Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut Author, Laurie Forest, whose novel, The Black Witch, is scheduled to come out June of 2017 from HarlequinTEEN
JR: Hi, Laurie and thanks for joining us today.
LF: *tries to contain first interview excitement* Why, thank you. So nice to join you.
JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about The Black Witch and the impetus behind writing it?
LF: I shall give you my freshly-minted cover copy!
A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining.
So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa’s heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else.
When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the University, which admits all manner of races—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of her people—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.
Prejudice in its various forms was very much in the news when I started this story. At the same time, my pre-teens started handing me YA Fantasy (a genre I had never read before) – and I absolutely LOVED it (and started devouring all the YA books). The news stories, combined with all these incredible books lit a spark for a story in me and I spent the next year writing the first two books of The Black Witch Chronicles (and some of the notes that are being used for the e-book novellas).
JR: I read on your site, www.laurieannforest.com that you live in the backwoods of Vermont with a wood stove. It sounds incredible. And right away I’m figuring that setting helped play a nice role in a book titled The Black Witch?
LF: Trees figure heavily in The Black Witch Chronicles (and moody forests) – it is a book about Dryads, after all.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? (How long it took, how you got your agent, publisher etc)
Oh boy, it was a long journey. About nine years ago I wrote the first two books of The Black Witch Chronicles in a feverish rush of inspiration. That led to a local writers’ group. That led to my first agent. Then lots of rejections. Then my current agent, Carrie Hannigan, and lots of rewrites. Then a rewrite with a major publishing company who ultimately passed. Lots of rejections. THEN a call, early last year from my agent, to ask if I could rewrite the whole thing and resubmit (I had about one month to do this). And this time – picked up by Harlequin TEEN!!! (and I never want to be anywhere else since Lauren Smulski is the best editor in the history of the universe – and everyone at Harlequin TEEN is beyond wonderful). And, of course, there were a few more rewrites J
JR: What’s your writing process like?
LF: LOTS of it. I write every morning, part of Saturday and most of Sunday. I write REALLY rough versions that I then let my critique groups take hatchets to and revise, revise, revise. And then my Harlequin TEEN editor, Lauren Smulski, takes another hatchet to it (and she’s always right, I’m finding). My current goal is to do 35 pages in one day (like badass Sarah J. Maas who is my YA fantasy author idol!) – right now I’m more like 1-6, lol. The story direction comes to me at odd times – listening to angsty music in the car, listening to angsty music at the gym, walking around aimlessly, upon awakening in the early morning, walking around the dark, moody forest…
JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?
LF: I cannot do this. It is a godlike trifecta – Robin Hobb (ROYAL ASSASSIN), Tamora Pierce (WILD MAGIC), Patrick Rothfuss (THE NAME OF THE WIND)
JR: What’s your favorite movie?
LF: THE LORD OF THE RINGS (all of them – but especially the first one when we meet Aragorn who I have a mad crush on).
( Preaching to the choir, here)
JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
LF: I’m a Godzilla fanatic.
(Also preaching to the choir!)
JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?
LF: I’ve had to do a bit – especially when I found out how woefully ignorant I was about horse travel and horses in general, lol (had to redraw a few maps for distance). Got help from a champion Morgan Horse breeder here in Vermont (who was very gracious when she stopped laughing at my blatant misuse of horses). Luckily, fantasy allows some great leeway.
JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?
LF: Oh my goodness, am I. First off, for years I’ve been part of my SCBWI Burlington, VT (soon to be international/virtual) YA fantasy critique group (we share a chapter a week and critique – they are invaluable! Shout out to favorite authors & incredible editors Cam Sate and Kimberly Hunt!). I’ve got a more local Montpelier, VT critique group with two amazing authors (once a month) and various other readers/authors I meet with and get feedback from. And then there’s the Burlington Writers’ Workshop groups I try to pop in on.
JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?
LF: Write. And read. As much as possible. Join a writing group (more than one if you can). And network – it’s fun!
JR: What are you working on next?
LF: I’m working on the second e-book novella for The Black Witch Chronicles – about a side character in The Black Witch named Sage Gaffney (we meet her very early on in The Black Witch). It’s a dark story, but I’m having fun working out Sage’s unique type of Light Magery.
JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?
LF: Enter my realm at…
JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays, but just so you know, before you answer, rumor has it, that Faran stages baby-fighting rings in his basement.
LF: Faran, hands down. Forever and always Faran.
JR: Sighing. I guess nobody cares about baby-fighting any longer. Anyway, thanks again to Laurie Forest, and best of luck with The Black Witch!