by Lorie Lewis Ham
I am so excited this week to bring you not only a review of the new fantasy novel The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson, but also an interview with Amber about this new series. Amber Benson is best known for playing Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer–my all time favorite TV show! I have had the pleasure of meeting Amber and she is just as sweet and delightful in person as you would expect. At the end of this post you will also find info on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy.
The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson
Lyse Macallister is a witch, but she doesn’t know it yet. When her great-aunt Eleanora becomes terminally ill, Lyse puts her life in Georgia on hold to rush back to her hometown of Los Angeles, California to be with her, but she has no idea how much her life is about to change.
Eleanora is the head of a coven of witches, or blood sisters as they prefer to be called, in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. She has protected Lyse from this world up until now because she wanted her to have time to enjoy a normal life without the pressure and danger that it would later involve when Lyse would take Elearnora’s place as head of the coven. Once Lyse returns to Echo Park, Eleanora begins to reveal the secrets she has been keeping all of these years, but at first Lyse just thinks Eleanora is delusional because of her illness. Quickly though, she finds out that is not the case and she begins to realize that it is all true.
This book is filled with interesting characters I look forward to getting to know better in future books. Lyse’s blood sisters include the young mute Lizbeth, Danielle the empath, Arrabelle the herbalist, and Dev. I loved that this book is filled with strong, capable women. Lizbeth’s brother Weir, who is charming and handsome, is obviously being set up to be a love interest for Lyse, and seems to be unaware they are all witches.
Throughout the story, we are made aware that a great evil is coming called The Flood, and Eleanora is in a hurry to prepare Lyse to take her place before she dies. This storyline amps up toward the end when many “oh wow” secrets are revealed not only to Lyse but the readers. While the largest part of the book is set up, and felt a bit like an origin story movie, the pay off at the end was well worth it and I can’t wait for the next book!
Amber is as talented as a writer, as she is as an actor (Amber is best known for playing Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). She has woven an interesting and dark urban fantasy world filled with magic, secrets, and shocking twists and turns!
Interview with Amber Benson
KRL: How and when did you first come up with the premise for this book?
Amber: I came up with the concept for the book over a sangria-filled lunch with my old editor, Ginjer Buchanan, who is now retired. I wanted to write something that wasn’t Calliope Reaper-Jones and she was the one who got excited about witches.
KRL: Is it going to be a series?
Amber: There will be three books in the series.
KRL: How did you come up with the characters?
Amber: They sort of come to me. Kinda knock on the inside of my skull and demand to be let out. I never have to do any crazy shenanigans to find them. They find me.
KRL: Any fun stories to share about coming up with the character names? Some of them are really unique.
Amber: I have no idea where the name Hessika came from. I wrote it down and was like: What the hey is that? But I loved it. I thought it had such a magical feeling to it. It was just one of those weird moments where everything feels right.
KRL: How long did it take you to write this book while working on so many other projects?
Amber: I ended up doing a full rewrite of the book because I got a new editor, Jessica Wade, while I was writing it. She had lots of thoughts and we ended up finding some new stuff to really dig into together. It was a unique experience – I’ve never switched editor’s part way through something before – but it was very good for me as a writer.
KRL: Why did you decide to go with witches for this book/series?
Amber: I blame Ginjer for that. She liked the idea of me playing around with witch stuff so much that I had to do it.
KRL: How do you feel about your other series coming to an end?
Amber: I was happy to be done with Calliope Reaper-Jones. I love the woman, but I needed a serious break from being in her head. She’s CRAZY! I may revisit her in the future, but she and I are on a break for now.
KRL: I love stories with powerful women, which was why I love Buffy so much. Was having strong female characters as the focus of this story a choice you made or did it just happen as you created this world and the characters?
Amber: Writing about Witches was the perfect way for me to have a whole book full of strong ladies. What’s great is that they are all based on my own lady friends. No one is anyone completely; I just stole pieces of the women I love and peppered those pieces (pretty liberally) all over my book.
KRL: Do you feel that your time on Buffy still influences some of the creative choices you make to this day?
Amber: I think everything we do/experience influences how we create. I would be nuts to think Buffy doesn’t affect what/how I write.
KRL: What kind of research did you have to do?
Amber: I made up my own coven system, but I borrow bits of stuff from all over the place. I didn’t want anyone to point at my world and say: You got it wrong. So I did my own thing.
KRL: Why Los Angeles as the setting?
Amber: Because Echo Park is my favorite neighborhood and I wanted to write about it. This book is a mash note to the east side of Los Angeles.
KRL: What other projects are you working on right now? Any movies coming out anytime soon?
Amber: Just directed a short called Shevenge that we have an Indiegogo up for and that’s about it.
KRL: Is there any update on Blood Kiss?
Amber: Things are moving forward. But slowly.
KRL: What was it like playing a vampire in Rachel Caine’s Morganville web series?
Amber: I had a blast making Morganville. I ADORE Rachel. She is one of my fav people, period. And to get to play Amelie was a joy. So much fun to be intense and spooky and scary!
KRL: Do you have some booksignings coming up?
Amber: Check out my tumblr: amberbensonwrotethis.tumblr.com – for all my signing dates – but I’ll be on the road from 1/6 to 1/12 – in LA, San Diego, New York, Houston, Chicago and San Francisco.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Amber: Thanks for reading the book!
To enter to win a copy of The Witches of Echo Park, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Echo,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 17, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.
Check out more fantasy book reviews in our fantasy and fangs section.
Use this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy: