The sweet spell of success

Writers can be a little like children, who only stick with the kids that enjoy the same games. Only, in our case, we writers can suffer from genre-phobia. 

Silly really, because the writing process is the same (inspiration, torture and progress, in that order) and the elements of good writing are the same (captivating plot, engaging characters, authentic dialogue, etc.). 

It can be really invigorating to meet writers of other genres to see what inspires them to put pen to paper, and where it has taken them. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Sarah Painter, who has kindly agreed to answer some questions

The Language of Spells can be described as Magical Romantic Fiction – what drew you to write this kind of book?
I was in a total writing slump. I’d just finished a masters in creative writing at St Andrews and had spent the previous year trying to change my natural writing voice into something more literary. Plus, I’d parted company with my agent (amicably) which I knew was the right move, but it felt very scary. I wanted to cheer myself up so I thought I’d try writing the kind of book that I enjoyed reading when I was in need of comfort – warm romantic comedy. The magic just crept in; very subtly at first, but then it grew…
Did you do any research into beliefs and superstitions?
I love books that mix magic with the everyday world, and have always read widely in folklore, myths and legends, so I already had a fair basis of knowledge. I did research herbalism and checked which plants would actually be available in Gwen’s garden in Wiltshire.
When did you realise you were writing a series, and what additional challenges does that bring?
Um. I didn’t, actually, but was absolutely thrilled when my publisher asked if I’d write a follow up to the book. After years of rejection, hearing an editor say ‘we love these characters and this world and we’d like more’ was amazing.
Which writers have inspired you, and continue to inspire you?
So many! I’m inspired by the work ethic and tenacity of all my writer friends. Back before I wrote my first book I was inspired by Stephen King’s On Writingto just get on with it, and I’m inspired every time I read a book that I love.
Tell us about your current book and its protagonist.
It’s a contemporary story of family and romance, with added magic. Here’s the blurb:
Gwen Harper left Pendleford thirteen years ago and hasn’t looked back. Until an inheritance throws her into the mystical world she thought she’d escaped. Confronted with her great-aunt’s legacy Gwen must finally face up to her past.

The magic she has long tried to suppress is back with a vengeance but gift or burden, for Gwen, it always spells trouble. She has to stay – she has nowhere else to go – but how can she find her place in the town that drove her out after branding her a witch…?
Where can we buy it?
Thank you for asking! It’s available from and I believe it is also going to be available for Kobo and Nook, but it’s not listed on those sites, yet.
What question did you hope to be asked?
Would I like a drink? Tea. No, wine…Tea, then wine.
What question were you glad never came up, and why?
How long it takes me to write a first draft (I’m slow and it makes me anxious to think about it!).
And finally, as an aside*…I’ve written a transatlantic comedy drama, Scars & Stripes, which has been described as ‘bloke lit’ or ‘lad lit’, and has some romance in it, after a fashion. In your experience, are there many male romantic fiction authors out there?
Great title! Yes, I think there are plenty of male romantic comedy authors (although they are often branded differently to their female counterparts). Mike Gayle, Nick Hornby, Mil Millington, and Matt Dunn spring to mind.
Thank you so much for hosting me, Derek!

My giveaway (to win a Nook e-reader) ends tonight

And I will be appearing on Chick Lit Reviews tomorrow

My website:


* ‘Aside’ being a byword for, “Please help me with my research.”


  1. Chloe says:

    Thanks for this Derek and Sarah – sounds like a great book! And so much respect for leaving your agent because you knew it was the right thing to do. That must've been scary!

  2. Derek says:

    I agree. I've turned down publishers before, but having an agent seems to me to be a much more personal working relationship.

  3. Thanks, Chloe! It really was… I felt like maybe I'd had 'my chance' and that was that, but I'm so glad I carried on going!

  4. Thanks, Derek. I think saying 'no' to anything when it comes to writing is really difficult… After all, we know how hard it is to get anywhere in the publishing world, so it can be tricky to separate what is right for us from what is right for the person/company offering the opportunity!

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