Poisoned Leaves: A Green Witch Mystery (Author Interview)



What inspired you to set your story in a magical version of Sydney?

Sydney is a magical city all on its own, and for me, it's not just a setting; it's home. Sydney’s unique blend of natural beauty, rich Aboriginal history, and vibrant neighbourhoods make it the perfect backdrop for a fantasy world.

The lush landscapes, from the iconic eucalyptus trees to the vibrant native flowers, provide a vivid canvas where nature and magic dance together. Sydney's diverse neighbourhoods, from the bustling CBD to the serene coastal beaches, offer a tapestry of settings and atmospheres for the story to unfold. The fusion of modern architecture and historic landmarks adds depth to the urban landscape, creating a visually captivating backdrop for our characters' adventures.

Sydney's multicultural and cosmopolitan character mirrors the diverse cast of magical beings in the story, allowing for a seamless integration of different cultures and magical traditions. The city's vibrant energy and sense of possibility align perfectly with the story's themes of discovery, transformation, and the coexistence of the ordinary and the magical.

And where else can you find a mage passionately debating with a surfer about the best spell to catch the perfect wave at Manly Beach?

PS. The book uses Australian English spelling so don't be surprised if you catch the occasional "mate" slipping through the pages. Consider it a free lesson in Aussie slang, but don't worry, I keep the kangaroos and koalas to a minimum.


Rhianne is described as a green witch and half-elf. Could you explain the significance of being a "green witch" within the world you've built?

Being a green witch means having a deep love for all things green and growing. It's about feeling at home in the embrace of nature and drawing upon the vitality of plants and trees for your magical practices. Rhianne, though, is a bit of a special case. With her dryad ancestry, her connection to the natural world runs even deeper, although she’s yet to fully utilise this ability. This connection allows her to not only grow and enhance plants but also harness their medicinal properties, using them to help heal others with a touch of her unique magic.


The gargoyle character is quite unique. How did you come up with the concept of a gargoyle employee, and what role do gargoyles play in your magical world?

I've always seen gargoyles as loyal protectors and friends. Rhianne needed to open herself up to others beyond Nel and Toto, and who could be better than a character who combines strength and intimidation with a sweet and somewhat naive disposition? In this magical world, mountain gargoyles usually stick to their mines and keep to themselves, but Alice and Carl are unique in their affinity with nature, which is what brought them to work for Rhianne. Carl is a total teddy bear!


Family dynamics, especially between Rhianne and her parents, play a crucial role in the story. Can you delve into why you chose to make familial relationships such a significant aspect?

Families are a cornerstone of our lives, and how we navigate those relationships shapes our identities. Confronting the patterns and defences we've built up can lead to significant personal growth and transformation. It's often the case that we are at our best and worst with those closest to us. My own mum, with whom I share a close bond, wasn’t happy about Rhianne’s mother’s character, but I did promise her their relationship would develop and change over subsequent books. (I’m keeping that promise as I write book 3.)


Your protagonist forms a connection with tech mage Kai. How do traditional magical practices and modern technology intertwine in your book's universe?

In the world of my book, traditional magical practices and modern technology coexist and intertwine seamlessly. Tech mage Kai represents the fusion of these two seemingly disparate worlds. While Rhianne is deeply connected to nature and traditional magic, Kai brings a contemporary outlook with his technological expertise.

Throughout the story, readers will see how Kai uses his technological skills to enhance and complement Rhianne's magical abilities. For example, he can fuse magic and technology to use as battle magic and to quickly analyse technical data, bringing key perspectives to the investigation.

The interplay between traditional magic and modern technology not only adds depth to world-building but also reflects the idea that magic can adapt and evolve in response to changing times. It highlights the idea that, in a world where magic is real, there's room for both ancient traditions and cutting-edge innovations to coexist and contribute to solving the story's mysteries.

After all, magic is just unexplained science!


How did you approach developing the character of Rhianne's incubus best friend? What makes their friendship special?

I absolutely adore Nel! He's both protective and has a mischievous, playful nature. In many ways, he's like a big kid, perpetually pushing the boundaries. Despite his centuries of existence, it's often Rhianne who takes on the practical and logical role. Nel, on the other hand, brings the much-needed fun into Rhianne's life. But beneath his playful exterior, he carries deep emotional wounds caused by his incubus nature, and Rhianne is determined to help him heal.

I created Nel as a counterpoint to Rhianne’s temperament. Where she’s a loner and an introvert, he’s a people person. While she’s a stickler for order, he loves chaos. He helps bring out a different side of her, injecting some much-needed spontaneity into her life.

Nel's status as an incubus introduces a fascinating dimension to the mystery and its resolution. He deals in secrets and information, and people readily confide in him due to his irresistible allure. This unique ability allows Nel to help with the investigation and adds a compelling layer to the story's intrigue.


The character Toto is described as Rhianne's familiar. For those unfamiliar with magical lore, could you explain the role and importance of familiars in your story?

Toto is quite the character! Most of the time, he appears as a little Maltese dog, but on occasion, he takes the form of an eagle. There's an air of mystery around him, and he might be hiding a lot more than he lets on. While familiars are typically witches' trusted companions, aiding in the practice of magic, Toto plays a unique role. He sees himself as both a mentor and protector, going beyond the traditional duties of a familiar. In his own words, “I can be fierce!”


There's a spirited half-gargoyle lawyer and an enigmatic pathologist in Rhianne's entourage. Can you talk about the development of these supporting characters and how they enrich the narrative?

These two characters leapt right off the page, almost as if they had a mind of their own! They were unexpected additions to the story, but they both play pivotal roles. They find their way into Rhianne’s heart and trust breaking through her barriers, much to her surprise. Additionally, they provide intriguing side stories that add depth to the narrative.

Marissa, the half-gargoyle and halfling, has developed coping strategies to navigate the prejudice she faces—a challenge that Rhianne can relate to. Marissa's a tough nut to crack, but she also harbours a vulnerable side, and her evolving connection with Carl adds a touch of sweetness to the tale. On the other hand, Isobel, the pathologist, remains shrouded in mystery throughout this first book. However, she's destined to have a more prominent role in future instalments. Her role in the investigation, along with her unique interaction with Nel, promises to be a significant thread in upcoming stories.


As the story unfolds, there's a mention of Rhianne's challenge to protect her hidden powers. Without giving away any spoilers, can you hint at why her powers might be a threat to or feared by others?

Rhianne's burgeoning magical abilities come with a significant burden. Her unique blend of elven and witch heritage grants her powers that are not only rare but also largely unknown. This places her in a precarious position within the magical and human communities, where prejudice and mistrust often run deep.

Plus, her father is an elf. Elves are often viewed as aloof and potentially devious due to their seclusion and the secrecy surrounding their realm. They are also known to have considerable power, which further fuels suspicion.

Being a halfling presents inherent disadvantages, but Rhianne's hidden, potentially game-changing magic could elicit dangerous outbursts of fear and prejudice from those who don't understand or accept the unfamiliar. Rhianne must navigate this delicate balance between her heritage, her emerging powers, and the perceptions of others, all while striving to uncover the truth and accept herself.


The balance between a murder mystery and a story of personal discovery seems to be a delicate one. How did you maintain this equilibrium as you wrote "Poisoned Leaves"?

Balancing the murder mystery with themes of personal discovery in "Poisoned Leaves" was a bit like juggling flaming torches—entertaining but tricky! It involved crafting character arcs that allowed readers to connect with the main characters on a deeper level, all while keeping the murder investigation engaging and suspenseful.

The mystery-solving process itself was a bit of an adventure and journey of self-discovery for Rhianne, making it a rollercoaster of emotions and surprises. After all, uncovering magical secrets and unmasking a killer isn't your everyday pastime, even in a magical world!

While Rhianne and her eclectic entourage delved into the dark corners of the case, the story also provided moments of levity and humour. Whether it was Nel's mischievous antics, Toto's fierce displays, Alice’s knitting or the unexpected quirks of magical beings, there were plenty of smiles and chuckles sprinkled throughout.

So, maintaining the equilibrium between the murder mystery and personal discovery was like finding the perfect blend of herbs in a potion—challenging but ultimately rewarding. It allowed me to create a story that not only keeps you on the edge of your seat but also warms your heart and makes you smile.

"Poisoned Leaves" is just the beginning of Rhianne's adventures. While it provides a satisfying resolution, there are more magical mysteries and personal journeys ahead for our beloved characters in future books in the ‘Green Witch Mysteries’ series. Stay tuned for more enchanting tales from the world of Rhianne and her entourage!