Oi! Widdershins fans! You’ll love this one – I did. If you’re looking for a creepy, magical and atmospheric read, then you won’t do much better than this. I was a big fan of the first Aveline Jones book: The Haunting of Aveline Jones, but her second adventure is possibly even better. The blurb:
Turn on your torches and join Aveline Jones! Aveline is thrilled when she discovers that the holiday cottage her mum has rented for the summer is beside a stone circle. Thousands of years old, the local villagers refer to the ancient structure as the Witch Stones, and Aveline cannot wait to learn more about them. Then Aveline meets Hazel. Impossibly cool, mysterious yet friendly, Aveline soon falls under Hazel’s spell. In fact, Hazel is quite unlike anyone Aveline has ever met before, but she can’t work out why. Will Aveline discover the truth about Hazel, before it’s too late? The second in a deliciously spine-tingling, spooky series, where mysteries are always solved, spirits are always laid to rest, and everybody gets to bed on time.
This is the sort of series childhood me would have been obsessed with. I loved the summery vibe, the beautiful, immersive writing, the witchiness (anything with a witch bottle and standing stones and I’m there)! It’s an eerie, exciting adventure – I was definitely bewitched! If you enjoyed A Tangle of Spells then this is definitely a book for you. I’m a huge fan of Phil Hickes’ writing and was thrilled that he agreed to answer my questions about the book and all the kind of nonsense I like to know about other writers.
Phil’s publisher, Usborne, has kindly given me three copies to give away here – all you have to do is leave a comment to enter the giveaway. UK only, closes September 20th 2021 at midnight (GMT).
The Bewitching of Aveline Jones is published on September 16th, 2021 in the UK. Pre-order here.
What was your journey to being a published author like?
It was very long and frustrating, yet also enjoyable in many respects. I was probably writing seriously for around 10 years before I had a breakthrough (so hang in there if you’re in the query trenches)! I had no idea what I was doing most of time. No real grasp of agents, what they wanted, or how best to approach them. In hindsight, I wasted a huge amount of time sending out manuscripts that I now know, were wholly unsuitable. I was a headless chicken with a keyboard, firing off random Word docs. However, whilst I was constantly beset by self-doubt (and still am, like most authors), there was also a certain freedom and excitement that I miss. You never knew what might arrive in your inbox. You were free to scribble away and dream without deadlines or expectations. But I was overjoyed to finally find an agent and a publishing home with Usborne. It really felt like I’d scaled a mountain and I constantly look to the sky and send thanks and praise to the capricious Gods of Writing.
Where does your interest in spooky stories come from?
It’s an obsession that’s been with me since a small child. To this day, I’m plagued by a constant need to hunt down the next supernatural thrill, whether that’s a book, or a film, or a radio play, or a podcast. If I was to hazard a guess, it may be that I grew up in a cold, dark and gloomy house in Rochdale that overlooked a crumbling Victorian graveyard. I used to play there during the day, but at night, when the shadows lengthened, the atmosphere would change from fun to fear, and I would find myself staring out into the darkness, wondering if all the occupants were truly at rest.
Where and when do you write?
I’ve moved around a lot so am yet to find a permanent writing nook. Currently, I write with the Mac on my lap in a back room. It’s far from ideal, bad for my back, and I do need to try and find something a little more inspirational. I write on Sunday afternoon and Monday to Wednesday evening, aiming for a minimum of 500 words per night. I should do more. I need to do more. But I want fiction writing to remain enjoyable and not feel like a grind. It’s a fine balance.
Do you believe in the supernatural, and have you ever seen a ghost or experienced something otherworldly?
Yes I’m a believer. There’s just too much anecdotal evidence. Even if you discount 99% of it, that still leaves a huge amount of unexplainable phenomenon. I believe that certain people are sensitive to vibrations. I think painful or tragic events can linger in the ether. I’m certain there are dark places in the world where strange lifeforms still dwell. Personally, I’ve seen many UFOs. I’ve seen a vase fly off a table, heard footsteps when nobody’s there and felt someone (or something) touch the back of my neck. I’ve also had the sensation of not being alone or being observed by something unseen. I also once travelled to see a full solar eclipse and that’s an incredibly supernatural event. I’ve yet to witness a full ghostly visitation but I live in hope.
Do you plan your stories or go with the flow?
Much to my chagrin, I find myself unable, or perhaps unwilling, to fully plan a story. I like to go with the flow and see what happens. What usually happens is that I end up wasting thousands of words and drive myself to the brink of a nervous breakdown. But there are fleeting moments, when an idea jumps into your mind, or the words seem to just flow out onto the page, and it makes it all worthwhile.
Do you have another job, besides writing?
Yes, my day job is…writer! I work for an advertising agency. There are good things and bad things about it. But I consider myself very blessed to be able to survive financially through writing. In my experience at least, being an author doesn’t generate enough readies to live on. I hope that may change some day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“If you keep putting things on the conveyor belt, eventually, something will drop off the other side.” An old boss told me that about something unrelated to writing, but I think it applies perfectly to books. If you’re an author, and you keep going, and keep trying, sooner or later something will appear that resembles what you were trying to create. It also applies to putting feelers out there for agent/publishing opportunities. In fact, it applies to pretty much everything. The other best bit of advice I received was to use an internet blocker app.
Are there any spooky or witchy books you’d recommend for fans of the Aveline Jones series?
There’s an author called Michelle Harrison I like. You may know her? Another recommendation would be Long Lankin by Lyndsey Barraclough. I really enjoy Chris Priestley’s ghostly tales. And I’ve read recent good ones by Ross Montgomery, Kat Ellis, Finbar Hawkins, Helena Duggan, Jenni Jennings, Robin Jarvis, Mary Downing Hahn, Emma Carroll, Allison Rushby and Danny Weston. And Jennifer Killick is killing it.
If you could come back as a ghost who would you haunt or what would you do?
Thankfully, I’m not sure anyone has wronged me enough for me to haunt them. But I do fancy the idea of lingering around suitably spooky places and giving supernatural skeptics a reason to reconsider.
What’s your top tip for aspiring writers?
Tell your inner critic to shut up and keep going.
Quick Fire Questions:
Ghosts or witches?
Ouija boards – yes or no?
A firm nope.
Favourite ghost story?
Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.
If you had to, would you rather say ‘Wooooooooooh’ at the start of every sentence or do an evil cackle at the end of everything you say?
Evil cackle. Mwo-ha-hah-hah-haaaa!
Would you rather have a ghost in your own home or live next door to a witch?
Ghost in the home.
Thank you so much, Phil! I loved reading your answers and book recommendations, and I’m firmly with you on the ouija board. NOPE.
***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. WINNERS ARE LUCY GRIFFIFTHS, AYSHA SULEMAN AND FLORA. WINNERS HAVE BEEN CONTACTED BY EMAIL*** PLEASE NOTE THAT IF PRIZES ARE UNCLAIMED BY WEDS 13TH OCTOBER THEN NEW WINNERS WILL BE SELECTED AT RANDOM