Margo Pennyfeather is being hunted. The 16-year-old witch has always been an outcast, in her home back in England, and now in the village of East Hampton New York where her family has settled. No one but her family has ever cared for Margo, but now the most important witch in the magic world wants her as an apprentice, giving her a chance to bring her family out of poverty.
The Skinwalker's Apprentice is a book about two witches and the events in their lives leading up to a treacherous race against time that holds the fate of the magical world in the balance. But behind the spells and witchcraft, The Skinwalker's Apprentice -- which is part of the Empire Witch Series -- is inspired by real life events and residents of NYC.
In TSWA, we meet Goody Garlick, a nurse maid who aids one of the story's heroines Margo Pennyfeather. Goody Garlick was an actual resident of what was then known as Easthampton, Long Island (now East Hampton) and she was accused of witchcraft thirty five years before the Salem witch trials began. This little known story is also shrouded in mystery, as Garlick lived on the island until her death, but no records of her death or burial site has ever been found.
Aside from Garlick, Lion Gardner, the settlement's founder is also talked about briefly in TSWA, and one of his direct descendants, Live Pirrotti, contributed artwork to the book.
For the next book in the series, Emerald Kipp and The Riddle of The Timekeeper, the character of The Timekeeper is inspired by real life New York resident, the late John Votta. Votta was nicknamed The Timekeeper for his daily hobby of shouting the time to NYU students, and helping them stay on time for class. He was a small man of less than five feet tall and was cherished part of the NYU community.
Votta passed away in 2012 but through Riddle of The Timekeeper, his spirit lives on in an alternate magical NYC.
In a New York Times article from 1879, NYC resident Henrietta Snowden was nicknamed "The Witch of East Broadway." Snowden plays a pivotal role in Riddle of The Timekeeper, and her character is described much like the actual person she was based on -- unusually tall, with a penchant for trouble and an array of cats and dogs living in her apartment, all with small silver coins tied around their necks.
There are many more character inspired by little known NYC residents weaved throught the story, with more to come as the series progresses. Author Claribel Ortega also plans to include obscure but magical places in the upcoming books, such as the inspiration behind the iconic yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz, which is located in Peekskill, New York.
Read more about The Skinwalker's Apprentice and the Empire Witch Series at www.claribelortega.com.