Sarah Painter has worked as a freelance magazine journalist, blogger and editor for the last thirteen years, combining this ‘career’ with amateur child-wrangling (AKA motherhood).
She also writes books, and is represented by Agent Fabulous (AKA Sallyanne Sweeney at Mulcahy Associates. Her debut novel, The Language of Spells, is out now from Carina UK.
Sarah lives in rural Scotland with her children, husband, and two enormous cats. She drinks too much tea, loves the work of Joss Whedon, and is the proud owner of a writing shed.
Your novel is called ‘The Secrets of Ghosts’ please could you tell me about it?
The Secrets of Ghosts is the follow up to The Language of Spells and is set in the same fictional town of Pendleford. Here’s the blurb:
On her twenty-first birthday Katie Harper has only one wish: to become a real Harper woman. Mystical powers are passed down her family generation after generation – some even call them witches – yet every spell Katie attempts goes disastrously wrong.
When her magic does appear, it’s in a form nobody expected and suddenly Katie is thrown into a dangerous new world with shadowy consequences. For the realm of the deceased is not as peaceful as she once thought. The dead are buried with their secrets and only Katie can help the ghosts of the past finally find peace.
If that is what they are looking for…
Are any of the characters in ‘The Secrets of Ghosts ‘ anything like you?
I like to think that I have Gwen’s nurturing and caring side, but I know for sure that I have Katie’s desire for control.
In ‘The Secrets of Ghosts’ Katie has the power to speak to people on the other side. If you had the same ability, who would you like to speak to and what would you want to know?
That’s a brilliant question – it’s brought me out in goose bumps! I don’t believe in life after death so speaking to anyone at all would be mind-blowing. I suppose I’d want to know what happens after death… Although the meaning of life would be pretty handy, too.
Your previous book followed Gwen Harper, will we be meeting more of the Harper dynasty in the future?
Originally, I hadn’t envisioned a follow up to The Language of Spells, and I deliberately wrote The Secrets of Ghosts so that it would work as a standalone story. At the moment it all feels quite complete to me, but never say never…
They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?
Certainly. Like most (all?) novelists, I worked on my writing for a long time before getting published. In that time, I was lucky enough to receive encouragement from agents and editors, which helped me to keep going, but there was a part of me that thought I was fated to get ‘close’ but not actually make it. And then I landed my amazing agent and, shortly afterwards, the two-book deal with Carina. It felt fantastic (I don’t think I stopped smiling for a week afterwards), but I was also overwhelmed with a feeling of relief that it wasn’t just another close call.
Writers put so much time and energy into their characters and I have been told in the past that a writer carries their characters around with them.
So my question is if you could go out for a day with any one of your characters: who would it be, what would you do and why did you pick this particular character?
While I’m working on a book, I definitely carry my characters with me. They’re in my head, jabbering away, forcing me to forget useful things like the need to cook dinner or to remember to phone my long-suffering friends (sorry, guys!). However, once I’ve finished a book, those characters disappear. So, at the moment, my head is completely filled with the characters from my current work-in-progress. It’s one of the things I adore about writing.
If there was one saying that could sum up your life to date, what would it be?
‘The harder you work, the luckier you get.’ I am aware, every single day, of my incredible good fortune. I was born in an affluent part of the planet to a loving and stable family, I’m happily married and have two fantastic children, and I get to earn my living making up stories. However, I do believe that lots of good things in life are down to hard work, perseverance and mental attitude. Plus, that phrase is something my beloved dad says, so it reminds me of him.
What can we expect next, any future books in the pipeline?
I’m working on a new novel at the moment but I’m afraid I hate talking about books before they’re finished – especially when they’re just in first draft stage. It’s not a contracted book, so it’ll be going out on submission once it’s finished. Wish me luck!
What or who in life inspires you?
So many things. Writer friends have inspired me with their perseverance, work ethic and creativity. My mother and grandmother, who are both strong, inspirational women. Women throughout the ages who have overcome inequality to make amazing contributions to the world.
Please would you share who your 5 dream dinner party guests would be?
Stephen Fry, Nora Ephron, Ann Patchett, Katharine Hepburn, and Neil Gaiman.
At your dinner party, there’s a cocktail in honour of ‘The Secrets of Ghosts’ what are the ingredients?
Oh, I’d love a bespoke book cocktail! Um, Katie is big on control and doesn’t really drink much alcohol, so I guess something quite mild and fruity. With lots of lime, because I love lime.
Thank you to Sarah for talking to The Love of a Good Book.