Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft

Posted August 16, 2012 in Review / 1 Comment

I love the concept of this novel – I’ve always been a fan of witchy things since first watching “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”.  I haven’t read a good witch story in a long time so I was itching to get into this one.  Also, the cover, which Judy and her husband designed together, is so pretty!  The red dress really makes it stand out.  And I love the title!

To me, the first few chapters seemed a little rushed.  I feel like it would have been a good beginning had there been a previous book, but it seemed like it really just rushed into the whole, everything is weird phase.  I like my paranormal/supernatural to have a bit of character development before transitioning into the weird stuff.  I mean, creme brulee faces within the first few pages?  It just seemed to happen too fast for me.

But, nevertheless, I really enjoyed this book.  Once I got past the first few chapters and the story really got underway, I found myself not being able to put it down till I finished.  I really like Audrey.  She came across as a typical 17-year-old girl who just found out she is a witch.  She definitely stands up for herself, and I like the fact that she isn’t completely obsessed with one guy and is able to focus on other things in life, like training her powers and finding her mom.  The story did not entirely revolve around the romance, which is very refreshing.  I love romance just as much as the next girl, but sometimes it’s nice to read about something else for a change, with a little romance thrown in.

When Audrey’s mother goes missing, her “cousin” Sadie comes to town with her traveling circus of 2 kittens, Honey and Mo, her Iguana, Captain Zinky, and her boa constrictor, Alistair.  I found it a bit odd how accepting Audrey and her sister, Meg, were of letting Sadie in the house.  Meg, especially, seeming to find it not strange at all that her mother has gone off on a “family emergency” when she hasn’t spoken to her family since long before either girl was born.  As the book went on, though, I really came to like Sadie and her “magical” wit.

The characters in the book are all pretty good.  Audrey’s sister, Meg, is a high school, rock-star diva.  She always wants to have her way, and when she doesn’t get it, she throws a fit.  Audrey is always comparing herself to Meg, and believes that Meg is the better, more pretty and popular sister, while she is like Cinderella to her.  Julian, the love interest in the story, does add some humor to the story, and you always need a good romance!  I can’t wait to get to know him more in future novels.

I would have like to see more character interaction between Audrey and her mom.  I think that’s part of why I found the beginning to be rushed.  I would have liked to see more interaction between them before she went missing.  Besides knowing that she is Audrey’s mom, I couldn’t sympathize that she was missing through the book.  I feel that if we had gotten to see them interact in the beginning, it would have made it easier to emotionally connect with her missing.

Above all my small complaints though, I still found myself really really liking this book, and I am definitely anticipating the rest of this series!

Interview with Jody Gehrman

When did you first know you want to be an author? If not your whole life, what did you want to be when you were little?
JG: When I was super little, like four, I wanted to be a pink cement truck when I grew up. Totally random, but true. I soon realized that was a rather unrealistic career goal, so I settled for becoming a writer. My first “novel” was really a very long letter sent to my best friend about us riding around on our flying dogs. I wrote that on a typewriter when I was eight. I still tend to think of each of my novels as long love letters—to a place, a time in my life, a person, a feeling. In college I stumbled into playwriting, and later I freelanced as a journalist. I realized then that I was pretty serious about pursuing writing as a career, in part because these other forms helped with the inherent loneliness that can become an occupational hazard. As a playwright I love working with actors and directors; as a journalist I love doing interviews. These more social aspects of writing balance out the isolation of creating novels.

Do you often find yourself drawing inspiration from your life to put into your characters and other aspects of the story?
JG: All the time! One of the greatest things about writing is you get to observe more carefully; you have permission to really notice the quirks of the people around you and to study the situations you find yourself in. No trip to the DMV is ever wasted! The world is full of material. One thing I’ve learned to do though is not always tell people I’m modeling a character on them or that I stole this or that from something they told me. I don’t want them to take issue with the ways I’ve changed their story. It’s better to be a little secretive, tucking away ideas for later use. Picasso is credited with saying “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” I wonder if this is what he meant?

How did you feel the first time you were published?
JG: Exhilarated! It’s an amazing feeling. There is often a little letdown tucked inside there too though–a mild pub-day sadness. I think as writers we tend to assume that publication will automatically solve all our problems–make our hair shinier, make our bank accounts swell, make everyone who spurned us suddenly realize we’re incredibly sexy. When publication doesn’t grant us instant god-like super powers, it’s a little disappointing. That’s why it’s so important to savor the writing process itself and not get too caught up in chasing external validation.

Has your life changed since becoming an author?
JG: I’m not sure when, exactly, I “became an author.” Was it when I wrote that super long letter to my best friend at age eight? Was it when my first (super bad) play got performed in college? Since publishing novels my reach has become broader and I get to hear from more readers, but I think it’s all been a variation on the same theme: me making stuff up and wanting other people to imagine that world along with me. Since publishing books, though, one of my favorite experiences is getting mail from readers. It’s really moving to hear from someone who seems sincerely affected by my work. I relish having the power to touch a reader’s imagination, to subtly shape their inner life, just as so many writers have shaped my own.

Your novel, Babe in Boyland, has been optioned as a movie. How would you feel about seeing your story come to life on the big screen?
JG: I think it would be so fun! I’ve wanted this for ages, and the idea that it might actually happen thrills me. Having seen a lot of my plays produced, I’d like to think I’m a little less control freaky in terms of needing the film to match the book exactly. I know it will be a different animal, and I’m okay with that.

Where did the idea for Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft come from?
JG: Well, for starters, witchcraft fascinates me. I’ve always been a pagan at heart; ever since I was little I felt there was a mysterious power running through the natural world, and the idea of tapping that power appeals to me. As a Northern Californian, I was surrounded by new age mysticism growing up. I knew a few people who practiced witchcraft and even experimented with it some myself, so it wasn’t that foreign to me. I wanted to explore what I knew about real witches but also create a universe where their power could be even more awesome and effective.

How did you decide to dive into the more, paranormal side of novels?
JG: It’s been a challenge, taking on magic, but I like exploring new genres to keep my writing fresh. I’ve always been drawn to witches, so it felt more natural to me than, say, writing about werewolves, but still. I have fresh admiration for writers who do it well.
It actually took me about seven years off and on to finish AUDREY. I started writing it as a book for adults, but I never felt like it was quite working. Then I realized I’d like to try it as a YA novel, so I pulled out the old draft and gave it a radical makeover, including a new protagonist.

This story is actually a self-published novel. What is it like to self-publish a novel?
JG: It’s very time-consuming but also exciting. It’s scary, because you don’t have a team of editors and copy-editors to work with you on every little detail. I have a wonderful agent and a network of fellow writers who helped me revise this book thoroughly, though, so that made me more confident about the final product. I was so into designing and photographing the cover! I’d always wanted to do that–to have creative control over the look of the novel–so indie-pubbing gave me a chance to try it. My husband’s an artist, so we collaborated on it and had a blast. I also enjoyed playing around with the marketing (writing the blurb, etc.) It’s exhausting but so far I’m having fun. I learn something new about the business every day.

You are planning a series for Audrey, right? (Please say yes!)
JG: Yes! A trilogy. The working title for the sequel (though this could change–I’m very fickle when it comes to titles) is AUDREY’S GUIDE TO SLAYING ZOMBIES AND BREAKING HEARTS.

And there will be more Julian this time, right?? (Again, please say yes!!)
JG: There will be way more Julian! And he may have a rival, so stay tuned…

Jody Gehrman is the author of seven novels and numerous plays. Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft is her most recent Young Adult novel. Her other Young Adult novels include Babe in Boyland, Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, and Triple Shot Bettys in Love, (Penguin’s Dial Books). Babe in Boyland won the International Reading Association Teen Choice Award and has recently been optioned by the Disney Channel. Her adult novels are Notes from the Backseat, Tart, and Summer in the Land of Skin (Red Dress Ink). Her plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She is a professor of English at Mendocino College. 

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