Top Ten: Damn! You’s a hexy witch!

Something wicked this way comes…VAMPIRES! Nah, I’m just messing with ya mind! Last week saw the annual Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and the big story this year, without doubt, was witches. If dystopian was the new vampires, witches are, we are told, are the new dystopian.

Therefore, UK readers, you should be proud that two homegrown authors – myself and Ruth Warburton (author of A Witch in Winter) pre-empted this new craze. Hollow Pike and A Witch in Winter are OUT NOW and although wildly different in tone, make fantastic and sexy bookshelf companions (even I do say so myself).

But how is it that haggard, warty, green wenches of Satan became beautiful, doe-eyed, misunderstood outsiders? It could be, that like vampires, as a defence mechanism, we needed to make frightening concepts more cuddly – we metaphorically castrate our monsters. I prefer the idea that where something is EVIL, it becomes intrinsically tempting, seductive and a little bit sexay. The idea of a gorgeous young thing using the dark arts to spellbind their victim is, well, let’s face it, kinky.

With this in mind I present my TOP TEN SEXIEST WITCHES! In reverse order…

10. Samantha Stephens in Bewitched (Elizabeth Montgomery): In the film version, Nicole Kidman was frostier than a penguin’s bottom, but the original witch housewife was quite the suburban minx. In the classic witch-marries-a-human sitcom, Montgomery practiced a strong line in feminist career magic, as Samantha essentially kept her husband in advertising ideas with a well-timed (not to mention cute) wiggle of her nose. Try as I might, I can’t get my nose to do that.

 

 

9. Lafayette Reynolds in True Blood (Nelson Ellis): That’s right, men can be witches too. In season three of True Blood, Lafayette and his boyfriend Jesus begin to explore the dark arts, and by season 4 it’s clear Lafayette is a badass wicca – channeling the dead is his forte. On a more superficial level, those arms are so impressive, I’ll overlook the guyliner and funny little mohawk.

 

 

 

8. Faye Chamberlain/Jake Armstrong in The Secret Circle (Phoebe Tonkin and Chris Zylka): I’m going to be very honest. I haven’t warmed to Secret Circle in the way I hoped I would. Why? The main characters are so insipid – you’re witches! Do some scary stuff! Luckily town scamps Faye and Jake are MUCH naughtier and hence much sexier. Power hungry and unpredictable – my kinda guys.

 

 

 

7. Paige Matthews in Charmed (Rose McGowan): Shannon Doherty’s sour-faced Prue Halliwell was never in danger of making the list, so when she quit Charmed after three years, Scream siren McGowan was hastily drafted in as the Halliwell’s long-lost half sister. Convenient. Paige is telekenetic, not to mention half white-lighter, but more importantly was a lot less emo than her half sisters and a lot more fun. As an ex girlfriend of Marilyn Manson and a fan of drastic plastic surgery, she’s great tabloid fodder too!

 

 

6. Sukie Ridgemont in The Witches of Eastwick (Michelle Pheiffer): Pheiffer was at the height of her eighties fame when she starred as one of three housewives lured into the dark arts by Satan (Jack Nicholson). Pheiffer is gorgeously pouty as journalist mum-of-six Sukie. Her witchcraft street cred was further consolidated by another star turn as witch queen Lamia in 2007’s Stardust.

 

 

 

5. Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter (Helena Bonham Carter): Yes, Bellatrix is sexy. Don’t fight it. Things that make Bellatrix sexy: 1. She’s insane. 2. She’s incredibly powerful. 3. She’s deadly. 4. There’s no safety word. Helena Bonham Carter serves rockstar realness, and in many ways is far scarier than Voldemort, who at least seems to have a plan. With Bellatrix, anything goes.

 

 

 

4. Pogue Parry in The Covenant (Taylor Kitsch): Proving that there’s no shit he won’t lend his name to, the ‘John Carter’ and ‘Battleships’ star plays one of a coven of sexy teenage warlocks in this truly awful film. That said, just because the film is drivel doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the aesthetic value of Kitsch alongside Gossip Girl hunks Chase Crawford and Sebastian Stan.

 

 

 

3. Willow Rosenberg in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Alyson Hannigan): Willow became the unlikely pin-up of Buffy. By the time her character had come out and turned to the dark arts, Hannigan surpassed Buffy herself in FHM’s sexiest women poll. Willow was always ‘cute’ but her slide into ‘magic addiction’ revealed a more adult side, not to mention a goddess of evil makeover.

 

 

 

2. Nancy Downs in The Craft (Fairuza Balk): Before Bellatrix there was Nancy, schoolgirl harlot/raving psycho. Now, if, like me, you’re a child of the nineties, you were in one of two camps – Team Nancy or Team Sarah. Good girl Sarah (played by Robin Tunney) has an appeal, but is about as vanilla as it gets. The scene in which Nancy glamours poor old Skeet Ulrich into a snog before launching him out of a window is MUCH more my style.

 

 

 

1. Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass (Eva Green): Taking our top spot with high-fashion, Vogue poise is the stunning Eva Green in the shoddy adaptation of Philip Pullman’s masterpiece ‘Northern Lights’. Pekkala is the witch queen of the Inari, Finland. If true sex appeal derives from oneness with self, then wise and serene Pekkala has had 300 years to perfect her cool. In Pullman’s universe the witches take human lovers on the basis of their bravery, intelligence and beauty, only to watch them grow old and die, while they remain as youthful and lovely as Eva Green. Gutted.

 

Who did I miss? Did I get the order wrong? Be sure to tell me about your favourite witches in the handy box below!

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Where are they now?

In terrifying news that will make any TV viewer of a certain age realise their own mortality, 90’s TV cult phenomenon (and my personal favourite) Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned 15 years old last week. Yes, FIFTEEN years since Sarah Michelle Gellar’s body double back-flipped into our hearts with a quick pun before turning the undead minions to dust.

For those who don’t know (and if you don’t you must), BtVS was the creation of Joss Whedon, the writer/director also responsible for Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse and the soon-to-be-massive Avengers movie. It told the simple tale of a perfectly normal all-American cheerleader called Buffy Summers who discovers her destiny is to battle vampires and demons. She was only girl in the world who could do it, but had to do so while balancing her day-job as daughter, friend and schoolgirl. It was YA before YA was a thing. It was smart, moving, funny, heart-breaking and (in places) musical.

The series concluded in 2003 with the feminist masterstroke of finally allowing Buffy to decide if she WANTED to be the Slayer, and saw the hero and her surviving chums leaving the town of Sunnydale as rubble. But what was the true destiny of The Slayer and her Slayerettes? The last decade has been kinder to some than others…

 

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers: The post-Buffy future initially seemed bright for SMG. On the back of her starring role she landed high profile parts in Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions and Scooby Doo. However, once the show ended, Gellar’s star waned and after lacklustre horror spots in The Grudge and The Return, Gellar focused on her baby daughter, Charlotte. In 2011, Gellar, now 34, returned to television in the ludicrous but addictive evil twin drama Ringer.

 

 

Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg: Arguably the most consistent post-Buffy alum. Canny career moves saw Hannigan (37) position herself as a comic actor – securing a popular franchise in the American Pie movies and a starring role in the hugely successful sitcom How I Met Your Mother (currently in its 7th season, matching Buffy‘s run). In real life, Hannigan is still married to Buffy co-star Alexis Denisof (Wesley Wyndham-Pryce) and the couple are expecting their second child.

 

 

Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris: Life after Buffy hasn’t been easy for Buffy’s stalwart friend. Brendon, now 40, has fought a very public battle with alcohol and sleeping pill addiction. This sad state of affairs culminated with his tasering and arrest for battery of a police officer in 2010. Shortly after he received a suspended jail sentence he voluntarily entered rehab. On a personal note, this breaks my tiny heart. Professionally, Brendon’s post Buffy resume contains theatre and a recurring role on Private Practice.

 

 

Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles: As long as TV and films need silver British villains, Head (58) will be able to find work. Buffy’s former watcher has notched up numerous screen appearances since 2003 in such gems as Little Britain, The Iron lady, The Imbetweeners Movie, Doctor Who, Merlin and Ghost Rider 2. Head’s eldest daughter, Emily, is also making a name for herself as Carly D’Amato in the massive Imbetweeners franchise.

 

 

 

David Boreanaz as Angel: Early Cullen prototype Boreanaz, now 42, has aged spectacularly well and retained his heartthrob credentials. After Buffy, the spin-off Angel ran for five (slightly patchy) seasons before Boreanaz went straight into a lead role on dreary police procedural Bones – now in its seventh year. On a personal front, Boreanaz has been no angel (LOLOLOL), admitting to numerous extra marital affairs and being sued for sexual harrassment by an extra on Bones.

 

 

Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers: Buffy’s ball of energy sister was only 18 when the show finished, the role marking the start of a promising career. Since Buffy ended, Trachtenberg (now 26) is better known as the coniving Georgina Sparks on Gossip Girl as well as roles in 17 Again, Black Christmas and Weeds. Miss Trachtenberg is also a lad’s mag regular and friend of very pale makeup.

 

 

 

James Marsters as William ‘Spike’ Pratt: Marsters (49) capitalised cleverly on his cult status. After stretching out the role of Spike from 1997 – 2004 (even his death in the last episode of Buffy didn’t stop him becoming a series regular in the last series of Angel), Marsters was airlifted into various cult TV shows as ‘the guy who used to be Spike’. Canny. Marsters has popped up as a guest on Torchwood, Smallville, Supernatural and Caprica.

 

 

 

Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase: Carpenter (41) graduated from Buffy into Angel, where she was the female lead for the first four seasons before bizarrely vanishing without much explanation. Since then, Carpenter hasn’t been off our screens even if she has failed to attain star status. Keen eyed viewers may have spotted her on Charmed, Veronica Mars, Greek, Supernatural and now in the YAtastic The Lying Game as MILFy Aunt Rebecca.

 

 

 

Emma Caulfield as Anya/Anyanka/Aud Jenkins: Caulfield, now 39, was spectacular as hilarious vengeance demon Anya, so it’s a little disappointing that her post-Buffy career stalled. Although she was the lead in ‘evil tooth fairy’ horror Darkness Falls, her only noteable effort since was a mockumentary about herself called Bandwagon which failed to be distributed. Recently, Caulfield appeared as ‘Blind Witch’ on fairy-tale drama series Once Upon A Time.

 

 

Seth Green as Daniel ‘Oz’ Osbourne: Back when Willow ‘drove stick’ (thanks, Faith), her boyfriend was Seth Green’s werewolf, now 38. Green left Buffy midway through season four to focus on his blooming Austin Powers film career. Since the early 2000s, however, things have been quieter. Green is now better known, perhaps, as the writer/creator of cult favourite Robot Chicken and for his voice work on Family Guy and American Dad.

 

 

 

Eliza Dushku as Faith Lehane: Dushku (31) can turn gay men straight. Fact. It was all meant to go so well for Dushku. After her recurring role as the rogue slayer on both Buffy and Angel, her career got off to a flying start with turns in Bring It On, Wrong Turn and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Rumour was that Joss Whedon had envisaged a Faith spin-off with the anti-hero fighting vampires on the road. Dushku declined, opting for the dreadful Tru Calling before returning to Whedon for the uneven Dollhouse, which was cancelled after two seasons.

 

 

Marc Blucas as Riley Finn: All-American beefcake Blucas, 40, was meant to be Buffy’s perfect boyfriend. Sadly fans disagreed. LOUDLY. Since being packed off to Peru (!), Blucas has, like Charisma Carpenter, worked solidly, but not in anything you’d give a tiny rat’s ass about. Last year he popped up in awful Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz vehicle Knight and Day.

 

 

 

Amber Benson as Tara Maclay: Last, but by no means least, it was important to include Willow’s dearly departed lover, as Benson (35) appeared in easily the best/worst post Buffy CV entry. Allow me introduce One Eyed Monster, in which poor Benson is terrorised by the possessed and severed member of legendary porn star Ron Jeremy. I’m seriously not making this up. Possibly even weirder is that Benson, who recently popped up with old chum Gellar in Ringer, is dating Adam Busch. The same Adam Busch who played Warren – killer of her character on Buffy!

A Tour Tale

The first time I went to see Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, it bordered on a religious experience. Her interaction with the crowd, the pithy one-liners, her casual piano-stool chats. I was in awe. Only then I made the mistake of returning to the ball nine months later. Every ad-lib, every pun was repeated. The whole show was scripted. You can imagine my disappointment.

Having spent the last two weeks visiting a new school every day, I should like to extend a formal apology to Ms Gaga. I now get it. What I had failed to understand is that, although I’d seen it all before, all the other Little Monsters had not, and they were as rapt as I’d been the first time. This, I have learned, is the trick to the tour . You have to pretty much do the same thing time and after time, but each visit has to be unique, fresh and exciting for the audience – because they deserve nothing less. This, it transpires, is fun and challenging in equal measure.

In my case, the audiences could not have been better. I visited London, Brighton, Kent, Keighley, Bingley and Leeds and I can honestly say that every group of pupils were polite, friendly and charming! Whether you were in an assembly or a writing workshop, I hope you got something out of the visit (even if it was an hour off from normal lessons!).

For me, this was entirely different to my old teaching role. There is much more showmanship involved with promotion – plus the aim when teaching is to talk as little as possible, leaving the kids to do the thinking. As I write the day after the tour finished, I have NO voice left at all!

The bonus I have over Gaga (as well as my sanity) is that I was able to talk to my Monsters directly. The highlight of every session was the Q&A at the end. This is where every session was truly one-of-a-kind. Of course there were insightful questions about the creative process and the publishing world, but much more exciting were ‘have you seen The Human Centipede?’, ‘what’s your favourite bit in Mean Girls?’, ‘do the lesbians kiss and stuff?’ and ‘was your Biology teacher obsessed with Bigfoot?’. (The answers, incidentally, are yes, ‘You Go Glen Coco’, yes, and no).

Visiting Brighton and Bingley was especially exciting. I taught in Brighton, and seeing some of my old Year 6s who are now SIXTEEN was mental. It’s interesting, because although they have aged I remain twenty-six with each passing year. It’s odd, right? I will absolutely plan in some more visits to Brighton – it was like a reunion. A much scarier episode was the trip to Bingley Grammar. For anyone who has read Hollow Pike, it should be pretty clear that I didn’t have the best time at school. The trip to Bingley was a chance to exorcise some old ghosts, and I’m pleased to say it worked. The Year 9s were hilarious and made me feel right at home – I hope you enjoy all the little nods to your school!

Although I’m knackered, I can’t wait to do more! Writing, as a career, can be isolated, but the tour reminded me what it’s all about – writing books for young adults. Thank you so much to all those schools, teachers and librarians who hosted me, hopefully I’ll see you all again in the not-too-distant future.

Facebook Giveaway!

As you’re not allowed to run comps straight off Facebook, I’ll have to do it from here! Thank you so much for ‘liking’ me, it’s the best way of knowing where I am and what’s going on with Hollow Pike.

Up for grabs is a rare hardback edition of Hollow Pike, signed by yours truly. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave your real name in the comments section below. A name will be randomly selected from all the entrants and the winner contacted direct. I will do the draw next Saturday, giving you a week to enter. Good luck!