Back in March, my famous friend Jacob agreed to let me interview him here in advance of the (shattering) Season 4 finale of Justified, which is my favorite show (see my one-off recap of Season 4, Ep 2 here).
You might think that one famous friend is enough for any mild-mannered Midwestern whatever-I-am, but you’d be wrong. I have TWO (who are willing to go on-record as my friends, that is). About a dillion years ago, my wonderful friend Brittany Geragotelis, author of the Life’s A Witch series, agreed to be interviewed by yours truly, and now I am finally, finally publishing the result of the exclusive she was kind enough to give me. Brittany’s journey from cheerleading magazine editor (where I met her; she was at American Cheerleader when I was at Dance Teacher) to hugely successful Young-Adult author should be an inspiration to us all.
Before I continue, a quick warning to Brittany’s faithful army of readers (or “twitches”): HELLO TWITCHES. I LOVE YOU. However, this blog is full, and I mean full, of curse words. Pan Kisses Kafka is aimed at readers 18 and over, and if you are under 18 and reading any post other than this one, please do not send your parents after me, kthankxbai.
SCHUMAN: Tell my readers a little bit about how you came to self-publish [your novel] Life’s A Witch on Wattpad, and what that was like. I’d also really like to hear more about your new role as their official spokesauthor!
GERAGOTELIS: Well, my journey was a long one—something that I’ve found to be pretty common among traditionally published authors. I wrote my first book when I was just 15, and even back then had dreams of being an author one day. But it wasn’t until I moved to NYC after college that I began to actually pursue getting my books published. Once I was in the city, surrounded by the publishing world, I got started trying to make that happen.
This started in 2001, and back then, there was a very specific way of doing things. You had to write a book, query agents, find an agent who would take on an unknown author, then that agent would pitch your novel to editors. If an editor fell in love with the book, they’d then take it to the rest of their crew (sales team, publicity, editorial, etc) and everyone would have to agree to take on the project. If you managed to pass ALL these obstacles and they STILL wanted your book, then you were in. It was a very difficult process—one that I did not fare well in. In fact, I went through about eight years of rejection before I almost gave up completely (this came after an agent I had at the time dropped me as a client when he couldn’t sell my books).
But the itch to write was too strong, and after a 6-month hiatus, I decided to keep writing, this time letting go of my ego which said that in order to be successful I had to go through conventional channels. Rather, my goal became: write because you love it and feel compelled to do it, and then get the stories in front of readers so they can enjoy them, too.
It was around this time that I was introduced to Wattpad, an online book community full of readers and writers. I loved the fact that it was like YouTube for books, and that creative people were being able to post their works for an active and positive audience. So, new goal in mind, I decided to give it a try, writing a story exclusively for Wattpad users. That book was called Life’s a Witch.
LAW was a paranormal action story about a girl who is the direct descendent of Bridget Bishop, the first person hanged during the Salem Witch Trials. It’s set in modern day with a really kick-ass heroine who has some major magical skills (and an even more impressive wardrobe). As soon as I began uploading the book, readers started to flock to it. And they loved it!
Six months after I started writing it, I’d finished the story and I had 6 million reads [SIX! MILLION!!!!!!! –ED], and five months after that, I had a staggering 18 million reads [EIGHTEEN! MILLION!!!!!!!]! It was around this time that fans began to ask where they could buy it. This left me thinking, “Why aren’t I publishing it myself?” So, since the demand was there, I self-published the title through Amazon’s CreateSpace. It was only available for about four weeks before the publishing world heard about it, and we ended up in a bidding war with four houses for the rights to the series! Now, LAW and its prequel/spin-off, What the Spell, are both available in bookstores across the country, and several foreign markets.
Wattpad’s where I got my start, and the people there have been so helpful and supportive of my journey. Recently I became an official spokesperson for the platform, letting aspiring writers across the country know that their dreams of becoming published authors can be a reality. I’m honored to represent Wattpad, but also really love encouraging other writers never to give up, and to consider alternative methods to reaching their publishing goals.
[Brittany’s newest book is on Wattpad right now. It’s called Ki$$ and $ell, and it’s many times more interesting AND ethical than Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften. –ED]
RS: There are many ways in which Hadley is like you—she’s strong, confident, smart, practical, great with words, funny and brave—but there are also ways in which she is not, primarily that she likes salads (heh). What are some other ways in which Hadley isn’t like you? Which qualities does she have that you wish you had (besides the magical ability)? What are some things about her you’re glad are different from you?
BG: Wow, what a compliment! But to be honest, I see Hadley as being more of an aspirational character than being anything like me. The sarcastic sense of humor is mine (although I probably don’t delivery it with as much confidence as Had does). I was also a hard-core cheerleader just like she is—something I thought was really important to her character. I wanted her to be a leader, be tough and strong, confident and agile. I knew she was going to have some serious fight scenes, so flipping and doing acrobatics were a must, and that she’d have to lead a coven of scared teenagers to victory. These are all qualities found in the average cheerleader.
But besides that, she’s more like the girl I’d like to be. Contrary to the stories I make up in my head, I cannot kick anyone’s ass; as a teenager I didn’t have a lot of confidence and was actually bullied a lot, pretty much securing my place in the unpopular crowd; I think teaching cheerleading was the only time growing up that I felt like I made a real difference in others’ lives, compared to the fact that Hadley actually saves lives; Hadley’s also pretty freaking fearless. I, on the other had, feel like I’m scared of everything.
RS: If there’s anything the last decade has taught us, it’s that people love supernatural characters and stories. What do you think it is about this generation of young people that is so attracted to heroes with otherworldly gifts?
I think there are a few things that draw us (especially young people) to supernatural characters. One is: they’re aspirational. We wish we were more fearless, confident and kick-ass. We’d like to be able to defeat the bad guy and feel less helpless about our predicaments. Also, I know that for me, the reason I fell in love with “Buffy” all those years back was partly because here was this girl who was making a significant impact on the world and those around her. And that hit me hard. I think deep down, whether we recognize it or not, we all want to know that we were here in this world for a reason, that we contributed something big and positive to it. That our being here made a difference. Superheroes or supernatural beings get to do that in a way that we can’t—and usually it’s on a much grander scale. These stories can empower us to be more, do more, effect more…
RS: Hadley’s emotions around the (spoiler alert) tragedy surrounding her parents are written in such a raw, disarming and yet warm and caring way. Have you gotten any letters from fans who have lost parents or loved ones, telling you about how your work has touched them during their grieving process? If not, can you tell my readers a little bit about what you hope to accomplish in allowing your readers to experience such powerful emotions?
Lots of readers tell me that this is the moment in the book when they totally lose it, which in a weird way is kind of cool, because it’s one of the lowest points in the book for the characters too, so you’re feeling what they’re feeling. And usually the reader is still hoping until the very last page, that they’ll find out the parents actually survived. Sorry guys…SPOILER ALERT…they don’t.
It’s sad, but I think it was really important to the story. After all, you never know what you’re capable of until you’re tested, right? And as teenagers, your parents usually insolate you from the world. I wanted to push these kids to the brink and watch them come back despite having the worst thing imaginable happen to them. And they end up stepping up with an enormous amount of bravery and love for one another that you almost wouldn’t expect.
When I wrote this part of the book, I’d never actually lost a parent before—I could only imagine how horrific it would be to suddenly have the two people in your life who are supposed to support you and protect you from the scary things in the world suddenly taken away from you.
But just because I haven’t lost a parent, it doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced loss.
I think if we really think about it, we’ve all lost something or someone at one point that rocked our very foundation. It changed us and the way we looked at the world. It filled us with fear and made us wonder if things would ever be the same. It made us cry until our eyes burned and our chests ached, or left us feeling numb and hopeless. The reason I wrote this scene wasn’t necessarily to connect with people who’d lost a parent…it was to make readers feel connected to the book and to each other. Loss is a universal experience, even if the details are different to each person; we can all identify with it and that brings us together.
The themes of secrecy and trust are (spoiler alert) HUGE in LAW. They seem so important to you: without revealing anything too personal, can you tell my readers a little bit about the role that secrecy and trust plays, or has played, in your own life, especially when you were Hadley’s age?
Hmmmm, if I told you then I’d have to kill you! Just kidding. Trust, and even moreso, honesty, has always been super important to me. As a teenager, and now as an adult, I NEED people to be honest with me. If I find out you’ve been lying to me, or you screw me over, it takes me a long time to get over it…if I do at all.
When I was in high school, I was betrayed in a huge way by people who I thought were my closest friends. It hurt a lot and ended up making it difficult for me to trust anyone from there on out. It’s sort of the same with Hadley. She trusts those around her and gets screwed over in the worst way. There’s no doubt that her experiences in LAW are going to shape who she becomes. But ultimately, we all have to realize that we have to take a chance on someone or we’re going to live a very lonely, fear-based life. We can’t make everyone pay for the mistakes of others.
Besides the Wattpad partnership, can you tell my readers about where to find you online, what you’re working on now, and what comes next for the Book Slayer?
As mentioned, I’m really active on Wattpad and people can check out my other books on there for free (Fate Reloaded & Suddenly Starlet). Visit my page at . I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and my website.
All right, you know I have to do it: can you give us ANYTHING about what comes next (in The Witch is Back)? With Asher, Hadley, the Cleri, the baddies, anything?
Absolutely! But only for you (and thousands of your closest friends)! Here’s the summary for The Witch is Back:
Their relationship may have gotten off to a rocky start while fighting to survive a supernatural war against the Parrishables, but now Hadley Bishop and her beau Asher Astley are riding the love train. Unfortunately, something’s about to come between the powerful couple once again—and her name is Brooklyn Sparks.
When Hadley and the rest of the coven Cleri head to a witchy summer intensive, the last thing they expect to find is Asher’s ex-girlfriend. But Brooklyn’s the least of Hadley’s problems, because there’s something else lurking nearby, and it’s even more evil than the threat of the past. In the electrifying third book in the Life’s a Witch series, Hadley will discover that there’s nothing more powerful than love.
Thanks again to Brittany for letting me do this. Normal readership–expand your horizons and read some deliciously fun YA paranormal fiction (and, also, get these books for your kids! Just in time for the holidays!). Twitches–read the rest of this blog at your own risk.