I’m very excited today to be hosting a Q&A with Mary Watson, author if The Wren Hunt and the new sequel/companion novel, The Wickerlight, in stores tomorrow. Many thanks to Mary for taking the time to answer my questions today (& thanks to Erica at Bloomsbury for helping to arrange this interview).
I absolutely LOVED The Wren Hunt when I read it last year — such a cool, unique, moody contemporary fantasy set in Ireland. I quickly fell in love with the lush writing, atmospheric tone, the forbidden romance, and the rich story infused with inspiration from Irish mythology. The Wickerlight continues all of those delicious elements and more, and acts as a sequel/companion, since it continues the story that began in The Wren Hunt, while focusing on a new set of main characters.
Before I started The Wren Hunt, I had this spark of an idea about magic as patterns: that there’s a structure or pattern to most things and being able to understand or manipulate this could be a form of magic. The other major influence was my homesickness after having moved to Ireland in 2009. I was struggling a bit, didn’t feel like I belonged, but I was also a little fed up of feeling displaced. So I decided I would write something I could only write here. I drew on the landscape here, the magic I sense, and the myth and folklore. And writing these books became a way of belonging.
The mythology of these two books is SO captivating to me. Where you inspired by any real myths or legends? What sort of research went into writing these two books?
I’ve always had a passion for mythology and was especially drawn to Irish myths and folklore long before I knew I’d marry an Irish man and move here. I did a lot of research into myth and lore, and there are some excellent online resources. I could, for example, compare variations in the wren song by reading different handwritten versions from nearly a hundred years ago. I visited dolmens and standing stones, fairy trees, Victorian walled gardens etc. But when writing the myth in the book, it wasn’t enough to simply revisit or expand upon existing myth. I needed to write my own that was complementary to, and inspired by the myth here.
David is seen as such a villainous character in The Wren Hunt, that I didn’t even realize at first who he was when I started reading The Wickerlight. What was it like showing a more sympathetic side to him?
Writing David was really hard. I hadn’t intended to make him the male protagonist at first, but he kept niggling at me. And when I experimented with writing the story from his POV, it came alive to me in a way it hadn’t before. But, he is pretty awful in The Wren Hunt and I didn’t want to simply excuse his behaviour or write a clichéd bad boy redemption story. I had to sit with him, write and rewrite, and then rewrite some more to get him to read the way I wanted him to. And I think it resonates with my core exploration around grey morality, and that people aren’t entirely good or entirely bad. I am also interested in how masculinity is constructed by society and how it veers into toxicity.
Unlike Wren, Tarc, and David, Zara comes to this world of magic as a complete outsider. How was writing her chapters different from these other characters, who were already part of the magical world.
It was fun to come at it from the outside, after having jumped in at the deep end in The Wren Hunt. It gave me time to explore the magic world from the perspective of someone who’d no experience of magic. But I didn’t want the book to simply be a discovery of magic, so alternating David and Zara’s viewpoints allowed me to manipulate that better.
There is so much rich depth to the world of augurs and judges. Do you have plans to write more books in this world?
At the moment, I’m working on something different which I’m really excited about.
Fresh apples from our garden. They are so crisp and sweet.
Early morning or late night?
Early morning. Nothing like writing at 5am.
Please pick an Avenger.
Thor, for all the wrong reasons.
Ocean or mountains?
Hard one, I lived most of my life with both. I have the ocean now, but think I need mountains more.
Favorite Disney princess?
5 things on your desk/in your writing space
A Cersei Funko Pop, an antique gold heart paperweight, a small standing stone carved with a double spiral, a small African bull sculpture, candles.
It’s been two months since Laila was found lifeless on Kilshamble village green, not a mark on her. Rumour says she died of an overdose. Or maybe it was suicide? The autopsy found nothing, but somebody must know what happened.
Now Laila’s sister Zara is ready to pick up the trail. But retracing her sister’s footsteps takes her to David, a Judge at the dangerous heart of an ancient magical feud. All too unwittingly, she begins to tread the same path that led her sister to the village green .
Mary Watson’s sequel to The Wren Hunt is an eerie, magical thriller about a dead girl, her sister and the boy who can unlock the truth of what happened the night she died. Perfect for fans of Frances Hardinge and Emily Bain Murphy’s The Disappearances