Join us to hear from an array of critically-acclaimed talent who have all found inspiration in the world of witchcraft. 

Featuring a trio of contemporary releases, each inspired by one of the darkest periods in British history, this event chaired by Saima Mir invites three authors to discuss how the deadly witch trials of the 15th–18th centuries influenced their bestselling creative output. 

Hear from The Manningtree Witches author A.K. Blackmore, The Trial of Gwen Foley novelist Jane O’Connor, and Stacey Halls of The Familiars fame, as each shares stories of how this terrible period of paranoia, pain and intrigue catalysed their work. 

About The Speakers

Stacey Halls Headshot

Stacey Halls

Stacey Halls was born in Lancashire and worked as a journalist before her debut The Familiars was published in 2019. It was the bestselling debut hardback novel of that year, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards’ Debut Book of the Year. The Foundling, her second novel, was also a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Mrs England is her third bestselling novel, which published in paperback January 2022. Stacey was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction x Good Housekeeping Futures initiative with Mrs England. 


Jane O'Connor Headshot

Jane O’Connor

Jane is an academic and writer based in the West Midlands. Her debut novelNeedlemousewas runner up in the Tibor Jones pageturner prize and was published by Penguin in 2019. Jane has had short stories published in national magazines and was the winner of the Hysteria 2020 short story competition. Her latest novel The Trial of Gwen Foley is set in eighteenth-century Lichfield and features two of her greatest interests – bookshops and the history of witchcraft. 

A.K. Blakemore Headshot

A. K. Blakemore

A. K. Blakemore is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Humbert Summer (Eyewear, 2015) and Fondue (Offord Road Books, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo (My Tenantless Body, Poetry Translation Centre, 2019). Her poetry and prose writing has been widely published and anthologised, appearing in the The London Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Review and The White Review, among others.


Saima Mir

SAIMA MIR is a British Pakistani journalist who grew up in Bradford, where she started her career as a local reporter. She has written for The Times, Guardian and Independent. Her essay for It’s Not About the Burqa (Picador) appeared in the Guardian and received over250,000 hits online in two days. She has also contributed to the anthology The Best, MostAwful Job: Twenty Mothers Talk Honestly About Motherhood. THE KHAN is her debut novel. Saima lives in London.