Naomi Clark shares with us a little behind the scenes on her latest release, BLOOD WITCH.
I think one of the fun and frustrating parts of being a writer is that the idea you start out with is often not the story you end up with (or is that just me?). BLOOD WITCH is a prime example.
This novella started out as a way to keep myself occupied during my Christmas break last year, and turned into a labour of love. It’s also turned out to be a bit of an exquisite corpse, in the sense that it’s a patchwork of ideas and characters from other projects I started and abandoned in the past. Some facts:
1. The opening scene is an adaptation of something I scribbled in a notepad before work one morning. A witch (then called Lilah) was being interviewed by the police. At that point I had no idea why and I never wrote any more. I did steal that opening and turn Lilah into Lola for BLOOD WITCH.
2. The start of chapter two, where Lola visits her ex-girlfriend, Rowan, started life as an urban fantasy parody I was writing to amuse myself. It was supposed to be part of a really OTT cliched UF story, but I ended up taking it too seriously (as I am prone to do) and decided to make it part of BLOOD WITCH.
3. One of the side characters, Caleb, was originally a secondary character in a paranormal romance I was writing a few years back. I got about 20k in before realising I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I liked Caleb and decided to work him in somewhere else.
BLOOD WITCH has come a long way from my initial idea of a short story about a witch falsely accused of murder. That core idea is still a big part of the story, but the world has grown beyond my plans and I now see this as the start of a series instead of a stand-alone mini project. I’m so glad my original plan changed so much because now I get to explore and share a whole new bunch of ideas and characters with you!
Lola Guntram is used to being an outcast. She’s the only blood witch in Fort Rosser, mistrusted by other witches and happier working solo. But when her dark practices make her the prime suspect in a brutal murder investigation, she’s forced to turn to others for help. Not that she has many allies – her ex-girlfriend thinks Lola is the killer, and the local coven leader thinks Lola will corrupt them all if she gets too close.
Help comes in an expected – and alluring – form. Tristesse is a demon on the run, beautiful, enigmatic, and suspiciously keen to assist Lola while she chases down the real killer. How can Lola refuse? With the police breathing down her neck, accusations flying, and inhuman monsters on the streets, Lola needs all the help she can get. The killer is angry, desperate, and determined. But so is Lola Guntram. And she doesn’t care how dark or bloody the magic has to get – she’s going to stop them.
There was probably never a good time to have the police knock on your door, Lola reflected. But three am on a September morning was definitely one of the worst. The fog outside seeped into the house with the stone-faced detectives, and the brisk chill of the night sank into Lola’s bones. She’d only been home a couple of hours; only just stripped off and gone to bed. Now, huddled in her ancient rocking chair by the embers of a dying fire, she didn’t feel as exhausted as she should. She felt like someone had stuck a live wire up her ass.
“I know this can’t be good news,” she addressed the female detective, who introduced herself simply as ‘Hardy.’ “So you’d better just get on with it.”
Hardy, a brunette who did look exhausted, raised an eyebrow. “What makes you so sure it’s not good news, Miss Guntram?”
Lola tried a smile. “Do the cops ever show up after midnight with good news?”
Her partner, Scherer, looked fresher. He sat on the edge of his seat like he might spring up any second, but he smiled back. It wasn’t an entirely happy expression. “You caught us out, Miss Guntram. This isn’t a social call.”
“Then don’t drag it out,” Lola said. His nervous energy was infectious.
They exchanged a knowing look. “Where were you between ten and midnight tonight?” he asked.
The blunt question created a knot of dread in her stomach and she had to swallow hard before she answering. “Working. I was with a client. Why?”
Hardy fixed cold blue eyes on her. It was a searching look, penetrating. If Lola didn’t know better, she’d wonder if the detective was trying to probe her psychically. But both detectives felt like nulls to her sharp senses. “Can you prove that?” she asked.
Irritation mixed with the dread. “Yes, of course. I have a diary in my office and you can call the client – although she probably isn’t going to be any happier to hear from you than I am. What’s this about?”
Scherer couldn’t quite manage Hardy’s gimlet gaze, but his half-smile had disappeared. “What exactly is your job, Miss Guntram?”
Lola shifted in the rocking chair, wishing she could cover herself with the blanket she sat on. But it would make her look vulnerable and she had a distinct feeling that wouldn’t do her any favors. She settled for tightening the belt on her robe and pushing her shoulders back. Three years of childhood ballet lessons had taught her that good posture always created a good impression.
“I’m a spiritual consultant. I help clients with difficult decisions, life choices, with emotional and psychological problems.” That was an edited, socially-acceptable answer. Lola wasn’t about to get into witchcraft and spellcasting. She rubbed her wrists absently, glad her robe had long sleeves that hid the scars on her arms.
Scherer sneered at her answer, making her doubly glad she’d given the short version. “So you’re a New Age guru or something? Separating the gullible from their money?”
“Scherer,” Hardy said, “let’s not get distracted.”
“Yes, I’d love it if we could stay on track,” Lola snapped. “Maybe we can start with you telling me what this is about? It’s late, I’m tired, I have an early start -”
“Why does ‘spiritual consulting’ take place so late at night?” Hardy asked. “That strikes me as odd, Miss Guntram.”
The sound of her own surname was starting to grate on Lola. “It’s a new moon tonight. Very good for certain practices.” Were they ever going to get to the fucking point? She couldn’t think of a single thing she’d done that would bring them to her door, and it felt like she’d never find out at this rate.
“So if we checked with your client, they would confirm you were nowhere near the Red Lotus tonight?” Hardy asked.
Lola blinked. “The Red Lotus? No, of course not. Why would I be there?” The idea was so laughable, she almost forgot her nerves and irritation for a second. The Red Lotus was a pretty exclusive S&M club – members only, sky-high fees, that kind of thing. It was also owned and managed by Lola’s ex-girlfriend. Even if she’d been into the kink that the Red Lotus offered, Lola could never have gone there. It would have been mortifying. She felt herself blushing at the very thought.
“Well, you tell us, Miss Guntram.” Hardy leaned forward again, resting her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands under her chin. The movement put her face in shadow, with the room only lit by a soft peachy lamp, and Lola was struck by the thought that Hardy would be beautiful if she didn’t look so tense and tired. “You see, a woman was found dead there tonight.”
Lola’s heart jumped, then plummeted. “A woman? Not Rowan?” Her voice squeaked and she covered her mouth as if she could recover the sound.
“Ms Morgan is fine,” Scherer said. Lola felt some of her dread drain away.
“She is the reason we’re here, however,” Hardy said. “She seems quite sure you’re responsible for the killing, you see.”
Naomi likes writing, perfume, fancy tea, and unfathomable monsters from the dark spaces between the stars, not necessarily in that order. She has been writing stories ever since she learned how to write, but is still trying to master the art of biography writing. When she’s not dealing with werewolves, demons, or sea monsters, she’s hanging out with her cat and probably watching a documentary about Bigfoot. If the cat isn’t available, she’s with her fiancé watching cookery shows and silently plotting her next book.