I’m currently reading A Discovery of Witches (coming out February 8th), and hopefully my review will be out sometime next week. In the meantime, I have something special today: a few words about the book from it’s author Deborah Harkness. Viking has also generously offered a copy of the book to giveaway (US and Canada only), so be sure to scroll down for the details after reading her words.
Why does a history professor decide to write a novel about witches? It’s a good question!
Writing a novel is a mysterious process and many of my life experiences went into A Discovery of Witches. One of my favorite books as a child was Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The history of alchemy and magic caught my interest as an undergraduate, and I’m still fascinated by these subjects today. And, once upon a time, I discovered a lost alchemical manuscript—although it was not (so far as I know) enchanted.
A Discovery of Witches tells the tale of a reluctant witch named Diana Bishop and her discovery of a long-lost alchemical manuscript at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. There, Diana meets Matthew Clairmont: a geneticist who happens to be a very old, secretive vampire. Witches and vampires are traditional enemies, but Diana and Matthew grow closer as they try to puzzle out the manuscript’s significance. Their search for answers takes Diana and Matthew from Oxford, to his ancestral home in France, to her family’s farm in upstate New York. But they are not the only creatures who want to solve the mystery of manuscript, and their fellow daemons, vampires, and witches frown upon their unorthodox relationship. Are these just old prejudices, or is it something more?
Our culture’s renewed obsession with witches, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night has been fascinating to me as a historian. I’ve gone from needing to explain what alchemy is to having my students all nod wisely whenever Nicholas Flamel is mentioned. Parents have confessed that they’ve been staying up late to read their kids’ copy of the latest Harry Potter. Our reading habits reveal that even grownups need a little magic—with the limitless possibility, unpredictability, and even chaos that inevitably comes with it. My goal with A Discovery of Witches was to write a fairy tale that was mesmerizing but spoke to adult issues and concerns. I tried to create characters who were strange—yet strangely familiar. Many of us will recognize ourselves in Diana, who has so much power but is afraid to use it. Others will empathize with Matthew’s inability to let go of his 1500-year past—even though we have less of a past to worry about! And still more will wonder, while riding the train or sitting in a meeting, if that strange creature opposite just might be a daemon or a vampire.
It it’s magic you need this winter, I hope that you find some in A Discovery of Witches.
1. Email janicu[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES GIVEAWAY, and with “please enter me” or something like that, and that should be it.
2. One email per person please.
3. This giveaway is US and Canada only
4. This contest ends one week from now: midnight EST February 1st.
For a second chance to win, along with an excerpt of the book check out this post at Fantasy Book Cafe!