Magical realism with Allen authors
Sarah Addison Allen author of Garden Spells, The Peach Keeeper, and The Girl Who Chased the Moon interviews Lisa van Allen about the elements of magic in her new book The Wishing Thread, on sale today.
Sarah Addison Allen: The Wishing Thread is a delightful novel about the bonds of sisterhood, the transformational power of love, and the pleasures and perils of knitting. What sparked your idea for this novel?
Lisa Van Allen: It started with the knitting. When I knit a gift for someone, I always say a few prayers for the recipient. It’s about sending deliberate thoughts of love and kindness, along with offering a gift. So it wasn’t a far jump from there to “Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody could knit a magic spell into the fabric of a hat or a scarf so that it rubs off on the wearer?”
Of course, in The Wishing Thread, the people who go to the Stitchery looking for magic never know what they’ll get. Sometimes the spells don’t work as expected. Sometimes they don’t work at all.
Many people in the town think that the Van Ripper sisters are swindlers, preying on people who are desperate enough to turn to “magic” to fix their problems. But others think the sisters are the real deal and will defend the Stitchery’s magic, tooth and nail. Each sister in the story approaches the idea of magic in her own way.
SAA: The novel is set in Tarrytown, New York, the home of so much rich history as well as the legend of Sleepy Hollow. Is the Tarrytown of the novel the same as the real Tarrytown?
LVA: My husband gets full credit for the story’s location. One day, he took me to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, and he said “You’re gonna like this.”
So I rolled up my sleeves and dug into the local lore, including Washington Irving’s charming legend of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. The book features many recognizable Tarrytown landmarks, and I hope I captured the town’s busy suburban vibe.
But what I love about Hudson Valley folklore is that it’s a living thing, always shifting and changing. Each storyteller brings her own spin. So yes, it’s the real Tarrytown. But it’s also quite stylized to suit my fancy.
SAA: Did you do any other research when writing the novel?
LVA: Oh, yes. I did a great deal of research on the haunts of old Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow; the Headless Horseman is the tip of the iceberg. And I also did quite a bit of research about the history of knitting, which also has its share of rumor, myth, and legend.