Rachel Thompson

Zoe Brooks – What Was The Inspiration For Love Of Shadows

What Was The Inspiration For Love Of Shadows

by Zoe Brooks

Love of Shadows is the second book in a trilogy about the young healer, Judith. Having finished book one, I really felt I wanted to explore Judith’s character in more detail and test her further. She is a character that I first started playing with in my childhood. In fact she started life as a fan fiction character. When I was five or six I read a comic called Bimbo in which my favourite section was The Further Adventures of Snow White. Every week I used to imagine what would happen next. I continued doing so after I stopped getting the comic. Over the years this character went through many incarnations, until now she is Judith, a young healer, with not a dwarf in sight!

In book one, Girl in the Glass, which covers Judith’s childhood and teenage years, we saw Judith and her Shadow, Sarah, escape from their childhood home and build a new life in the city of Pharsis. At the end of that book, in order to help her sick employer and mentor Elma, Judith has taught herself how to make pain-relieving medicine. In Love of Shadows I wanted to explore what it means for her to be a healer. I studied history at Oxford University, so I use historical themes as an inspiration. I have long been fascinated by the story of the persecution of women healers in the 14th – 17th centuries, when possibly millions of women healers were prosecuted and killed as witches. Prior to that persecution, women healers had status in their communities and were the only medical support most people had. The guidance given to witch-finders was that good “witches”, i.e. the ones who wanted to heal people and did so, were worse than bad ones, so if you healed people that was seen as damning evidence. In fact even midwives were killed. As women were not allowed to study medicine at the new universities, any woman healer was risking her life. What would you risk to follow your calling and help others? That’s the question Judith faces in this book.

The second theme in this book is about the need for love. Judith has been damaged by what happens in her past and as a result she is resistant to serious relationships with men. Her motto is “Enjoy them and move on”. One of the reasons I write books is to understand other people: I am not like Judith. I based Judith on a number of women I know. They are wonderful strong women, survivors, who have learned to fend for themselves and never to count on anyone else for help. But there is a tension with the need to be affirmed and loved. That tension in many ways drives the plot. Can any man (or indeed anyone) get past Judith’s defences and demons?

There is someone who has been with Judith from the beginning – Sarah, Judith’s Shadow. Shadows appear to be human but they’re not. They do not have the emotions that humans do. The trilogy really began with the idea of Shadows. They allow me to explore the way we all have two halves – the rational versus the emotional, the logical versus the instinctive. The two rub against each other but they also compliment each other. Judith’s love for her Shadow is profound, and in this book she meets others with the same love. But she also discovers that some people hate Shadows, so much so that they organise their murder. Persecution (of both Shadows and healers) is a big theme in this book. For over twenty years I worked with disadvantaged communities so I have seen what prejudice and persecution can do at first hand. That experience is an important inspiration for me.

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Genre – Fantasy / Women’s Fiction 

Rating – R

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