It's difficult to choose a favorite book that inspired me to write, "Whistle Down the Wind", because it was actually a series of books that I love, by one of my favorite authors, that created an interest in magic and witches.
The Elemental Masters series, by Mercedes Lackey, contains beautifully written stories about elemental magicians, those who can control the elements of fire, air, water and earth. I've been fortunate enough to be able to spend time with Mercedes, (and her equally talented husband, Larry Dixon) when she visited our libraries a few years ago. I can honestly say she's gracious,kind and very fun to be around.
My favorite book in the series is "The Gates of Sleep", loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. The setting is the lushly created Victorian era, with a society of free thinking Bohemians raising the orphan Marina.
I began to research elemental magic and discovered that the spirits connected to each element are very specific - Air -sylphs, Fire - salamander, Water -undines and Earth -gnomes. I based the elemental beings on fairies (faeries) -- supernatural spirits who are thought to exist in a realm between heaven and earth. There are fairy legends throughout the world. They are said to be of various sizes, sometimes described as tiny, butterfly like creatures, but there are stories of human size fairies too. All of the legends assign magical powers to these creatures.
Because I wanted my story to begin in the British Isles, I researched various magical belief systems. Celtic supernatural legends, stories and folktales appealed to me the most. This narrowed down my choices for fairy characteristics. I decided my fairies would be nature spirits, that they would work with my witches in order to gain something for themselves. They love to bargain, but eventually as a Glyndwr witch comes into her power, (because it made sense to me that if you possessed these powers, you wouldn’t’ t know how to use them all at once) the elemental works with her to increase their own magical abilities. It’s a symbiotic relationship, with each party getting something from the arrangement.
Because fairies can be good or bad, (or in-between) and ugly or beautiful -- I ascribed the various characteristics based on the type of element the witch controlled. Catlin, the heroine of the first book in the series ,Whistle Down the Wind, is an air mage, so she can control the wind and storms. I perceive her elemental creatures, sylphs, to be tiny winged creatures, they appear to humans as silver motes floating in the air. In the blink of a human eye, they can disappear. Catlin can hear them speak, but should they ever decide they no longer wish to work with her, they can drive her mad with their voices.
Because there are so many legends about fairies seducing human women, I decided that my sylphs would be seductive, sensuous creatures. In one of the earlier chapters of the book, they urge the heroine to kiss the hero. Fortunately for them, it doesn’t take a lot of encouragement to get the couple to share their first kiss.
I'm looking forward to writing the stories of the other Glyndwr sisters, Aelywd, Seren and Meaghan. I'm planning for the series to be four books, but many readers have already asked about the back stories of some of my secondary characters, so it might extend beyond that.