Review: The Wonkiest Witch (by Jeannie Wycherley) 📚

The Wonkiest Witch -- Audiobook Tour

The Wonkiest Witch -- audiobook cover

Author: Jeannie Wycherley

Narrator: Kim Bretton

Length: 4 hours and 20 minutes

Series: Wonky Inn, Book 1

Publisher: Jeannie Wycherley

Released: May 3, 2019

Genre: Cozy Mystery

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Synopsis

Alfhild Daemonne has inherited an inn.

And a dead body.

Estranged from her witch mother, and having committed to little in her 30 years, Alf surprises herself when she decides to start a new life.

She heads deep into the English countryside, intent on making a success of the once popular inn. However, discovering the murder throws her a curve ball. Especially when she suspects dark magick.

Additionally, a less than warm welcome from several locals persuades her that a variety of folk - of both the mortal and magickal persuasions - have it in for her.

The dilapidated inn presents a huge challenge for Alf. Uncertain who to trust, she considers calling time on the venture.

Should she pack her bags and head back to London?

Don’t be daft.

Alf’s magickal powers may be as wonky as the inn, but she’s dead set on finding the murderer.

Once a witch, always a witch - and this one is fighting back.

A clean and cozy witch mystery.

Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in this fantastic new witch mystery series, from the author of the award-winning novel, Crone.

 

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Audio Excerpt
Author Bio

Genre-hopping introvert and word witch living somewhere between the forest and the sea in East Devon, UK.

Jeannie finds inspiration everywhere: in myths, stories and songs, while people watching, a word here, a look there. However, her main inspiration comes from the landscape. Devon has it all - a rocky coastline, pebble and sandy beaches, narrow winding lanes and picture perfect cottages, steep cliffs and an abundance of forest.

A good day for Jeannie means a blustery wind, racing waves and salty rain. She lives with her husband and two dogs, makes a lot of soup, plays too many computer games and loves watching movies.

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Narrator Bio

An accomplished and award winning actress with West End and Broadway theatre credits Kim has been doing voice over work for 15 years. She has voiced cartoon characters for the BBC and been a regular vocal impersonator on a popular London radio show. Kim has narrated and produced 15 audiobooks since she joined ACX this year! Her voice over clients include Carnival Cruises, Gucci, Sennheiser, American Express, HRH UK Prisons systems, Doubletree Hotels, Victorian Trading Company and so many more. Quick, reliable and always professional.Kim has a reassuring, kind and expressive style.

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My Review -- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Wonkiest Witch is, as the name would seem to indicate, a fun and quirky romp through an imaginative magical world bubbling beneath the surface of modern day England. The story, like its hero (a witch named Alf Daemonne), succeeds in straddling two worlds. In Alf's case, that's her magical and mundane lives; for the book, it's the cozy mystery and fantasy genres.

The book begins with a bang, dropping the reader directly into the magical world for a couple of chapters before stepping away to set up the murder mystery that is the thread that ties the rest of the story together. At first, I was perplexed by this. As Alf explores her new inn and its surroundings in a thoroughly mundane way, I wondered if the backstory about her family's witchy harritage was going to end up being more incidental than pivotal. Fortunately (at least for me), it isn't long before Alf's powers and her life-long rejection of them becomes central to her development and unravelling multiple mysteries, not just the discovery of a body in her back garden.

Jeannie Wycherley draws inspiration from all sorts of places, including mythology, folklore, and pop culture. Nods to J. K. Rowling's wizarding world and Stephen King's The Shining might be easily missed, but help to ground the fantastical in the everyday. Throughout, the novel's quintessential Britishness shines bright.

My only quibble, and it is a minor one, is that I wish the book was a bit longer to give the world building more breathing room. Granted, I'm a sucker for monstrously long novels, so I'm biased.

Kim Bretton's narration is spot on for the material. She seems to portray the quirkiest of characters effortlessly, and her lovely British accent enhances the book's strong narrative tone.

I look forward to checking out the rest of the series when it comes to audio! 🤞

Q&A with the Author

Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

No! Definitely not. I wasn't even sure The Wonkiest Witch would be finished or published. Halfway through writing it (it was an experiment because at that time I was mainly writing horror and dark fantasy) I abandoned it for a while, unsure it was working. Then I thought, ‘well I might as well try and finish it' so I pushed on. I did a redraft and decided it wasn't too bad, then sent it to my new at that time editor. Not only did she love it, she insisted it become a series.

I had a cover designed. It was pretty poor, so my editor recommended a new designer who told me, “Well if you're writing a series I need all the titles at once so I can design them altogether and get the branding right.” So I had to come up with five more titles there and then! That was it, the Wonky Inn series was born right there.

As they began to sell the feedback I was getting from my US readers was they loved how British it was, but they struggled with some of the terms I used. It was some time while I was writing Book 5 it dawned on me that it would help if my readers could hear what Alf was saying as that would convey the meaning a little more.

It was at that stage I thought, ‘Right! I need an audiobook with a proper English accent.”

To be fair, I write with a strong narrative voice, so I hear what I'm writing. The Wonky Inn books should naturally translate well into a conversational tone. I hope that comes across in the audio.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

I think Alf is a younger me, full of sass and sauce but still rather vulnerable and maybe quite lonely at times. In the follow up to The Wonkiest Witch, called The Ghosts of Wonky Inn, Alf is a little down to begin with, and depression is something I've struggled with in the past.

The relationship between Alf and the ghost of her great-grandmother Gwyn is totally mine and my Nan's! We were very close and always bickering. She passed away nine years ago. I loved her and miss her very much. It's fun to explore that with Alf and Gwyn.

The other aspect of The Wonkiest Witch that is very real is the location. Whittlecombe doesn't exist, but it is based on a few villages near me, and the idea of a general store, a post office, a little cafe and a village hall being all that's there is very real. In sleepy Whittlecombe we have the new inn (The Hay Loft), a village pond and a village green. That's about as busy as most of my neighbouring villages get. Thatched cottages and lots of forest is standard. It's all very quaint and olde-England and I love it.

If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?

This is such a hard question! I've just written The Mysterious Mr Wylie, where Alf has to some time-travelling (she gets travel sick though), and it is something I thought about a lot.

I have a PhD in modern and contemporary history, so I think I'd love to go back to Victorian London and see what it was really like - the squalor and conditions, hear the sounds, smell the smells, see what kind of food they had and so on.

Similarly I'd love to go to the court of Henry VIII, but maybe not stick around too long in case they tried to chop off my head.

Or maybe, just go back and hold my beloved best friend Herbie, my dog who died in 2016. But letting him go again would break my heart all over, so maybe I'm better off here with my memories.

What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?

Stuff and nonsense! I think audio is a wonderful way to capture what was in the author's mind and to breathe life into the characters, particularly where--as happens with Wonky--the characters are British and so the way they speak should add to the humour. That humour can be quite specific to the timing, so hearing the voice helps. Also - seriously - I spent 16 years teaching. I know the inequality that exists in education. At one stage I was teaching grown men how to read. Imagine that. Imagine being an adult unable to access the written word. And what about those with disabilities? Or the people who listen to audio while doing something else? Driving or crafting? Working or cooking? Why shouldn't any of these people have words in their life?

I say let's celebrate the written word in all its formats! Vive le difference as the French say.

How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?

With a massive question mark and a sigh of relief. I just didn't know what people would make of it. It was a story that came from the heart at a time when I was really down and I needed some light and magick in my life. When it was published and people actually liked it, I was gobsmacked and extremely excited.

I drink a lot of tea, so that's what I celebrate with, but I wrote this last summer so I may have had a sneaky gin and tonic in my titchy garden in the sunshine with my husband.

What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?

The only thing that gets me out of a writing slump is more writing. Breaking through the block for me simply means putting my backside in my seat and writing words. Any words. Rubbish words.

Think about it. If I write 500 words and 450 of them are awful and I delete them, that still means I have 50 usable words. At some stage, something is going to wave at me, and I'll notice it and think, “Hmmmm. That's interesting.” At that stage the muse kicks in and away we go.

I do find I need to plot in advance though. If I leave things to chance it can all unravel very quickly.

In terms of a reading slump. Yes, I've been in one for a while. I tend to go out and buy a few books in charity shops, and read those until I find something I'm mad for. I also read a lot of non-fiction and at the moment I'm reading books written by forensic pathologists. Yes, I do have slightly macabre tastes! LOL

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

Good question. For me, these days, writing a standalone is a bit of a luxury. My standalone novels take a lot of time to write. I craft them in a much different way. The advantage is *possibly* you have a novel that stands up to the big name authors, and you cover some deep themes. The disadvantage is that's it. That's all you have. Once the reader has finished it, there's no revisiting that world.

Writing a series has given me the opportunity to build a world and explore the people who live in it. Of course there's Alf, living it large as we say in the UK, and her important friends such as George, Jed, Millicent and Wizard Shadowmender. But then we have new characters coming in and the stories envelop them too. Ghosts such as Gwyn (great-grandmother), Florence and Zephaniah. New witches and wizards. I'm currently writing Wonky Inn Book 7 (The Great Cakey Witch Off) and a ghost character called Ned finally gets a speaking role. LOL

The series also allows me to tie up loose ends. I envisaged the Wonky Inn Books as a five part series, but a couple of eager eyed readers pointed out a loose end from Book 3 and I already realised I had one in Book 4. Therefore I wrote Book 6, The Mysterious Mr Wylie to explain that character's presence in Book 4, and when I write Book 8, we'll finally answer one of the thorny questions left over from Book 3.

Honestly, I just love writing. Wonky Inn gives me and - more importantly - so many readers a great deal of pleasure. But I'm proud of my standalones too.

Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?

I have some very weird dreams but none of them are as crazy as Wonky Inn! The character of Gwyn the great-grandmother is based on my own Nan, and of course there's a lot of me in Alf, but otherwise no, I haven't met these characters.

However, I did have a dream once, that was so real and so vivid that I had to write it up. That became Keepers of the Flame, which is the only love story I've written. I still marvel at it. It took me five days to write the first draft and I still think it's a really interesting story. You do need tissues though. Tissues, wine and chocolate. It's a weepy.

What's your favorite...

  • Food

    My Dad makes a fantastic prawn cocktail. I also like all curries and rice and sundries!

  • Song

    The Unforgettable Fire by U2 or Black Magic Woman by Santana. Both are wonderfully witchy.

  • Book

    The Outsiders by S E Hinton. An American classic before YA as a category existed. It is a fantastic work of literature. Those characters! You fall in love with them.

  • Television show

    At the moment it's Breaking Bad. My husband and I recently subscribed to Netflix and we've been watching Breaking Bad. Total genius.

  • Movie

    Star Wars. I'm a massive Star Wars fan. I've watched that first one a gazillion times. I know every line. I adore it. So sad that we've lose Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew. I feel like I'm getting old.

  • Band

    The Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl seems like a really wonderful human.

  • Sports team

    I don't really follow many sports. I like the Olympics and Tennis and things like that. I watch England play Rugby and Football, but otherwise, I'm not very interested.

  • City

    I'm not a great fan of cities in general because they are busy, noisy and dirty. I love the forest and the backwaters and the sea. I like peace and quiet. But I did live in Nottingham for 16 years, so that's a favourite, and I do love Exeter and York (medieval cities of note).

What's next for you?

I am currently writing Wonky Inn Book 7: The Great Cakey Witch Off which is due for release on June 29th. I have booked Kim to narrate Wonky Inn Book 2: The Ghosts of Wonky Inn in June, so that should be out by the end of July.

I have been editing a Victorian gothic ghost story for what feels like forever, and I must try and get that to my editor. I just want to make it perfect and at the moment it's not perfect. I won't let it go until it is.

So the next few things I'll be working on are a dark Christmas novella, a Wonky Christmas novella and a witch fantasy. I've also kind-of-sort-of-almost planned a new cozy series, so watch this space!

Disclaimer

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jeannie Wycherley. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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