Meet the Author: Storm Witch by Alys West

Today we travel to York to chat with Alys West about how teaching creative writing, copious amounts of tea, being a book whisperer, the Orkney Islands, witchcraft, folk music, Victoria Sponge, crocheting, Jane Austen, Loch Linnhe, and Scooby Doo come together as part of West’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in the beautiful city of York in the UK. My stories grow out of places and the tales which people tell about places. My work draws on my own experience of surviving trauma but always with the possibility of a hopeful ending. I have a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teach creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. I’m also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

Book whisperer … I like that!! 

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy and steampunk. My books have magic in a real world setting and would be classed as urban fantasy except they don’t happen in an urban setting. I wrote my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter because I love classic romances with dashing heroes and feisty heroines. The fact that it’s steampunk allowed me to have added dirigibles and copious amounts of tea.

How many published books do you have?

Three. Beltane and Storm Witch (which are Books 1 and 2 of The Spellworker Chronicles) and The Dirigible King’s Daughter.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Storm Witch was inspired by visiting the Orkney Islands, just off the northern coast of Scotland. They’re incredibly beautiful and I fell in love with the landscape and the history. There’s a folk tale from Orkney about a young woman called Janet Forsyth who was accused of witchcraft because it was believed she could control the weather. I took that idea and asked ‘what if she had that power and couldn’t control it?’ That became the seed from which Storm Witch grew although I threw in a lot of other things along the way including a sexy, motorbike riding druid.

This looks like an amazingly beautiful spot. It’s wonderful how you were inspired by a folk tale tied to this location. 

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I listen to a lot of music. I’m particularly into folk music and go to as many gigs as I can. I’ve really missed live music during lockdown but it’s been great to see musicians performing online from their sitting rooms and gardens. I love to read and always have at least one book on the go. I also love baking and crocheting. I make an excellent Victoria Sponge and am very slowly crocheting a throw for my sofa.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I’d love to meet Jane Austen. I’ve loved her books since I was a teenager and I’d have so many questions to ask her like ‘Was Darcy modelled on anyone she knew?’ ‘Which of her heroines is most like herself?’ ‘What job would she have liked to do if careers had been available to women in her lifetime?’ If it was going well and we were really getting on, I’d also like to know exactly which steps Louisa Musgrove fell down in Lyme Regis as I wonder every time I visit.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Friends. I’ve met such a lot of amazing, wonderful, creative people through writing and I’m incredibly grateful for each of them. Writers need to hang out with other writers as only another writer will understand if you’ve got a plot hole you can’t work out or a character arc that doesn’t fit. My writing pals are all over the UK and further afield and I don’t get to see them very often but we keep in touch online and they’re a really important part of my life as a writer.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene?

I met a lady who was a practicing witch for coffee in Glastonbury. She was very open about the craft and explained to me the importance of intention in spellcasting. She gave me some great examples of times when magic had worked in her life. It was a fascinating insight and really helped me to develop the spellworker characters in Storm Witch.

That sounds like it was a ton of fun, and interesting!

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

It would have to be Scooby Doo. I absolutely loved it especially that Shaggy and Scooby would somehow always accidentally outwit the bad guys. I’d like to be one of the ‘pesky kids’ who made sure the baddies didn’t get away with it.

Huge Scooby Doo fan here!! Loved watching this when I was growing up.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I’d like to be Winston Grant for the day. He’s a druid, an archaeologist and rides a kickass black motorbike. I’d love the chance to experience the magical power I’ve given to the druids in my books. In Storm Witch, Winston is working at the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig in Orkney which fascinates me so I’d like the chance to get my hands dirty and do a bit of excavating. I’m an absolute coward about motorbikes but I think if I was being Winston for the day I’d be able to leave that behind as he has no fear. It’d be fun to ride like he does and not be constantly worried about crashing into a tractor.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The last movie I saw in the cinema was Emma. I chose it because of my love of Jane Austen and I wasn’t disappointed. It was funny and tender and beautifully shot. Johnny Flynn wasn’t exactly the Mr Knightley I’d imagined but I soon got over that and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last movie I watched at home was Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers which I’ve seen before. I love it because it’s pure Hollywood glamour. It’s got some wonderful songs in it and, of course, the dancing is exquisite.

These look like great movies! I’m adding them to my “watch” list.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I love visiting Scotland. Orkney has been my favourite place for the past ten years but I’ve recently discovered a little corner of Argyll near Castle Stalker which is absolutely perfect. It’s one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed with panoramic views of Loch Linnhe. You can catch a tiny ferry across to the Isle of Lismore, go on glorious walks around the shore and I’m told (although I’ve not seen one yet) see otters.

It was great fun having you on MTA! Orkney sounds like a gorgeous, inspiring place. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and for sharing so much about yourself. Wishing you all the best, Alys!  – Camilla


Storm Witch

Although not a witch herself, magic had always been part of Jenna’s life, guiding and nurturing her childhood. Her mother Nina was a member of The Order of Spellworkers and Druids, enforcing the laws of the magical community. But six winter solstices ago Nina was murdered. Six winter solstices ago the other members of The Order died or disappeared. And six winter solstices ago Jenna banished magic from her life, fleeing back home to Orkney.

Jenna thought she had re-built a calmer world for herself until her ex Hal returns, and someone starts to practice dangerous magic on the islands. When water, sea and sky elements are being manipulated to destroy, maim and kill, how can she deny handsome druid Winston’s plea for help?

As seer Zoe Rose foretells of a catastrophic storm which will engulf Orkney, Jenna and her friends must race against the elements to stop the storm witch. Only through chaos will Jenna find the answers she’s been searching for. Only through chaos can her heart decide who is the right man for her. And only through chaos will she finally discover who killed her mother.

Where to find the book:

Storm Witch is available as e-book and paperback from Amazon at

Website and Social Media:


Twitter: @alyswestyork

Facebook: Alys West Writer or at her readers’ group: ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles

Instagram: @alyswestwriter


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Meet the Author: Second Skin by Sue Bentley

Today we welcome Sue Bentley as we travel to Northamptonshire in the East Midlands of the UK. Join us as we discover how Daisy Meadows, the Northamptonshire shoe trade, mixed-media, being self-taught, and Hay-on-Wye contribute to the fairy tale of Sue’s writing life. Get comfortable and slip into your imagination. Let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Northamptonshire a County in the East Midlands of the UK, where I was born. I write in different genres. My series of children’s books are contemporary. But my books and short stories for Young Adults and Adults can have contemporary, historical or fantasy backgrounds – or a mixture. I enjoy a certain darkness and suspense in the books I read and my own books often contain these elements.

I have written around 80 books, plus a number of short stories, under various pen-names as well as my own – Sue Bentley is my own name. As Lucy Daniels I contributed to the Animal Ark series and as Daisy Meadows I wrote some of the early Rainbow Magic books. Having ‘cut my teeth’ and learned a lot about writing to length and making every single word work for its living, I wrote my Magic Kitten, Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies and Magic Bunny series – around 60 titles. They are all still in print and sell very well around the world.

For the past five years or so, I have been writing novels for Young Adults, which like Harry Potter are read by many adults.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Subconsciously I always knew I’d be a writer. I’ve been obsessed with books and reading since, forever. I went straight from school to work in a public library. It was the perfect job for a bookaholic. I immediately read everything on the ‘Restricted’ list! Each book had a big red stamp on the title page – very dangerous and exciting! I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘Restricted’ book any more.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My ideal writing place looks like my study would if it were better organised. I love my room – every writer should have one of their own. It’s quite large, with a desk and work space at one end. There’s a reading space and table and chairs at the other end, and far too many books. I still love actual books for research, there’s nothing like flipping pages and making notes – but I use on-line resources too. At the moment books are stacked all over the floor. It drives me mad. I’m constantly in a state of trying to sort them out and get more bookshelves. I will be doing it at any moment…but I have a book to finish writing first.

Do you have a current work in progress?

My work-in-progress (WIP) is entitled Frozen Charlotte and is a Victorian mystery inspired by the shoe trade in Northamptonshire. I am enjoying researching it and spend a lot of time at the local Records Office and visiting people in the shoe trade.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?

When about to speak publicly or read from my latest book, I’m usually fairly relaxed and looking forward to meeting readers. I scrub up a bit, so I feel I look my best and that helps me feel confident. No one wants to see me in my tracksuit or pyjamas, which I might stay in all day when I’m fully immersed in my WIP. But when appearing at Althorp Literary Festival a couple of years ago, I was suddenly struck by the most awful stage fright. I think it was the weight of history associated with the place. We live fairly close and the whole tragedy of Princess Diana dying was so terribly poignant. I’m not a great royalist, but she seemed to embody something we all related to. I stood by as the funeral cortege passed within yards. I had dreadful anxiety for an entire week before my Althorp event. On the day I took some Rescue Remedy – which I swear by for all kinds of emergencies great and small. Once I was there, I had a wonderful time, meeting readers, fellow authors and Earl Spencer was a most generous, warm and charming host. That year Althorp had their first ever Children’s Literary Festival. My event centred on my Magic Kitten series, and the lovely Bernie Keith from BBC Radio Northampton was my wing-man. The event was voted a great success. Phew – the relief! I’d probably be just as nervous if I was invited back, but would do it again in a heartbeat.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

When I’m not writing or marketing my books, I’m thinking about writing, making notes for the next book or researching it. I love to read for pleasure whenever I can and always learn something new from every book, which I’m sure translates to my own writing. Writing is what I do, and what I am. I’m hard-wired to make sense of the world through the written word. Even in the early days writing was never a hobby for me. I make my living from writing and, like most successful authors, have completed a long apprenticeship. I am entirely self-taught, did not go to university. So I’m living proof that anyone can become a writer.

In a conversation with a published author, he told me he was not going to write any more as he had, ‘other hobbies to take up his time’. I had to resist telling him to, ‘wash his mouth out with soap!’ I’m sometimes asked if I’m still writing – fair enough if I haven’t seen someone in a while – but my pet hate is reference to my ‘little hobby.’ (It’s the ‘little’ that really gets to me) I doubt if anyone ever asks a plumber, ‘You still fiddling with taps and wash basins, mate?’ or a brain-surgeon. ‘Still messing about inside people’s heads?’

I’m also a sometime artist in mixed-media, but I’m a writer first and foremost. I’m sure if I cut myself I’d bleed words – it would be a paper cut, obviously!

What do you miss about being a kid?

I suppose the sense of freedom of living in the present. The lack of worry about this complicated and troubling world. I love children; their innocence, their honesty, the joy they take in every new discovery. I hope I’ve retained some of that. I do find joy in simple things like a butterfly in the garden and along with The Other Half (OT) laugh at the absurdities of life.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I love the UK in all its aspects. I am a very English writer and feel a strong sense of place. I do love the green and pleasant hills and forests of my homeland, Wales, Ireland and Scotland also have such individual beauty. I’m particularly fond of Dorset, with its rolling countryside and Jurassic coast. We visited Lyme Regis recently, a favourite of mine where we scoured the beaches for fossils washed in on the tide. I found one small perfect Ammonite in the wet sand, while the dark cliffs sulked behind me and leaked trails of blue-ish clay onto the beach. Those cliffs are scary and prone to rock falls, but the wild seas, wind and rain are exhilarating. I also love Hay-on-Wye. It’s my perfect town where every shop is either a book shop, an antique/vintage shop, or a café. Bliss. I simply browse for days.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? 

If I could turn myself into one of my characters for the day, it would be either Flame the Magic Kitten from my children’s series. Or Aledra from my novel, Second Skin. Both characters have special abilities, so I could have a brilliant adventure travel to the bottom of the sea with Flame or fly beneath moon with Aledra. How wonderful, before I then returned to writing.

My new novel Second Skin, was recently published, Summer 2019. It’s the first book in a new series, entitled Bridge of Fire. I adore its beautiful book cover!

Thank you Sue for joining us on MTA. It’s been wonderful getting to know you through this interview and connecting on social media. My daughter, Lillian Darnell, loved (and still does) the Rainbow Magic books and the other children’s series you mention. I am incredibly inspired by your path to success! Thank you for sharing with us! – Camilla

Book Blurb for Second Skin.

Young-Lady Aledra Jewel-Wing is Drakkoni, one of a race of shape-shifters who rule over Esra, a wild and beautiful continent. Aledra has grown up on a remote farmstead, is about to meet her estranged father; the commander of the king’s army. When attempting to save a life she rises into her fearsome soul-double, and soon becomes a fugitive, on the run from her father and a pitiless bounty hunter.

Where to Buy Second Skin:

US Amazon:

UK Amazon

We Other, published by Endeavour Media is out now. It’s a dark re-working of the fairy-tale tradition. I’m in love with its wonderful new book cover for the Anniversary edition.

Book Blurb for We Other.

Jess Morgan’s life is chaotic. When a shocking new reality cannot be denied, it’s clear everything she believed is a lie. Life on a run-down housing estate with her alcoholic mum and violent boyfriend becomes the least of her worries. A dark and powerful destiny awaits that will test her to the limit.

Website and Social Media links.

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