Monday, February 11, 2013

VBT: Love of Shadows

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Love of Shadows virtual book tour!  Please help me welcome Zoe Brooks to the blog. I'm interviewing Zoe, and will also feature some information about Zoe's book, Love of Shadows. 

Hi Zoe! Welcome to the blog!

Tell us about yourself and your writing.

I am a British writer and poet who spends approximately half her life in a semi-restored farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where I write my books. I like to write popular books that get under the skin of the reader. A number of reviewers have said that the books and the central characters have stayed with them after they finished reading, which is just what I want.

How long have you been writing? How many published books do you have and what genres?

I have three novels out – Mother of Wolves (a fantasy adventure), Girl in the Glass (magic realism fantasy) and Love of Shadows, my latest book and sequel to Girl in the Glass. All three books have strong if very different heroines, so I’d say they were all women’s fiction. A recent reviewer said of Girl in the Glass that it was “a dark and cautionary story of transformation and healing, a heroine’s journey to becoming an adult woman”. Love of Shadows continues that journey. I write magic realism, which isn’t so much a genre but a way of writing. Basically magic realism has a realistic setting but an element of magic or fantasy. I don’t go in for dragons or vampires.

Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, do you consider straying outside your genre?

You can write magic realism in several genres and I do. I create a very realistic world, but not set in a specific time or place. Judith the central character in this book doesn’t have supernatural powers or fairy godmothers to help her out, she has to rely on her own inner strength and that of her Shadow Sarah to succeed. With Mother of Wolves again I wrote in a fictional time and place, but this time the story was more a historical fantasy adventure, a revenge story. I am planning a novel or novella which will be a paranormal mystery, in a realistic modern setting

Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants.

A bit of both, but that probably means I am mostly a plotter. I work out the story in my head for months before I actually sit down and write anything. But even so usually something will come up and surprise me. Sometimes it's a character that suddenly says come follow me and sometimes it is a plot issue that just doesn’t work when I see it on my laptop screen.

What’s a typical writing day like for you?

I write all my first drafts in my farmhouse in the Czech Republic. It’s my writing hideaway. I will get up, light the woodstove (I usually write in the Autumn/Winter), have some toast and jam and sit down with the first of many mugs of tea. I write intensively for a month or two, aiming at a minimum of two thousand words a day. That usually takes all day and sometimes into the evening. I’m on my own in the house and so can wander around acting out scenes. If the words are really flowing I may write well into the night.

Who do you love to read?
I am an admirer of Ursula Le Guin, who not only writes wonderful stories but also some of the best books on how to write. Hilary Mantel is another favourite of mine, she is able to turn her hand to so many genres. I love reading magic realism, such as books by Joanne Harris, Isabelle Allende and Alice Hoffman.

What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?

I published my first book in March 2012 and it’s all about getting momentum. Of course I’d love to be “discovered” but what matters is getting my books read by people who really appreciate them. I want to have at least two more books published in 2013 and my early books available in print. By 2014 I want to have broken through and have sufficient people buying my books that I could cut back or better still give up my other work.

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?

I would love to be able to speak and read all languages. Czech is an extremely difficult language (it has seven declensions for each word) and I just can’t get to grips with it. It would also mean of course that I could write my books in all sorts of languages and reach a much wider readership.

If you could keep a mythical creature as a pet, what would it be?

It has to be a white fox. I am published by White Fox Books. I also regard the fox as lucky, I always seem to see foxes when I am writing. My Czech home has a fox door knocker and I rub it when I arrive. The white fox is a mythical beast from Japan and is a guardian spirit.

Tell us a little about your latest release
Love of Shadows follows the story of the young perfume-maker Judith and her Shadow, Sarah. At the opening of the book Elma, their employer and Judith’s mentor, has just died and Judith is trying deal with her grief. This is a world in which women healers are being persecuted in favour of the university-trained male doctors. Judith is accused of making medicine for Elma and then of killing her, but she escapes prosecution. Judith’s mother was a healer and Judith more and more feels that she is called to follow in her mother’s footsteps? Then scarlet fever breaks out and Judith must decide will she risk the gallows to help others. The second element in the novel is whether Judith, who has been badly damaged by past relationships, will be able to trust a man enough to let him get near to her emotionally.

What is something that you absolutely can’t do without?
Oh that’s easy. I’m very British so I must have a constant stream of mugs of tea. All the British expats I know arrive back in the Czech Republic with British teabags in their luggage. It is a cure-all – refreshing, stimulating, relaxing, soothing.

Could you ever co author a book with someone? If so, who would you choose, and what would you write?

To be honest I’m not sure I could. Writing is such a solitary activity for me. It wasn’t until I could get away from my family and friends and hide in the Czech countryside that I began to write. The one person I think I could have worked with was Hannah Kodicek, a great personal friend and a story editor. It was Hannah who helped me learn the craft of storymaking. I loved getting her feedback, because she asked questions which sent me in new better directions. Sadly Hannah died two years ago. We would have produced something magical.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you do? What would you ask them?

That’s a very difficult question for someone who is a historian. I think I will say Helen Keller. She was such a remarkable woman and the story of how she was able to overcome her blindness and deafness and be such an articulate woman is amazing. I would want to talk to her about how she sensed the world. My character Judith has a very good sense of smell and I remember reading in one of Helen Keller’s books that she could tell who she was talking to from their smell and likewise what trees she was walking past. While writing this book with Judith as narrator I have become more aware of that aspect of my senses.

What are some of your other hobbies outside of writing?
I love walking in the countryside, not in the sense of hiking but wandering and stopping to look at plants and landscape. Because of my Czech connections I love gathering wild fruits and mushrooms from the forest. I now know about sixty edible mushrooms which I can confidently collect and eat.

If you were on the staff to have a book adapted to movie, what would you pick?
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s a wickedly funny book about Armageddon and would be such fun to make.
What is a talent you wish you had, but don’t?

I’d like to be more musical – to be able to sing without being self-conscious.

Favourite colour?
Earth brown

Weather: Hot or cold?

Can I be British please and say pleasantly warm?

Favorite meal

Meze eaten at a restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus (a honeymoon memory).

Favorite non-alcoholic drink

Do you need to ask? Tea of course.

If you could travel anywhere and do anything, no limits or money holding you back, where would you go?

India. I’ve always wanted to go, but I know that to see that great country properly you need a lot of time. It has so much history and spectacular scenery.  

Love of Shadows
by Zoe Brooks



"I had always felt most alive, when I was healing. Without healing I was a tin top spinning out of kilter soon to catch the ground. It took all my energy to hold myself from skidding into chaos."

But in the city of Pharsis traditional women healers are banned from practising and the penalty for breaking the law is death by hanging. After being arrested and interrogated twice Judith is careful to avoid suspicion, but then scarlet fever breaks over the city like a poisonous wave, leaving in its wake the small corpses of children. What will the young healer do?

Love of Shadows is the second novel in The Healer's Shadow trilogy, which began with Girl in the Glass, and follows the lives of Judith and her Shadow, Sarah. It is a study in grief, love and defiance.


Your second accuser, as I’m sure you will have worked out, was your mistress’ nephew. He claimed that you murdered her deliberately to get her money. A simple case of murder in the eyes of law, no fudge there.

Both your accusers are men who if they found someone dying in the street would not stop to help, or rather they would – they would help themselves to whatever was in the dying man’s pocket. No, I don’t like either of them, but that doesn’t make their accusations wrong.”

He sifted through the folder and produced Elma’s legal will and her real one – the letter to me. There were nicotine stains on his fingers as they unfolded the fine notepaper my mistress always used for special letters. Holding it in one hand and the cigarette in the other, he read in silence. I had planned to keep the letter forever to remind me of her, lest I forget some day that that fine singular old woman had loved me. I knew that was in part why she had written it, knowing how much I doubted myself and others. I treasured it more than any money Elma could have given me and here it was an object of little interest in a police file, to be stowed in some drawer perhaps or worse waved in court as evidence to condemn. That young interrogator was nothing compared to this man, the Rottweiler knew how to worm under the skin without stunts or threats.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:                

Zoe Brooks is a British writer and poet, who spends half her life in a partly restored old farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where she writes all her novels and poetry. She aims to write popular books, which have complex characters and themes that get under the reader's skin.

Zoe was a successful published poet in her teens and twenties, (featuring in the Grandchildren of Albion anthology). Girl In The Glass - the first novel in a trilogy about the woman and healer Anya was published on Amazon in March 2012, followed by Mother of Wolves and Love of Shadows. In May 2012 she published her long poem for voices Fool's Paradise as an ebook on Amazon.

Social Media Links

Zoe will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

You can follow the tour stops here



  1. Thank you Nikki for hosting me. I am currently working on book three in the trilogy and so am in my Czech Republic. This means I am at least six hours ahead of the US. I will pop in on the blog at about 2pm US time (dodgy Czech internet connection allowing) and will answer any questions anyone has. Cheers Zoe

  2. Thanks for the interview and the excerpt from the book - I'm going to be adding the Healer's Shadow Trilogy to my list to read - I love the sound of it.

  3. Very interesting interview, I enjoyed learning more about you. Thank you for a great excerpt.

  4. Thanks for the interview. I totally agree that the ability to know all languages would be a great power. I'd love to travel more on my own but feel limited by language barriers

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

    1. Shannon, I think the secret is to go somewhere small, like the Czech Republic, where no one expects foreigners to speak their language. The young people here all learn English at school and generally are keen to practice it.

      Zoe Brooks

  5. It's 11pm in the Czech Republic now, so I will log off. I'll be back tomorrow if anyone wants to ask something.


  6. If you write trying to get under the skin of the reader, it seems you have succeeded. This series is fascinating.

  7. A wonderful interview thank you. I learned a good deal.


  8. Thanks for the chance to win!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com