Some Thoughts with ... Manda Scott

21 May 2024

The Author/s

Manda Scott

Manda Scott

Born in Scotland, Manda is the Sunday Times bestselling author of mythic, historical thriller series Boudica, and 2018’s standalone A Treachery of Spies whichwon the McIlvanney Prize for the Best Scottish Crime Novel. She’s been shortlisted for the Orange Prize, an Edgar and the Saltire Award. Manda is host of the Accidental Gods podcast, focused on crafting a route through to a future we'd be proud to leave behind.  She’s an eco-spiritual teacher and regenerative smallholder, based in the borderlands of Wales.  

The Interview

1.- Could you introduce yourself to Jamreads’ readers?
Hello people… I’m Manda Scott. I used to be a veterinary surgeon and now I’m a novelist, the host of the Accidental Gods podcast and co-creator of the Thrutopia Masterclass. Everything I do is aimed towards helping humanity to pivot away from the cliff-edge of the polycrisis and towards a flourishing future we’d be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. 

2.- How did you start writing?
I was working in the clinical department at the Cambridge Vet School, specialising in anaesthesia and intensive care - and while I loved it, I didn’t like the career trajectory in front of me. I was learning shamanic practice by then and asked ‘what can I do?’ and writing was the answer. I started out with contemporary crime thrillers and was enormously lucky that the first one was short-listed for the Orange Prize, which gave me the encouragement to continue. 

3.- You’ve been published for a long time, and have a big backlog of titles under your belt. How would you say that experience influences in your current writing?
It gives me the freedom to attempt things that are far, far harder than anything I’ve done before. Writing a way out of the current predatory capital death cult is mind-bendingly hard. Imagining ways to get from exactly where we are towards a different system requires a lot of moving parts and I couldn’t have done it without the practice of the more complex books like Into the Fire and A Treachery of Spies or the long/deep planning of the Boudica: Dreaming cycle. 

4.- Could you tell us more about your Boudica series? What would you say that inspired you to write this series?
Again, the incentive was shamanic. In essence, my lurcher killed a lactating hare and hares are sacred so I took myself to the depths of the local forest and did a vision quest with the question ‘what do you want of me?’ and the answer (in the end) was to write these books. I was a vet then and thought I couldn’t possibly do it - but I had a lot of help from all the layers of reality and the result are books that are still touching people 20 years on. I am so glad I listened. 

5.- What was the idea behind founding the HWA?  
I had been a member of the Crime Writers’ Association when I was writing crime thrillers and had really enjoyed the sense of camaraderie, the capacity to get to know my peers and find some real friendships there. Writing is such a solitary art, and the Associations let us connect. So it seemed obvious to create a HIstorical writing version that could bring us together - and cement the idea that we’re all on the same side - that promoting one author’s books promotes them all.  

6.- Your writing has pivoted between several genres. Would you say that it changes much of your process between them?
No… my process is what it is regardless of the genre. The difference with Any Human Power is the depth of thinking that’s needed to work out a route forwards - as compared to the (relatively) easier paths of looking into the historical record and working out potential motives and time lines. I wouldn’t have said this was easy at the time, but in retrospect, it was a really good apprenticeship for writing what we’re now calling a Thrutopian novel - or, more precisely, a Mytho-Political Thriller. 

7.- Any Human Power is your next release, and probably your most breaking title. What inspired you to write it?
I’m going to start sounding like a broken record, but it was a series of very specific shamanic visions that arose while I was sitting on the hill on the land here. In essence, though, the instruction was to explore the ways we could build a new system: what would it actually look like if we were to change the system from the inside: New governance system, new economic/business system, new food and farming system… new everything. 

8.- If you would have to pitch Any Human Power, how would you do it?
This is a Mytho-Political thriller. The heart of it revolves around a young woman who finds herself at the leading edge of a global inter-generational movement, railing against an establishment that is stealing the future and turning it into Fool’s Gold in the present. For one crystalline moment, the world is with her and her family - and then the Establishment flights back, hard and dirty. How do you contest this when you don’t want to use all the tools of the old paradigm? And the crux is that the story is told from the perspective of a woman who dies at the end of the first chapter - so we have the wisdom of age and the vision that comes from being unfettered to life. So we’re shaping a blueprint for a future - casting ghostlines of potential across the landscapes of possibility in the hopes that people will walk them with us. And we’re crafting a new Mythology for the 21st century, one that will allow us to see ourselves differently. 

9.- Has your usual process changed much while preparing Any Human Power?
Not noticeably - I am well aware that I wouldn’t have stood a hope of writing this book had I not been hosting the Accidental Gods podcast in the years before I began and all the way through. Talking every week to the people who are at what Indy Johar of Dark Matter Labs calls ‘the Emergent edge of Inter-becoming’ in all fields: governance systems, economics, design, food and farming, transport, narrative creation, spirituality… all these have fed into the book in ways that they would not have fed into a historical novel, but this is rather the point: the time for writing history is past and we’re working towards a different future. 

10.- In the current world climate, what would you like readers to take out of Any Human Power?  
That total systemic change is not only possible, it’ll be an inspiring journey in which we will find our sense of being and belonging, our sense of being part of something that is working towards a world we’d be proud to leave behind. That we can do this now and that it’s essential. That we have agency, each of us, and that collectively, we have all the agency we need. Essentially, I’d like people to bring #Changemakers into being. 

11.- What likes Manda Scott to do in her free time? 
I’m not sure free time is really a thing in my life… I used to play World of Warcraft but had to give up (for the fifth time) because… time is too short. I loved and still love walking with one or more dogs - we lost our old dog last year and I’m still looking for one to fill the gap her parting has left: but this, too, is waiting for more space than I have just now. I meditate and practice Tai Ji and read books…lots and lots of books… 

12.- What can expect from Manda Scott in the future? 
I have no idea - I do my best to connect to the Web of Life and ask “What do you want of me?’ and then respond to the answer and this means life is not predictable. But for now, the Accidental Gods Podcast will keep finding new, inspiring people to talk to (there is pretty much an endless supply),, the Thrutopia Writers’ Association will continue to evolve, I’ll keep offering new ways to connect inside the Accidental Gods membership program - and I’m working on a sequel to ANY HUMAN POWER with the working title of ALL THE WILD ISLANDS.


Any Human Power is the next novel by Manda Scott; it will publish the 6th June, 2024. You can already preorder it.