The Price Guide to the Occult is a haunting story about a strange island, magic, and the ties that bind people together–sometimes whether they like it or not. This story follows Nor as she tries to make sense of her own strange inheritance as a Blackburn daughter and get to the bottom of a price guide whose offers of magic with seemingly no limit is taking the world by storm. Today Leslye Walton is here to answer some of my questions about her latest novel.
Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?
Leslye Walton (LW): My path was fairly traditional, but it was a long one. I wrote my first novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, while in grad school. I submitted my manuscript to a few agencies, but I didn’t sign with my agent until a year later. Another year passed before we found the right publisher. I got really lucky though; I have the best agent in the world and the people at Candlewick Press have been amazing to work with.
MP: What was the inspiration for The Price Guide to the Occult?
LW: When I was brainstorming my next project, I took a trip up to the San Juan Islands. My car broke down, and I was told that I needed to wait a couple of days until the island’s sole mechanic returned from the mainland. So, as I waited for the mechanic to return, I soaked up as much of island life as I could–I saw the shore lit with bioluminescence, and the bright colors of the Northern Lights fill the sky. By the time I left, I knew this quirky place was going to be the setting of my next book.
MP: In this novel all of the Blackburn daughters have an affinity for a specific kind of magic–something the Blackburn women refer to a burden–that can range from healing to something similar to mind control. Keeping in mind that most magic in this world requires a price in the form of a sacrifice, what magical burden would you willingly accept?
LW: This is a tricky question! I would hope that I would accept some magical burden that could help make the lives of others better or easier in some way. But the part of me that struggles with anxiety finds the thought of that very stressful—I would make the worst superhero.
MP: This novel takes place on Anathema Island located in the Pacific Northwest. While the story focuses on Nor, it’s fair to say that the island is often as much of a character in the novel as it is a setting. Which came first during your drafting: the setting or the story?
LW: The setting absolutely came first, but Rona Blackburn, the matriarch of the Blackburn family, came quickly after. Anathema Island and Rona are essentially the foundation of the story, so I knew I needed to have both fleshed out before I could figure out the actual plot.
MP: Working off the last question, were any of the locations you mention in The Price Guide to the Occult inspired by actual places?
LW: They were inspired by the idea of places rather than actual places themselves. The shops along Meandering Lane are a mixture of the quirky occult shops, bakeries, and art co-ops that you can find all over the San Juan Islands.
MP: The Price Guide to the Occult is very focused on characters. Did you have a favorite character to write in this novel? What about one you most resemble (or wish you did)? Anyone you’re especially excited for readers to meet?
LW: I hope that readers love Nor as much as I do. She’s incredibly strong, and a powerful witch, but she struggles with very real mental health issues that I think many young girls her age will relate to. I also really love Nor’s grandmother, Judd and her partner, Apothia. And I’m a big fan of Nor’s best friend, Savvy—and of course, Bijou, who was inspired by my own little ridiculous dog.
MP: Do you have a favorite scene or a scene you are excited for readers to discover?
LW: I really love the scenes between Nor and her love interest, Reed. I hope readers enjoy their somewhat awkward banter as much as I enjoyed writing it.
MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project?
LW: Most of my next projects are just whispers right now, but there are several of them that I’m excited about. I can say that I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of Nor, Savvy and everyone else. I definitely think we’ll return to Anathema Island sometime soon.
[MP: This is very exciting news!]
MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
LW: Try not to worry about the kind of book you think you’re supposed to write, and write the kind of book you want to write. You can’t write everyone’s experience—write the book you need, trust that your words will find their intended audience, and allow other writers to do the same.
Thanks again to Leslye for this fantastic interview.
You can also read my review of The Price Guide to the Occult here on the blog.