In Burley Wood by Isobel Clara

Fifteen-year-old Bede Shaw is a forest-born witch who wants nothing more than to stay at home with her beloved sister, Tabby. But when she is snatched from school and forced to take part in an ancient ritual – trying an unseen prisoner for revealing magick to the mortal world – she has just seven days to use her powers to uncover whether The Accused is innocent or guilty. If Bede fails, she will be exiled from magick permanently and never see Tabby again. Now, Bede must question how far she’ll go for answers. Is she willing to break the rules to do what’s right, or is being good and getting home the most important thing of all?

About the Author

Isobel is a theatre producer and arts fundraiser who spent ten years at the National Theatre creating imaginative new worlds for children before leaning into her love of nature and moving to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She has a BA in Music and Drama from Manchester University and was awarded a distinction in her MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. Now based in Chippenham, Isobel spends her free time hanging out with a black and white furball called Bay whilst ‘jigging’ in her pyjamas and belting out musical theatre as loud as she can. Isobel hopes to never grow up but, if she has to, she’d like to somehow grow into Bernadette Peters.

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In Burley Wood by Isobel Clara, introduced by Carley Lee

From the very first sentence of In Burley Wood, I was utterly captivated. Bede’s lyrical voice hurtled off the page and into my soul, bringing with it evocative descriptions of the natural world and pure, visceral emotion. This is unlike anything I have ever read before.

We meet forest-born Obedience ‘Bede’ Shaw at the Den where she is learning the ways of magick. But when she is snatched away and forced to take part in an ancient ritual, trying an unseen prisoner for revealing magick to the mortal world, she has just seven days to use her powers to discover whether the accused is innocent or guilty. Set to the backdrop of an untamed wood and age-old witchcraft, the story delves deep into the meaning of what’s good versus what’s right and how far a young girl will go to find answers… and her way home.

Prepare to be bewitched by In Burley Wood – this wild and beautiful tale is a form-defining masterpiece. Isobel’s command of language and ability to spin spells with words will leave you breathless.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I was sitting in the British Library and suddenly had this really clear image appear in my mind of a girl looking up at the moon, trying to squash it between her fingers, while standing within a perfect circle of trees. I knew she was a witch and that it wasn’t present day, but beyond that, she was a mystery to me. I had to know more… so I wrote her story.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

Picking just one is torture, but… my tutorial with David Almond. He was so encouraging and supportive at a moment when I needed it most, and he spent our entire session reading my extract back to me. Hearing Bede’s world, story, dialect come alive in David’s voice was the very definition of magick.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

Shout out to manuscript tutor extraordinaire, Dr Joanna Nadin. There were myriad things I learned from Jo, but the one that totally changed the shape of my story, was a question of agency. Bede needed to take her fate into her own hands. She definitely does that now. #dontmesswithwitches

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

I’m cheating; there’s two. First, and foremost, the dreaming part. It’s like a free holiday to a new place, with new pals – all inside my head so I don’t even have to get out of my pyjamas. Win. And secondly, I love music, so when you get the rhythm of a sentence just right, there’s nothing more satisfying than that.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

Belting out musical theatre as loud as I can (I would feel bad but next door’s kids are learning recorder), creating a TBR pile that is impossible to get through, trying to cure the cat’s addiction to Dreamies, and worshipping at the altar of ASOS Curve. Also, jigsaws.

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

If someone dictates a set of rules to you, break them*.

*except when it comes to agents’ submission guidelines. Those things are golden.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I wasn’t very good at sleeping as a child, so my parents made me a trade that I could stay up as late as I wanted to as long as I stayed in my room and an audiobook was playing. I think I listened to the unabridged version of The Lord of the Rings over 50 times before turning 10.

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

Narnia. 100%. I want to be a Lucy, but deep in my heart, I know I’m Mrs Beaver.