So I’ve been away doing some traveling – and now that I’m back, I have some fabulous interviews to share! First up is the Freshman Fifteens’ own Virginia Boecker, whose YA Fantasy THE WITCH HUNTER will be out Spring 2015 from Little, Brown. From Publisher’s Marketplace: The Witch Hunter is set in an alternative 16th-century London. In the story, pitched as Shadow and Bone meets The Tudors, the only girl in the king’s elite group of witch hunters is framed for being a witch herself, finding freedom at the hands of the world’s most wanted wizard. Publication is set for spring 2015.
Two words: Bad. Ass.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?
Well, I lived in London for four years and while I was there got completely obsessed with British history. I read everything I could get my hands on: fiction, non-fiction, even guidebooks (I have a huge stack of guidebooks from castles, cathedrals, museums, even prisons! I still use them for resarch.) My debut is based in part on the Protestant Reformation of the 1600s and the Inquisition – only instead of dealing with differences in character’s religious beliefs, I’m dealing with differences in their magical beliefs.
How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?
THE WITCH HUNTER was one of two titles I considered. The other was THE THIRTEENTH TABLET (the meaning of which is clear when you read the book). However, during the editorial process we did consider changing it again. My editor, agent and I brainstormed for weeks and came up with two acceptable alternatives. However, when my editor took them to the “big” meeting at Little, Brown, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping THE WITCH HUNTER. Which I’m thrilled about. It’s straightforward, to the point, and people seem to like it. During the brainstorming process, I floated a few of the proposed titles to people and every one of them said, “they’re good, but… why can’t you keep THE WITCH HUNTER?”
What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?
My first draft of this book was a disaster – there’s no other way to put it. Full of cliches and clunky writing, overdone plots and over the top drama. Fun fact: my MC in the first draft was a long-lost princess – talk about cliches! I wrestled with that for a while, unsuccessfully, until one day I was researching witch hunters during the Inquisition and bam – my princess became a warrior. By that time I had gone through a few more drafts and aired out the rest of the clunky and cliched writing, but the plot possibilities that opened up from that change really made the difference.
Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?
Another fun fact: I wrote nearly the entire first draft of THE WITCH HUNTER to the doleful sound of The Smiths. I was searching for my inner teenage angst and Morrissey is an excellent guide. However, when I’m editing, I prefer no music at all. Sometimes it’s because I’m reading sentences out loud but other times it’s just because I need to hear the character’s voices rattling around in my head.
What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?
Everything is so big at this stage of life. Emotions, experiences; you’re on the brink of everything and the possibilities are endless. I’m jaded and old now (grin) so it’s fun to imagine it all again from a safe distance (grin again). Plus, it’s what I love to read – and probably 90% of what I do read – so it was a natural fit!
Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?
I haven’t been writing that long, to be honest: coming up on four years now. When I started out, I wasn’t even sure if I’d enjoy it, at least enough to make it a career of it. So I gave myself a test: parked myself in a chair and wrote 1000 words a day: every day, five days a week. If I didn’t like doing that, why would I want it as a job? Fortunately, though, I loved it! I’m extremely practical, and I remember thinking I’d give myself a five year limit. If I couldn’t get an agent or any interest in my work after writing full time for five years, I’d give up. But I know now that I couldn’t have. I love writing too much.
Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?
Read! Read anything, read everything. Read to discover what you like, to discover what others have to say, to discover what you want to say. And don’t prioritize screen time over page time. If I have an hour of free time at night (I have a husband and two young children, so an hour is being generous!) I would never choose television over a book. True, I can’t name a single Real Housewife, but I have no regrets about that.
Can you say anything about your next project/s?
Yes! I’m working simultaneously on the second THE WITCH HUNTER book, along with a short story that’s a companion to THE WITCH HUNTER (I call it TWH 1.5) told from another character’s point of view. After that is Book 3. I’ll be busy living in this world for a while but feel so, so fortunate to be able to do so!
Thank you so much, Virginia!