Q&A With Brittany Geragotelis: Author Of "Life's A Witch"
- December 13th, 2011
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There have been plenty of books about witches already, but one in particular cast a spell on us, leaving us longing for more — Life’s A Witch by Brittany Geragotelis. Brittany’s novel is a YA retelling of the Salem Witch Trials and since she began sharing it with the Wattpad community, it’s achieved much attention, attracting more than 13 million readers and becoming one of the most successful stories on the site!
Inspired by the support of Wattpad users, Brittany recently self-published Life’s A Witch through Amazon CreateSpace. We met up with her at her launch party last week to chat about how the Wattpad community has impacted her, how she’s bringing a new perspective to the supernatural genre, and what it’s like to self-publish a story…
Brittany Geragotelis: You know, I’ve always had an interest in magic and witchcraft…doesn’t every kid sort of wish they could do spells? But really, I find the time period when the Salem Witch Trials were happening to be so fascinating—sad, but fascinating—and so when I began to toy with the idea of writing a book around this topic, I realized it hadn’t really been done in a modern, girl-power kind of way. Then, the conspiracy theorist in me began to wonder: what if those accused in the witch trials actually were witches? And what if the accusers were members of their own coven? The story just developed from there.
YP: How do you feel you can keep the supernatural genre fresh and interesting for young readers who have been reading about witches, werewolves, and vampires for a while now?
BG: Witches and magic (don’t even get me started on werewolves and vampires) are obviously topics that have been done before, but I felt that by using a bit of the history behind the Salem Witch Trials mixed in with a modern-day heroine, it might just be enough to bring forth a new creative world. And by having Hadley be pretty, popular and powerful, yet not the stereotypical Queen-B (emphasis on the B), I figured it was a story that hadn’t quite been told before. I hope readers agree.
YP: How did you get involved with Wattpad and how has that community shaped your writing?
BG: Wattpad, and the community of book lovers on there, has revolutionized my writing career. When Wattpad approached me about publishing something on the site in November of 2010, I’d already experienced nine years of rejection from agents and publishers who all said, “We love your writing…but this just isn’t for me.” The way I looked at writing had hit a bit of a low by this point. But when Wattpad suggested I publish something on there, I hesitated because people in the literary world had cautioned me against ever putting things out there for free. But after talking to a few other published authors who also publish their writing on the website, and doing some soul-searching, I realized that by posting on Wattpad, I’d be doing what I’d always wanted to: create stories that others could enjoy.
Instead of giving Wattpad a book I’d previously written though, I decided to write something original for the Wattpad audience. I did some research into what the community on Wattpad liked to read and began to write an outline for Life’s a Witch. This process was totally new to me, as I typically write on my own schedule and once I’m done, I have my editor read through it before anyone else gets to see it. Since I was writing and publishing LAW at the same time, the version everyone on Wattpad was seeing wasn’t the cleanest copy. As an editor myself, this was a hard thing to let go of.
But the great thing about publishing as I wrote the book was that I was able to get real-time feedback on the story. I would know right away if my fans were buying a certain storyline or were catching on to who the super-secret villain was or even if they didn’t like a character. This feedback never changed my storyline drastically, but it did help me to know if I was doing my job as a storyteller.
When my “reads” began to get up in the millions, I felt like, for the first time, I was hearing from the real gatekeepers: the readers. And it felt amazing to know they were falling in love with Hadley and the rest of The Cleri. I can’t describe what it’s felt like to have my stories up on Wattpad. It’s by far the smartest decision I ever made in regards to my writing career.
YP: Getting a publishing deal is a huge challenge; how did you maintain your drive?
BG: What can I say? I love to write. It’s what I’m compelled to do. It’s what I’m passionate about. But for the first five years or so of rejection, I held onto some words of wisdom that my favorite author said. I remember reading either on one of Meg Cabot’s blogs or maybe it was an interview with her, that she endured years of rejection…every single day except for one, and that was only because the mail didn’t come on Sundays. And look at her now!
Then, after my agent dropped me in 2007, I thought maybe the universe was telling me I wasn’t meant to write. So, I took a 6-month hiatus. But after some time, I started to get the itch again and decided that just because things weren’t working out the way I thought they would, didn’t mean I wasn’t meant to write. I believe I’ve been given a gift (or at the least a great imagination) and whether one person reads my books or a million do, I’m going to write, because I love it.
YP: What’s it like to self-publish your book? Did the fact that your book was available online affect the deals publishers offered you?
BG: Life’s a Witch is my first published book and I published it myself. I thought about this for a long time before doing it, but as soon as I stopped thinking there was only one way to become an author,and once I opened my mind up to all the opportunities that are out there in the literary world, things started to fall into place. This process has been really interesting and there’s a lot more involved in it than I would have thought, but I like the fact that I have a hand in every decision made about my book. As for whether or not my self-publishing or having LAW online has affected deals by mainstream publishers….well, that remains to be seen, I suppose. In the last two weeks though, I’ve received dozens of inquiries from publishers, agents about foreign rights, movie/TV rights and even an offer to create a graphic novel. I’m currently weighing my options and will let you know what happens from here!
YP: What are your plans following this book release? Do you intend to release any of your earlier unpublished novels?
BG: I’m already publishing another of my books, Fate Reloaded, on Wattpad, and though it’s not nearly as successful as Life’s a Witch was, it’s finding its audience. I also have several other books that I’m considering publishing myself, both on Wattpad and in paperback. And I’ve already got the storyline written out for the sequel to LAW, which I’ll begin writing in a few weeks!
YP: You have a fun trailer out promoting your book. What’s your take on trailers and how they affect readers’ perception of the book and its characters?
BP: Thanks! I think today’s readers are looking to consume stories on all different platforms; that can cross into book trailers, book soundtracks and other immersive experiences. As a reader, I personally enjoy picturing characters in my own way without having the author “show” me what they look like. However, my reading experience wasn’t ruined by watching Harry Potter. I think for young people especially, when they fall in love with a story or world someone’s created, they want access to as much of it as possible. I think I write very visually to begin with, so coming up with a book trailer was a logical next step for me. Plus, it can’t hurt to show the potential for the story to be translated into TV/film…