Today I get to post a new Author Corner! This time I have an interview with Sasha Laurens. Sasha’s book A Wicked Magic released last month and she took some time to answer some questions for this post. A big thank you to the author! If you want to know a little more about a Wicked Magic and read Sasha’s answers, keep on reading!
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.
Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.
During a spell gone wrong, Liss’s boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss’s friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?
Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss’s orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she’s hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.
When another teenager disappears, the girls know it’s no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?
Set in the atmospheric wilds of California’s northern coast, Sasha Laurens’s thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.
About the Author
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve more or less been writing or making up stories my whole life. Through college and most of my twenties, I was very interested in writing literary fiction. When I ultimately decided I didn’t want to try to get an MFA, I gave up the goal of publishing literary fiction. Although that sounds depressing, it wasn’t! I started reading genre fiction, including YA, which I hadn’t really read since middle school. In particular, I read a really popular YA book that was kind of terrible, but I couldn’t put it down. I figured that I could write something at least as good as that and get it published. How hard could it be, right?
Yes, I’m also laughing at past-me right now.
I pretty quickly realized that although I could write a complicated sentence, there was A LOT I didn’t know about writing. I had no idea how to put together a plot or develop a character arc. I threw myself into learning everything I could about writing genre fiction and YA. I also discovered that this kind of writing is a lot more fun than the vaguely embarrassing tortured artiste thing I had been doing before, and I’m so glad that I found a way to fit that kind of creativity into my life.
What is your all time favorite book? Why?
I don’t think I can pick one! Some of my favorite books are Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, Deathless by Catherynne Valente and A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara, to name just a few. In YA, some of my favorites are Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. One things these works have in common is that the authors have such a masterful use of language. I love writing that can surprise me with a single well-chosen word or phrase. Several of them (Cloud Atlas, Autobiography of Red and Carry On) also play with form in a way I find really exciting.
What recent books do you think everyone needs to read?
I’m not really an authority on what everyone needs to do, and to be honest, in 2020 I haven’t been great at keeping up with new releases. A few recent books that I loved are Gideon the Ninth (eagerly awaiting Harrow the Ninth) by Tamsyn Muir, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, and Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe.
Besides writing, what are other hobbies you have?
Honestly, writing and author-stuff takes up a huge amount of my time, and I’m also a full time graduate student getting a PhD in political science. That plus, you know, trying to vacuum occasionally and feed myself regularly doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for other hobbies—especially during pandemic times. Usually if I have free time I spend it watching lame reality TV or lying on my couch reading a book. But historically speaking, I’ve also enjoyed boxing and traveling—I’ve been to over thirty countries.
A Wicked Magic is your debut book (congrats with that by the way!), what has been your favorite part of the publishing journey?
It’s been really exciting to see readers react to the book. You spend so much time working on a novel by yourself, you begin to wonder if anyone else could possibly understand what you’re trying to do or if anyone will connect with it. Now that it’s out, I love reading reviews. A Wicked Magic deliberately plays with readers’ expectations: it seems like it will be a story about Dan and Liss fighting over a boy, but it’s really about the girls’ friendship. Dan and Liss also definitely both fall into the category of Unlikeable Female Characters at times. Some readers don’t get that or connect with it—which is fine! No book is for everyone—but when I see someone who’s really picking up what I was putting down, it’s an incredible feeling.
I know A Wicked Magic has only been in the world for a couple of weeks, but can you tell us if you have any other projects you’re working on?
I’m working on a project right now that I’m tentatively calling “Vampire Boarding School,” and hopefully I’ll be able to say more about it soon!
About the Book
Describe your book in five words or less.
Careful what you wish for.
What inspired A Wicked Magic?
A lot of things! Russian folklore, the small towns of the Northern California coast, terrible bands I was obsessed with in high school. Most of all, A Wicked Magic was inspired by the very close friendships we get into when we’re young, and how hard it can be to tell if those friendships are healthy or not. I felt that in a lot of the books I was reading, those teenage friendships are really romanticized as these super-fun, life-affirming bonds—which they totally can be! But at the same time they can be really challenging. It’s so easy to take advantage of others or let them take advantage of you when you’re still figuring out who you are. That’s a tension I wanted to explore through Dan and Liss.
When you wrote A WIcked Magic did you have it all mapped out or did you let Liss, Dan and Alexa take you along for the ride?
A Wicked Magic has three POV characters, a fair number of flashback scenes, and more than one mystery that needs solving. I definitely went in with an outline. At the same time, I don’t like my outlines to be too detailed, because discovery through writing is really what makes it fun for me. That means I always end up including things like “They solve the mystery” in my outline, which…isn’t as helpful as it could be. I usually start with a rough outline, then re-outline a few times as the story develops. I also do a lot of reverse outlining, where you outline what you’ve already written, to try to understand what’s come out of that discovery process.
If you were to put yourself into this story, what kind of character would you be?
I would definitely be a local weirdo living in one of the North Coast towns. The setting for the story is based on the coastal towns of Marin and Mendocino counties in California, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I’d love to move into a little house there and write. I would definitely not be one of the witches or anyone messing around with magic. As the title implies, in most cases magic doesn’t exactly have a positive effect on the world.
What is your favorite quote from A Wicked Magic?
Probably I should pick something ~meaningful~ but I love Liss’s weird snarky one-liners. One of my favorite quotes comes up when she’s trying to figure out how to use a coffee maker and she says “Do I look like a freaking wizard with a wand who can just make coffee magically appear? This is complicated!” There’s a lot of dark stuff in AWM but I just find this a deeply cheesy and hilarious thing for a witch to say.
What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
To me, A Wicked Magic is about figuring out who you are as a person and a friend: learning how you want to treat yourself, how you want to treat others and how you want them to treat you in return. Those things are deeply interconnected, and figuring them out takes years, if not a lifetime. Dan, Liss and Alexa all learn, in their own way, that trusting and valuing themselves is essential if they want to be the kind of people—the kind of friends—they want to be. And I hope readers stick with them through that struggle because it’s a real messy one.
About the Author
SASHA LAURENS grew up in Northern California, where she learned to drive on Highway 1’s switchback turns and got accustomed to the best weather in the world. After studying creative writing and literature at Columbia University, she lived in New York for years and, at various times, in Russia. She currently resides in Michigan, where she is pursuing a PhD in political science.
It’s so much fun to learn a little bit more about authors. I loved Sasha’s answers! And I don’t know about you, but I need to know more about this Vampire Boarding School project. If you’re looking for a good read to pick up when it gets dark, rainy and cold, A Wicked Magic will fit that atmosphere perfectly!