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Stacey Thomas – THE REVELS

Written By:

Ed Fortune
Stacey Thomas - THE REVELS

by Ed Fortune

Stacey Thomas is an alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative Novel Writing course, where she wrote her debut novel, The Revels, which mixes historical fiction and witchcraft to great effect. The Revels won HarperCollins’ inaugural Killing It Competition for Undiscovered Writers and comes out this month. We caught up with her to find out more…

STARBURST: What’s the elevator pitch for The Revels?

Stacey Thomas: In a country torn apart by war and rumours of witchcraft, Nicholas Pearce hides a secret: the dead sing. He hears their secrets, but will he find the courage to speak up to save innocent lives, even if it means putting himself in great danger?

What was the hardest piece to write?

The first line! The Revels was my first attempt at writing historical fiction, a genre I’ve always loved reading but has always intimidated me as a writer. Initially, I struggled to find my way into the story. It wasn’t until I came up with the first line that I had an idea of who my character was and the story I was trying to tell.

Why this particular period of history?

The Revels is set during the English Civil War, a time when the country was divided between King and Parliament. The war resulted in political and social upheaval, which proved a ripe environment for the witch persecutions and the events of my novel.

Do you have other books planned in a similar vein?

My next book is set in 1950s London, but similarly to The Revels, it has a supernatural streak running through it.

Why are we so fascinated with talking to the dead?

I think because there’s still such a taboo around death. I’ve always found death frightening, as there’s nothing more scary than having to come to terms with the end. That’s probably why talking to the dead is so fascinating, as it’s the promise of something more.

Why witch hunters/witchcraft?

I’ve always been fascinated by witchcraft and real-life witch hunters, including Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General. He was only in his twenties when he took up witch-hunting, and I can still remember my shock when reading the number of witches he condemned to death. The more I read about Hopkins, the more I kept asking myself why someone would choose to become a witch hunter. The Revels is my attempt to answer this question.

What character is the most fun to write?

Grace was probably the most fun character to write. I love morally grey characters, and I had a lot of fun describing her interactions with the other characters, especially her withering put-downs.


Which character seriously needs to have a word with themselves?

Definitely Grace, and also the witch-hunters Rush and Clements, who covet power even though the price is condemning innocent people to death.

What would you say the biggest influence on this book is?

The Revels is very much influenced by King James’ whose obsession with the supernatural stems back to 1590 when his return to Scotland with his wife Anne of Denmark was beset by storms. The delay was blamed on witchcraft, and James personally interrogated the suspected witches in what would become known as the North Berwick witch trials. My book takes a slightly speculative approach to history by having King James establish a commission for witch-hunters, the legacy of which is a major subplot in my book.

Which writers inspire you?

I’ve always loved historical fiction and stories with supernatural/speculative edges. For those very reasons, the writers I’m most inspired by are Octavia Butler, Susanna Clarke, Hilary Mantel, Maggie O’Farrell and Sunyi Dean.

What tropes do you personally avoid the most?

Oooh! I don’t have any tropes that I avoid as I feel that the best (and most challenging) part of writing to a trope is doing it in a way that feels fresh and surprises your readers.

How would you describe your process?

As a new writer, I feel like I’m still trying to find a process that works for me, especially since I write around my day job. I find planning helps as I’m more productive when it comes to writing days. Plus it reduces my tendency to procrastinate.

If we like this book, what other books do you recommend?

If you like The Revels, then I recommend Bridget Collins’ The Binding, Stacey Halls’ The Familiars, and if I might be so bold, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

The Revels can be ordered here.


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