Saturday 2 April 2022

The Story Behind the Story Foxfires: Jo Danilo of New Zealand.


Jo Danilo was a recent guest on the Scribbler when her short story – The Saturday Girl and the Heavy-Breather – was featured on SHORTS - Stories From Around the World. If you missed it, the story is posted on her website HERE. She has many delightful stories to share.

This week she tells us more about her novel – Foxfires.


Jo moved from the far north of England to the Far North of Aotearoa/New Zealand in 2011. It’s decidedly warmer, but she misses all the ghosts. She writes in the Contemporary Young Adult and Historical Fantasy genres and has managed to type ‘The End’ on four novels. She is currently represented by High Spot Literary Agency, Auckland.



Working Title:  Foxfires’ (Cover reveal coming soon!)


Synopsis: Winter 1943.

A plane crashes in a snowstorm, briefly breaking the silence on the desolate moorland. The pilot, Jack, wakes in the wreckage to discover his memory gone, but hope arrives in the form of a gruff farmer, who guides him back to ‘Foxfires’, a farmhouse encircled by deadly marshes. Jack is immediately captivated by the troubled, young woman who lives there, even though his presence seems to anger her.

As two rescuers battle across the snowbound moors towards the crash site, Jack begins to uncover the terrifying secrets of Foxfires – of a wronged witch, a chilling legend, and a curse that echoes across generations. He realises he is in terrible danger.

Will the search party arrive in time to save him… or is it already too late?


The Story Behind the Story:

When I was eight, we moved from the flat plains of southern England, to the hilly North. It was a revelation. Immediately there was a sense of being cocooned, and the bleak beauty of the nearby moors wormed its way into my heart. Even though I moved away several times in my teens and twenties, lived in different countries, and now I haven't been back for eleven years, I always think of the place as 'home'.

It's not perfect, but that's part of its beauty. The old buildings turn black with age, and the colour palette can be dull and sinister on an overcast day (of which there are many). But it has great dollops of atmosphere to fire up a writer's imagination. It makes you really feel things.

The first tiny seed for Foxfires was planted on a wintery walk across a moor called Black Hill to explore an abandoned farmhouse. Many times, I’d driven past it in the distance and always wondered about the place. It looked like it was straight out of a Bronte novel, moody and mysterious, so far from anywhere.

A tale evolved around this lonely farmhouse, which I christened ‘Foxfires’. And, in the story, the building was surrounded by deadly marshland and tied to an ancient legend of a fight between two hill-tribe chiefs over a woman who can control the weather. Hundreds of years later, a pilot crashes nearby and sets the finale in motion.

It was much later that I discovered a real legend about the surrounding moors, in which two giants called Alderman and Alphin fought over a water nymph. They hurled huge boulders at each other, which became geographical features scattered across the moorland. Alphin was struck a mortal blow by Alderman and died. The nymph, devastated at the loss of Alphin, threw herself to her death. It only seemed right that my own two warring chiefs should bear the names of Alderman and Alphin.

With the manuscript now in its final changes, it will soon be time to say goodbye to the world of Foxfires. I’m going to miss it. The story feels like a final tie to the place that will always be 'home'.



 A question for you, Jo: What’s been the most enjoyable and the least enjoyable about your writing journey?


Jo: Writing fiction is a bizarre thing when you think about it... You’re essentially transferring scenes you can see in your own head into words on a page. The pages are then read by others, so that they can imagine the same scenes in their head. It’s almost magical.  

The least enjoyable part? Not being able to write full-time, because I love doing it so much. The older I get, the more I realise what a precious and irreplaceable resource time is.

Thank you for being our guest this week, Jo. Wishing you continued success with your writing.


Thank you to you Dear Readers & Visitors. Feel free to leave a comment.

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