Witchcraft in the Harem – An Interview with author Aliya Whiteley


Next in our Dog Horn Publishing series we welcome author, Aliya Whiteley to the blog…

Q1. How long have you been a writer & how did you get started?

A: I first took writing seriously at age eighteen when I signed up for a course in Creative Writing to make up credits at University. I loved it. I fell for the freedom of imagination and ran away with it. I’m just about to turn forty and I’m still running.

Q2. Witchcraft in the Harem, your short story collection available from Dog Horn Publishing, has been described by Lavie Tidhar as ‘like being waterboarded by an angel’. What drives the stories?

A: I was worried when it came to putting together my first collection that there wouldn’t be a cohesive theme, but actually they all fit together very well, I think. They’re about love and loss and pain and fear and horror and delight and all the usual suspects inbetween. Talking ducks, pterodactyls, the head of a baby in a cabbage patch, coffee that turns you into a feathery potato being. Weird ideas leading to strange places that you find you recognise.

Q3. Do you consider yourself to be a writer of fantasy?

A: I don’t really fit in any category, I don’t think. I do write elements of SF and fantasy, but also horror and romance and I’ve had a comic novel and a crime novel published previously.  I go wherever imagination takes me, and try not to worry about the consequences of not being easy to label by the rules of traditional publishing.

Q4. What was it like to work with Dog Horn Publishing?

A: I found it very enjoyable – particularly when it came to the editing process. I had a great editor who understood the stories, and suggested where changes were needed, and I ended up swapping a couple of stories and rewriting a few. I think it’s a really strong collection now because of that process.

Q5. Witchcraft in the Harem has a striking cover with a circle of beetles on it – who picked the beetles? What do they represent?

I suggested a beetle and Dog Horn found the perfect image. A beetle does appear in the title story, which is about a woman who runs away to live in a harem, where the other women brew a special concoction that has a very strange effect on those they want to get rid of.

‘Some lifted their long skirts and from under them produced twisted papers that contained pinches of bright powder, or spindly black roots. Others slid delicate orange and yellow flowers from between their breasts, cupping their hands under the petals as if they had drawn forth their hearts for inspection. One woman with enormous hips opened her mouth and extended her tongue to allow the iridescent purple beetle upon it to be captured. It was then squashed into a smear and added to the white china bowl that was used to hold the precious possessions.’

The image of the beetles and the idea of escape tied together for me, and I’m really pleased with the cover.

Q6. Do you have a preference for traditional formats like real books over ebooks?

A: Personally I prefer a paper book, and I like to see my writing published in that format. It feels real, and finished, and I get a sense of completion. But I’m quite happy to read from a screen or listen to a story. I’m a big fan of reading aloud to others, and hearing work. I find stories often take on different meanings when read aloud.  I’ve had some stories turned into podcasts by the Drabblecast, and they’ve done an excellent job. Hopefully I’ll get to do some more audio work in the future.

Many thanks to Aliya for taking time to answer our questions.You can now purchase Witchcraft in the Harem from our online shop.

Aliya blogs at  aliyawhiteley.wordpress.com and tweets @AliyaWhiteley



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