Lauren Magaziner recently graduated from Hamilton College. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her debut novel, The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, released from Dial/Penguin in 2014 and the paperback version was released August 4, 2015. Her second book, Pilfer Academy: A School So Bad It’s Criminal, is scheduled for early 2016. Read more at Lauren’s website.
If you had one sentence to convince someone to read The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, what would you say?
If you’ve ever wanted a reason to hate bunnies…. 😉
How did studying creative writing in college help you grow as a writer? Do you recommend earning a creative writing degree to aspiring authors?
This is a great question–and the first time I’ve ever been asked that!
First of all, you don’t have to study creative writing to become an author.
But I will say that studying creative writing was the BEST thing for me personally. I learned so much; we had these amazing workshop classes where everyone had to critique each other’s work. When it was your turn to be workshopped, you were not allowed to talk for the half hour that everyone was discussing your piece. You had to be completely silent. You couldn’t defend your work. You couldn’t explain your work. You could only listen to what other people were saying.
There’s no explaining how valuable that information is to hear, especially when it’s constructively critical. That’s how I learned about my strengths, weaknesses, common writing ticks, and general style. Upon learning my weaknesses, I have been doing my best to work on them. And having the opportunity to play around with different short stories, poems, and novels helped me develop my voice.
I could go on forever, so I’ll stop here with a shoutout to the greatest college in the world with an awesomesauce creative writing program: Hamilton College. YOU ROCK, DON’T EVER CHANGE! Thanks for everything, Hammy!
In addition to writing novels, you worked on Scholastic magazines for two years. How is the book publishing world different from magazine publishing?
Magazine publishing is a lot FASTER. The deadlines come sooner, but you also get to see a finished product a lot quicker, too. From the start to finish, a magazine would take about a few months. Whereas books take years!
The other interesting difference was space. For a magazine, you have a certain number of pages you have to work with. You need to be able to fit the whole article on–for example–a 4-page spread, and you can’t have any run-off. With a book, there’s a general word count range that I should adhere to, but in general, if I need another page to finish a scene, I can take it without having to worry whether it will fit.
Here’s a similarity: both magazine and book publishing are super fun!
What do you enjoy most about writing middle grade books?
MAKING UP SILLY NAMES.
THE FACT THAT I CAN WRITE ENTIRE SCENES IN CAPSLOCK, AND IT’S TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE.
In a large part, The Only Thing Worse Than Witches seems to be about friendship. What values do you hope readers take away?
I didn’t write The Only Thing Worse Than Witches with a particular message in mind. I just personally really love friendship stories. My whole life, my friends have always been very important to me, so I think that’s why friendship at the forefront of what I write.
The thing that makes Rupert and Witchling Two’s friendship so special for me is the fact that they are so different. They come from different backgrounds; they have completely different educations/ways of thinking; they have many differing personality traits. AND YET! They make great friends because they are there for each other–because they’re loyal.
I think that’s my takeaway… but I’m happy letting readers come up with their own conclusions!
What was your favorite scene to write in this book?
Well, without spoilers, the climax chapters were my favorite scenes to write. But… close seconds are: the time Witchling Two flooded Rupert’s basement with tears, every single class Mrs. Frabbleknacker teaches, and the chapter called “A Brief Interlude from Real Bunnies.”
Witching Two really enjoys lollipops, which makes us wonder: What is your favorite candy?
As Liz Lemon would say, “Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate ACK!” I’m definitely a chocolate enthusiast. I also can’t live without ice cream, particularly my two favorite flavors: chocolate chip cookie dough and coffee toffee.
Witching Two also has a phobia of rabbits. What is your greatest fear?
SPIDERS. Especially the hairy ones. Or the moving ones. Or any of them, whether they be on the screen or in real life. Honestly, many of Witchling Two’s reactions to her rabbit phobia are ways I react to mine: tears, scream, and run away!!!
What can you tell us about your next project?
It’s called Pilfer Academy: A School So Bad It’s Criminal. It’s about a troublemaking boy named George who gets kidnapped in an ice cream truck and taken to a school that cultivates robbers, burglars, muggers, swindlers, crooks, and otherwise intolerable criminals. With kooky teachers and morally bankrupt classmates, George is in for the education of a lifetime.
Like The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, it’s silly, funny, and whimsically weird. But unlike The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, many of the characters are much naughtier. (Muahahahahaha.)
If you want to add it on Goodreads, I definitely won’t stop you! 😉
What important question have we forgotten to ask?
You are pretty thorough! But here’s a fun one: If I could have one completely useless magical power, what would it be? And the answer to that is: the ability to turn my hair into spaghetti.
Rupert Campbell is fascinated by the witches who live nearby. He dreams of broomstick tours and souvenir potions, but Rupert’s mother forbids him from even looking at that part of town. The closest he can get to a witchy experience is sitting in class with his awful teacher Mrs. Frabbleknacker, who smells like bellybutton lint and forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before, during, and after class. So when he sees an ad to become a witch’s apprentice, Rupert simply can’t resist applying.
But Witchling Two isn’t exactly what Rupert expected. With a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad, she needs all the help she can get to pass her exams and become a full-fledged witch. She’s determined to help Rupert stand up to dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker too, but the witchling’s magic will be as useful as a clump of seaweed unless Rupert can figure out a way to help her improve her spellcasting—and fast!