Black Magic Inspiration
The continent of Africa abounds with stories of black magic and witchcraft. Unlike in Western culture where witch stories have mostly been shelved along with fairy-stories or history, in Africa such tales remain an integral part of the various cultures and belief-systems.
I found my inspiration for writing The Witch’s List Trilogy through travels in Africa, meeting people who still have strong beliefs in witchcraft and black magic, and listening to some of their incredible stories. I also try to draw from some of my own experiences and use my imagination to think about how things might have worked out differently, if I’d made different decisions at certain points in my life.
I first encountered black magic on a visit to the Ivory Coast, where I was introduced to the notion of a mysterious list maintained by a witch of obscure identity: if your name is on the list, so they believe, it means you’re going to die. As a sceptic European, I was rather surprised how seriously people took this witch’s list, even Ivorians like my wife at the time, who’d lived most of her life in France. When someone fell ill in the village people would whisper, “Perhaps she’s on the witch’s list?” Fingers were pointed at this person or that, suspected of being in league with the witch, of adding someone’s name to the list or even of being the witch. If someone received some unexpected money or success, they might be accused of having obtained such good fortune by being in league with the witch.
So that was my main inspiration for writing the first novel, and when I began writing it, I thought it would be interesting to integrate a coming-of-age tale about a naive young Scot who gets drawn into this web of black magic. Ideas for writing the trilogy came to me: to use three phases in the main character’s life as parts in the trilogy – adolescence / the beginnings of adulthood; adulthood / marriage; and children / growing old. I also wanted to look at some of the traditions and belief-systems in different geographical regions: West Africa in the first part, North Africa in the second part, and as for the third part, well… I don’t want to give too much away yet! I’m also attempting to show how the character’s conscience and morals evolve over time, basing the three different parts on the concept of nafs in Islam, which translates as the self or the ego. The three main stages of the nafs are: the inciting nafs, where lower basic instincts dominate; the self-accusing nafs, where the conscience is awaked and some sense of right and wrong develops; and finally the nafs at peace where the soul becomes tranquil and one’s faith and resolve to do good are resolute.
Other sources of inspiration include authors such as Tahir Shah, Iain Banks, Paul Auster, Douglas Kennedy, and William Boyd; not forgetting – since the trilogy falls loosely in the horror / supernatural genre – horror greats like H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, and Dan Simmons.
I would also like to recommend a new author I discovered recently, Eowyn Ivey. Her two novels are based in 19th century Alaska. The first one, The Snow Child, is based on a Russian folk tale about a girl made out of snow coming alive. The second is a story of exploration and adventure in the unforgiving climate of Alaska, with myths and supernatural elements an integral part of the tale.
Andrew Cairns is the author of the Witch’s List, a witchcraft themed novel released in June, 2016. The novel follows sceptic Sandy Beech, who marries an exotic Ivorian woman, and drawn into her world, finds himself subject to mystefying and dangerous black magic. He is forced to confront his deepest beliefs as he attempts to extricate himself from these events before they kill him.
His second novel, One More Arabian Night: Book II in the Witch’s List trilogy, takes Sandy on a new adventure to Morocco, where he hopes to wed the beautiful Hurriya, a medical student whom he met in Paris. He must come to grips with the local customs and superstitions: miraculous water, djinns, polygamy… and once again witchcraft!