PORT TOWNSEND — The two women have skills that scare people. As their story — set in Port Townsend and Brinnon right after World War II — unfolds, they employ their secret powers when times grow tough.
In “The Witch’s Kind,” a novel by Louisa Morgan, we spend interesting times with Barrie Anne Blythe, a young farmer and adoptive mother, and her aunt Charlotte, an artist and medical illustrator. They live together on the outskirts of Port Townsend, and don’t have a lot of friends.
What they do have are those skills — and strength. The author will introduce the pair in her book launch and reading at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Books, 820 Water St. The event is free, while books will be available for purchase.
Despite the title, this novel does not overflow with spell-casting and spooky stuff. Instead, “The Witch’s Kind” is about the kind of women who live the lives they choose. Yes, the neighbors are suspicious. Men from the government come around, asking questions. When Barrie Anne’s handsome husband turns out not to be the man she thought he was, she goes through a transformation.
“To me, it’s more about the way women make their way in a world that’s not amenable,” said the writer.
Now’s the time to address her multiple identities. Louisa Morgan is the pen name on “The Witch’s Kind,” on the 2017 novel “The Secret History of Witches” and on the next book in the trilogy, “The Age of Witches.”
This same writer has another nom de plume, Cate Campbell, under which she authored three historical novels set in Seattle. Which brings us to her real name, Louise Marley. She’s the most prolific of the bunch, having published 16 novels of science fiction and fantasy including “Sing the Light” and “The Glass Harmonica.”
Nowadays, Marley is deep into a fiction genre she calls “historical with weird.” She doesn’t take herself too seriously; she is having the time of her life as a writer in Port Townsend.
“The energy here,” she said, “is amazing.”
The “weird” part of “The Witch’s Kind” comes in the women’s ability to sense something that is soon to happen. There’s also some magic involving water and the baby girl that Barrie Anne adopts.
“The magic is subtle,” said Marley; “maybe it’s not even magic,” but women’s intuition. She’s felt it herself now and again.
All of her books, wherever they’re set, explore relationships between people. Barrie Anne and her aunt are “the perfect foils for each other.” Charlotte is world-weary. Barrie Anne is young, bold and naive. Charlotte tries to get her niece to put off a dangerous decision, but she goes for it anyway. The consequences are brutal, but Charlotte sticks by Barrie Anne throughout.
Marley’s own grandmother, a bohemian who did things her own way, inspired the character of Charlotte. The author has also known men like the one Barrie Anne married: sharp, incredibly charming with a deep streak of something else.
As “The Witch’s Kind” appears on bookstore shelves, Marley is in the midst of editing “The Age of Witches,” a story set in New York City’s Gilded Age circa 1890.
“It’s hard,” she said of this process. Revisions are necessary and seemingly endless.
“Age” has more spells and more magic than “The Witch’s Kind.” Marley, a Roman Catholic and a student of yoga, believes that spells aren’t so different from prayers and mantras. These are words of intention, she said; words to focus the mind. They may all have an effect on the physical world.
Novel-writing is a second career for Marley. She is a classically trained singer who performed with the Seattle Opera, and the Seattle Symphony and at St. James Cathedral in Seattle; she taught for years in the voice department at Cornish College of the Arts.
“Being a musician informed the way I write my prose,” she said. As an opera singer, she knows from drama. Marley seeks to infuse her pages with gripping scenes — without spilling over into damsel-in-distress cliché.
Another tale she’d like to tell: a revised Cinderella, in which the heroine takes matters into her own hands to create the outcome of her desires.
“The worst thing you can be,” Marley said, “is boring.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.