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When sixteen-year-old Macie O’Sullivan and her masterfully manipulative mother Aubra arrive at the gates of Witchtown—the most famous and mysterious witch-only haven in the world—they have one goal in mind: to rob it for all it’s worth.
But that plan derails when Macie and Aubra start to dig deeper into Witchtown’s history and uncover that there is more to the quirky haven than meets the eye.
Exploring the haven by herself, Macie finds that secrets are worth more than money in Witchtown.
Secrets have their own power.
YABM: Witchtown is an unexpected story. Often you find characters trying to get into some place special like Witchtown to be a part of the community, but the main characters want nothing more than to destroy. What are their motivations? What made you decide to take that route in the story?
CPO: There are a lot of stories about witches that involve a main character (a witch) desperately wanting to fit in with the “normal” folks and be part of the community. PRACTICAL MAGIC (by Alice Hoffman) is a wonderful example of this – I love those kinds of stories because I think they speak to a need we all have (to one degree or another) to be accepted for who we really are. When I was writing WITCHTOWN I thought it might be fun to turn that idea on its head – what if the main character was non-magical and all the “normal” folks in town were witches? What would that look like? And to go a step further, what if the main character wasn’t trying to fit in because of a pure, deep desire for belonging. What if her motives were more nefarious (or at least she thinks they are at the outset). It’s a twist on the more well-known witch story formula but I think it’s fun and it explores the need to belong in a different way.
YABM: Tell me about Macie. Why should we root for her? What are some of her best and worst qualities?
CPO: Macie was an interesting character to write. She and her mom are thieves, and they enter these witch-only towns (called havens) with the intent of stealing everything they can from the inhabitants and then using magic to erase the town-people’s memories so they can move on to the next haven and steal more. Macie is a liar, she sees people only as potential marks, and she has a really depressing, non-emotional way of analyzing every situation. On the surface, she’s not very likeable. But once you get to know her you start to understand that Macie has never had a chance to be good – or even to figure out for herself what “good” is. She’s been raised by a truly terrible human being (her mother) who has taught Macie that her only value lies in what she can steal. Because of their lifestyle, the constant moving and the mind erasing, she has no one in her life but her mother. Everybody else she has ever met has literally forgotten about her. On top of that, Macie depends on her mother to help hide who she really is (non-magical people, called “Voids” are not allowed in havens) so even after she starts to question their lives of crime, she doesn’t see a way of escaping it.
You meet Macie just as she has decided she doesn’t want to steal any more. Her mother convinces her to do one last big heist at the most mysterious (and wealthiest) haven of them all – Witchtown. Macie reluctantly agrees and then has to decide how far she’s willing to go (and how many people she’s willing to hurt) to free herself from her mother. When you break it down, she’s someone who desperately wants to be good but has no idea how to do it. She doesn’t always get it right. I hope people will root for her – I know I did!
YABM: Is the magic in Witchtown based off of any magical communities in real life?
CPO: The magic traditions in WITCHTOWN are based loosely on modern day paganism. I’m not religious myself, but I have a great deal of respect for modern pagans and it was really important to me to get that part of the story right. I ended up adding some things (for example, the distinction between “Natural” witches and “Learned” witches) for story purposes, but there are a lot of things in the book that came from my reading and talking with people who practice Wicca and other pagan belief systems. The idea of doing no harm, the holidays, the structure of the rituals, and the way that ancient beliefs interplay with modern life are all based on reality. So, I don’t know if there’s really a “Witchtown” somewhere – it would be insanely cool if there were. But there are people who practice religions similar to the one in WITCHTOWN and it was very important to me to portray that part of the story in a respectful and realistic way, while still being entertaining and serving the story. I really hope I managed to do that.
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Sometime around sixth grade, Cory was forced to face the sad truth that being a heroine in a Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, or Madeleine L’Engle book was not, in fact, a valid future career choice. But since she thought it might be almost as much fun to grow up to be Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, or Madeleine L’Engle, she decided to do just that. She’s still working on it.
Cory’s path to being an author did not go in a straight line. There was the whole “maybe-I’ll-be-a-psychologist” thing (just on the side, until the writing took off) which led her to UCLA and an eventual B.A. in Psychology. Then there was the “maybe-I’ll-be-a-lawyer” thing (just on the side, until the writing took off) which led her to Cornell Law School, a J.D., and a year of working as a litigation associate at Sullivan & Cromwell. There was also a brief “maybe-I’ll-teach-law” phase (just on the . . . well, you know) where she taught business law to undergraduates at Texas State University.
But the writing thing was a bug that she just couldn’t shake, and she officially made her sixth grade dream come true in 2011, with her debut young adult novel, THE VEIL. Cory’s debut middle grade, DINOSAUR BOY, came out from Sourcebooks in February of 2015 and it’s sequel, DINOSAUR BOY SAVES MARS, launched in February 2016. Cory’s next young adult novel, WITCHTOWN, will come out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers on July 18, 2017.
Cory lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Mark (who, luckily for all concerned, decided to stick with the whole “maybe-I’ll-be-a-lawyer” thing), their two kids, and their pets. In addition to writing, Cory enjoys running, cooking, and hanging out with her family. She is proud to be represented by Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency. Photo by Sam Bond Photography.
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