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Debut Author Interview: Jessica Lewis and Bad Witch Burning

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Jessica Lewis here to share about her YA fantasy Bad Witch Burning. I’m super excited to read it because so many readers said they couldn’t put it down.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads: 

For fans of Us and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comes a witchy story full of black girl magic as one girl’s dark ability to summon the dead offers her a chance at a new life, while revealing to her an even darker future.

Katrell doesn’t mind talking to the dead; she just wishes it made more money. Clients pay her to talk to their deceased loved ones, but it isn’t enough to support her unemployed mother and Mom’s deadbeat boyfriend-of-the-week. Things get worse, when a ghost warns her to stop the summonings or she’ll “burn everything down.” Katrell is willing to call them on their bluff, though. She has no choice. What do ghosts know about eating peanut butter for dinner?

However, when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go.

But magic doesn’t come for free, and soon dark forces are closing in on Katrell. The further she goes, the more she risks the lives of not only herself, but those she loves. Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late. 

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I am a receptionist and author! I live in Alabama with my hilarious grandma. I’ve always loved stories and was a big reader growing up. I actually started writing IP, of sorts; my friends in middle school wanted me to write fan-fiction for them, so I did. I started writing original work in high school and continued from there!

2. That’s so awesome that your middle school friends encouraged you to write. Where did you get the idea for Bad Witch Burning?

BWB is largely based on my own experiences as a teen and young adult, so it’s definitely a very personal book. But the initial idea came from an anime called Violet Evergarden. It’s a very different vibe compared to BWB, but that show got me thinking about how important handwritten letters are, to both those who write them and those who receive them. I added a cool power to the letters (summoning ghosts/raising the dead) and the rest is history!

3. A lot of readers have said that they couldn’t put your story down. How did you plot out your story and try to make it a page turner?

This is a hard question! I knew I wanted it to have a quick pace, since the theme was fire (burns hot, quick, and then it’s over, but can still leave a lot of damage and impact), so I guess I just thought about fast pacing and what might hook me as a reader.

4. You also have a day job. What’s your writing schedule like and how do you continue to write books on a contract with limited time to write?

I won’t lie; it’s very difficult. I work at my day job Monday through Friday, so I usually try to dedicate three hours to writing time (which includes drafting, editing, strategizing about my career, answering emails, interviews, etc.) after work. I also use all weekend to write. It’s a little depressing because I usually don’t have time for hobbies or friends, but I have to get the work done! 

5. I admire your dedication to your writing given your busy day job. What was a challenge you had in writing Bad Witch Burning? How did you overcome it?

It was very difficult to edit BWB at first because it’s a very personal story. It felt like my editor was critiquing my story rather than the book. But I took a deep breath and edited in small chunks with a lot of breaks, and I got through it!

6. Share what developing Katrell as a character was like for you. What are three things you like about her?

Katrell is such a fun character!! She’s tough as nails, vulnerable at times, absolutely rabid at other times. I had a blast creating her. My three things I love about her: she’s tenacious, not afraid to cry when things get tough, and loyal to her friends.

7. Your agent is Holly Root. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

A brief history of my road to publication…

-Wrote my first book and queried it. Got 64 rejections. Shelved

-Wrote my second book. Couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. Shelved

-Wrote my third book, then called Wildfire, now called Bad Witch Burning. Entered into Pitch Wars. Got in!

-Did Pitch Wars (class of 2018). Signed with my wonderful agent, Holly Root, in March 2019.

-Got an offer on Wildfire/BWB in June 2019!

And that’s it! A long, winding road, but very exciting and so worth it. My agent is the best advocate (and is generally spectacular), and I’m so proud of how BWB has turned out.


8. Bad Witch Burning is your second book to release this year. You also have a debut MG contemporary Meow or Never: A Wish Novel, that released under your pen name, Jazz Taylor, in January 2021. In addition, Monster, a YA horror, will release in September 2022. How has it been releasing two books in one year as a debut author while getting your next book ready for publication?

It's been very stressful! I just do the best I can with the time I have. I was very lucky that MONSTER was already written when my editor bought it, so at least I didn’t have to draft it from scratch. But juggling everything is very tough. I’ll be super relieved once BWB is out in the world and I can take a small breather!

9. How are you planning to market Bad Witch Burning? What did you learn from marketing Meow or Never that is affecting your decisions for this book?

 MG marketing and YA marketing are so different. They’re also different genres (my MG is contemporary, BWB is fantasy/horror), so the reader-base is completely different. Though right now, I’m just doing the best I can without sacrificing my mental health. There are only so many hours in a day, and I spend 10 on my day job, 3 on writing, and the rest eating/sleeping!

10. What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on my next YA, but it’s a surprise!! Stay tuned and hopefully I’ll have news to share soon 😊

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jessica. You can find Jessica at twitter: https://twitter.com/JLew100 and website: https://www.authorjessicalewis.com/

Giveaway Details

Jessica has generously offered a hardback of Bad Witch Burning for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by September 4th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, August 30th I have an agent spotlight interview with Renae Moore Tobias

Wednesday, September 1st I have an interview with debut author Michelle Mason and a giveaway of her YA time travel Your Life Has Been Delayed and my IWSG post

Tuesday, September 7th I’m participating in the September to Remember Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 13th I have an interview with debut author Alda Dobbs and a giveaway of her MG historical Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

Wednesday, September 15th I have an agent spotlight interview with Nicole Eisenbraun and a query critique giveaway

Monday, September 20th I have an agent/author guest post with Chloe Seager and  Brianna Bourne and giveaway of Brianna’s YA dystopian You and Me and the End of the World and a query critique by Brianna

Hope to see you on Monday!






nashvillecats2 said...

Good Monday to you Natalie. a wonderful review, the author is no relation to me amy ai add.
Excellent book I'm sure and good luck to her.
Have a good week, hoping all is well with you.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Two very different books. Now that's versatility.

Brenda said...

How exciting to be debuting a MG and YA, both books look wonderful. Huge congratulations to Jessica!! Have a wonderful week Natalie.

Stephanie Owen said...

Congratulations on your new book, Jessica! It sounds like a novel my high school students would love!

Ilona Bray said...

Bad Witch Burning sounds totally inspired; I can't wait to hear how the main character deals with these competing needs in her life.

Katy K. said...

I have been hearing about Bad Witch Burning - it sounds great! I bet my daughter would love Meow or Never, too. (And though I clicked follow through Blogger, I actually read your posts through Feedly.)

Carl Scott said...

Sounds like an awesome new book and author. Stoked for the chance to win a copy. Thanks! I follow by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
I've tweeted: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1429870954390310919, and follow you on Twitter too: @carlrscott. Thanks again, have a great day everyone!!

Danielle H. said...

This is a new book to me and it sounds exciting. I'm exhausted just thinking about this author's work schedule. Thank you for the chance to win a copy. I follow Natalie on Twitter.

Computer Tutor said...

What an amazing story. I'd love to talk to the dead, not sure about raising them though. Sounds alike a book that would be interesting to read.

Liz A. said...

I can't imagine writing for three hours after working all day. (I can manage about a half hour.) That's real dedication.

Serena Gingold Allen said...

BWB sounds fantastic! Can’t wait to read it.

Sandra Cox said...

Congrats, Jessica. Both books sound intriguing and I love the cover to MEOW:) Wishing you much success.
'Lo, Natalie:)

Megan said...

This book sounds amazing! :)

Rosi said...

What an amazing young woman! This books sounds like it would scare me out of my wits, but I think my granddaughter would love it, so please throw my name in the drawing. Thanks for such an interesting post.

C. R. Bailey said...

Thanks, Natalie, for introducing Jessica Lewis. Both these books sound like great reads. I loved this glimpse into Jessica's writing life.

tetewa said...

Another new author that sounds like a read that I would enjoy! Congrats on the release!

Jay Linden said...

Amazing commitment to your writing Jessica - I hope your books are super successful and you can give up your day job - or at least go part time! Love the premise of your BWB - sounds like an awesome premise for lots of conflict and internal debates - and your main character sounds awesome too. Look forward to diving into your stories. Clearly we are going to be getting many more books from you - born to write :-)

mshatch said...

Oh boy does this sound like a book I'd love! Congratulations Jessica!

J.Q. Rose said...

Jessica's book sounds like it's full of action. That's why I like to read YA books and this one sounds like a great one. I admire Jessica for her determination to write. Having a job AND writing. All the best!

Azka Kamil said...

Good Monday to you Natalie. a wonderful review,

Fundy Blue said...

You find the most interesting debut authors, Natalie! Jessica's book sounds like a winner. I enjoyed the interview, and kudos to Jessica for writing on top of her day job. I wish her lots of luck with her books.

Sherry Ellis said...

That's great that Jessica sets aside three hours to write. I know how hard it is to do that. But, yes, having a social life definitely sucks the time and makes it even harder to get work done.

Chrys Fey said...

I’ve seen Bad Witch Burning recommended on Instagram and really want to read it.