Here are some things from my own life that influenced Tardy Bells and Witches' Spells, Hex-Ed, Witches Gone Wicked and other books in the WOMBY'S SCHOOL FOR WAYWARD WITCHES Series:
As a school teacher, I have an abundance of weird stories and situations that I channel into my writing. Some of these experiences include:
My Hair Color
On Friday, June 29th, Wordcrafters and City of Eugene unveiled the winners of the Step into Short Stories Contest. The idea behind the contest is that 300-word stories that capture the essence of Eugene are posted in the stairwells of the Overpark Parking Garage on 10th and Oak. This year the city partnered with Wordcrafters, a local writing non-profit to make this happen.
Writers were invited to submit up to three pieces with a “blind” submission process, meaning the author’s name and identifying information was removed from story so that stories would be judged by merit and names wouldn’t bias the judges. Nine pieces were selected and there was a guest author invited to submit a story, totaling ten pieces posted for this particular contest (though there are also other contests: Step into Theatre, Step into Poetry, Step into Comics in other stairwells and garages).
I submitted three pieces and all three pieces won! It is especially validating knowing I won and no one had any idea these were written by the same author or who was submitting them. All three of the stories are posted in the south stairwell of the parking garage. They are also posted on the Wordcrafters website in print and audio format.
The titles of my pieces are:
I am a school teacher. No surprise if you know me. I have been saving teacher memes on Pinterest. I have a few perfect for the end of the school because, guess what? School is out!!!
If you find teacher memes funny, maybe it’s because you’re a teacher. Or maybe it is because some of these are universally funny because you have been a student or have children who resemble the students in the memes.
Those who know me well, have probably heard some of my teaching horror stories. For years I have been wanting to do something with all those moments that were too bad—and good—to forget. I have taken situations while teaching and put them into stories before.
When a middle school student once said, “Does this look like a face that cares?” I used that as the opening line of a short story called Blackboard Galaxy.
When I was really stressed about my difficult teaching job divided between two schools, complicated by knowing I was about to be laid off due to budget cuts, I channeled my pathos into Five Tips for Outsmarting Satan—And Your Students. I included the horrible details of my life at the time of not being given a full prep period or lunch, dealing with unrealistic administrators, and my experience with human resources. When life gave me lemons in the form of students urinating in the garbage can and condoms opened and left everywhere in the classroom, I used that material. I named the neighbor teacher after my real neighbor teacher who took me under his wing and mentored me, Mr. Frost. Fortunately, the real Mr. Frost wasn’t evil.
I have been a teacher for seventeen years. I have an endless supply of stories and horrible teaching moments to use. Sooner or later, I knew I would be able to use these in a novel. Possibly ever since I read Harry Potter while I was in college to be a teacher I was obsessed with the teachers in Harry Potter. Everyone was talking about how they were waiting for their owl to give them their acceptance letter. I was waiting to be a teacher at Hogwarts.
I have included many of those real life experiences in the series, WOMBY’S SCHOOL FOR WAYWARD WITCHES.
Here are some things from my own life that influenced Hex-Ed and Witches Gone Wicked:
I love Deviant Art because it is a great place to find art, artists and illustrations. I am an artist, but ironically, I don’t use it to show off my art. I use it because I like looking at pretty things. I use it to find illustrations for cover art. That is how I found the illustrator for the Womby’s School For Wayward Witches series.
I joined about a year ago and started “collecting” images of Severus Snape inspired fan art in preparation for my novels. Here were some evocative images that I enjoyed and wanted to share. Perhaps other people will enjoy these pieces as much as I do.
While writing Tardy Spells and Witches’ Bells, the first novel in the Womby’s School for Wayward Witches Series, I was told I should read The Magicians because it is across from Harry Potter and Narnia but about college students. My novel was about a nerdy character obsessed with fantasy books just like the main character in The Magicians. But when you are writing a novel, usually the last thing you want to do is read a book—especially a book that shares similarities with yours because you don’t want to unconsciously steal things from their book.
While I was writing the third novel, Witches Gone Wicked, someone recommended The Magicians, the television show because I was writing about a magical school from an adult perspective. People said it was Harry Potter but darker. That turned me off because I like my happy less angsty Harry Potter. Then someone recommended it a third time, so I figured I had better buckle down and read it.
So I read it. I loved it, then I hated it. I got to the end feeling unsatisfied. I didn’t want to read the sequels because I hated the author and felt let down, but . . . I sort of did want to keep reading. I asked other people who had read the book if they had read the sequel and did Quentin actually mature and become not boring and depressing and the answer was yes, so I kept reading. And Quentin did improve. I loved the second book and by the end of the third book I was completely satisfied.
In my series, WOMBY’S SCHOOL FOR WAYWARD WITCHES, a grumpy older teacher mentors the adult daughter of the woman he loved twenty years before who tragically died. It started off as a reimagining of a female Harry Potter, but with adult characters, at a different magical school. At first I thought I was writing a parody, but it become more series and grew into its own world.
These are some of the pieces of art that inspired me as I wrote the novel. Sometimes when I went on Deviant Art, I would look at these and daydream about what could have been in Harry Potter—and what I could still do in my novels.
Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors. I love her storytelling, the fantasy elements and feeling of wonder she invokes, her worldbuilding, her quirky characters, and her masterful ability to weave beautiful language and humor together all in the same book. Her books are clean young adult fantasy with love stories, for those looking for books in that genre. I have never read anything by her that I didn’t like.
How did I discover her?
I hear people say their favorite love story is Romeo and Juliet, The Bridges of Madison County, The Notebook or other tragedies. My favorite love stories have been Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Which isn’t to say I don’t like tragic love stories like Wuthering Heights as well, but I do like happier endings. If you asked me what any of those love stories were missing would be magic.
My favorite tragic love story of all time included magic and unrequited love. It is the story of Severus Snape and Lily Evans that didn’t work out. For years I imagined what their love could have been. He loved her even after she died. It had been eating at my imagination for years, which is why I wrote the series, WOMBY’S SCHOOL FOR WAYWARD WITCHES.
Below are some pieces of art that sparked my imagination and made me dig into my own storytelling so that I could write the story that still felt unfinished to me.
Recently I presented The Magicians at Reading Like a Writer in Eugene, Oregon. The group is part book part and part writers dissecting literature. It is a free event and anyone can come, whether they have read the book or not. Readers are welcome. Writers are welcome.
One interesting thing about the author is he is a publisher. He understand markets, tropes and what readers want.
Here are reasons the author compelled us to read this book:
Featured Book of the Month
Coed Demon Sluts
by Jennifer Stevenson
I was a little hesitant when I saw this title, but I soon realized this was a comedy. This book is a humorous romp in fantasy and will get a laugh out of anyone who needs a fun, light revenge story. The author has sent me a link to share with readers to get the first book free in the series.
Aren't you tired of doing everything right?
Wouldn't you like a second chance to go back and do it wrong?
Coed Demon Sluts: There's always room on the team.
Does anyone else have a Severus Snape obsession? It isn’t so much that I’m obsessed with a grumpy old man who is a teacher at a magical school—although anything at a magical school is a plus. It is the idea that Severus Snape loved Lily since they were friends. He loved her even after she stopped loving him and continued to love her after her death. I empathize with his back story, that his arch rival—the kid who used to make fun of him and beat him up—got the girl instead of him.
He is dark and emo and you don’t doubt he could be a death eater but he also loves and pines. He was the one who tried to save Harry and other students multiple times—and sometimes was stunned with magic spells for it as a thank you.
I am intrigued and touched by his love story. That is part of the reason I wrote Womby’s School for Wayward Witches. Anyone who reads Witches Gone Wicked always picks up on the Alan Rickman’s Snape as Felix Thatch vibe, though the character does take on a life of his own.
I love the blend of steampunk with urban fantasy. I interviewed J.M. Bannon about inspiration, steampunk fashion and The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson.
What inspired you to write the book?
I have always been a history buff and loved fantasy. The genre of steampunk allows me to do both. While Steampunk can be in the past or future, the world I have been building for my series set in the1860’s. There is magic and anachronistic technology, but I try to keep it believable. I am trying to redefine steampunk, where it has one foot in alternative history and another in urban fantasy. One reader described my books as “Urban Fantasy before the telephone.” I like that one.
What do you love about Steampunk?
There are two things I love about steampunk.
I love steampunk fashion, stories, art, conferences and exhibits. I love the cover art on Webley and the World Machine and am fascinated by the concept. I asked the author about his inspiration and what he loves about steampunk. Zachary Paul Chopchinski shared some insight behind the creation of his novel.
What inspired you to write this novel?
One day I was brushing my teeth and preparing for the day when an old commercial popped into my head. It was a commercial for Monster.com made in 2008 about a giant who takes an elevator down to the center of the world every morning, hops on a bike and petals to keep the Earth turning. I just thought, what a really cool idea. And thus The World Machine was built. Here is the link to the commercial if you are curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBZmLzv9NKQ
Recently I showed off the progress and process of a book cover design using my knowledge as an illustrator. I dissected the market, looked at other authors branding in the same genre, used imagery similar to other popular books but also made it different. Take a look at the process of what I did for this book cover.