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Witchcraft inspires cleaner’s first novel

Published: December 11, 2018

Cornwall College Saltash

A cleaner in Cornwall is celebrating after having her first novel published, a story inspired by a tale she uncovered of witchcraft and sacrifice.

The Cornwall College Saltash employee, Sharyn Burnett, published “Saveock Water: A Swan’s Empty Nest”, following years of hard work and study.

Sharyn, who lives in Saltash, said she has “always been interested in ideas of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ behaviour”.

St Lawrence’s mental asylum in Bodmin is the setting for a large part of the story, according to the former Access Lecturer who completed a degree in English Literature and Language as a mature student.

“Initially I was researching family history. I put my surname into a search and a feature on an Archaeological dig in Saveock Water, near Chacewater, came up.”

“Archaeologist Jacqui Wood had uncovered many unusual animal pits there which have been attributed to witchcraft. Locals spoke of a family, two Burnett sisters who were reputed to be witches. These images brought to life the characters in the story.”

Set in the 1850s when Cornwall’s mining industry had begun to decline. Families struggled and in remote pockets, isolation became a breeding ground for ignorance, fear and superstition.

“The story focuses on one such family trying to cope with mental illness,” Sharyn continued.

“Their dangerous reliance on alternative spiritual practices results in tragedy. In Victorian Cornwall superstition and madness are close acquaintances.”

Sharyn has written a second novel which she is yet to publish.

“After I finished teaching I lived in France for a while which is where a lot of the writing of my second novel took place, “Sharyn said.

“Education is so important, I can’t stress enough how important it is. It doesn’t matter if it is vocational or academic, you just have to do what you are good at.”

“Just put all your efforts into that and something will come from it.”

The book is published by Austin Macauley and is available to buy online via their website under the category historical fiction. It can also be purchased in hardback or paperback from Amazon and Waterstones.



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