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Today it’s my birthday and I’m thrilled to have debut author Virginia Boecker here to share about her debut YA historical fantasy THE WITCH HUNTER that was released last month. Reading about her book again for this interview has made me really want to read it this summer. And I’m excited that my library is getting it in. I’ve already reserved it!

FYI, I'm going to the Art Fair and having dinner with Anna Li and her boyfriend tonight. I have to work some, so I may get to your blogs a bit late this week.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

Hi Virginia! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Thanks for having me, and happy birthday to you!

I was an English lit major in college (University of Texas-Austin) and wanted to get into publishing upon graduation, which I did - working for a trade division of Harcourt developing textbooks. (Which sounds like a boring job…but it was actually so much fun!) Years later I took a bit of a diversion into technology - an Internet start up hired me to write marketing copy for them, then they taught me to code HTML, and before I knew it I was headlong into the madness and fun of the tech scene. Years later, I took a sabbatical to move to London with my husband, where I spent all my free time obsessing over English medieval history. When we moved back to the US, I never did get back into tech…I decided to use that newfound obsession to write a book, something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time/energy/courage. (Insert standard excuse here.) Now I’m back in publishing, a nice bookend to my career path.

2. Thanks for the birthday wishes! And OMG, I'd love to live in Austin and London. I read you are a huge fan of medieval England. Share a bit about your research into this time period and the mix between the historical time and your own fantasy world building.

Like I mentioned above, I spent four years obsessing, literally, over medieval England. I’ve always been interested in history, and to live near so many places of historical significance made this particular obsession inevitable. To walk into a bookstore, pluck a book about, say, William Marshal or Lady Jane Grey or Katherine Howard or Mary I or Anne Boleyn (or or or, the list is endless) and be able to hop a tube and visit the place where this person was interred/beheaded/born/crowned is a heady experience, and it really helps to drive the history and the story home. Also, many of these historic palaces do a great job of providing hands-on experiences: Tudor cooking exhibitions, jousts, hedge maze runs, prison and torture chamber tours, costume shows, I even went to an exhibit where I got to lie on mattresses filled with different materials (feathers, wool, hay, rags, etc.) to demonstrate how different classes from different time periods would have slept. Things like that all help to ‘fill the well’, so to speak, and really help with world-building.

As for the fantasy element of it, I started out by elevating what people from that time period and place (16th century England) would have viewed as witchcraft into actual witchcraft. The use of certain herbs, plotting astrological charts, unexplained weather, scrying, even astronomy. (NB: I based the character of Nicholas Perevil - and much of the magic he uses - on John Dee, a mathematician, astrologer, occultist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, who was arrested but later freed on charges of witchcraft.)

3.Wow! It sounds like a fantastic hands-on research project. I heard a podcast interview where
you talked about your first draft and how you really completely changed the story in draft 2 and later drafts. Share about what made you decide to take such bold steps and what advice do you have for other aspiring authors struggling with a first draft that’s not working?

I don’t like to plot my first drafts. For me, I feel that the magic of writing (and it is magical) comes from the unknown, and that my best ideas come from what I don’t know yet; things I stumble upon while trying to figure something else out. It’s not the most expedient way to write a book, I know: it causes a lot of work to be thrown out and redone (see: draft 1 and 2 of The Witch Hunter…) but for me it’s the only way and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

The advice I have to give here is: don’t be precious with your words. The phrase that’s often used is “kill your darlings”, and the spirit is the same. I’ve deleted some of my very favorite scenes and yes, it’s painful. But if you hold too tightly to something, you miss out on that opportunity to move on to something different, something better, something you never would have thought of before.

4. Yes, I've had to do that too. Learned it the hard way. I know you’ve been working on book 2 in the series. What have you learned about writing a second book in a series, and was there anything you wished you had done differently in writing THE WITCH HUNTER to prepare for book 2?

Second books in series are difficult. You lose a bit of the freedom you have with a first book, where you can do anything you want. Now you have boundaries and dependencies set by Book 1, and sometimes that can work against you when you’re trying to solve a problem you didn’t foresee those years ago when you wrote it. I am frequently cursing my three-years-ago self. That said, it’s nice to have an already existing framework, characters with existing problems and personalities and backstories, and it’s wonderful to be able to build upon that, and to watch them grow even further.

5. So in the podcast interview, you also mentioned that you wrote THE WITCH HUNTER without any intention of getting it published. Share how that changed and your road to getting your agent, Kathleen Ortiz, and your book deal.

When I first started writing, my goal was simple (albeit not easy): write a book. To me, that seemed monumental enough without the codicil of “and get that book published.” Writing a novel had been a life goal for a while, something I always wanted to achieve. But at the time, I didn’t know if I’d enjoy writing, if I’d want to make a career out of it, if I was any good at it, if the book itself would be good. After that first draft I found that I loved writing, but alas, the book I wrote was terrible. So I set a new goal: write good book. And that took time - three years of writing, deleting, writing again, deleting again, rewriting and revising over and over and over.

Impatience is an impediment in this industry, and I see people make it a lot. They want to be published so badly that they don’t take the time to do what is almost always necessary: throw a book out and start over. (Yes, from scratch.) People want the agent, they want the book deal, they want to reach the end of the road without first taking the time to walk it. Believe me, I’m no different - impatience is one of my worst qualities. I think - no, I know - if my immediate goal had been publication, I wouldn’t be published today. I wrote a book to please and entertain myself, and for any writer, I think that’s a good place to start.

6. I saw on your website that you had quite a few book signings and presentations scheduled throughout the country and more set for August and September. How did those get scheduled, especially the ones at bigger events? What have you learned from doing these events?

Yes! I love doing signings, presentations, panels, conferences, all of it. Unlike many writers, I’m definitely an extrovert, and I love meeting people and talking books, writing, history, magic, anything! Kristina Aven, my wonderful publicist at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is responsible for all the places I go. I’m also assisted by my fantastic agent and agency, Kathleen Ortiz at New Leaf Literary, and she and the team there have been instrumental in a lot of these events as well.

I’ve learned to relax and have fun at these events. You’re in a unique position where people have come to see you, to hear about you and your book, and it’s such a wonderful, thrilling thing. I don’t tend to get nervous speaking in public (see that tech career again!), my only goal is that people are entertained by the stories I have to tell.

7. That's great how your publisher set this up.  It’s been about a month since your book released. What do you think worked well so far and is there anything you would have done differently?

I was working on revisions for Book 2 during the month leading up to launch (and several weeks after) and if I could do anything differently, I would have made sure that was done beforehand. Launching a book and promoting it while writing is not a mutually symbiotic relationship. But I’m still new in this particular job, still learning. I think making yourself available to do whatever, wherever, to meet people and talk to them about your book is great, and I wouldn’t change that, even if it does make life a bit more difficult.

8. That's a really good point not to have to work on the next book while one is starting to release. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sequel to The Witch Hunter (the title is a closely guarded secret, to be revealed soon!) and the outline for a Book 3, which is also a closely guarded secret. I’ve also started tinkering with a second novella in The Witch Hunter world, told from Schuyler and Fifer’s POV. (The first novella in this world, The Healer, comes out August 11, and it’s told from John’s POV.)

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Virginia. You can find Virginia on her website

Virginia has generously offered a copy of THE WITCH HUNTER  for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 25th. I'll announce the winner on July 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for US.

Here's what's coming up:
Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Amanda Panitch and a giveaway of her YA thriller DAMAGE DONE.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author David Fulk and a giveaway of his MG adventure RAISING RUFUS.

Hope to see you on Monday! 


Eileen said...

I can't wait for the title reveal for book #2!! Thanks for the lovely interview and the awesome giveaway!

Cherie Reich said...

Happy Birthday, Natalie!

And that's so true about second books, Virginia! Great interview! Congrats!

Patchi said...

Happy Birthday, Natalie!

Thanks for another great interview, The Witch Hunter sounds like a wonderful book.

Jessica Lawson said...

Wonderful interview, and the book sounds intriguing! Loved hearing more about the research process and promotion process.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NATALIE!!! Hope you have a great b-day dinner :)

Ellie said...

What a great interview, makes me so excited to read witch hunter, which I really need to do. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

Carina Olsen said...

Ohh! Happy birthday Natalie :D I hope you are having an amazing day today. <3 Gorgeous post, as always :) I must read The Witch Hunter soonish.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Good interview.( BTW Happy Birthday, Natalie. Your plans sound great. I love anything to do with Art.) The Witch Hunter has a great premise -- A witch hunter suddenly being accused herself. It sounds like an intriguing book.

Anonymous said...

This looks like the start of an amazing series. Congrats to Virginia. Happy birthday, Natalie.

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats to Virginia, and hope you're having a wonderful birthday, Natalie!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Happy B-day, Natalie!!! Thanks for being so amazing. Congratulations to Virginia. Wow, I love the sound of this book and how Virginia did some of her research. Best of luck to her with the series!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Oops, I tweeted and shared via G+, too.

Liz Brooks said...

Happy Birthday! (Or I should say, belated birthday since I'm a day late.)

This book looks really interesting. And I think Virginia's obsession with history is wonderful--I'd seriously like to visit all these places and see all these things. It's fortunate she's an extravert, because that will definitely help with public relations.

Thanks for the giveaway! I tweeted about it. https://twitter.com/adelethelaptop/status/621627754535067648

Danielle H. said...

Happy belated birthday! I hope the Ann Arbor art fair was/is fabulous. I'd love to get there too. I tweeted: https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/621642457919328256
Thanks for the giveaway and interview.

mshatch said...

Ooh, I love a good witchy historical! Congrats to Virginia :)

Danielle said...

This books sounds really interesting - and I'm jealous Virginia got to live in London (SOMEDAY!!!!). Thanks for sharing this interview!

Stephanie @ Love. Life. Read said...

First, happy belated birthday! I hope it was a lovely day. (I have not made it to the AA Art Fair yet--was it lovely?)

Congratulations to Ms. Boecker. I hoped to be able to come to your signing at ALA in San Francisco, but alas, I was in a committee meeting during that time. I am really looking forward to reading it. Witches and English history--two of my favorite reading subjects. :)

I shared about the giveaway on Twitter: https://twitter.com/scharle4/status/621678682428588032

I also shared on Google+

bison61 said...

read the interview and thanks for the giveaway of THE WITCH HUNTER

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

Jamie Coudeville said...

Happy belated birthday! Thanks for the giveaway!

GFC: Jamie Coudeville
email: PCD-music_rocks (at) hotmail.com

Sam Taylor said...

I like the advice not to be too impatient to get publishing, that you make mistakes that will hurt you in the end. Good to keep in mind!

Shared this article on Twitter as well. Thanks so much for the giveaway! :)

Rosalyn said...

I already have a copy of the Witch Hunter, so no need to enter me. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this interview! Virginia was my extraordinary mentor in Pitch Wars last year and I learned so much about writing from her insights. It's thrilling to see her book out and in the world!

Melanie Stanford said...

Aw, US only? I'd love to be entered. I'm reading The Witch Hunter right now but it's a library copy. ;)
Great interview though and it's a great book!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the amazing giveaway!

elizabeth(at)bookattict(dot)com (subscribed)

GFC: BookAttict

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/BookAttict/status/621815448150089729

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the giveaway! :)

Greg Pattridge said...

Very insightful interview. I'm always amazed at the various paths authors take to get their books on the shelf. Unfortunately, I'll bow out of this contest due to my suddenly huge pile of books to read. Hope you birthday was great!

Heather said...

Happy birthday, and have fun at the art fair! And congrats to Virginia! I couldn't agree more that holding onto something too tightly can hold a writer back. Thanks for the great interview ladies!

Unknown said...

I love the cover of the book - it's so exciting and creepy! I also loved hearing about all the research. That's dedication. Wishing Virginia much success! :)

Rosi said...

This sounds like a terrific book. I really enjoyed the interview. Please let someone else win. I'm buried in books right now.

Steph said...

I've been hearing great things about this book! I can't wait to read it!

Shared via Twitter, FB, and Google+

winemama said...

Thanks for the post and giveaway!

Gita said...

The Witch Hunter sounds absolutely fantastic! I’m writing a YA historical fantasy and loved reading about Virginia's process—so inspiring. I did some research while in France last month, though I did not get to lie on Marie Antoinette’s bed.;) Thanks so much for the give-away!