Friday, February 3, 2012

Guest Post Author Mary Sharratt

How/why did you start to write?

I was just out of college and living in Innsbruck, Austria, teaching English at a girls’ boarding school run by Ursuline nuns. It was very Sound of Music: alps, nuns, kids, and me. Alas, it was very quiet in the evenings and I didn’t have a television and I soon ran out of books to read, so I started writing the first draft of my very first novel longhand in a spiral notebook I kept in my sock drawer. Twelve years later, the much edited draft was published as my first book, Summit Avenue, in 2000.

How did you become an author?

I fell in love with writing and I couldn’t stop. It took over my life. I’m not happy unless I’m writing. If you do something long enough, with enough passion and commitment, you will reach your breakthrough. It was a long hard road to publication but I’ve never looked back.

What was your first published piece?

I wrote short stories for the feminist journal Hurricane Alice, which has sadly ceased publication. Lots of my early fiction was published in these “little magazines” that flourished before the internet took over everything.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I taught English as a foreign language in Austria and later in Germany, in the Munich area. I worked very odd hours, teaching at firms like Agfa and Siemens very early in the morning and then teaching evening classes at the local adult education facilities, so I had this huge gap in between when I could write and dream. Living in a foreign country helped, too. As an expat, everything was always new and strange and it made me very mindful about all aspects of life and human behavior.

What inspires you?

Social history, how ordinary people lived in the past, how they related with the landscape they lived in, what mark they left behind. A lot of historical fiction centers on lords and ladies, kings and queens, but I want to write a more inclusive historical fiction, about common people and their lives and yearnings.

In writing Daughters of the Witching Hill, about the Pendle Witches of 1612, I wanted to take these maligned women who suffered and died on account of other people’s ignorance, turn the tables around, and allow them to tell their own story. I wanted to give these historical cunning women and healers what their own world denied them—their own voice.

I truly believe in story-telling and historical fiction as a conduit for ancestral memory.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

Blog tours have been successful. I also love going on old fashioned book tours and meeting people live and in person in real brick-and-mortar indy bookstores. I love going out and meeting my readers face to face. Visiting book clubs in person is really fun, much more intimate and interactive than the average reading. You get to hear what readers *really* think and if they get behind your book, it’s the best advertising you can get.

Parting words

If you want to have a career as a published writer, never give up. The only failed writer is the one who stops writing! Love what you do. The process of writing is everything and no one can take that away from you.

Mary Sharratt is an American writer living in the Pendle region of Lancashire, Northern England. Her acclaimed novel of the Pendle Witches, Daughters of the Witching Hill, is now out in paperback. Illuminations, her new novel exploring the life of visionary abbess and polymath, Hildegard von Bingen, will be released in 2012. Visit Mary’s website: and don’t miss her six minute video docudrama on the Pendle Witches, shot live on location around Pendle Hill. 

Link to six minute video docudrama about the Pendle Witches, shot live on location around Pendle Hill:

Book description:

“What an original voice Mary Sharratt has. She brings a haunting, ancient story — part of the local legend and history of where she lives — into life with vivid characters and a gripping plot. Old, lost, long-ago ways are made real.”
—Karleen Koen, author of Through a Glass Darkly and Before Versailles

Daughters of the Witching Hill brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt.
Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow living in Pendle Forest, is haunted by visions and gains a reputation as a cunning woman. Drawing on the Catholic folk magic of her youth, Bess heals the sick and foretells the future. As she ages, she instructs her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft, as well as her best friend, who ultimately turns to dark magic. When a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate, eager to make his name as a witch finder, plays neighbors and family members against one another until suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights.
Sharratt interweaves well-researched historical details of the 1612 Pendle witch-hunt with a beautifully imagined story of strong women, family, and betrayal. Daughters of the Witching Hill is a powerful novel of intrigue and revelation.