Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Q&A with Jonathan Strahan




Jonathan Strahan is the author of the new book The Book of Witches. An editor, anthologist, and podcaster, he has edited more than 100 books. He lives in Perth, Australia.


Q: How did The Book of Witches come about?


A: A couple of years ago I was incredibly lucky and got to work with the team at Voyager on The Book of Dragons, a gorgeous book illustrated by Rovina Cai and featuring fantastic stories from writers all over the world. 


Right after we’d finished that, in the middle of the first COVID lockdowns, my editor asked me what we’d do next. I’d never thought of next, but the moment I started to think about I knew a book of witch stories was what we should do.


Witches are so iconic and so open to interpretation that I was sure we could do a great book, and I really feel like we have.


Q: What would you say are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about witches?


A: The main one is that witches are older women who wear pointy black hats and ride broomsticks, or in some way necessarily linked to the dark arts. 


The historical versions of Wicca and witchcraft are rich and complex, and there are variations on witches and witchcraft that are part of almost every culture on the planet. 


Q: How were the stories chosen for the book, and how did you decide on the order in which they would appear?


A: There were two things we did for The Book of Witches. First, I contacted a whole bunch of writers from across the globe, inviting them to send me stories and poems about their version of a witch. We also had an open reading period for BIPOC writers, that lead to three stories being added to the book.


It’s always tempting to say that you’re looking for the best story, but the path to the best book is to read widely and try to find as wide a variety of stories as you can that fit the theme, so that’s what I did. 


As to ordering the stories – I always feel like sequencing a book like this is an invitation, a seduction. You want a story at the front that immediately engages, draws the reader in, exciting and propulsive ones towards the middle, and a story with a punch to end.


I think that’s what I’ve done here, but I’ll leave it to readers to decide  how well.


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


A: That the world is a rich and varied place, that your preconceptions about what might fit into a book called The Book of Witches might not encompass everything it could be, and that if you read widely you get richer reading experiences. Oh, and that witches are cool.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Well, I’ve just finished Communications Breakdown, a science fiction anthology about how the future is not evenly distributed across our world, and am working on book of space opera stories. I’m also thinking about the followup to The Book of Witches.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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