Thursday, August 25, 2022

Q&A with Bianca Marais




Bianca Marais is the author of the new novel The Witches of Moonshyne Manor. Her other books include the novel If You Want to Make God Laugh, and she cohosts the podcast The Shit No One Tells You About Writing. She lives in Toronto.


Q: What inspired you to write The Witches of Moonshyne Manor?


A: I’ve always loved magic and been in awe of witches. There’s just something about witches, women living on the fringes, that has always made me view them as the very first feminists: powerful, independent women who refused to live the way society expected them to, and who were then punished for it.


I love women who make their own rules, but the problem is that most of these stories are about younger women.


What happens to the kickass, fierce women when they get older? Why do they disappear from the page and screen?


Also, during Covid, I spent a lot of time talking to book clubs about my previous novels, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, and it really struck me how women were maintaining their communities during the pandemic any way that they could, learning how to use Zoom and other software so that they could stay connected.


That kind of sisterhood has always fascinated me and so I wanted to write a story centering older witches whose sisterhood means everything to them.


Q: The writer Marissa Stapley said of the book, “The Witches of Moonshyne Manor is the new Practical Magic for a generation of women who value sisterhood, friendship, and fierce, fabulous feminism above all else.” What do you think of that description?


A: Firstly, I just adore Marissa. She perfectly encapsulates the kind of sisterhood I’m always so inspired by. She champions other authors and welcomes them into a community of writers so that they feel supported and understood.


So, to have her love the novel meant the world to me. And I squealed when I got her blurb because it so perfectly encapsulated what the story is about.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I cohost a popular podcast called The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, which is aimed at helping emerging writers getting published. And we always talk about the plotter writer versus the pantser writer (someone who flies by the seat of their pants).


I’m very much a pantser even though I’m always telling my creative writing student to try and plot because it makes their lives easier.


So, I didn’t know at all how the story would end. If I know what’s going to happen in a novel, I have absolutely no desire to write it because I write to find out what happens.


Having said that, this novel only took me six months to write. It felt like a fever dream because everything just naturally unfolded as though the witches were telling me their tale and my job was just to get it down.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: That, as women, we have so much to offer the world and that doesn’t change as we get older. If anything, age makes us wiser and more experienced, and that counts for a whole lot.


Instead of us allowing ourselves to become invisible as we age, I hope we’ll give ourselves permission to keep learning and growing, to keep challenging ourselves and expanding our horizons.


So much of being a woman is about martyrdom – giving up your own hopes and dreams for the sake of your children because that’s what we’ve been told womanhood is about. I hope that women feel inspired to stop sacrificing themselves for others, and to do whatever it is that they want to do.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a twisting, turny emotional thriller because I apparently can’t stick to just one genre! But I’m waiting for an excuse to be able to write a sequel to The Witches of Moonshyne Manor and really hope I get to do that!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: If you enjoy author interviews or are looking for your next read, or if you’re a writer who’d like to improve your craft, take a listen to The Shit No One Tells You About Writing. I promise you’ll enjoy it!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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