‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?”
About Alexis Henderson
Alexis Henderson is a speculative fiction writer with a penchant for dark fantasy, witchcraft, and cosmic horror. She grew up in one of America’s most haunted cities, Savannah, Georgia, which instilled in her a life-long love of ghost stories. When she doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, you can find her painting or watching horror movies with her feline familiar. Currently, Alexis resides in the sun-soaked marshland of Charleston, South Carolina.
I’ve always felt like December is the most haunting month of the year. Halloween has nothing on the eeriness of the weeks leading up to the winter solstice. There’s something otherworldly about that time — the chill in the air, wind in the branches of bare trees, the traditions passed down through generations, the short days and long December nights. It’s like the veil between our world and whatever lies on the other side of it is thinner, and it makes the past feel so close, almost uncomfortably so.
Sometimes, I feel like there’s a collective effort to combat this. It’s almost as if we’re afraid we’ll be mired down by the past if we dwell with it for too long. You see it in the cult of the New Year’s resolution. We’re encouraged to look to the future, shed the past, remake ourselves. So we assemble a list of goals, come up with a diet to adhere to or, if not that, an exercise routine or a meditation schedule or strict skincare regime that is meant to mold us into the person we want to become. In all of it — the resolutions and the prayers and the hopes for the future — there’s a shared message: put the past to rest and look only to what lies ahead.
We’re often told that winter is a time to turn inward, a chance to reflect on who we are and who we want to become in the future. But I’ve always felt like Christmas should be less a time of reflection, and more a time of remembrance. Instead of setting our sights on the future, maybe we should take more time to dwell with the past, through the rituals and traditions of our choosing. Perhaps we should embrace these winter hauntings, even when it hurts, especially when it hurts. Because how can we be expected to chart the course of our futures if we haven’t taken the time to process the past?
I often think about this when I hang ornaments from the branches of our Christmas tree, when I bake cookies, or wrap gifts. There is some power in the ritual of the most simple traditions that makes the past seem reborn. The years condense. The past and present become one, or close to it. Fond memories resurface. Lost loved ones are resurrected. Through the power of tradition, the ghosts of our past come to dwell with us again. And I suppose you could call that a kind of haunting, but it couldn’t be a more welcome one.
Wishing you all the happiest of winter hauntings!
Title The Year of the Witching
Author Alexis Henderson
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date July 21st 2020 by Ace
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself, with terrifying and far-reaching consequences, in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.