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27 March 2020

Q&A with VV James

Today I have the joy and privilege of interviewing one of my all time favourite authors, the marvellous VV James. I'm lucky to be kicking off the blog tour celebrating the paperback release of Sanctuary. 

Can you describe Sanctuary in five words?
Great way to spend quarantine.

What inspired you to write Sanctuary?
Two things: my amazing editor, Rachel Winterbottom, who said how much she wanted to read a ‘Big Little Lies with witches’ book and who was key to SANCTUARY’s creation, and my experience filming in the US during the Women’s Marches and the start of the #MeToo movement. I’d been in America filming a doc about the first days of the Trump presidency, and saw first hand the anger of women nationwide – this was after the ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ tape had surfaced while I was covering the election campaign itself. And when Lana del Rey issued a cryptic tweet seemingly calling the witches of America to hex the new president, well, it was impossible not to wonder ‘What if they really could…?’ 

Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
Right now, in the middle of Covid-19, Bridget – calm, comforting Bridget. Keeping metres apart, of course! In happier times, Rowan, the magical investigator. They’ve got such great stories to tell, like that of the cow-hexing Kentucky triplets. Or Maggie and Chester, who could be relied upon to bring a box of excellent doughnuts. 

What was the most difficult thing about writing Sanctuary?
There were lots of challenges. Writing in first person for the first time. Making sure the three principal voices – all adult women – were clear and distinct. As a Brit, making sure my depiction of America didn’t strike any false notes. Ensuring that my depiction of characters with marginalised identities was accurate and respectful. Likewise with my representation of witchcraft, which although fictionalised I wanted to be recognisable, and which therefore draws on elements recognisable to practicing Wiccans and pagans today. Lots of things it was vital to get right. But that’s what keeps things interesting. 

How do you think you would cope if you were dropped into the story?
Badly! I’m a logical person, always asking questions, insisting on evidence. It’s one of the things that makes me (I hope!) a good journalist. I get stressed by situations where there’s no data or clarity, and frustrated when the irrational takes over – as it does in an entire community in SANCTUARY.

Are you a planner or a pantser?
Usually somewhere in between, as I suspect most writers are. But SANCTUARY was very tightly plotted, so for this one I had a long and detailed outline before I even started.

What is your favourite thing about writing?
That it totally legitimises having imaginary friends! Also, the dress code (ie. slippers and my snuggliest cardigan…)

Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
Right now, I’m working on two historical novels – both plotty and twisty and with a large cast, just as I love to write. And while SANCTUARY was always conceived as a standalone, there’s obviously a lot more ahead for these characters, should readers want to know. So I have a sequel all plotted out and ready to go, if this book finds plenty of readers or the TV series currently in development gets the green light. Keeping everything crossed!

So there we have it! Have you read Sanctuary? 


  1. That description in five words is genius. I can't say much about the book, but the author sounds like a great person.

    x Envy
    Lost in Translation


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