Lynne North today to talk about her book, Caution: Witch in Progress. Released at the beginning of the year, it chronicles Gertie’s tale of acceptance as she leaves Vile Vale to attend a private school and learn her new witchy powers. With Harry Potter infamous the world over, I was eager to find out what this book could add to the supernatural genre. Here is the blurb:
Gertie Grimthorpe is born into a society of witches and grows up in Vile Vale, but there is something very wrong with her… she is beautiful and couldn’t be nasty if she tried. When she finds out that she is to attend a private academy for magical children, Gertie hopes to find her witchy way in the world.
With a moat monster suffering from stomach ache, a short-sighted owl familiar and mishaps galore, Gertie’s adventures are hilarious and heartwarming.
Join Gertie as she struggles with growing up (and longing to grow her first wart), learning magic and working out how to deal with a grumpy enchanted umbrella, named Bat.
Lynne North is a children’s author who lives in the north west of England and works as a data analyst for one of the local Health Authorities. She has been a prolific reader all her life, and for many years, spent most of her free time writing. As well as being educated up to degree level, Lynne has completed courses and received diplomas from ‘The Writing School Ltd’ and ‘The Academy of Children’s Writers’.
Her aim in life has always been to write having completed two children’s novels, ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’ and ‘Zac’s Destiny.’ ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’ was published by Ghostly Publishing in 2013 and launched at Earl’s Court Book Fair. It is available in paperback and on kindle on Amazon worldwide.
- Your debut novel, Caution: Witch in Progress, sounds extremely original, with Gertie being a ‘beautiful’ witch, desperate to grow her first wart! Tell us a little about the book.
That’s kind of you to say, Dan, but I do agree, ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’ is very different, and never quite what you expect.
Gertie Grimthorpe, my main character, comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately, she hasn’t really got the hang of it. Being blonde-haired, blue-eyed and free of warts isn’t much of an advantage. Try as she might, Gertie’s spells fall flat. She manages to give her bat-headed umbrella the ability to talk, but then wishes she hadn’t when all he does is complain and insult people. Even finding an owl to be her Familiar doesn’t help. Then again, he is extremely shortsighted…
Gertie is sent to The Academy to improve her spell casting skills and soon has a best friend in the form of Bertha Bobbit, a big girl, with a matching appetite.
Add to that a Moat Monster with a flatulence problem, the weirdest array of witch’s Familiars possible, and a warlock determined to ruin Gertie’s chances of success, and the story unfolds.
Not to mention the demon…
- In a world where Harry Potter pretty much dominates the ‘wizard and witch’ market, how does this story stand out from the norm?
Believe it or not, ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’ was first written long before any of the Harry Potter books. The idea was formed many years ago, and a lot of rewrites later was published by Ghostly Publishing this year. Quite an appropriate year for a witchy book to be published, 2013! I’m sure it was meant to be.
Gertie is a humorous fantasy with very different characters to grab the attention. You won’t find too serious lessons or mighty powers in ‘Caution’. This book is a funny romp through Gertie’s life, building on the fact that Gertie doesn’t look at all like a witch, and seriously struggles to behave like one too. She wants to learn how to be a witch like her family expect her to be, but without losing herself in the process. I believe she manages this admirably. A far cry from Harry Potter, this is a humorous book that looks at growing up from a very different angle. We do see some funny witches, weird and wonderful characters, and lots of spells too, of course!
- I’ve read that this story is about Gertie’s trying to find an identity amongst a group label. Was it important to have a central theme such as this, and what other themes do you think stand out?
Yes, I know which review you mean. Somehow, I didn’t set out with that as a particular aim, though I can see where the reviewer gets the idea. It’s strange really, but everyone who reads a book will view it from a different angle. The idea for my book was based on humour involving a pretty young witch who seems to have been born into the wrong family and village. If I had to pick a theme as an afterthought I think it would have to be that we are all individuals in our own right, and we have to find ourselves along the path’s our lives take. The world is made up of very different people, the ‘real’ world and Gertie’s witchy world. Gertie discovers a lot about other people, good and bad, and indeed about herself as the book progresses. All this is achieved in a humorous way that doesn’t appear to be covering serious values at all! ‘Caution’ aims to amuse, maintain interest, and keep the reader moving from page to page. I have been told that is what it does!
- Does Gertie have any friends? Tell us a little about some of the more noticeable characters in Caution: Witch in Progress.
Gertie’s gran is one of my favourite characters. She is cantankerous, irritable, quick to anger, but has a heart of gold (which she tries to keep well hidden). Gran loves Gertie very much, and Gertie is probably the only one who gets away with anything when Granny is around!
Bertha Bobbit is a friend that Gertie meets at The Academy. Bertha is different from the other witches and warlocks too, which draws Gertie and Bertha together. Bertha is more ‘witchy’ than Gertie, but she is also overweight, greedy, and very clumsy and lazy. Bertha gave me a lot of scope for humour!
I will spill the beans on just one more character, Bat, the animated umbrella…Yes. I did say umbrella. Gerties tries her first animation spell on her bat-headed umbrella, only to find that Bat hates rain, getting wet, being left alone, dark wardrobes, and just about everything else, come to think of it. Bat is a very funny character who has to learn to get on with people much better as the book progresses.
- What was it like writing a book for children? Did you find yourself refrained to stick within the boundaries of what is acceptable for younger readers?
I find that the genre I write best is children’s books. I might struggle to write for the very young, but I think I have found my niche in the approx 8 to 13 years age range. In all honesty, I don’t find myself restricted in any way writing for this age range. I don’t think I ever quite left my first childhood, so I find it easy to remember what I liked to read at that age. I genuinely don’t enjoy writing much about adult themes. I love fantasy, humour, colourful places and characters, things that won’t upset or frighten children any more than they do me! Children’s books are what I love to write, and they are the books that take up most of my time as a writer.
- How did the idea for this book come about? Were you influenced by other stories, or did Gertie come from some other thought?
I’m not entirely sure where Gertie sprang from. I was looking for a subject that leant itself well to humour, and the idea of a witch who not only can’t get it right, but doesn’t look the part, sort of leapt into my mind. I think Gertie wanted her story to be told! Once the idea began to develop, the different scenes and settings came along naturally. It wasn’t long before Gertie took over the tale entirely, because I soon got to know what she definitely would or wouldn’t do. Gertie is a great, very likeable character, and I was quite sorry when I finished writing about her!
- Is this the start of a potential series, or is this a standalone novel?
‘Caution’ is a standalone novel. I have since written a Sword and Sorcery fantasy due to be published by Ghostly Publishing during next year, and I am in the final draft of a completely different humorous fantasy. Neither of these books have any connection to Gertie. That isn’t to say I won’t return to Vile Vale one day. I think Gertie’s life gives a lot of scope for another potential book about her…
- If you could be a witch for a day, what would you get up to with your witchy powers?
Oh, now wouldn’t that be something! I’m not sure I would be quite as kind a witch as Gertie! Haha. I don’t mean that really, but don’t you think that some people deserve to be given a wart or two? What I would love is to be able to be invisible for a day. Wouldn’t it be great to see and hear what other people are saying about you? Hmm…or would it…? I might have to rethink that one.
- What was your last read?
Terry Pratchett’s ‘Snuff’. My favourite author of all time is Terry Pratchett. Terry can make humour out of almost anything, and he does it so well. If I could meet any author of my choice it would be him. I so hope he can manage to keep his alzheimer’s at arm’s length, he has such a wonderful imagination. If I could offer a cure for that during my day as a witch, I would jump at the chance.
- Do you have any writing superstitions? Perhaps you have to always wear a pair of slippers to click your brain over into writing mode, or maybe you have to always start with a coffee in your favourite mug?
I don’t have any superstitions when in writing mode, but I do when in Book Signing mode. I have a Pandora bracelet that I am currently building up to represent my current life as a writer. For example, I have a ‘ghost’ charm for Ghostly Publishing, a witch for Gertie, a set of books for myself as an author, are you getting the picture? My next charm will be a treasure chest to represent my next book, ‘Zac’s Destiny’, and so it goes. If I went along to a book signing or any such event and forgot to wear my bracelet I would be mortified! I think I would have to turn around and go home for it. It is my lucky talisman, and always represents me in author mode.
- If Gertie was up against Voldermort, how would she topple him?
With courage, naive belief in herself, common sense, innocent cunning, and just a bit of magic thrown in somewhere along the way…I’m sure Granny would come wading in with spells blazing too! Nothing would be allowed to happen to her Gertie!
Thank you for the thought-provoking questions, Dan. I enjoyed answering questions that were so tailor-made for my book. You provide great interviews!
I think this was a fantastic interview with Lynne. I love her responses, being so witty and funny! It really does create a great impression for the book. I’m so eager now to get stuck into this fun sounding adventure, especially to find out more about Bat, the talking umbrella!
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