Award-winning author Louise Marley has long been one of my favorite writers. From the chillingly prescient The Terrorists of Irustan to the deeply touching The Glass Harmonica, to the YA “Horsemistress” series (as Toby Bishop), to the music-themed Mozart’s Blood and The Brahms Deception, the scope and insightfulness of her writing mark her as a major voice in fantasy and science fiction. Her newest novel, The Great Witch of Brittany, will be released in February 2022.
Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be a writer?
Louise Marley: Like so many of us, I was an avid reader as a child, and it followed logically—since I am by nature a performer—that I wanted to write stories myself. My musical ambitions dominated the first part of my life, but I always meant to return to writing. It has been amazing to learn how much the two careers have in common.
DJR: What inspired your book?
LM: There is no one factor that inspires any of my novels, but the witch novels definitely had their origins in my fascination with witchcraft and the practice of it. I had fallen into the habit of writing historicals, and so the historical settings for A Secret History of Witches and now its prequel, The Great Witch of Brittany, came naturally.
DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing? What about them do you find inspiring?
LM: I love many writers, from the Western authors I read as a girl to the Golden Age gothic mysteries to the great feminist science fiction writers of the latter half of the 20th century. I’m often inspired by the most recent really good novel I’ve read, and I find that enriches my own imagination. I’m not tempted to copy, fortunately, but I learn and absorb from some of the amazing prose and incredible plots I find. Thrillers have been my most recent indulgence, and wow! do those writers know how to plot!
DJR: Why do you write what you do, and how does your work differ from others in your genre?
LM: I’m extremely lucky to be in a place where I can write what I want to write. My last four books have featured witches and witchcraft, and I do hope they have my own particular stamp on them, which is working witches—women who have to study and practice and explore to make their magic work. I’ve found that the witch genre has many facets, and lots of excellent writers are working in it, with results that vary from terrifying to downright funny.
DJR: How does your writing process work?
LM: I’m very active physically, by necessity. High metabolism, I suppose. I need to move and exercise, especially in the mornings, so in the past few years I’ve developed the habit of practicing yoga and walking the dog in the morning, along with any chores that need doing. 1:00 p.m., I sit down to write, and that’s pretty much my day until 5:00, when I almost always close my computer, with confidence that I will return the next day. (Yes, I write every day. Almost compulsively.) This is one area in which my musical life and my writing life are parallel, because as a singer 1:00 was the ideal time to vocalize and study whatever music was coming up.
DJR: What have you written recently? What lies ahead?
LM: I’ve been both busy and lucky since 2017, when A Secret History of Witches was published by Orbit/Redhook. That book did very well, and gave me the freedom to do a quite different novel, The Witch’s Kind, which is hardly witchy at all, but a solid historical. The Age of Witches came next, a book that is very witchy indeed, and now, happily, The Great Witch of Brittany comes out next month. That book, I’m pleased to say, was inspired by the readers of Secret History, who asked to know the story of the Orchière witches’ ancestress, the great Ursule. It was an absolute joy to get to discover her story.
DJR: What’s the strangest or most touching fan mail you’ve ever received?
LM: One I will always remember came after my novel The Glass Harmonica was published. The medical condition at the heart of the story was one the writer told me her husband suffered from, and she asked if I had any non-fictional information about the treatment used in the novel. Sadly, I did not. I’ve always wondered about her and her husband, and hoped they found help.
DJR: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
LM: Write. That’s the big one. An hour a day might produce a page or two, and at the end of a year, there’s a draft.
I have lots of other advice, but so much of it is specific to the writer and the project they’re working on. I’m a big believer in classes and conferences and workshops, all of which I’ve taught, and all of which I’ve taken myself. I’m a big avoider of anything advertised as a “method,” an aversion I developed as a professional singer. Every writer needs to find her own process! Also, take critiques with a grain of salt. Use what works, and say thanks for the rest, but let it go.
Louise Marley is an award-winning writer of fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. Much of her work is influenced by her first career as a classical singer, most recently her novel, Mozart’s Blood. Writing as Louisa Morgan, she is the author of A Secret History of Witches, The Witch’s Kind, and the newest book, The Age of Witches. Louise lives in beautiful North Idaho with her family and her spirit familiar, Oscar the Border Terrier. Visit her at www.louisemarley.com.