Lauren Magaziner: THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions. Today we’re talking to Lauren Magaziner, MG author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

The quick pitch:

THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES is a humorous middle grade fantasy. Like if Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES and Louis Sachar’s WAYSIDE SCHOOL had a wonky, silly, and slightly twisted lovechild.

The forever-and-a-half version:

Rupert Campbell hates Mrs. Frabbleknacker so much that he would rather be gummed to death by toothless bunnies than sit in her fifth grade class. She forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before class and after class. Worst of all, she trades dissected frog guts to Gliverstoll’s resident witches in exchange for gruesome potions, which she likes to test on her students.

So when Rupert sees an ad to become a witchlings’s apprentice, he knows that the job is an ideal after school pick-me-up and a surefire way to make a friend. Witchling Two is the battiest person Rupert has ever met, with a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad.  She can turn sweaty socks into chicken pox, but she can’t conjure up a simple milkshake—which is completely useless, in Rupert’s opinion. And unless Rupert can help Witchling Two improve her spell-work before her Bar Exam, she’ll be stripped of her powers and forced into exile.

But once the Witches Council finds out that one of their own enlisted Rupert’s help, he is in grave danger—especially from the notorious head witch, The Fairfoul Witch, who would love nothing better than to boil his knuckles into Knuckle Soup (which tastes like very crunchy clam chowder).  It’s up to Rupert to do it all: help Witchling Two, avoid the Witches Council, bamboozle his witch-fearing mother, and complete Mrs. Frabbleknacker’s 500,000 word essay on worms!

As for some fun and interesting facts:

1.  One of Rupert’s classmates (But I won’t say which one!) is an extremely exaggerated caricature of a certain best friend of mine.  And that character might just be my favorite of Rupert’s classmates.
2.  I wrote it while studying abroad in Edinburgh… in some of the legendary cafes where JKR wrote Harry Potter! See the picture (to the left) of the city that inspired all my witchy thoughts!
3. I wrote the first draft in two months, which is one of the fastest drafts I’ve ever done. (But surprisingly, not the fastest!)
4. I stole the name of the Head Witch (The Fairfoul Witch) from a gravestone in St. Andrews, Scotland.
5. The book officially sold to Penguin on 11/11/11.  Talk about a LUCKY DAY!

Where did you get the idea for this story?

In the end of March 2011, I had been living in Edinburgh for three months, and the castles, myths, ghost tours, and history were starting to seep into my thoughts.  I wanted to write a witch story—a good, original, cackly witch story.  I tried to set the story in Edinburgh with a dark narrative voice, but it wasn’t working. I could tell something was off, but I didn’t know what.

Flash forward two weeks, and I was taking my spring break in Italy.  I was in Positano with a friend, which is the most beautiful place ever.  On the morning of departure, my friend and I decided to take a taxi to the Naples train station (instead of catching a bus to catch a bus to catch a train to Naples.  Yeah, Positano is remote).

As soon as we stepped into the cab, my friend fell asleep, and I was all alone in a speeding taxi as it rounded the bends of the Amalfi coast at speeds that were probably not legal.

I kept looking behind me, watching Positano get further and further away as the taxi got closer and closer to the edge of the cliff.  I clung to the car door for dear life and thought, What a beautiful place to DIE! WAHHHHHHH!

And then everything clicked.  Instead of watching my life flash before my eyes, I thought of Rupert, the eager fifth-grade apprentice to a witch—no, a witching! A silly, garbled witchling. And of course, they lived in a seaside town, built into a rocky mountain—with a view like Positano.  And this rocky seaside town had resident witches, plenty of them… a cackling hoardeful!

Later, I found pen and paper—and scribbled down a few pages.  Three days later, I wrote the first chapter (which is now the third chapter) in the air on a turbulent budget airline flight back to Edinburgh.  (Nothing like near-death vehicles to get me inspired!)

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

SPOT ILLUSTRATIONS. Can I say that with any more enthusiasm?!?! (Hint: probably not!!!)  I can’t WAIT to get an illustrator—for the cover and the insides.  There are some funny action sequences and slapstick moments, and I am excited to see how that translates into illustrations. Illustrations have the ability to transform a book into a much more visual experience!  And I’m psyched because if I did my own illustrations, they’d look like this:

(Aka terrible.)

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • I’m a recent, proud graduate of Hamilton College!  (Also the college of authors Sarah J. Maas and Meagan Spooner. HamiltonKidLit represent!!!)
  • I’ve been writing books since I was thirteen, and I’ve completely lost count of how many complete manuscripts I’ve written. I’m thinking maybe it’s about 10ish total… maybe?
  • I once broke my arm tripping over my shoelace.
  • I’m OBSESSED with Harry Potter to an unhealthy degree.  I have memorized the first three movies, quote book lines at any/every opportunity, and I even ran a Harry Potter and Philosophy discussion group at my college, where we debated the ethics of magic, the metaphysical problems of separating the “soul” from the original body via Horcruxes, and whether which house you’re in can influence the person you grow to be (would Voldie have been a softie as a ‘puff?  Do we, as Dumbledore says, sort too soon?). Deep stuff, dude!
  • I’m also obsessed with Doctor Who.  (10th Doctor, obviously.  Molto bene!)
  • And I’m obsessed Avatar: the Last Airbender.
  • Actually, just color me a generally obsessive fangirl of all fandoms.
  • People tell me I have a great Gollum impression.  (No, I can’t do it for you here because the Internet is forever, preciousssssss.)
Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches entirely too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like very chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those things is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who secretly becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous witches who love Toecorn—is forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.
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16 thoughts on “Lauren Magaziner: THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES

  1. 1. You already know this, but I must say it publicly: I LOVE THE TITLE RUPERT AND THE SAND WITCH.

    2. I cannot wait to read this book.

    3. The story of how you came up with the idea is awesome, as is your illustration.

    4. I cannot wait to read this book.

    5. Next time we hang out, we need to go over the finer points of the 10th Doctor’s seasons. (Is Donna your favorite companion, too?)

    6. I cannot wait to read this book.

    • 1. Thank you muchly, but don’t get too attached as this title will shortly sink into oblivion!
      2. You are lovely.
      3. It was certainly not awesome at the time…! Terrifying! And my illustration is awesome?! BAHAHA! That’s the first and last time I will ever hear that!
      4. You are lovely.
      5. YES, we must! Donna is the BEST. “You ain’t mating with me, sunshine!”
      6. Did I mention you’re lovely? Because you are!

  2. I snorted my lunch when I got to “What a beautiful way to to die……!!!” If your book is half as funny as this interview, good lord!

    Donna’s my favorite companion. Doctor Donna, actually.
    I sorted all the characters in my novel into Hogwarts Houses.
    I want to go to Scotland. Like, BADLY.

    • Aww, thanks, Amber. I hope I didn’t make you choke too badly on your lunch! And I hope milk didn’t come flying out your nose. Though, that would have been HILARIOUS.

      Donna is my absolute favorite too!!
      You sorted them all?! That’s awesome! I must know what houses they ended up in! But don’t tell me until after I’ve read your book, so I can guess!
      Scotland is amazing! I can’t recommend it enough!

    • Yes, I’m trying to make “gummed to death by toothless bunnies” a part of my everyday vocabulary.

      Thanks for the kind words, and TEN forever! Molto bene! Wellllllll! Allons-y! 🙂

  3. The fact that the first sentence of the description included the phrase “gummed to death by toothless bunnies” pretty much guarantees that this book is going to be awesome, hilarious, and possibly the best ever. I cannot WAIT to read it, Lauren!

  4. Lauren, this book sounds like so much fun–and I’m totally jealous that you got to write it in Edinburgh! Hooray for funny MG and Penguin–can’t wait to read it.

  5. Lauren,

    This sounds amazing and I cannot wait to read it. I am so pleased that Edinburgh inspired you and we are all very proud here at IFSA! Make sure to come back and write the third instalment here too.

    Deirdra

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