When Lucas discovers that he's a witch of superior powers, he's not pleased. His family has long been on the other side of the law, managing witches and persecuting those who stray across the criminal and civil boundaries.
But when he meets someone just as new to witchcraft as he is, they form a team that makes him think he might still have a role to play in his father's world. In Burn Mark, Laura Powell blends historical solutions with a modern-day vision to create a world that is both suspenseful and eerie.
Find more urban fantasy for teens.
Your novel is both a thriller and a book about the supernatural—which were you most interested in writing?
It became all one package, but I had known I wanted to write a kind of crime noir novel because that's my favorite guilty pleasure. I grew up reading the American thriller writers like Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane, and even though my book is not quite in that style, it's a British take on it. And I wanted to combine the pleasure of good thriller writing with something fantastical and just mix it up a little, I suppose.
Where did your interest in witches come from, and did you do a lot of research for your book?
I had read a bit about witch hunts in school—I think lots of British school kids do, so it's always been part of my background in that respect. And unfortunately, there have been some rather nasty headlines in British newspapers in the last few years of children being murdered in London because their relatives believe they're witches. They're importing those beliefs and superstitions over from places in Africa and India, so my book ties in with that as well. This all-pervasive fear in people is still alive and well even in the modern world.
As for researching the criminal stuff, I let my imagination run riot. I do have a friend whose father is a barrister—he's worked for some pretty nasty London mob characters, and he told me a few quite hair-raising stories, which set the tone for me in that respect.
In some ways the "fae" seems like the onset of a disease that sets you apart from other people. Why might it be important for young adults to read about this?
I think adolescence is a very turbulent, quite frightening time anyway. You are going through lots of changes, and girls especially are becoming aware of their powers as sexual beings—that can be exciting but it can also be quite scary, so there's a definite parallel with that. I also wanted to get away from the usual paranormal, supernatural thing, where coming into powers is a sort of gift and something people just plunge into. I think most of us would be absolutely horrified if we woke up one morning with a superpower of some kind!
Another parallel is when Lucas comes out to his father and tells him he is a witch—that was very much modeled on the "Dad, I'm gay" conversation.
Your book is also about class as well as being a mystery and fantasy.
My mother is American, she's lived in this country for 35 years, and she has always said, "Britain is completely obsessed by class." I've always said, "Don't be ridiculous," but it's true, class is still very important and a pervasive force in society.
I wanted to explore that a little. My characters—one comes from a long family of witch hunters and the other comes from a long family of witch criminals, but what divides them is one is female and poor and working class, and the other is male and privileged and rich.
What was your inspiration for the systemic persecution of the witches in your book?
The punishments and persecution are very much rooted in historical reality, but I had to recast them in 20th-century lights. You have to account for all those centuries of progress in human rights and health and safety and the rest of it!
I was aware when writing the inquisition scenes that I was deliberately mimicking some of the language used in the "war on terror," that kind of official jargon people prefer to use when they're trying to control the population and scare the population but also trying to protect them. It was also important to me that my inquisitors weren't necessarily the bad guys. I wanted it to come across that the inquisition members were the same mixture as the witches they were persecuting—some of them are good, some are bad, and lots of them are in between.
Andi Diehn is a freelance writer in Enfield, N.H. She writes a shared blog based on Prufrock at www.letusgothen.net.