The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website open to interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better – and occasionally may offer features from Shannon herself that support readers to discover words.
Today, find out more about WITCHES’ QUARTERS.
Laura M. Snider
Genre: YA fantasy
Interview with the Author:
Q: What is the significance of quarters in Witches’ Quarters?
Witches’ Quarters has four main characters, who are all siblings. The Quarters are the avenue they use to enter the world of Nova. The oldest child, Charlotte, gives her youngest sister, June, the bag of quarters and coin bank to help distract her from their parents’ arguing.
June chooses the North Dakota quarter. She drops it into the coin bank, and the four siblings are transported to the scene on the back of the quarter. This is where they meet the first native Novians, the bison on the back of the quarter.
Q: What quarters did you use in the book, and why did you choose those particular quarters?
I started by gathering all the quarters I had and examining their backs. The first time I did this, I was sitting on the bathroom floor with coins dumped out all around me. My husband walked in, found me there, cocked his head to the side and said “what are you doing?” I said “just wait,” and he let it go. I guess he didn’t press me on it because I do weird things sometimes and he has decided it’s best not to ask too many questions. Eventually, I let him read the first draft of the book and he understood.
Mostly I chose the quarters that had animals on them and made the animals characters in the book. The Oklahoma quarter has a scissortail flycatcher on it, which becomes a very important character in the book. Nevada has three horses that become primary characters as well. I used Nevada, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Iowa.
The Iowa Quarter doesn’t have any animals on it, but I live in Iowa and love Iowa so I wanted to use it in the book.
Q: What happens when the characters in Witches’ Quarters use the traditional American quarter with the eagle on the back?
The answer to this question would be a huge spoiler, so I’ll just say that it’s a part of the book and something the reader has to find out.
Q: Sans spoilers, what are the central conflicts in Witches’ Quarters?
The first conflict readers encounter is familial conflict. The parents of the four primary characters, Charlotte, Ava, Nolan, and June, do not get along. There is some domestic violence, and neither the reader or the children know how the situation will pay out for the mother (at least until the end).
The second conflict is familial as well. The two oldest children, Charlotte and Ava, are constantly disagreeing with one another. These two are the closest in age, 16 and 15 respectively, and they both have very different ideas of what is best for their family. This leads to some decisions that get both Charlotte and Ava into some trouble.
The third conflict involves the entire world of Nova. There are two separate groups with separate cultures. Intelligent, talking animals are native to Nova. Witches from America are the second group. The groups each have different types of powers, but the power is transferrable. I won’t go into too much detail into this because it would have to include spoilers, but I’ll say that greed fuels the conflict between native Novians and the witches.
The final conflict is amongst each separate group, the animals and witches. I won’t go into detail here, but the reader will find there to be conflict amongst the animals as well as conflict amongst the witches.
Q: Is there an inherent good or bad side to any of conflicts in the story?
Yes and no. Some conflicts have a clear right and wrong, while others do not. For example, domestic violence is always wrong. So, obviously the children’s father is wrong when he physically abuses his wife. But the conflict between Ava and Charlotte is less clear. Same with the conflict between the characters living in Nova.
For the most part, readers have to decide who is good and who is bad. Each group/character has good and bad traits. They all have reasons and justifications for their actions. Each reader may come to a different conclusion as to who is right and who is wrong, depending on what values that particular reader finds are most important.
Q: Relationships between characters is an important part books. What relationship did you enjoy the most?
I would have to say Ava and Paloma. Paloma is one of the three horses the siblings encounter in Nevada. She is a war horse and an important part of the animal’s resistance to the witch. Ava is a witch, although she doesn’t know it at the beginning of the book.
The fact that Ava is a witch and Paloma is a witch hater places them at odds early on. But they are forced together. Paloma and the animals need Ava and her sibling’s help. Ava and her siblings need the animal’s help. For this reason, they have to spend time together and learn to appreciate one another.
Eventually, they get to know one another and set aside their cultural differences. They decide to look at one another as individuals rather than as a group. The friendship that blossoms between the two characters at that point is unshakable.
Q: Writers often have a deeper meaning to their novels than that which is obvious from the book. Did you have a deeper meaning in mind when you wrote Witches’ Quarters?
I did. I wanted to challenge the issue of good vs. bad. Our world is so polarized these days and everyone seems to think they are firmly on the side of “good.” But what does that mean?
I practice as a criminal defense attorney as my “day job,” and I’ve spent a large part of my career addressing the “good” vs. “bad” question. People seem to think that prosecutors are good and defense attorneys, along with their clients, are bad.
The truth is much more complicated than that. Yes, a prosecutor seems good when she tries a case and ultimately convicts a burglar who broke into a house and beat the homeowner to death. Those facts always elicit strong emotions in everyone, and naturally people want to hold someone accountable.
But what if the person who was convicted was actually innocent? What if law enforcement missed some key pieces of evidence and arrested the wrong person? Who is the victim in that scenario? Who is good and who is bad? It’s a lot more complicated than initially thought.
From the standpoint of the innocent person who was wrongfully convicted, the prosecutor and cops are firmly on the bad side and the defense attorney is good. For law enforcement and the family of the person killed, the defense attorney and defendant are bad while the prosecutor is good.
I say the latter part because these two groups won’t likely believe the wrongfully convicted person was wrongfully convicted. To come to this conclusion, law enforcement would have to admit that they are the villains in the story. The family would have to admit that a killer is still out there and they rooted for the destruction of an innocent person’s life. Both of these things are contradictory to human nature. Both of these things are extremely unlikely.
Q: June is the youngest character in the book and she is epileptic. Why did you choose to give June this disease when you wrote her character?
I have a family member who has suffered with Epilepsy since she was a baby. It is a disease that not many people know much about. Actually, since it is a disease of the brain, doctors still don’t know a lot about it.
I decided to give June epilepsy for a couple of reasons. First, because I’ve never read a book that had an epileptic character and I wanted to draw some attention to the disease. Second, the disease created additional conflict in the story. I won’t go into detail because it would have to include spoilers, but it is important to the conflict between Ava and Charlotte.
Q: Will there be a sequel to Witches’ Quarters?
I didn’t write Witches’ Quarters with a specific intention either way. I was careful to make sure the book could stand alone without a sequel. But I also allowed room for the possibility.
A number of people who have read the book have encouraged me to make Witches’ Quarters a series. I don’t have specific plans to continue it at this point. I’d like to work on something entirely different for a little while. But if I do write another book in the series, I think it will likely be a prequel, not a sequel.
Q: What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on a manuscript about the criminal justice system. It is geared towards an adult audience. It is a fiction novel, but it addresses some of the issues I saw in the criminal justice system when I worked as a public defender.