A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to receive a copy of Tree Magic, a new YA debut by Harriet Springbett. We utterly adored reading this magical and intriguing novel. Set in England and France, this alluring tale follows Rainbow, a girl who can shape trees at her will. As well as being a novel about overcoming fears and fighting her way through parallel worlds, it’s also a touching coming-of-age story about finding yourself.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn a little bit more about how Harriet came up with this fascinating concept. Here’s a little piece Harriet wrote to be featured on our blog…
The Ideas behind Tree Magic
Protagonists with special powers usually have life-changing, world-saving gifts. Rainbow is unlucky. Her gift seems to be pretty useless. But if you have a unique gift, it suggests you have a destiny. Rainbow’s dilemma, which is at the heart of Tree Magic, is what she’s supposed to do about her ability to shape trees.
My intention was to use Rainbow’s gift as a metaphor for people who are gifted, whether it be for maths, languages, music or anything else. Do we have an obligation to develop our talent into a career? Is there a reason we’ve been given it? Do we have a choice? The teenage years are those in which we decide on our studies and our life path.
This led to another theme I wanted to explore, which is what would have happened if you’d chosen the other option: if you’re gifted in music and decided to work as marine biologist, for example, instead of becoming a concert pianist. The vehicle I chose for this was the parallel world.
I quickly realised I was all set for magic realism – that’s when you take an element that is ‘magical’ and set it in the real world. But what does magical mean? Maybe magic does exist and simply hasn’t been explained yet by science. I began to think about the scientific society we live in, and how anything spiritual is almost taboo. How would a scientist react to Rainbow’s gift? From this question came the conflict that forces Rainbow to make decisions.
My explanation of these three themes in Tree Magic sounds very logical. Don’t be fooled! I actually had no idea where the novel would go when I started to write. My first (bottom drawer) novel was concisely plotted, which left me gasping for room to create. So I wanted Tree Magic, my second novel, to grow organically.
I started with Rainbow. I was sitting under the weeping willow in my French garden, writing about her, when I noticed a sumac tree had become slightly uprooted in a recent storm. I found my thoughts wandering to the poor tree, and wishing I could rebalance it by bending a few branches. Rainbow was under my pen. She got the gift.
Trees have always moved me and I believe we see them as providers – of food, oxygen and even hugging comfort. What do we do in exchange? We cut them down. I loved the idea of Rainbow being able to help trees, to give something back. And then I discovered the Bishnoi legend of Amrita Devi, who sacrificed herself to save a tree. Into the story she went.
I’m beginning to see that I was a bit of a witch, stirring ingredients into my cauldron – an apprentice witch, unsure of what spell would emerge. I had great fun mixing and blending these ideas. I hope the spell works for you.
Tree Magic by Harriet Springbett
Rainbow’s magic hands can shape trees at her will, but her gift is dangerous and has fatal consequences.
From England to France, through secrets, fears and parallel worlds, Rainbow’s journey to understand her powers takes her beyond everything she’s ever known.
To find the truth, she must also find herself.