This Writer Wednesday, the spotlight shines on fantasy author Sonja F. Blanco!
Sonja is not only a writer of magic, but she is a magical person who wrote the first book in her Witch of Ware Woods series to honor her ancestor who was actually condemned and hanged for being a witch. She is a kindred spirit who also enjoys working out her stories while taking long walks and using a practice similar to method acting for character development.
Sonja is a cemetery prowling, ax wielding Leo who loves being a part of the indie writer community.
As her birthday was Monday (8/8 Lion’s Gate), help me wish Sonja a happy belated birthday by reading her interview and dropping a celebratory message in the comments on this interview’s Instagram post!
A quick note:
During this interview, you might note that many of the questions include the word “we” as if “we” asked them. Well, we did. This detail is meant to include you, my dear reader, and I do hope you enjoy each interview published to this blog!
Additionally, please note that each interview answer is the author's own words and the interviews in The Intuitive Storyteller blog are intended for informational and educational purposes only.
Sonja F. Blanco grew up in New England where she ran barefoot through the woods, chased lightning bugs, tapped maple trees for syrup, and built towering snow castles.
Having an ancestor who was hung as a witch, Sonja is naturally drawn to all things magical and fantastical—trees and cemeteries in particular.
At five-two, she is often caught climbing tables, chairs, and small children to reach the upper shelves. She likes coffee and tea equally, both of which most certainly contributed to her diminutive stature.
Witty comics easily amuse her, as do heavily jowled Hell Hounds that talk in their sleep.
She writes fantasy as if it were real, because believing makes it so.
About Witch of Ware Woods
Dark secrets. Dangerous power. And a fate bound to a forest entwined with magic.
Eighteen-year-old Sara is not normal, and she’s losing her grip on hiding her inexplicable power. Hunted by a dark witch and facing devastating losses, Sara finds refuge in Ware Woods—a spellbinding forest protected by witches, shapeshifters . . . and thorny secrets. Here she discovers true magic and an electric connection with Thomas, a wickedly charming and equally headstrong witch from a dangerous family.
But Sara is an outsider who has brought darkness and a fatal prophecy to the forest. To prove she belongs in Ware Woods, Sara is tested and pushed to master new magics, all while concealing the monstrous force that makes her undeniably different.
As the dark witch closes in on her and an insidious blight threatens Ware Woods, Sara must release her full power—and either save the forest and everyone she loves or destroy everything.
Witch of Ware Woods is a contemporary fantasy escape filled with fast-paced wonder, fierce characters, deadly magic, forbidden romance, and a world so fresh you can smell the pine trees.
About Witch of Ware Woods, Book Two
Cover reveal coming soon!
Sara has survived heartbreaking tragedy inflicted by the dark witch she is now hellbent on destroying.
But when an ancient magic awakens and betrayal threatens the sanctity of Ware Woods, her desire for retribution is forcibly tested.
To protect the balance between light and dark magic and the lives of everyone she loves, Sara must keep her friends and family close... and her enemies even closer.
Book Two is available 9/27/2022. Stay up to date on its release by visiting Sonja’s website at www.sonjafblanco.com
And now, the interview:
Sonja, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been creative but favored drawing to writing for quite some time, or so I thought. Writing is so natural to me that I hadn’t realized I was mentally writing whole novels and journaling them in bits and pieces. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized, “Oh yeah, I’m a writer.”
Tell us about the person(s) or event(s) that inspired you to write your latest work.
I could talk for hours on this topic [laughs].
The Witch of Ware Woods series is strongly inspired by the woods behind my grandparent's house in Massachusetts. In fact, their brown house is also in the story and one of my characters is modeled after my grandmother, Lena, who I dedicated the book to.
Another big inspiration for this series is my ancestor, Mary, who was hung as a witch in 1720 at the young age of seventeen. I felt compelled to help her—to somehow change her outcome. So I wondered if instead of being persecuted she had found refuge in the forest. Witch of Ware Woods is how I envisioned a better life for her.
What is your favorite genre to write and why do these types of stories appeal to you?
Fantasy is my favorite genre to write because there are no limits on creativity. I can let my imagination unfurl and explore in all directions. It is incredibly freeing and energizing and grounding all at once.
I particularly like the young adult age range because the teens and older adults who comprise this audience are hungry for good stories with underlying life lessons. It's a fantastic opportunity to showcase healthy relationships and decision-making through imperfect, multi-faceted, and emotional characters who feel 100% real.
Do you have a furry familiar? Tell us about them!
At the moment, my family is in between Hell Hounds. Since our last beloved passed on, we have fostered a few dogs and are hoping to find our next fur-ever family member soon.
Tell us about your writing schedule and/or a ritual that is necessary for establishing and sustaining your writing mood and endurance.
Daily meditation, exercise, and music are critical to my writing mood and endurance. I start each day with a quick gratitude meditation, and, at some point during the day, I try to walk at least four miles. While walking, I think through plots and scenes—playing them out like a movie to see which direction is best—and use my phone to dictate notes.
Why do you write? How does the act of storytelling affect you?
Haha! My characters are relentless. I feel compelled to write—as if I'm the conduit merely scribing these stories that exist in the ether. It would be a disservice not to write.
It is exceptionally satisfying to share my stories and ideas. When my storytelling resonates with a reader, it's like a warm hug to my soul.
When my storytelling resonates with a reader, it's like a warm hug to my soul.
Think about yourself back when you first started writing. If you could travel back in time, what would you say to that version of you (about the writing process, publishing, the world, etc.) that might help prepare them for today?
I would tell myself to trust in my writing—to always listen to my gut. Writing and publishing can be HARD but, like all great things, it is worth the effort.
Keep asking for help—which is true of all things in life and is one of the themes in my current WIP.
What are your recommendations for fueling your writing energy and promoting inspiration?
What always boosts my energy and creativity is music and movement.
Create and cue a playlist then walk, run, dance, clean the house, anything to occupy your physical body and monkey mind so your creativity can be released.
And always have your phone or pen and paper handy for when inspiration strikes.
How intuitive are you and does your intuition affect your writing?
I’d say I’m very intuitive, empathic even. This is particularly handy in understanding my characters. Similar to method acting, I’ll drop into character and know what they are feeling and how they will act. I thought this was totally normal until I brought it up to a few fellow authors and they had no idea what I was talking about [laughs].
Tell us about your long-term writing and publishing goals.
My long-term goals are to have quite a few fantasy series with whole realms and fandoms, some standalones, and perhaps even some nonfiction with regard to cemeteries (I have an old thesis on cemetery design that begs to be published).
I look forward to connecting with readers and inspiring them—whether in a momentary capacity with pure escapism or even to be writers themselves. And I hope to help the publishing industry be more sustainable, particularly in regards to paper consumption.
For what or whom are you most grateful right now and why?
I am most grateful for my supporting family and friends. And I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing reading and writing community. The genuine positivity and support here is astounding.
Besides writing, what activities bring you joy?
Reading! [laughs] All things magic and witchy, music, hiking, exploring cemeteries, drawing and painting, ax throwing, martial arts, and gardening.
Which book are you reading right now?
Currently reading the Throne of Glass series and the Kingdom of the Wicked series. Oh, and a few indies too!
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Can't pick just one. Here's three: Red, White, and Royal Blue; The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue; Empire of the Vampire.
Fill in the blank: Magic is...
Magic is everywhere.
Stay connected with Sonja! Here’s where you can find her:
Next up, I'm publishing a special story about what inspired me to write my new book, Only the Rocks That Float, which releases on September 9.
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself.
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative or on Facebook at @haintbluebooks.