What’s your ideal novel pitch? I read somewhere that Katie Lowe’s debut novel, The Furies, was The Craft meets The Secret History. While I may not have thought about what the perfect novel might sound like in a pitch, I now have a damn good idea.
Not only is The Furies right up our alley here at Breaking the Glass Slipper, but Katie has also been a supporter of ours for a long time. So we are ecstatic to have her on today’s ‘Five Questions with…’ We asked her about revenge, witchcraft, and mixing the classical period with the 17th century!
Revenge is a strong theme of The Furies. Why did you want to explore this topic, particularly in reference to female revenge?
Oh, god – it’s just such a rich and thrilling topic. There’s nothing more satisfying (to me) than a female character with a dark side – and I wanted to dig into those darkest impulses, in a way that still felt somehow relatable to the reader.
What was interesting about writing The Furies was that it was written before #MeToo became mainstream – it sold here in the UK about a fortnight before the first Harvey Weinstein allegations were published in the New York Times – but it’s obviously been published in a world that is, in a lot of ways, very much more attuned to women’s feelings of rage and revenge which, in a lot of ways, drive the girls in the book.
Not, of course, that I’m suggesting that the revenge these girls take is a good idea – but that feeling of wanting to be heard, and for your pain to somehow be “balanced out,” which The Furies takes to an extreme, is very much something I’ve seen reflected back in new ways, in the lead up to publication.
You mix two historically significant representations of witchcraft and magic in the novel – that of ancient Greece and17th century witch trials. Usually while exploring such things, authors will stick to one. Why did you want to use both periods as inspiration? What did this bring to the story?
I’ve always been interested in the idea of learning being interdisciplinary, especially when it comes to the arts. So when I was coming up with the “syllabus” taught by one of the key teachers in the novel, I was very much of that mindset – that I wanted to draw on art history, literature, ancient myth, and historical events to write this history of “angry women.” The aim (though I’m not saying I’ve necessarily succeeded!) was to tease out a kind of thread among these different stories, which would steer the girls in a certain direction – though whether this teacher does this for good or evil reasons is very much up to the reader to decide.
With regards to the witchcraft aspect in particular, I wanted to show that there have always been women who are in one way or another removed from the norm – who sit a little outside of the sort of patriarchal mainstream, and whose lives are effectively determined by that independence. I think it’s a really powerful image, and one that really resonated with me, personally: the figure of the witch, over centuries, transforming while still always remaining the “other” – so I wanted to use different examples from wholly different cultures as a way to illustrate that.
Witchcraft is one of the oldest supernatural crafts present in literature. Why does it continue to be such a rich ground for storytellers?
I think there’s just so much potential, there. The very term “witchcraft,” even now, covers such a diverse and varied set of practices and beliefs – and for the storyteller, it’s endlessly fascinating, only really limited by how imaginative they want to be.
For me, personally, I find a lot of inspiration in the idea of witchcraft as something that’s less about casting spells and expecting an immediate result, and more about intention – which was the idea I wanted to cultivate with The Furies. There are spells in the book, but whether they’re successful or not is, in a way, left up to the reader – the question being, I suppose, that if you want someone else to suffer so much that you’re willing to take that kind of action, is it all that far removed from making them suffer with your own hands? And if so – why? And how would you justify that to yourself?
Who are your favourite fictional witches and why?
This is such a good question! I’ll admit the first name that came to mind here was Ursula from The Little Mermaid – not the coolest answer I could give, I’m sure, but as far as I’m concerned she’s a fat girl style icon (black, curve-hugging outfit with a red lip is still my go-to all-occasions look) with no time for the patriarchy. We have no choice but to stan.
I’d also say Circe – brilliant enough in the myths, but particularly in Madeline Miller’s 2018 novel, which I adored. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the experience for anyone who hasn’t already read it – but she’s such a rich and beautifully developed character, whose experience is somehow relatable, despite being firmly rooted in the world of ancient myth.
Pitch The Furies to our readers! Why should we pick up a copy?
Okay! If you like your teenage girls angry, and your lessons dark and feminist, The Furies might be your kind of book. It’s a novel about toxic friendships, witchcraft, and murder – with a side of rage and revenge.
Katie Lowe is a writer living in Worcester, UK. A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Katie has a BA (Hons) in English and an MPhil in Literature & Modernity, and is returning to Birmingham in 2019 to commence her PhD on female rage in literary modernism and contemporary women’s writing. The Furies is her first novel, published by HarperCollins in the UK and Australia, and soon to be published by Macmillan in the US, followed by a further eight languages in translation.