I’m happy to have Zoe Brooks here today and her book Love of Shadows. Not only does the books sound good, but she may have one of the cutest writing companions I’ve ever seen. Check it out under the Author Bio.
Zoe will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Zoe will first tell us the inspiration for the book, which is a remarkable post in itself, and then we will read about Love of Shadows.
Take it away, Zoe!
When I was a little girl, my mum used to buy me a kid’s comic called Bimbo (yes it really was called that!). I could hardly wait for it to arrive and then I would turn to my favourite bit – The Further Adventures of Snow White. I would read the story and then run up and down the entrance hall imagining the next instalment. And you know what – my version was always more exciting than the magazines. Snow White was too much of a straight-laced drip in the comic. My version was much more adventurous.
My reading of Bimbo stopped but my favourite character stayed with me as the heroine of my daydreams. She came in all sorts of guises and her trials and tribulations evolved as I matured. I both used her as a means to understand and explore the people I met and myself. I still do.
I like to write about women who survive and overcome adversity. Up until a few years ago I worked with some of the most disadvantaged people in our society, including the homeless, refugees, people with mental health problems, and abused women. I was privileged to get to know some remarkable women and hear their stories, which were awful, unimaginable in some ways, and inspiring. But it was hard work emotionally. I remember very clearly standing in the office of a helpline for South Asian women as the helpworker spoke to a woman on the telephone: “Your husband held a knife to your neck…” How did I process this? Of course I worked it out through my stories. After twenty years even that was no longer enough, I wanted to help, but to protect myself I had to walk away. Only I didn’t completely, I decided I would write novels. At first I thought I would write children’s books, something not too emotionally demanding. But that woman, the one I had been daydreaming about all those years, insisted on demanding my attention.
Judith is a loveable but frustrating at times, definitely flawed but one can see where the flaws come from. She merited more than one book, so I set about writing a trilogy about her and her Shadow Sarah. Shadows are almost human, very rational but do not have emotions like humans. Each book is designed so it can be read on its own. In book one, Girl in the Glass, she escapes from the home of her abusive aunt and the prospect of a forced marriage and comes to the city with Sarah. There they are homeless and living on the margins of society. By the time Love of Shadows opens Judith has created a new life for herself and a new identity. She has a job making and selling perfumes, but Elma her employer and mentor has just died of cancer. Judith is devastated by grief and facing accusations that she made medicine for Elma.
I try to create a very realistic fantasy world. I am helped in this by the fact that I studied history at university and I pick up themes from the past. In the case of Judith I used the story of the persecution of women healers during the 14th – 17th centuries. Prior to that, traditional herbal medicine had been the only form of medicine there was, some of it was bunkum but much was based on centuries of experience and we now know that many herbs used really did have medicinal powers. But at the time with the rise of the university trained male doctors, the women healers came under attack from the powers that be and the church. It is impossible now to put a figure on the number of “witches” who were killed for trying to heal people. Horrifyingly anti-healer propaganda actually stated that good witches were more dangerous than bad – it became enough for a woman simply to have cured someone to be condemned. Inspired, I took this theme and developed it in my fantasy world, which is set in a period closer to our own, possibly late nineteenth century, although no time period is specified in the book. Judith’s mother had been a healer, and Judith feels the calling, but what will she risk to help people? Following one’s destiny is a major theme in the book.
The book is also a love story. In Girl in the Glass Judith, like so many girls who have been told that they are worthless, has had some disastrous relationships with abusive men. These relationships have left Judith wary of making emotional commitments, even though she desperately needs to be held and loved. In Love of Shadows I set myself the task of exploring what might make Judith lower the barriers enough to fall in love again and how she might react. What sort of man could persuade her that she is worth loving. Enter Bruno, stage left.
“I had always felt most alive, when I was healing. Without healing I was a tin top spinning out of kilter soon to catch the ground. It took all my energy to hold myself from skidding into chaos.”
But in the city of Pharsis traditional women healers are banned from practising and the penalty for breaking the law is death by hanging. After being arrested and interrogated twice Judith is careful to avoid suspicion, but then scarlet fever breaks over the city like a poisonous wave, leaving in its wake the small corpses of children. What will the young healer do?
Love of Shadows is the second novel in The Healer’s Shadow trilogy, which began with Girl in the Glass, and follows the lives of Judith and her Shadow, Sarah. It is a study in grief, love and defiance.
“Your second accuser, as I’m sure you will have worked out, was your mistress’ nephew. He claimed that you murdered her deliberately to get her money. A simple case of murder in the eyes of law, no fudge there.
“Both your accusers are men who if they found someone dying in the street would not stop to help, or rather they would – they would help themselves to whatever was in the dying man’s pocket. No, I don’t like either of them, but that doesn’t make their accusations wrong.”
He sifted through the folder and produced Elma’s legal will and her real one – the letter to me. There were nicotine stains on his fingers as they unfolded the fine notepaper my mistress always used for special letters. Holding it in one hand and the cigarette in the other, he read in silence. I had planned to keep the letter forever to remind me of her, lest I forget some day that that fine singular old woman had loved me. I knew that was in part why she had written it, knowing how much I doubted myself and others. I treasured it more than any money Elma could have given me and here it was an object of little interest in a police file, to be stowed in some drawer perhaps or worse waved in court as evidence to condemn. That young interrogator was nothing compared to this man, the Rottweiler knew how to worm under the skin without stunts or threats.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Zoe Brooks is a British writer and poet, who spends half her life in a partly restored old farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where she writes all her novels and poetry. She aims to write popular books, which have complex characters and themes that get under the reader’s skin.
Zoe was a successful published poet in her teens and twenties, (featuring in the Grandchildren of Albion anthology). Girl In The Glass – the first novel in a trilogy about the woman and healer Anya was published on Amazon in March 2012, followed by Mother of Wolves and Love of Shadows. In May 2012 she published her long poem for voices Fool’s Paradise as an ebook on Amazon.
Social Media Links
Amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0034P3TDS
Remember the more you comment, the better your chances are to win the gift certificate, so you can see the other tour dates HERE