Oscar Pellegrini is a talented fashion designer with a deadly enemy: his own critical mind. He destroys much of what he designs and has been drifting for years, until a chance meeting with a former girlfriend triggers a creative crisis so deep that Oscar escapes to Russia, where he drinks and despairs like never before. Just when he thinks he has lost everything he discovers a magical machine that turns ordinary outfits into irresistible sartorial triumphs. Oscar takes the machine back to Italy – and before he knows it, he has become famous for his designs, but the happily-ever-after ending for the fashion messiah turns into a nightmare when his dresses acquire a life of their own, gaining energy and evil as time goes on. Haunted by his creations, a dark secret he is no longer able to hide, Oscar finds himself fighting for his life and sanity, and searching for the answer to a question he never knew existed. Is there such a thing as stolen genius, and if there is, can it turn against the very person who stole it?
Here’s an eternal question for you: what comes first to the author’s mind, the plot or the protagonist? For me, and especially with this novel, the answer was the plot – or rather, the idea, the novel’s theme and essence summed up in no more than three sentences. And the idea of Witchcraft Couture goes as follows. One, a talented yet pathologically insecure fashion designer finds a magic machine that turns all his designs into sartorial triumphs. Two, his other-worldly clothes sell like hotcakes, and he becomes a star overnight. Three, things go wrong – they always do – and my lead character discovers that he has become a prisoner of his dark secret.
It has always fascinated me what enables some people to make the most of their abilities, whereas others, often equally gifted, linger in oblivion, never really fulfilling the hopes they nurture. Where does it come from, that once-in-a-lifetime inspiration, which makes you create a book or a film or a painting that speaks to thousands of people? Is it a question of talent? Hard work? The luck of the Devil? Or purely and simply, a weird sort of magic?
It hasn’t helped that in the past I’ve suffered from creative blocks and destroyed my texts, because a ruthless self-censor told me that much of what I wrote wasn’t good enough. I don’t remember how many crises and bad workweeks it took, but it just so happened that one day I began to think about creative blocks in a larger context. And that’s how Witchcraft Couture was conceived.
For what if there’s a fashion designer? And he’s as besotted as they come? And insecure, just like me? He tries and tries, but never gets anywhere. And then one day, in the midst of the umpteenth creative block, he finds a machine that is not of this world. After realising what it is worth, he makes a creepy Faustian deal with the underworld. Or the supernatural? Or God? Or simply with his own tricky subconscious? And he becomes a genius for a period of time. And all his dreams, even the wildest ones, comes true.
And despite the fact that he’s got it all, his life turns into a nightmare. Slowly his unearthly dresses begin to acquire a life of their own, gaining energy and evil as time passes by. Haunted by his creations, a dark secret he is no longer able to hide, my desperate fashion designer finds himself fighting for his life and sanity, and searching for the answer to a question he never knew existed.
Is there such a thing as stolen genius, and if there is, can it turn against the very person who stole it?
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About the Author
Katarina West was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family and travelled in Africa, Asia and Latin America, before studying at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy. Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance. Witchcraft Couture is her first novel and, unlike the unearthly clothes in its pages, her outfits are not shining. You can visit her website at www.katarinawest.com, read her blog and follow her on Goodreads, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter @WestKatarina