My guest today is Nova Scotia author Laura Best. Her latest novel, A Sure Cure for Witchcraft, was published by Nimbus Publishing Limited in August of 2021.
1. In a few sentences, tell us what A Sure Cure for Witchcraft is about.
It’s the story of two soul friends who become separated through time and their journey back to one another in present day. It is the story of hope and healing and a world filled with superstitions.
2. Every novel written involves a little research by the author. However, while reading A Sure Cure for Witchcraft, I was constantly thinking of the amount of research that must have gone into this story. While some authors might try to make up a lot with regard to the plants and their medicinal properties because most readers won’t know the difference between mugwort and feverfew, there are other readers like me who do know and who will search their herb books to see how accurate the information is, and, in some cases, add the herb to our garden for the sole purpose of using it medicinally.
Having studied herbs and medicinal remedies for some time, I have to ask: How much research did you do on plants and their medicinal properties for the book? Was it just enough for the story? Or did you get lost for hours discovering the wonderful things a plant can do?
I’ve always been interested in healing plants. I wrote about them in my first novel Bitter, Sweet. I grew up learning a bit about herbs and plants from my father who would sometimes steep gold thread and juniper berries for my mother’s stomach ailments. I remember being absolutely fascinated by his ability to find gold thread beneath the ground. I also grow a few herbs in my garden. I have gone on medicine walks several times in the past, so some of what I learned there also made it into the book. (The importance of giving thanks when something is harvested from nature for instance.)
So, I had a little knowledge and a whole lot of interest going into this. But there are so many herbs and plants used in healing and for a variety of ailments, it would be impossible to retain all the information. I have a few herb books in my collection that I sometimes turn to.
I can’t honestly say I became lost for hours in the wonderful world of plants, simply because I didn’t have the time in my day to study it at a great length and because the book took so long to write. There is just SO much information out there. I also discovered so many other fascinating bits of information about plants along the way, such as some of the superstitions surrounding plants of all kinds. It was fun to put them in the book. Superstitions fascinate me.
My interest in plants and herbs will continue to be a work in progress. Just the other week, I discovered coltsfoot growing not far from my home. It was quite exciting because, of all the time I’ve spent outdoors in the spring, I had never come across it before.
3. There are several elements woven into this story. We have the history of the witch hunts, the history of German Protestants leaving the area of what we now know as Germany to settle in the New World, the practices of healing women (also known as Wise Women), and the exploration of plants and medicinal herbs. What inspired you to write a story with all these elements instead of focussing only one or two?
I actually look at the history of the witch hunts, the exploration of plants and herbs, and the practises of healers as all intertwined. Whenever I imagine the witch hunts, I imagine in my mind that many of the women who were accused of witchcraft years ago were actually healers and wise women, who had knowledge of herbs, so including all these elements simply felt right. I am simply fascinated in the belief people had in witchcraft and how this belief was passed down through the centuries, long after the witch trials were over. My own grandmother believed that certain individuals were witches, as did others of her generation. As many know, the people of Lunenburg Country were well-known for their belief in superstitions.
My ancestors on my grandfather’s side were German-speaking Protestants who came to Nova Scotia during the 1750s. So, I wanted the book to honour them. Interestingly, I also discovered that the ancestors on my grandmother’s side were French speaking Protestants and also a part of the influx of Foreign Protestants who came to Nova Scotia. I have roots firmly planted in that history as do many of us here in Nova Scotia who can trace back our family trees.
4. After finishing the book, I was left wondering about Lilly and Alice in 2019. Does their story end there? In other words, will there be another book to share their journey?
Right now, it doesn’t feel as though their story will continue, but the stories I write never cease to surprise me. What I can say is there isn’t another book planned but who knows what the future holds.
5. I’ve read several of your books, and A Sure Cure for Witchcraft is my favourite. It feels different. Solid. From the hand of a much more experienced writer. While I haven’t read all your books (I think I’ve missed only one), personally, I think this is your best book yet.
When you were writing it, did it feel different for you? Were you able to approach it with more confidence than your previous books?
Did this book feel different as I was writing it? I’d have to say, not really. It’s difficult for an author to judge their own writing, or at least it is for me. My main objective is to tell the story and all stories present themselves differently.
I actually began the book before my first novel was published and it took many, many drafts over the years to get it to where I was truly happy with it. It was one of those projects I refused to give up on because I wanted to tell this particular story.
I do want to say that all writers evolve. As we continue to work at our craft our writing becomes stronger. Evolution is a part of life, whether it be as human beings, or writers, artists, you name it.
6. What are you currently working on, and is there already a book scheduled for publication? If so, what is it called and when will it be released?
I’ve recently finished a young adult novel and am submitting it to potential publishers and I’ve been working a bit on another middle grade novel that I wrote a few chapters for about three years ago. I’m anxious to get back to it. But I tend to jump around when I’m writing until I finally settle down into one book. I’m not sure why that is, but it seems to be a pattern that has developed over time. I’ve also a middle grade novel, This is it, Lark Harnish, scheduled for publication in early November.
6. Where can readers buy A Sure Cure for Witchcraft?
The book is available at independent bookstores. (If they don’t have it in, I’m sure it can be ordered.)
7. Where can readers connect with you online?
This has been fun! Thanks, Diane, for your interest and for interviewing me about my book. Your support of writers is so appreciated.
TOMORROW: My review of A Sure Cure for Witchcraft will appear.