By Ben Olson
Louise Marley is an artist of many talents. The author, who recently moved to Sandpoint, has penned 22 novels since 1995, covering fantasy, science fiction, young adult novels and historical fiction. Prior to her career as a writer, Marley was a classical concert and opera singer with the Seattle Opera.
“Not only did I love singing — still love singing — but opera gave me many skills I use all the time as a novelist,” Marley said. “An opera singer is an actor; an actor learns about tension and release, about creating drama, about building a scene and, perhaps most critically, character development.”
Marley began her writing career in the fantasy genre with the publication of her first novel, Sing the Light, in 1995. The book would be followed by three more, which were called The Singers of Nevya series, set on the ice planet Nevya and introducing readers to the Cantrixes, or singers, who can bring warmth, light and healing.
She writes under a number of pen names, including Louisa Morgan, Cate Campbell and Toby Bishop, depending on which genre she’s exploring.
“When you write in a different genre, the publisher thinks it’s helpful if you carve out a new audience,” Marley said. “I’ve always been traditionally published. I’ve never done self-publishing. So when a publisher says we should do it under a different name, I say no problem. All of my pseudonyms are based on my family names, and I’m out of them now, so there’s no more to work with.”
In addition to fantasy, Marley has delved into science fiction and historical fiction, which she finds especially intriguing.
“I’m very serious about my historical research,” she said. “I don’t change history. The historical settings are accurate and the stories take place in that background.”
While she dabbles in different genres, Marley often returns to strong female characters, setting them loose in her stories to explore themes of hope, humanity and faith, whether in the storied past or distant future.
Two of Marley’s titles — The Glass Harmonica and The Child Goddess — won the Endeavor Award for 2001 and 2005, respectively, solidifying her name and drawing a dedicated following of readers.
“It’s really great,” she said. “I always appreciate their enthusiasm. The idea for my latest novel came from my readers, in fact.”
In 2017, Marley stepped away from historical fiction and fantasy to enter the world of witches, with A Secret History of Witches, which she wrote under her pen name Louisa Morgan.
“I just got really interested in writing about witches,” she said. “Fortunately for me, there are a lot of people who like to read about witches. I was really interested in why people have had such fascination with witches and what made them objects of persecution. …
“I find paganism fascinating,” Marley added. “All of the religions have so many things in common. I’m a practicing Roman Catholic — we have incense, the pagans burn herbs; we have bells, the pagans have bells. It’s a sign of humanity that we have more in common than we do different.”
A Secret History of Witches is a sweeping historical saga that traces five generations of fiercely powerful mothers and daughters whose magical inheritance is both a dangerous threat and an extraordinary gift. Set in Brittany, France in the early 19th century, this novel led to three more titles, The Witch’s Kind, The Age of Witches and her most recent novel, The Great Witch of Brittany, which was released on Feb. 15 by Orbit, an imprint of international publisher Hachette Book Group.
In The Great Witch of Brittany, which Marley also wrote under the name Louisa Morgan, she returns to the world of A Secret History of Witches with Ursule Orchiére and her discovery of magical abilities that will not only change the course of her life but every generation that comes after her.
“This book is set in Brittany in the mid-18th century,” Marley said. “It goes through the days of the French Revolution and into the early part of the 19th century with a look at what it was like in France to be poor and struggling. That’s part of the story. Another big part of the story is how she discovers her power and begins to study the information that her acesstresses had left her. There is magic and witchcraft.”
For Marley, witchcraft is often a vehicle to promote positive female characters and empowerment, as she sees the two sometimes achieving the same goal.
“Part of the appeal of reading about witches and witchcraft, especially for women, is an attempt to discover or recapture the power of women,” she said. “That’s part of the fascination. For me, a spell in witchcraft or an intention as a prayer — they’re all kind of the same thing. You’re drawing on your personal energy. Some people who are really gifted that way, they have a special energy they exude and radiate. We all want that. The idea behind witchcraft is you learn to make the most of it.”
Marley moved to the Sandpoint area from western Washington in August to be closer to her family after the death of her husband in 2021. As she settles into her new home in North Idaho, Marley said she is excited to explore the region more in the coming years.
“It’s so beautiful here,” she said. “There are so many things that inspire me, like the moose I saw the other day when I was walking my dog. There are so many things to make you feel connected to the natural world. I watch the mountains and sunrises. All this snow is something I’m not really used to, but I find comfort in being able to be this much in touch with the natural world.”
Aside from writing, Marley enjoys spending time with Oscar, her energetic border terrier. She is also a yogini, having practiced yoga for more than 20 years. She sometimes gardens, but claims she’s not very good at it.
When asked if she had any advice for budding writers, Marley said it doesn’t matter at what age an author starts working: “Lots of writers start late in life,” she said.
“Money is the wrong reason to write,” she added. “You should write because you have stories to tell or you love the act of writing.
“The first rule is to write. Just do it. Don’t worry about where it’s going. Read a lot. Take classes and workshops. I have done all of that, and I have taught them too and I get just as much out of attending workshops as I do teaching them. But the most important thing is to just write.”
Louise Marley will attend a book event at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, Wash., at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 25. For more information, visit louisemarley.com.
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