Today I have an interview for you! And it’s with the amazing Bonnie Wynne, author of The Ninth Sorceress, which releases on 13th February. It’s a story of dark magic, of finding your own path and of being thrown into a new life you’d never expected anything about. I absolutely enjoyed this book. You can read the review here.
That said, let’s head right to the interview. And let me just say, I love these answers.
- Hi Bonnie!
You travel quite a lot. What are your favourite places you’ve visited so far? Why? And how do they influence your writing?
If I had to pick one favourite place, it would probably be the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It’s just staggering in its beauty. You can stand on a craggy cliff in the Quiraing and look down over the escarpment and honestly feel like you’re the only person alive in the world. It’s magical. Weirdly enough, after visiting a few years ago, I discovered I have ancestors from Skye and the Outer Hebrides. Cool coincidence!
In terms of cities, I really love to visit London just because of the sheer depth of history beneath your feet. Our Australian cities are so new in comparison, so you really can’t get that experience here. There’s always so much to do in London. I’d love to live there someday.
When I write, I’m always very interested in establishing a sense of ‘place.’ I want the reader to feel like they’ve strapped on a pair of VR goggles. The way I see it, if you can’t hop on a plane and go somewhere, reading about it is the next best thing!
- What inspired you to write The Ninth Sorceress?
The books I read growing up were a huge inspiration for me. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is my absolute favourite, and definitely a big influence on my work. I explore a lot of the same themes: fate vs. free will, acceptance vs. rejection of duty, whether the ends can justify the means. Mostly I just wanted to write the kind of book I like to read!
- How much of yourself is in the book?
I want to say ‘a lot’ and ‘not much’ at the same time. I’ve been working on this book in some form for around fifteen years now, and it’s the final product of all that daydreaming and brainstorming and hard work. So in that sense, it’s all me.
But at the same time, I have a pretty good separation between myself and my work. I studied creative writing at university, and I’ve been part of a critique group for many years. I think that teaches you not to treat your writing as an extension of yourself. Otherwise, it’s impossible to take a critique or read a bad review without taking it as a personal attack. My writing isn’t me, and I’m not my writing.
- Which character is most similar to you?
Gwyn has the most surface similarities, for sure. She’s a bit of a loner, a bit of a bookworm, not totally comfortable with strangers or being the centre of attention. That’s why she was the natural protagonist for this story I wanted to tell.
But there’s some of me in all the characters. I relate to Faolan a lot – he’s somebody who has a lot of bad experiences in his past, especially in love, and he’s learned to close himself off from other people. Anyone who’s had their heart broken can relate to that!
- Did you have a writing playlist? Or do you generally listen to music while writing?
I don’t listen to music when I write. I need an intense, almost creepy level of silence to concentrate.
I do keep an inspiration playlist on Spotify, though! It’s basically all the songs that I feel capture some element of the book, whether in their lyrics or just the sound and mood. I like to listen to it when I’m drawing or working on maps or making mood boards.
- What kind of scenes do you most enjoy writing? Which ones are the hardest?
It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I really enjoy the ‘kick-butt’ scenes. Any time someone gets to be a badass, I’m clacking away at the keys with a huge smile on my face. It’s cathartic to help someone triumph, especially when they’ve been beaten down for however many chapters.
The emotional scenes are harder, because I was always raised with that very ‘stiff upper lip’ mindset, and I’m natural reserved with my feelings. Accessing that stuff when I’m writing is a challenge. Still, if you want to connect with the reader, you must dig deep, even when it’s uncomfortable.
- Which fictional characters do you identify with?
Professor Snape. Eeyore. And if I can pick one from television, then Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) from True Detective Season 1. Very solitary, very nihilistic, prone to saying odd things. Although I’ve never been an undercover cop (or have I…?).
- Are you a planner? How do you fit writing into your everyday life?
I’m a loose planner. I like to map out where the book is heading, and what plot points I need to hit along the way. But I don’t plan out every scene in detail.
When I sit down to write, I usually work towards a certain word count. That might be 5,000 words if I’m spending the whole day writing, or 2,000 words if I’m just taking a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. I don’t follow a strict schedule. Luckily, I enjoy the writing process, so it’s easy to stay motivated.
- Do you believe in magic?
I’m a natural sceptic about anything that can’t be empirically proven. I really love the ‘new age’ aesthetic, but I’m not a true believer.
With that being said, I can read the tarot, and rattle off my entire birth chart (Taurus Sun, Leo Moon, Virgo Rising!) It’s a fun way of connecting with people, which I guess is a kind of magic in itself.
- Last question – what do you hope your readers take from Ninth Sorceress?
I’m not big on moralising in my books. It’s obvious when an author is trying to hammer you with their views on something, and it feels kind of yucky to me. I’m here for a story, not a sermon!
Mostly I just like to ask questions and let the reader form their own views. Some of the questions I wanted to explore in The Ninth Sorceress were: how do you step out from under the wing of a parent? How do you start making choices when you’ve spent your whole life having others make them for you? What if your choices are wrong? What if trying to do the right thing ends up hurting others? How do you escape the cycle of self-pity? They’re pretty universal questions, so hopefully readers can connect them back to their own lives.
This is such a good end to this interview, thank you so much for taking the time and answering my questions.
Want to know more about the author?
Bonnie Wynne studied Writing and Cultural Studies at UTS, and completed her law degree at the University of Sydney. After a brief stint in legal publishing, she now works for the Australian government, deciphering ancient law tomes.
She lives in Sydney with her cocker spaniel, Percival Hector (Canine Inspector). When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found playing video games, booking her next holiday, or elbow-deep in flour.
The Ninth Sorceress is her debut novel and the first book in her series, The Price of Magic.
Want to know more about The Ninth Sorceress?
Seventeen-year-old Gwyn has no family and no past. Apprenticed to a half-mad herbalist, she travels the snow-blasted High Country, hawking potions in a peddler’s wagon. Her guardian hides her from the world like a dark secret, and she knows better than to push for answers.
But when she discovers she is hunted by the goddess Beheret, Gwyn is drawn into a deep and ancient tale: of chained gods and lost magic, of truths long buried and the rising of a war she never could have imagined.
Wizards and their magic-sniffing hounds pursue her – as does a stranger in a smiling mask, who calls her by an unfamiliar name…
But what really terrify her are the dangerous gifts she’s spent her life suppressing. Now, Gwyn must step out of the shadows and take charge of her destiny – even if the price is her own soul. (source: Talem Press)