Cast a spell with Stacey Thomas and The Revels

A spell was cast on me the first time I entered a library. I didn’t realise it at the time, but each book I read brought me a step closer to my dream of becoming a writer.

A dream I’ll admit I was tempted to abandon over the years as I threw away stories that just wouldn’t come together, stories I loved but lacked that special something to convince others of the same and throughout it all a voice in my head telling me to trade my dreams for something small and sensible. 

“The spell that was cast all those years ago isn’t done with me yet

Stacey Thomas

It must have been a spell that convinced me to keep going as I soon found my way to what would eventually become The Revels. My story owes a great debt to the books I’ve read that capture so much of what I love about historical fiction from Stacey Halls’ The Familiars, Bridget Collins’ The Binding, Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and Ronald Bassett’s Witchfinder General.  

© Julia Boggio

However, the premise for The Revels was sparked by my research into the witchfinder Matthew Hopkins. I remember my shock at discovering the number of alleged witches he killed and the age at which he took up his profession. He was only in his early twenties when he became a witch-hunter and even assumed the fake title of Witchfinder General to assert his authority. Hopkins’ rise coincided with the chaos of the English Civil War and the culture of misinformation that swept through 17th-century England. 

During this period, witch pamphlets were in vogue and people would read exaggerated accounts of contemporary witch trials. At the time The Revels is set, readers were still reeling from ‘A Most Certain, Strange, and True Discovery of a Witch,’ which describes a group of Roundhead soldiers happening upon a witch dancing upon the River of Newbury and ending her merriment with a cascade of bullets.  

My research gave me a wealth of information to draw upon and on reflection, my story could have taken many different paths. However, The Revels came about from the one question that wouldn’t leave me alone until I answered it: Why would someone choose to become a witch-hunter? From this emerged my main character Nicholas Pearce, a young man who’s both a witch and witch-hunter. However, this detail, while intriguing, isn’t a story. I’m therefore so grateful to my editor, agent, tutors, beta readers, etc who read The Revels and asked me the questions that helped me turn my idea into a story. 

It feels surreal to realise in a few months I’ll be able to hold a finished copy of my book in my hands. But the spell that was cast all those years ago isn’t done with me yet. It won’t let go until I pass on the story that has been years in the making, silently shaping itself from the ashes of past projects. I’m letting go now and handing the story to you. A sort of magic, but one I hope you’ll like. 

Stacey x

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