Please Note: I received an electronic review copy of Edie In Between and was monetarily compensated in exchange for composing and hosting an interview with the author. This compensation in no way affected my opinions.
Title Edie in Between
Author Laura Sibson
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary Fantasy
Publication Date August 24th 2021 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
A modern-day Practical Magic about love, loss, and embracing the mystical.
It’s been one year since Edie’s mother died. But her ghost has never left.
According to her GG, it’s tradition that the dead of the Mitchell family linger with the living. It’s just as much a part of a Mitchell’s life as brewing healing remedies or talking to plants. But Edie, whose pain over losing her mother is still fresh, has no interest in her family’s legacy as local “witches.”
When her mother’s teenage journal tumbles into her life, her family’s mystical inheritance becomes once and for all too hard to ignore. It takes Edie on a scavenger hunt to find objects that once belonged to her mother, each one imbued with a different memory. Every time she touches one of these talismans, it whisks her to another entry inside the journal – where she watches her teenage mom mourn, love, and hope just as Edie herself is now doing.
But as Edie discovers, there’s a dark secret behind her family’s practice that she’s unwittingly released. She’ll have to embrace – and master – the magic she’s always rejected…before it consumes her.
Tinged with a sweet romance with the spellbinding Rhia, who works at the local occult shop, Edie In Between delivers all the cozy magic a budding young witch finding her way in the world needs.
After a career in undergraduate counseling, Laura Sibson pursued an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing in a local coffee shop, you can find her running the neighborhood streets or hiking with her dog. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their two sons. Laura is available for school visits, book clubs, workshops and conferences. She can speak on the process of writing and publishing to audiences from middle school into adulthood. With her background in one-on-one counseling, giving presentations and facilitating both panels and writing groups, Laura brings both warmth and professionalism to all of her endeavors.
1. Edie In Between has been described as “a modern-day Practical Magic” and expertly balances paranormal and contemporary elements while also exploring compelling subject matter like grief and female power and connection. How did this story come to be?
First, thank you for the kind words. I appreciate that you saw those elements I strove to convey. The first version of Edie In Between was a contemporary realistic story that I wrote for my MFA creative thesis when I was at VFCA. Fast-forward many years and my agent and I were pitching ideas to my editor for my second book. It was my editor who suggested merging the grief narrative in Edie with a witches-on-a-houseboat story that I had been exploring.
2. Of all the paranormal creatures and elements to choose from (vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc.) what was it about witches and witchcraft, specifically, that felt perfectly suited to Edie’s story?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved stories that feature magic and witches. On a basic level, I’m drawn to stories with magic because they are just good fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to cast spells? From a writer’s perspective, magic can be a wonderful vehicle for representing a character’s emotional arc and their relationship to power. Even more specifically for Edie In Between, I was interested in using magic to explore intergenerational female relationships.
3. Edie is initially reluctant to acknowledge or practice her magic, both for fear of the power she potentially wields and because she worries that her abilities make her different and strange. I think readers of all ages will be able to relate to and empathize with Edie’s feelings of loneliness, isolation and fear of alienation, myself included. Thankfully, Edie ultimately realizes that “Every person is an individual with some attributes that they like about themselves and others that they struggle with. Maybe my attributes and struggles are different from other people’s, but that didn’t mean that I need to be alone with them.” I think it’s so important we celebrate what makes us unique, and I loved watching Edie learn to embrace who, and what, she is. What’s something that you love about yourself and that makes you special?
Thank you for raising up that moment in the story and the journey from isolation to acceptance because those themes are exactly what I was working toward while drafting. For various reasons, I spent a lot of my younger years feeling that I didn’t belong and so all I could see were the ways that I was different from those around me. Eventually I learned that it does not serve me to compare my insides to other people’s outsides. I knew I wasn’t alone in that experience, so I sought to share it through Edie. Today, I love that I connect with most people easily and I also enjoy connecting people to one another.
4. Like other members of her family, Edie has the ability to see the ghosts of loved ones who have died, though she is unable to communicate with them. This ability seems to be bittersweet and both a blessing and a curse, as it allows Edie to remain connected to her mother after her mother’s unexpected death, but also makes it difficult to heal as it’s a constant reminder of what she has lost. Would you welcome and embrace having such a power? What are some other ways the novel demonstrates that our loved ones continue to live on with us after their death?
Jen, you truly see everything in this book that I wanted to convey! Thank you for being such an ideal reader. If it were the way in my family, as it is the way for the Mitchells, to see the dead on a daily basis I’d like to think that I’d relax into it like GG. But I think that it would be painful to see those who’ve passed on and not be able to fully communicate with them. At the same time, the ghosts in my book are metaphors, they are actualized memories offering that sense that our loved ones are near whenever we think of them. Similarly, the items that Edie and her friends search for during the scavenger hunt have memories magicked into them, but in real life items that belonged to a dead relative can have the same effect.
5. As the aforementioned question suggests, Edie In Between offers a powerful and touching exploration of loss and the grieving process. Edie is mourning the sudden death of her mother and, as illustrated through entries in a journal her mother left behind, Edie’s mother, Maura, mourns the death of her own father when Maura was a teenager. We see Edie, Maura and other characters literally and figuratively silenced in the wake of such trauma. What, if anything, would you say to a young reader who is currently struggling with loss and/or grief in their own life?
Grief is not logical and follows no calendar. Processing a huge loss is intensely personal and no two people will walk it the same exact way, which is why I showed Edie, Maura and GG responding so differently. In my experience, loss is not something to be surmounted so much as something we learn to live alongside in varying degrees. I didn’t lose a parent at a young age, so I did research for this book, and I learned that adolescents express grief in very different ways than adults. I hope that teen readers who have experienced loss and who continue to struggle will identify coping strategies that allow them to feel their feelings, but also encourage them to move forward with their own lives.
6. The Mitchell family magic is described as a “balance between nature and the elements” and “magic that helps and heals.” Their magic is deeply rooted in a connection with the earth and there’s a particularly beautiful scene that moved me in which Edie must remove bark from a tree for a spell but does so in such a thoughtful way that seems to emphasize respect, gratitude, and care for the natural world. What inspired you to craft the book’s magic system in this way?
The first element of the magic that came to me was GG’s ability to grow anything. Much later, while reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s gorgeous and thought-provoking book Braiding Sweetgrass, I was moved by the way she wrote about her people’s approach to making an offering before asking something of the earth. Kimmerer is both a PhD botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. To authentically craft GG’s character, I consulted a book about medicinal uses for plants and herbs, some of which referenced tree bark. As trees are symbols of strength in this book, it felt natural to have GG require tree bark for Edie’s salve. And it felt important to give GG and her family the same reverence for nature that I learned from Kimmerer’s book.
7. Speaking of Edie’s family’s powers, each member has control over a different element – Edie can control fire, her mother can control water, and her grandmother can control earth and vegetation. If you could control any one element, which would you choose and why?
Manipulating water appeals to me but doesn’t strike me as super-useful. I would love to have GG’s talent, which is based on my mother and grandmother. I swear that my mother can bring back dead plants and my grandmother grew the best tomatoes I ever ate. I, on the other hand, murder plants on a regular basis.
8. Edie is a passionate, dedicated runner and often uses movement to explore and process her feelings. This deeply resonated with me as I’m also a runner who uses running to take better care of her mental and emotional health. Can you share a little about this aspect of Edie’s creation and why it was important to include this element of her character? Is there anything in your own life that helps you decompress when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
You and I share that connection to running! I’ve run for many years for my physical and mental health. There are times when I’m running to escape and times when I’m running for joy. I wanted to give Edie a way to process her own internal struggle around the loss of her mother and being stuck with her grandmother away from her home. From a writing standpoint, I hoped that by giving Edie the passion for running also helped to ensure that she wouldn’t seem passive despite her emotional state.
9. Memories play a pivotal role in the novel. Rhia is plagued with turmoil and grief over her grandmother’s dementia diagnosis, which prevents them from connecting as they once did, and Edie becomes consumed with using magic in order to visit her mother’s memories, despite the potential danger it poses to her. Can you speak a little about a memory’s ability to connect us to those we love and the role this plays in Edie In Between? Is there a memory you cherish that you would feel comfortable sharing?
When I was young, every year just after Thanksgiving my mother, sister and I gathered on weekends in my grandmother’s kitchen to bake Christmas cookies very specific to my family. Years later, when my grandmother became ill, she gifted me with the cookie cutters she’d used for decades. All these years later, when I use those beat-up old cookie cutters, treasured moments from the past come singing back to me, not unlike having my grandmother appear in my very own kitchen! I began to think about memory differently when my mother-in-law Ann Mitchell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was so painful to see this woman, who loved her family above all else, no longer recognize her children or her grandchildren. These experiences inspired me to consider the importance of shared memories as I drafted Edie In Between.