Thanks to Fang-tastic Books for having me on the site today!
Okay, I’ll admit it: I write about vintage clothes –at least in part-- because the research is so fun! I get to spend a lot of time hanging out in the Haight neighborhood of San Francisco, checking out the secondhand shops, sipping coffee, and people-watching. ..and I get to call it “work”. What’s not great about that?
But seriously, I decided to give Lily Ivory, the gifted protagonist of my Witchcraft Mystery series, a special relationship to vintage clothing for two reasons: just as with old homes or antiques, there’s an inherent mystery in items that generations of people have lived with, cared for, and loved. And to someone sensitive to psychic vibrations, there are often paranormal messages associated with such objects.
As a natural witch growing up in a small West Texas town, Lily learned not to trust people. Her father left when she was young; her mother couldn’t handle her supernatural powers and sent her to live with her adoptive grandmother. When Lily was run out of town at the age of seventeen, she began to search the globe for a safe place to settle down. In the meantime, she avoided friendship because of her fears… but as social animals we humans yearn for engagement, for connection with other people. Lily found this connection through her ability to read sensations, vibrations, and history from clothing: the older the better.
The ability to hold something in one’s hands and sense something about its past is called
psychometry (literally: “to measure the soul of the thing”) The basic belief is that there is a link created when a person lives with an object; a signature or aura that settles deep within the atoms of the object. For those with the gift of psychometry, reading this retained memory is straightforward: much as a bloodhound picks up on a person’s unique scent, a sensitive can feel vibrations of those who have worn things close to themselves.
When I started writing a mystery with a powerful witch as a protagonist, I came up against a few issues right away. First: what kind of a witch? There are all sorts of witches, from nature-loving pagans to African healers to the European broom-riding witches of lore. Second, if my witch was naturally powerful, why wouldn’t she just use her supernatural abilities to “see” who the criminal was and solve the mystery?
I’m fascinated by the close connection between what we refer to as “folk healing” and magic, so I gave Lily knowledge of traditional healing methods, botanicals, and the ability to brew potions and cast spells. Her powers were passed down as a mixture of European and Mexican witchcraft, which she inherited and learned from her father and adoptive grandmother, respectively. But she can’t “scry”, which means to see the future or past in crystal balls or black mirrors. That way, as an author I could put her in more difficult circumstances, gleaning what information she can from her powers of psychometry, with a special emphasis on clothes.
We all know that feeling of standing up straighter, holding yourself differently when you’re dressed up for a wedding or important ceremony. When you “change” – putting on different clothes -- you often change in more than the obvious ways. You might feel like a different person – sometimes that’s a bad thing, but often it’s a plus. As the owner of a vintage clothing store, Lily can help her customers find outfits that suit them not only physically, but psychically. A rare talent, indeed (one I wish I possessed!)
And if those antique silks and satins have anything to say about a murder that occurred-- ancient or contemporary—Lily Ivory will be there to figure out the link.
Nationally bestselling author Juliet Blackwell writes the Witchcraft Mystery series (Secondhand Spirits, A Cast-off Coven, and the new Hexes and Hemlines). If Walls Could Talk launched the Haunted Home Renovation series in 2010; Dead Bolt, the second in the series, comes out in December. As one-half of the sister duo dubbed Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Art Lover’s Mystery Series--including Agatha-nominated Feint of Art and the most recent, Arsenic and Old Paint. A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France, and now paints and writes in Oakland, California. She served two terms as president of NorCal Sisters in Crime
Visit me on Twitter (@JulietBlackwell) and on Facebook
Hexes and Hemlines
#3 of the Witchcraft Mystery Series
Coming June 7th!
With her vintage clothing store taking off, Lily Ivory is finding that life in San Francisco suits her just fine. But her ability to sense vibrations from the past, so useful in locating secondhand gems, has landed her in the middle of a new mystery...
Lily gets called away from Aunt Cora's Closet when the police need a witch's take on a strange case. Malachi Zazi was stabbed to death in his apartment, under a ladder, surrounded by the number thirteen, a broken mirror, and a black cat—superstitions that the victim, as head of a rationalist society, was devoted to discrediting.
When the police identify a suspect from the Serpentarian Society, Lily is shocked to learn it's someone she knows. But with bad luck plaguing all its members, she begins to wonder if there's more at work than mere coincidence. And while there aren't many clues from the crime scene, Lily finds evidence of dark witchcraft and a hex on her friend's doorstep. With her friend's safety at stake, Lily is determined to use magic to find the murderer before everyone's luck runs out...