The legends about witches and witchcraft always intrigue me, so it's a real treat to be able to talk with Camilla Chafer about her new urban fantasy, Illicit Magic. CONTEST ALERT! See bottom of post for how to win a copy of her book.
In your book Illicit Magic, why, after three hundred years, have witch hunts begun again?
Many people know the history of the Salem witch hunts of 1692 – and the lesser known English Pendle witches of 1612 – and my original idea for the story was what if the witch hunts were real and what if witches and magic really existed. However, I wanted it to be a contemporary story, set in a world as we know it, hence those three hundred years of quiet and regrouping.
How can the witch council in New York protect your heroine, Stella, from attack by the Brotherhood in London?
Witches have been largely driven out of England thanks to the Brotherhood’s attacks. The Council claim that Stella is the only witch they could save, and that it was necessary to take her to their home base in order to protect her. Whether or not they’re lying is something Stella has to find out.
Did the New York council place her in the safe house by the sea? Why were the other residents in the safe house there?
The Council’s home was attacked, meaning they needed to send Stella elsewhere. With a small safe house already in operation, it was decided that Stella would be sent there for her safety and protection and so she could learn her craft. The other residents are a disparate sort, novice witches who need training to control their burgeoning powers, their teachers, and the elderly housekeeper. Is everything what it seems? Perhaps not.
Stella is sent to the safe house to learn her craft. If she is only a novice, how is she a threat in the eyes of the witch hunters and also someone the powerful witch council is willing to protect?
That’s something Stella ponders too. Indeed, why does the Council want to protect her? And is her connection to the Brotherhood as simple as witch and hunters? You’ll have to read to find out!
By Camilla Chafer
More than three hundred years after the most terrifying witch hunts the world has ever known, it's happening again.
Racing from attack by the ruthless Brotherhood in London to the powerful witch council in New York, twenty-four-year-old novice witch Stella has to put her faith in strangers just to stay alive but she might not be any safer in their midst than from the danger she is running from.
Sent to an extraordinary safe house by the sea to learn her craft, Stella finds there is more than one dark secret in her new family: Étoile’s sister is spoken of in fear and sadness; Marc is supposed to be a powerful witch but is missing his magic; where does the owner of their safe house vanish to every day and why does Evan have the eyes of someone not quite human?
There is only one secret that someone will do anything to keep quiet, but whose secret is it and will Stella have to pay the price for silence?
Amazon UK Top 10 contemporary fantasy bestseller
Amazon US Top 45 fantasy bestseller
Amazon US Top 45 fantasy bestseller
Amazon US Top 50 contemporary fantasy bestseller
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/mzGZrI
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/iFNS1c
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/iFNS1c
Illicit Magic Excerpt 1 (from Chapter One)
NB: British English
NB: British English
Sharp, murmured voices passed me on the wind. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but there was the sound of confusion and dissent; then a barked order calmed them. I caught the sole word “silence” from a low voice as it hissed past me. The footsteps shuffled and stamped again but no one uttered a word. It was like they were all listening for me. I felt like a fox, terrified and cornered, knowing that the beagles were just behind me, waiting to catch my scent.
Above me I could just see the first quarter of the moon breaking in the sky, casting a dim glow over the city. My jacket was a dark padded cord, good for blending in with both the hedge and low light. My breath was catching like little puffs of cloud in the air so I pulled up my cheap, striped scarf and covered my mouth to keep the plumes from straying to where they could be seen.
Without moving the rest of my body, I strained my head towards my pursuers, the scarf tightening about my neck until I tugged it loose again. I tried to count how many footsteps I could hear as they shuffled, fanned out and regrouped.
With only my pounding heartbeat for company I waited for what seemed like eternity. I tried to count Mississippi’s to gauge the time but my mind stumbled over the count and I threw the thought away. I waited for seconds, minutes, hours for them to rush past me, or at least turn and stamp a different way, hoping miserably that they really hadn’t seen me dart into this street.
Finally I couldn’t hear a thing but the blood rushing in my ears. Had I made it up? Was I really paranoid enough to think someone would bother following me? Probably. Possibly. It wasn’t the first time I’d been extra cautious, but it was the first time since the news has been full of murder. I shivered and tried to shake away the icy fear.
Edging my way across the privet, the leather of my long boots brushing against each other as I sidestepped, my toes scuffed against the scrub of garden. Fronds of hedge needled my back through my winter coat as I brushed by and fresh drops of dew slid uncomfortably past my scarf and inside my collar.
With my mouth set in a firm, grim line, clamped so tightly shut I was close to grinding my teeth, I poked my head forward, mere millimetres from the hedge but enough to see a gloved hand shoot towards me and grab my coat, the fingers clawing at my shoulder to snatch a handful of material and drag me into the open. A gasp escaped me. How had they gotten so close without me realising? Another hand, yellowed at the fingertips and reeking of tobacco, reached for my neck.
A gruff male voice snarled, “Gotcha!”
I shrieked and my whole body went rigid as I closed my eyes tightly. The air went thick and heavy around me, the cold momentarily disappeared and the blood in my veins surged as electricity crackled through my body. For the merest second all the low light and dull sounds of the city disappeared as the power rushing through me overwhelmed and took possession of me.
With the hand at my neck and the fear pumping alongside the electricity, I thought I would die in this moment, but when I opened my eyes again I was on the other side of the street, looking at my attacker grasping at the air where a second ago my neck had been. I saw his fist punch savagely through the air where my jaw should have been. If I had still been there, he would have smashed it for sure.
I felt dizzy and willed myself not to faint. The last of the shriek ebbed in my throat as I realised that I had barely focused on the task but had ended up exactly where I thought I should be when I’d glimpsed that section of empty street. Perhaps my strange gift (I never could decide what I should call it) only worked properly when I was terrified. Moving through space wasn’t something I had even been able to control before. And right now, I wasn’t afraid to admit that I was absolutely, gut-wrenchingly, terrified.
Illicit Magic Excerpt 2 (Chapter 5 – 672 words)
NB: British English
The man filling the doorway was at least six foot two with broad shoulders that tapered to a neat waist and long, jeaned legs. Toned arms extended from under a grey t-shirt and his hands didn’t look like strangers to work. As my eyes travelled up from his chest, I noted a tanned, square jaw that hadn’t seen a razor in a day or two, a slim nose and brown eyes so dark I could barely distinguish iris from pupil. His hair was cut short and so dark it could almost have been black. He wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense but he was captivating, the type of man people automatically turn their heads to have another look at. I couldn’t drag my eyes away and my heart did a little flip.
A fleeting image of being wrapped up in his arms, his lips crushing mine, overtook my mind. He caught my eye and held my gaze. I was glad he couldn’t see inside my mind, but I blushed furiously. His face looked thunderous. And now, come to think of it, Marc didn’t exactly look happy either.
“This is her?” he asked no one in particular, his eyes still fixed on me, his expression fading from thunder to completely impassive.
“Stella,” I spluttered, my cheeks still red as the image in my head seemed to topple over and send us sprawling, limbs entwined. Was I supposed to shake his hand now? Good God. “Hi.”
Étoile looked from me to Evan and coughed lightly, her hand covering a smile and I just had enough time to wonder what she had seen before she said, “Evan will be teaching you.”
“I will not,’ announced Evan, his mouth set in a firm line. “She leaks. Find someone else.”
“David could teach her,” snapped Marc, scowling at Evan. The muscles in his arm had tensed though he was still sitting and I could see the veins bulge. What was with him?
“David is teaching Christy, Clara and Jared,” said Aunt Meg placidly. “Evan will be teaching her. That’s why he’s here.”
The ensuing silence was deafening. Marc scowled at Evan, Evan looked spitefully at me and I gripped my glass as if it were a life rope in a storm. Étoile finished up her second scone and looked around gleefully as if we were the height of entertainment. Meanwhile, my mind was getting increasingly lurid and I could hardly look Evan in the eye for fear that he would know that I’d just had a very exciting mental picture of us doing something that really should not have popped into my head while I was having a scone with civilised company.
“If you don’t want to teach me, fine,” I gasped, daring to look at Evan from under my lashes. Marc had leant back in his seat, arms crossed; Meg and Étoile were still looking at the man expectantly. Étoile coughed, but not before I heard her snicker again.
His jaw shifted and he breathed out. “I’ll teach you,” he said at last, making it sound like the least pleasant chore he could be assigned.
“Fine.” Evan stepped back out of the doorway and strode back the way he came.
“Whew!” said Étoile. “That was weird. Like he was ever not going to teach you.”
“He’s an ass,” muttered Marc, swallowing the last of his iced tea and banging the glass back down on the table. “I’m sorry you’re stuck with him.”
“Evan Hunter is a very good teacher,” Aunt Meg chided as she gathered up the plates and swatted Étoile’s hand from the cake stand with a napkin before she could reach for another scone. I noticed Aunt Meg hadn’t eaten or drunk anything and hoped she didn’t think I was greedy for gobbling mine as fast as I could.
“What did he mean – I leaked?” I asked, thinking that sounded, well, gross.
“Your magic,” said Étoile. “He can feel it. So can I. You aren’t containing it, so it leaks. Not your fault.”
Hi, I'm Camilla and I'm the author of the Stella Mayweather Series, an urban fantasy/mystery. The series starts with Illicit Magic and a lonely young woman, Stella, who has been caught up in a terrifying witch hunt and is whisked thousands of miles away to what she thinks is safety to learn her craft. The series is a blend of magic, mystery and romance with a splash of humour - and while the girls really do go all out to save themselves, there's always a hunky guy or two on hand to help them out. The series continues with Unruly Magic and Devious Magic, both out now.
I live in London, England, but I try to travel as often as I can – I’ve been all over the US and Europe. In my day job I'm a journalist and editor so I write for magazines, newspapers and websites throughout the world (my favourite assignment was spending a week riding rollercoasters - if you listen carefully you can probably still hear me screaming) but writing fiction has always been my first love.
CONTEST: One random commenter will be chosen to win a digital copy of Illicit Magic. Contest ends on the witchy day of Friday the 13th midnight EST.