Copy of the book Paws and Portals on a log.

When I started writing Paws and Portals, the UK was feeling the effects of the energy crisis caused by the Ukraine war and poor planning on our side. We’d also seen an increase in wildfires, and now climate scientists are pretty sure we’re doomed. I wanted to write about these things but not in a depressing, real-world way. That’s where fantasy comes to the rescue.

Water would douse fire, but what would douse magic?

I’d had an idea knocking around my head about a magical electricity grid for a while. It’s not unheard of in other books—recently Crescent City and Fathomfolk have integrated similar magic systems—but mostly, people expect secondary world fantasy to be a bit old-fashioned. The world of the Grid and the Ratatoskr is a far cry from my original idea, where I’d sort of imagined a world struggling to come to terms with a loss of magic. Instead, I wanted to focus on a more personal level—and less disastrous. And I kinda wanted it to be a little bit cosy.

There’s Daisy who works at the Grid and is just doing her job. She’s not evil. Her employers aren’t either. Lima is a new intern, who I first envisioned as a way for Daisy to explain things to the reader, but she evolved into a young woman from a privileged background having to face what the world is really like.

An ensuite bathroom wouldn’t have gone amiss though. All that rehydrating she’d been doing had made its way to her bladder. She weighed up her options. Climb back down, potentially fall and die. Wee herself up a tree and potentially die of embarrassment. Better the more noble death.

Then came the Ratatoskr. I didn’t want them to be human; they needed to be people who put nature first and with no concept of capitalism. I thought that a squirrel-based species would be highly motivated to care for trees, and after a bit of research I stumbled upon Ratatoskr from Norse mythology.

While there is a bit of disagreement on the etymology of Ratatoskr, I was charmed to see Guðbrandur Vigfússon’s translation: Tusk the Traveller. At this point, I knew my squirrelly friends would wield portal magic, and it just seemed too perfect. Sadly, other scholars just think it means rat-tooth, the gnawer, or drill-tooth, which are all much less poetic.

In a nod to the word’s beginnings, I did write an origin story for the Ratatoskr, which Lailu—a cinnamon roll of a Ratatoskr—tells Lima in the book. It’s inspired by the squirrel who carries messages up and down Yggdrasil in myth.

“Oh, and there’s a Morrigan downstairs for you.”

Lailu spat out her tea.

“Why didn’t you start with that?”

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The Morrigan’s in no rush. I gave her some spoons to look at.”

“What… never mind, I don’t want to know.”

And finally, there’s Faelan. I love urban fantasy vibes, and I used to read so many werewolf stories. A lot of them are far too spicy for my tastes now, so I’ll tell you now, there’s no sex in Paws and Portals. Faelan is my grumpy shifter, who for most of the book is stuck as a wolf, so not in a position to do much seducing. It’s not easy using modern technology with paws either…

So, I hope that gives you a bit more insight to what on earth Paws and Portals is about. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered a copy, even if you only did it to be nice. I hope some of you decide to read it!

And a huge thanks to Georgina who left this amazing review on Instagram:

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it now as part of your subscription, or you can buy on Kindle for £2.99/$3.75. If you’d rather avoid Amazon, you can buy a paperback from other retailers.