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Happy Launch Day, Fiona!

"Be Careful What You Witch for is a beautiful tale about magic, love, family, and neurodivergence. The prose is stunningly beautiful, the love story between the parents is gorgeous, and little Alya is a character I cannot wait to read about again as she grows and matures. Five stars, and eager for the next volume!" -Quenby Olson, author of Miss Percy's Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons

 

It’s been an absolute honour to watch BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR come to life as West dives deep into the raw and vulnerable art of telling a story from her heart. I wanted to invite Fiona to share the foreword she wrote for the beginning of BE CAREFUL where she tried to express the layers of her motivation, her love, her ambition, her hopes, and a peek into her chaotic life, all of which inspired this gorgeous cozy fantasy. Previously titled HURRICANE GIRL, this one is very much for the parents out there who are stretched to their very limits and yet still find a way to go on.

Enough of my babbling, though, right? I’ll let Fiona speak for herself.


One of the reasons we read is to experience things that mean something. It’s not very compelling to just hear about a character’s day through the lens of normality: the cereal she ate, how she got mustard on her blouse, the traffic she sat in on the way home. No, we read to find out what’s at stake: is she eating that cereal to lose weight or lower her cholesterol, or is it her favorite from childhood, soaked in more sugar than any human needs in a full day? Did the mustard mean she blew the big meeting, or was it a funny thing she laughed about later with a guy in line at the coffee shop? Was it in the shape of Michigan, reminding her of that canoe trip she took with her dad in middle school when he told her she was adopted? Sitting in traffic, did she listen to a podcast that made her cry? Did she rearend someone and feel that sick, sinking feeling that usually accompanies your insurance going up? We don’t just want to know what happens; we want to know what it means. (Hang on, I need to get a kid in the tub.)

We read for emotion, the inner life. But as a writer, when it’s your inner life, putting it on display can be frankly terrifying.

I’ve written eighteen books now. Each one of them carries vital pieces of me: my chronic illness journey toward getting a diagnosis, the complexities of living in a foreign country, the deep rightness of falling in love with someone who sees your soul and says, “Yeah. I feel that, too.” But until now, my parenting journey has mostly stayed off the page. (The bath water is not yet running, for anyone keeping score.) The one exception was a small-town romance about a librarian who’s getting divorced. Though I am happily married for nearly twenty years now, I tried to relay how stretched thin she felt, how frayed and utterly transparent, when it came to parenting. And mostly, I get two kinds of reviews: some that praise the honesty, and others that recommend counseling for me and my characters. Both are probably fair, but neither was my goal. Because we also read to be seen. I’ve wanted that since the first time I read Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, where the princess was not only a brunette like me, but preferred fencing to cross-stitch and deigned to run off with dragons rather than marrying a stranger. 

I have debated about whether or not to publish this book so many times, I’ve lost count. It is intensely personal in a new way, a more vulnerable way. Parenting a neurodiverse child as a neurodiverse adult is gonna get messy–there’s no way around it. Yet I know I’m not alone in this–most of us would admit there have been times in our parenting when we just look at our partner and laugh. (I just called to my kid, who was making up stories in the mirror instead of getting into the bath. Water’s still off.) It’s either laugh or cry, right? We do our fair share of both. There’s nothing as humbling as being completely baffled by someone you made who looks up at you with eyes like your mother’s and hair like your sister’s and refuses to do anything you ask for. (Update: there is a claim that the tub stopper is broken. Partner is investigating.)

But ultimately, this story wants to be told. Not because everyone in it is perfect or even always likable, but because it’s a testament to what it means to be strong, and it’s not being stoic or solitary. It’s my treatise on navigating the stormy waters of diagnosis and difference, of well-meant advice that does nothing at all and pockets of help in the least likely places. (The water is running. Hallelujah.)

In example, I paused writing this article here to read my oldest child a few chapters in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, a tome some of you towel-carriers may be familiar with, and it was unexpectedly helpful. (During this time, I also made up and performed a song about how my youngest child should actually get in the tub, now that it is full; it had a great beat, but the rhymes were somewhat lacking, despite “ub” being a very common phoneme. The response was understandably tepid…much like the bath water, I assume.) I tell you this because aside from our abnormal kid experiences, there are many normal ones, too. The mundane and the mysterious mix in daily life to the point where it can lose meaning sometimes, unless we really stop to think about it. 

But back to the helpful book: we read the part where Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed former President of the Galaxy, having survived a failed assassination attempt, is then forced to get into a device called the Total Perspective Vortex. In case you are picturing something sinister rather than silly, it runs partially on fairy cake and merely steals your soul by showing you the entirety of the universe all at once…and then putting the tiniest dot imaginable where you are. The thought being that if you really, really understood how insignificant your corner of the universe is, while galaxies upon galaxies spin and supernovas go critical and new stars are born, you wouldn’t be able to handle it. 

The story Zaphod tells himself is that he’s the center of the universe and therefore apt to have things work out for him, and he survives. But the story I tell myself is that the center of the universe is rather irrelevant if my small corner of it can be filled with love and acceptance and support for experiences that are outside the norm, and that is how I survive. Deep is my love for Mr. Adams’ work, but I don’t think knowing how infinitesimally small I am compared to the rest of the universe is what would break me. In fact, small things are what matters most, and the closer I am to them, the closer I am to being happy. 

This book is one of those small things. It is not literature by any measure and it won’t be remembered decades from now like Mr. Adams, nor will it make sense to everyone. But to those it does, I hope it makes you feel seen as you make your own way through dark forests or vast galaxies, knowing that you are not alone. 

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a child to remove from the bath…”


How far would you go to save a child who hates you?

The priest says it’s a lack of discipline. The doctor says it’s magic; the village witch says it couldn’t be. The wild tempers that seize my daughter have left us no choice–Renault and I can’t live like this anymore. Only the enchantress who lives up the mountain, famous for extracting expensive Favors from her supplicants, can help us now.

But the dangers of the road north and the encroaching winter weather may make reaching her impossible…and since his cousin just showed up to claim our farm, I really need him back tout suite.

When Renault’s letters stop coming, I’m forced to assume the worst has happened. But I don’t carry a knife in my skirt pockets for nothing…how far would I go for my daughters?

It’s time to find out.

Be Careful What You Witch For is the first book in the Enchantress Chronicles series. If you like cozy, slice-of-life fantasy with strong heroines (of all ages), unpredictable magic, and families that will defend each other against incredible odds, grab this book now!


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Fiona West is an American author living in the Pacific Northwest. Writing romance is her favorite thing, followed closely by reading, knitting and drinking tea while looking out the window. When she’s not doing those things, she’s spending time with her husband and two kids. Her debut novel, The Ex-Princess, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was named one of their Best Books of 2019. Could Be Something Good, the first book in her new Timber Falls small-town romance series, is out now. Find out more about Fiona at http://www.fionawest.net or sign up for her newsletter at http://www.subscribepage.com/westwind.

 

 

 

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