Dear readers, tonight with me is the mother of the protagonist. She is here to tell us about life behind the Iron Curtain, about spies – and about a magical ring inherited from the famed John Dee, which she passed to her daughter.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Well, I was born in Prague, Czechia, between the two World Wars. It was exquisitely beautiful and yet terrifying at the same time. We lived in a grand old flat in Novy Svet, an old quarter of Prague up near the Castle. From an early age I was steeped in a culture of mystery. I used to love wandering around the old quarters of the city, especially the Jewish Quarter, and reading about old legends like the Prague Golem. There always seemed to be an air of unseen reality behind everyday life. A sense of the occult at work. It was sinister, in a way, and yet there was also a lot of laughter in our lives. That must be where I got my anarchic sense of humor! And my nose for the occult at work in public institutions.

What would you say were your defining memories as a child?

I seem to remember we read a lot, went to the theatre, and like most families in that part of the world we had a log cabin in the  forest where we spent weekends and holidays. You have to remember hardly anybody went abroad on vacation in those days.

My favorite memories are of sitting by the log fire at our cabin and reading fairy stories with my grandmother. It seemed idyllic, until  the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Then my whole reality changed forever. I guess that’s the origin of my contradictory personality. And why I became a spy. I witnessed Nazism and then Communism in only a few years. The point of all this, for me, as I say, is to understand the occult aspects of power and institutions.

Even in your life today?

Well, on the face of it I’m now just a retired, respectable grandmother, living in England, where my daughter Sylvia was born, and being a granny to my grandson Rusty. He’s quite a character. Takes after me in many ways! My daughter was pretty angry with me for a long time, on account of my spying career, which took me away from England a lot, but of course I couldn’t tell her about it.

Sometimes people tell me I’m just being paranoid, but I think I know better. It’s hard for me now, though, in a way, having to sit on the sidelines and just watch it all playing out, all over again. This time it isn’t a sudden cataclysmic event. It’s a slow creep. I could see my daughter Sylvia being sucked into this false reality of today and I meant to help her by giving her the ring, but in the end it just made her life more complicated.

So what, then, is this ‘wizard ring’? And what’s playing out all over again?

It was a gift from a dear friend of mine called Stanislav, who found it in Prague and I gave it to my daughter Sylvia. I meant it to enhance her consciousness. It was made in the Prague workshop of the famous English alchemist, John Dee, who lived in Czechia for a few years with his family. I completely underestimated its magic powers, as it turned out. But then perhaps I also underestimated my daughter. Parents often do. What’s playing out all over again? The colonization of our minds with propaganda. Misdirection about what’s really going on. The dark arts of money.

What did you first think when strange things started happening at the school where Sylvia works?

Well at first, I just put it down to managerial incompetence and general cluelessness. But then I began to wonder if there wasn’t something a little more sinister going on.

What was the hardest thing about watching Sylvia’s adventures unfold?

I was worried about her state of mind, and being a woman of action myself I found it very hard just to sit on the sidelines. All I could do at first was just offer the occasional cryptic comment, in the hope that they would be helpful. It was incredibly frustrating.

What was the best thing about it?

Well, I started out very worried about Sylvia and her state of mind, but as time went on we grew closer through her struggles at work. I hadn’t really seen that coming. I’d sort of reconciled myself to being the strange mother who’d failed at being a real mum. It was tough, though, having to come to terms with the fact that I’d probably miscalculated by giving her the wizard ring. Expanding consciousness is not for the faint-hearted! And is definitely not to be pursued at any price, that’s for sure.

So what does this ‘Wizard ring’ actually do?

John Dee, the Elizabethan alchemist said to have been responsible for the ring, was interested in communing with ‘the other side’. Obsessed with it, actually. As far as I was able to piece it together, the ring was supposed to enhance the connection between the seen and the unseen worlds. We live in an age when the unseen world is either ignored or completely misunderstood. I thought opening up that level of consciousness for her would help Sylvia get off her career hamster wheel and see life in a more expanded and meaningful way before she burned out completely.

So what was the problem with the ring then?

The problem, in a nutshell, is that the ‘other side’ that the ring is supposed to bring us closer to, is not neutral. It’s actually demonic. Looking back, I can’t believe I was that naïve. I almost led my own daughter into darkness, when what I meant to do was to lead her into light. Just goes to show: you’re never too old to learn!

So what does the future hold?

The Wizard Ring, as it is now known, has now passed into someone else’s hands. Quite rightly, Sylvia felt that she had to let it go. It had certainly served its purpose in her life. And yet she couldn’t quite bring herself to destroy it. She was a bit cagey when I asked her what she had done with it! She probably didn’t want me involved in her decision, which is a good thing, I guess. It means she’s really thinking for herself these days.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

Actually yes, I can! I mentioned earlier that the Nazi and Communist regimes I lived through in my youth had an occult aspect to them? John Dee, the maker of the ring, was obsessed about  communing with spirits back in the 16th century. He encountered some truly evil forces by meddling with things he didn’t understand, and nearly destroyed his own life and his family’s in the process. In our own times we are witnessing a revival of the occult and its rehabilitation into the world of the ‘normal’ and acceptable. This is very worrying indeed.

Sylvia had a relatively minor brush with the dark side of the universe, and got away with it unscathed. But those occult forces I was talking about are stronger today than ever. In the next book, The Gene Wizards, readers will begin to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes, and some of the darker connections hiding in plain sight will be revealed. Finally, in book three, The Chaos Wizards, the true nature of the dark agenda will start to fall into place.

Clare Blanchard lives in the wine-growing region of Czechia known as Moravian Tuscany, which shares a border with Austria. Czechia is a country rich in beautiful wooded hills and stunning architecture, and she loves to weave these elements into her stories. She writes dark, occasionally humorous, urban fantasy with a historical twist, and particularly relishes finding mysterious things hiding in plain sight. In her plots, the lines between magic and science, and between history and the future are blurred. When Clare isn’t writing, she works in education, appreciates good wine and knits funky socks.

You can find Svetlana on the pages of Wizard Ring.

Join us next week to meet the child of a holocaust survivor, dealing with a past that wouldn’t stay dead. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.