Please welcome Debbie Viguie to the blog today! Debbie is the author of over a dozen novels, including the Crusade and Wicked series with Nancy Holder. Her brand new book, The Thirteenth Sacrifice, just came out in March and is also the start of a series. Debbie was kind enough to write about her world building in The Thirteenth Sacrifice (we’re talkin’ Salem witches and murder), so after you check out the post, snag a copy for yourself!
The Thirteenth Sacrifice is the first book in my new Witch Hunt trilogy. One of the exciting and challenging things about writing a book with magic and witches in it is keeping it fresh and believable. This is actually the third project I’ve done relating to witches and each one of them has had a slightly different take although the research I’ve done in the past was invaluable when working on this series.
When I co-wrote the Wicked series with Nancy Holder we did a lot of research on Wicca so that we could get some of the names of the ritual tools and ceremonies right. We researched the different phases of the moon as relating to Wiccan beliefs. We took all of our research and then created our own spin on magic. After that, I wrote a tie-in novel to the series Charmed. It was called Charmed: Pied Piper. For that series I had to closely follow the rules that they had set up for magic in that universe. That was occasionally very frustrating because I couldn’t just make stuff up if I wrote myself into a corner.
With Witch Hunt I got to do my own take on magic. In the universe of the books, there are people who can do magic. I wanted this to feel very natural and like it could be real. I have them manipulating energy, electricity, magnetism to their own ends. I say that some people have these powers. Some practice earth based religions, some follow other religions, some don’t even believe in anything. In this world, witches do not follow a specific religious path but use their powers to help themselves, usually at the expense of others. The powers are a gift of genetics and what people use them for is a personal choice.
I have been working on getting my Ph.D. in Comparative Religion and as part of that study I’ve been reading major works on different religions. I’ve read Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft and used some of the concepts in there relating to candle and sympathetic magic in The Thirteenth Sacrifice. Again, though, I distinguish what a religious, Wicca practitioner would do with these things from what a witch with supernatural powers would do with these things.
As a conservative Christian it has been interesting for me to study many different religions, looking for common similarities and differences. A sense of the otherworldly, of powers higher than oneself that can be called upon is fairly universal. Even though the majority of the witches in The Thirteenth Sacrifice have no religion whatsoever, they still are aping the trappings of religion. Only instead of calling on a god, goddess, or saint for some kind of aid and intervention, they call upon demonic entities. This does not make them in any way Satanists, because that would still imply a sort of religion, a worship of a specific deity. The vast majority of the witches in the story are far too self-absorbed to allow such a focus. Rather they are aware of these dark entities and seek to harness and use their power for themselves.
Research is a lot of fun and helps inform decisions you make as a writer. For me, I took everything I’d ever read, and then sat for several hours and worked to answer the question. “If I had to invent a magical system and explain how it worked in the real world, how would I do it?” Once I had my answer, I knew I could bring something exciting to the table with Witch Hunt. It should feel familiar to readers but yet it has my own unique twist on it. As an author, that blend of familiar and unique is something that I strive for in all my work.
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