Swinton author weaves 'Witch Silver' magic

HALLOWEEN may be a few months off yet but there was definitely some magical inspiration behind a new book by Borders author Anne Forbes.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 16th June 2010, 4:44 pm

Anne divides her time between Swinton, Edinburgh and Kuwait, where she taught for many years starting in 1966. Her latest novel, 'Witch Silver' is the fifth installment in her 'Dragonfires' series which has already spawned 'Dragonfire', 'The Wings of Ruksh', 'The Underground City' and 'Firestar'.

All of the books have proved popular with children in the region and beyond and all the signs are pointing to 'Witch Silver' following suit.

As a former primary school teacher, Anne had all the tools to become a successful writer of children's books but decided to finally put pen to paper after retiring a few years ago.

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She said: "Working as a teacher for so many years and always being so busy I knew I wouldn't be able to just sit around and do nothing when I retired.

"My original idea was a very lucky one as it has given me lots of material. I knew I wanted to write a book about dragons and from my time as a teacher I knew the type of thing that children would like.

"I was also keen to have a really strong Scottish element to the stories so they would be a bit different to what was already out there."

And in keeping with the Scottish backdrop to her books the main characters in 'Witch Silver', Neil and Clara, move from Edinburgh to Coldstream and attend a local boarding school.

They are no strangers to magic, danger and even witches but they think that they have left that all behind them when their family re-locate to the Borders.

Unfortunately for them, as if a new house and a new school wasn't enough to adjust to, they have to battle witches with evil intentions.

And the many twists and turns of the magical Borders tale has definitely gone down well with the local children who have heard snippets of 'Witch Silver'.

Anne has been on a mini storytelling tour around the region to coincide with the book's release and has so far read to youngsters in Lauder and St Boswells.

She continued: "The biggest event I've done so far was at Main Street Trading in St Boswells. Quite a few children turned up and they seemed to really enjoy it.

"I think books are an important part of children's lives. They can broaden a child's vocabulary and through reading they can learn to write and speak good English.

"As well as Coldstream, I also mention other Borders towns and places like Cafraemill and Norham. Although the Scarecrow Festival isn't going there anymore I used it for the book as the snow witches I've written about need to merge with scarecrows to search the countryside for what they're looking for.

"And even though the school in 'Witch Silver' is called Netherfield, people are bound to think its based on Longridge Towers."

When you think of popular series of children's books it's virtually impossible to ignore J.K Rowling's Harry Potter saga, which like Anne's books has a strong connection with magic.

But Anne said that is where any similarities end.

"My books are nothing like the 'Harry Potter' novels- I don't want to tag myself on to their success at all.

The 'Dragon Fire' series is a lot different and 'Witch Silver' is the first of them to involve a school."

'Witch Silver', aimed at 8-12 year olds, hasn't even been out a month but already Anne has finished its follow up, which proved to be quite a bittersweet moment for her as it is the final chapter of the 'Dragon Fire' story.

She added: "I've finished the final book which I've called 'Dragonslayer'- I don't know if that will be the final title but the publishers seemed to like it when I told them.

"I almost feel like I'm killing all of my characters off by not writing about them anymore. So in that respect, finishing the book was quite bittersweet.

"I'm not sure what I will write about next but the two things I've learnt as a writer is that you can't force ideas you've got to let them come to you and you have to write about something you enjoy.

"I like writing about magic so I will continue doing that."

Published by Floris Books, 'Witchsilver' is out now in paperback, priced 5.99. Anne will be reading to pupils at Eccles/Leitholm primary on Tuesday, June 22.