Interview with Cecily Walters, Author of The Ghosts of Nothing

18 Aug 2023

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Ghosts of Nothing?

I read The Hobbit as a teen and became fascinated by the elves of Mirkwood, who appeared, with their campfire and food and warm conversation, just out of reach of Bilbo and the dwarves. This ignited an interest in fairy mythology, especially the mythology of the will-o’-the-wisp or other phantom lights said to appear in the woods and lead travelers astray. Imagining who or what might be behind those lights eventually led to this story.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of The Ghosts of Nothing, what would they be?

For my main character Nelly: Strange Little Girl by The Stranglers and Blinding by Florence + The Machine.

The Town of Nothing: Seuls by Bruno Coulais (From Les Choristes)

Fig and Jack: Aha! by Imogen Heap and Aventine by Agnes Obel

The fairy world: Tokka by Agnes Obel

Doed: Comatose by Sød Ven

The Ghost: Ipswich by Georgi Kay

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

My favorite genre to read has always been fantasy, but lately I’ve become interested in historical fiction as well. I suppose there’s a bit of overlap there. The same goes for what I prefer to write — fantasy and (more recently) historical fiction.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

I’ve been meaning to read The Stolen Heir by Holly Black, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett and The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. I’m also keen to start The Last Kingdom Series by Bernard Cornwell.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

There were quite a few scenes I had fun writing, but the one that first comes to mind is the scene with the Piper. That scene was very creepy. I actually creeped myself out writing that one. But it was fun to write even so.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I write early drafts in comic sans. I know it’s a silly font to look at, but I read somewhere once that the ridiculousness of the font has a freeing effect on the imagination and prevents perfectionism. I found this really worked for me, so I’ve been doing it ever since.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I wouldn’t say I live by this quote necessarily, but I think about it a lot, and it certainly influenced some of the ideas in The Ghosts of Nothing. “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” —Nietzsche

I think a lot about the problem of good and evil and how so many people, now and in the past, have committed terrible acts of evil while sincerely believing themselves to be doing good. I think the tendency to dehumanize those we see as evil and the failure to recognize the potential for evil in the self or in those “on our side” is extremely dangerous. At the core of most of my writing, I’m wrestling with this problem.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

I only hope readers get something out of the book, whether that’s a fantasy world to escape to, a fun story, or profound thoughts about the nature of good and evil. If readers get something out of the book, I’ll feel I have done my job.


Cecily Walters is the author of the new book The Ghosts of Nothing

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