Interview with Deborah Bogen
Deborah Bogen is a poet and a novelist. Her poetry books, Landscape with Silos; Let Me Open You a Swan; and Living by the Children’s Cemetery are all prize winners. Her new book THE WITCH OF LEPER COVE is YA novel set in 13th Century England.
Bogen grew up in Montana and North Dakota. At 15 she moved to San Francisco where she was exposed to a lively art scene that was engaged with both the personal and the political.
Deborah Bogen expressed an interest in being interviewed for my blog.
Can you tell me a bit about your latest book please?
The Witch of Leper Cove, a tale of 13th century England
When their parents disappear, sixteen-year-old Lily and her younger twin brothers are farmed out to three different households in the small English village of Aldinoch. Grappling with grief, loneliness and even guilt they finally come to terms with their new lives and each one is sure that nothing worse can happen to them.
Lily is apprenticed to Alice, the village healer who cares for both Aldinoch’s sick and the lepers who live downstream. Her hard-won knowledge of herbs and poultices has saved many lives.
But it’s early in the 13th century. Fearing heretics, Pope Honorius has just launched the Inquisition, sending the Dominicans out into Christendom to root out heretics. Even the good and useful are not safe. When Alice is accused of witchcraft and imprisoned in an ancient dungeon, Lily and her brothers are forced into action.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I have always loved reading about the Middle Ages, the time when much of western culture had its start. Whether you look at medicine or architecture or government, you will find the roots of much we take for granted today. This particular book was prompted by two students who asked me to write an adventure tale that would also teach them with this period of history. I hope that’s what Witch does.
My other books have been poetry volumes and those are prompted by my own life, and your life, and the greater world.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The time varies. Poetry books take years. This novel took about 8 months to write and re-write – but I had also been researching the time period for decades.
How long have you been writing for?
I started writing late – at age 47. Now I’m 64! So the past 15 years have been dedicated to writing. But I have been a reader since I was 5 and that teaches you a lot. If you have been reading all your life you have seen a lot of examples of good writing, and less-good writing. The experience enriches your own writing practice.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m writing the sequel to The Witch of Leper Cove. My characters aged two years in that book so in the new book they are fully functional adults (in the middle ages teenagers did not really exist as an idea. You were a child till you were an adult – which happened between 15 and 18.) One of the main characters, Edric, was training to be a priest in Witch but now he has changed his mind as has taken to find out what he wants to do.
Describe a day in your life?
Days are varied when you do not have a full-time day job. I have periods when I write for long hours each day, but many times I am thinking of new ideas for the book or reading other books I love or doing research. Some days I do work to promote Witch – and that is real work and like most writers I do not love it. But I also work out, play music and see my family.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
We have a pretty fine family band in which I sing and play ukulele. I love jazz and most Thursdays my husband and I can be found at CJ’s – a jazz club in Pittsburgh with truly amazing musicians. I do mosaic work, read, garden, bake, and do all the chores you do.
If you were only allowed to keep three books which would they be?
Let’s see….since I began as a poet I own hundreds of books of poems. I would not want to be without at least one Robert Bly book, one W.S. Merwin, and I’d have to have Anne Carson’ s The Economy of Loss, and then Kurt Vonnegut is a must have so already I am over your limit.
All proceeds from Deborah’s books fund medical research for Crohn’s Disease and Lupus.