Author Paula Brackston lives in a remote part of Wales and spends her spare time walking in the mountains and being serenaded by buzzards and skylarks. So it’s no surprise the landscape plays such a vivid part in the world of her book. Set in 19th-century Wales, The Winter Witch (Corsair, £7.99) is a story of love, conflict and magic, and lyrically describes how ‘wild places make wild people’. A New York Times best-selling author with an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, Paula is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Wales, Newport. Eithne Farry
My alter ego is Lieutenant Ellen Ripley from the movie franchise Alien.
This might come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, as I find it almost too scary to watch that film, and am not given to dashing about being brave, strong (and tall, let’s not forget tall) and generally kick-ass in a Ripley-esque fashion.
But, hey, what would be the point of having an alter ego where there is no alteration? There’s not much mileage for a film character who spends her days making things up and writing them down while eating her body-weight in shortbread. As multi-tasking goes, the action movie of my own life cannot compare to Ripley’s. Not only does she fill two screen hours (not to mention those covered by several excellent sequels) with derring-do, but she broke new ground for women in films. Hers was the character that gave writers, actors, directors et al. licence to create bold female roles who could save the day perfectly well on their own, thank you very much.
I love that Ripley is not saved by a man. I love that she isn’t stupidly glamorous, and yet is still powerfully feminine. I love that she is smart. I love that she can fire a gun/fly a spaceship/battle aliens/wield a flame-thrower better than anyone else in the film. I love that she saves the cat.
Of course she still had to strip down to her underwear – this was 1979, after all (1979!) and certain things were still expected of a female lead. Yet there was something quite progressive about even that. She may be down to her smalls, but there’s no lace or push up bra, and the scene does feel necessary to remind the by-now astonished audience that yes, folks, she did all that and she really is a woman!
So, while I might appear to do no more than sit and daydream, my alternative persona is out there slaying dragons without so much as a cup of tea, showing everyone what can be achieved with the right motivation (save life, save cat), a well-toned physique (acquired from chasing/being chased by aliens), a sound working knowledge of over-sized firearms (the hefting of which eliminates all possibility of bingo wings), and a healthy dollop of self-belief.