This short essay of mine was originally published on the Creatively Green Write at Home Mom blog as part of In the Blood‘s book release blog tour. Just thought I’d share it here too for those who haven’t had a chance to read it 🙂
My debut fantasy novel, In the Blood, has a number of villains. None of them are über-powerful dark lords or mysterious organizations that wreak havoc on the heroes. Instead they are people doing whatever they can to survive and claw out a bit of happiness for themselves. Oh, and a tree.
That’s right, a tree is one of my villains. In fact, the Witch’s Tree might even be a more insidious bad guy than any of the flesh and blood individuals creating mayhem. It creeps into dreams, ignites mob-like hatred, sends shivers down people’s spines, and it waits.
Seventy years before the events of In the Blood, the Witch’s Tree was used as a site of execution for witches in the small community of Corlaan. Around twenty people were hung there – the youngest victim only a few years old. These executions took place in the larger setting of a nationwide genocide of those with witchbreed blood. Anyone suspected of possessing magic was denounced by his/her neighbors, tried, and killed. Tens of thousands of people perished, nearly obliterating the witchbreed population. For the people of Corlaan, the Witch’s Tree is a fraught symbol of shame and fear. For Oriabel, it is a warning not to step too far outside her place and reveal herself, lest she too swing.
When you think of the some of the most notorious execution sites in history such as Newgate Prison and the Tower of London, the gas chambers in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, or Golgotha/Calvary there is an almost tangible presence attached to them. They are so soaked in death and suffering – very often of perfectly innocent people – that they have a sort of horrible life of their own. Too, they are symbols. Ones that are immediately recognizable, though what they represent is infinitely complicated. That is what I attempted to create with the Witch’s Tree: a site so steeped in pain that it becomes a dark presence in the story – a silent shadow that haunts the living and whose victims linger in a perpetual nightmare.