Susanna M. Newstead News Withershynnes


Introducing Withershynnes In The Dark. (Modern spelling widdershins – turning anticlockwise.)

In order to extend their readership many authors stray from their original style and type of novel. Once an historical romance writer, perhaps, an author might move into the young adults fiction group, or fantasy.

I’m no exception.

I’ll explain how it happened.

You realise of course, that I am known for historical murder mystery and even in my newer Kennet Valley Tales, Forceleap Farm and now Hunting the Wren, I can’t seem to shake the mystery element.

I have long wanted to write a new set of ‘detective’ novels where my protagonist is a woman. This poses several problems for the ‘normal’ historical mystery writer.

At the time about which I like to write – the early 13th century – woman could never have been anywhere near a murder mystery, unless they were themselves murdered or accused of murder. They simply were not free enough. A lady of the higher classes was watched the whole time. She could not go about looking for clues. A woman from the lower classes was invariably unfree and tied to their lord and couldn’t move freely around. They could also often not write…rather a handicap.

I have read several books where the detective is a Mediaeval woman but we really must tut under our breath when we find that they’re off interrogating men or gadding about the town unaccompanied, or, God forbid, are a nun out of their nunnery travelling here and there with impunity.

Yes, we have to read these novels with a large pinch of salt. Great though they are, they aren’t right. So we need to bend the rules a bit.

I was returning for a visit to my mum’s the other month and was sat in a traffic jam. Onto my windscreen flew a large green fly. He/she sat and contemplated me for a while…and I contemplated him/her. And a new idea came into my head.

I’m not really a fantasy writer; it’s never attracted me to read it either. But why not? Why could I not have a 13th century female (free, educated and single with a good job,) who might prove good at detecting because she’s able to be wherever she likes…as a cat, a dog, a fly or a bird?

And Withershynnes was born.

Mabel Wetherspring is a shapeshifter. She can, at the drop if a wimple, turn herself into any animal she wishes. She can listen in on conversations, make people do things and put two and two together when she’s back in her human form.

We first meet her on her thirteenth birthday when she accidentally turns herself into a bat and then a fly. From then on it’s plain…sailing… about in the sky.

Acquiring a useful sidekick (all the best detectives must have one), in the form of a knight of the Lord Stokke’s mesnie, Sir Gabriel Warrener, Mabel plunges headlong into a murder mystery and gets herself into many a scrape.

This book we hope should be out in the autumn and is the first of, so far, two.

The thing I like about writing these novels is I can do whatever I like. I can use more modern language within reason; I can plot things which are totally absurd with no rules to hold me back. It’s a refreshing change from keeping Aumary Belvoir on the straight and narrow.

Yes, I’m having great fun writing fantasy.

Who’d a thought it?



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