Who is Elizabeth and where did I get her from?
Like most writers (I think), there is a little bit of me in all my characters. When I write, I ‘sort of’ become them. Logic says we draw on our own experiences, feelings, hopes and dreams … and our demons, to get inside the characters and make them come alive. How else could we write about anything or anybody? I also take ‘me’ into the era in which I am writing. Obviously, I wasn’t around when most of my books were set, as they go back roughly a hundred years each prequel. I do this with a lot of research to get a sense of the world, country, region, village, community and culture of that time and how my characters would be living then. With Elizabeth, set in 1953, I could write from experience, because I was around, albeit a baby, and the fifties did not change greatly, not until the sixties came along.
Now to the character of Elizabeth. It was a bit of a cliché; she was an attractive young lady. But that formed part of the story, as, reading accounts of witch hunts, often, beautiful females were deemed to be the Devil’s maids. Let’s face it, that was because the witch hunters, those doing the torturing and the executioners, were all men who, no doubt, were sexually turned on by their activities. Not quite the same dealing with the ugly old women they got hold of, I would imagine.
Elizabeth did not comprehend just how attractive she was … another cliché? Yes, possibly, but that was also part of the story, because it gave her a naivety and vulnerability, also part of her character. It was these traits that, at times, made her oblivious to the attention she was receiving from some men in the story and made her react in certain ways to certain situations.
She also had a history and some of that was difficult and sad. Being who she was and her inherited duty, as is described in the book, also set her apart from ‘normal’ folk. Elizabeth had to show a false face for the world that was very hard for her to manage at times. She wanted love, as she was desperately lonely, but when it came along in David Mead, she denied it. As the local vicar and she could not disclose to him her real identity and ancestry so pushed the man away and made sure he stayed away.
When Elizabeth was blamed for things going wrong in the community, it was a rejected man who started he accusations of witchery against her. You might think that nobody in 1953 could have believed in witchcraft still, but it was a remote, rural part of Yorkshire with a small, close knit population.
Elisabeth has the usual mix of personality, good and not so good, but is constantly having to remember who and what she is, part of a long line of cunning folk. These were midwives, healers and the like but also those who could ‘see’ things. Today, you might call them psychics, not witches. In my books, these cunning folks also have powers. It is left up to the reader to decide if Elizabeth, like her ancestors, did any of the things she or they were accused of.