I’m so pleased to be able to welcome one of my favourite authors onto the blog this week. I’ve followed Bree’s work for a long time.
Buy It Here: Grovedaughter Witchery: Practical Spellcraft
(Sidenote: This is a longer interview than we usually do – I’m testing out the form. Please let me know which you prefer – comment below. As usual, post may contain affiliate links, but I never sell you products I don’t believe in.)
For most of you, Bree will need no introduction, but I’ll happily oblige those that do:
‘Bree NicGarran grew up in the wilds of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and now resides outside of Williamsburg, VA. She has been a practitioner of cottage witchcraft for over ten years, and specializes in plant-based magics. Her first solo work, “Grovedaughter Witchery,” was published in January 2017 and has been hailed by the online pagan community as the new standard text for beginner witches.
In addition to her writing, Bree maintains a popular blog about her spellwork and witchcraft in general. She lives with her husband and two very spoiled ginger cats, and is very glad that none of them seem to mind having a pagan altar in the living room.’
Here’s the interview – please enjoy!
Why did you decide to start writing books?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, pretty much since I was a kid. Writing a blog on witchcraft was excellent practice, and I saved the articles and spells and recipes that I created for possible collection later, and published some of them on my website. The drive to put together a book was already there, but it needed just the right push.
What happened was that I picked up a certain book from a public library that, according to the title, was full of spells and rituals based on fairy tales. I wasn’t familiar with the author, but I decided to give it a try. Well, it turned out to be a horrible book. Everything in it rubbed me the wrong way. The author had a very skeevy attitude toward young girls, and it showed up in every single chapter. Halfway through, I stopped reading and did some research. Turns out the author was arrested on charges of possessing and intending to distribute child pornography. And having read his book, in which he enthused about how pubescent girls were inherently “more magical” because they “hadn’t lost their eggs through menstruation yet”, I honestly was not surprised. (http://wildhunt.org/2017/04/kenny-klein-convicted-on-child-pornography-charges.html)
So, now that I was good and mad, I returned the book to the library with a strongly-worded note about the contents. On my way home, I raged to myself about how unfair it was that with so much potential in the concept of fairy-tale-based magic, THAT was the best the pagan literary market had to offer. By the time I walked back through my front door, I was firmly resolved to do better. By a fortuitous coincidence, a friend of mine on Tumblr had had a similar idea, so we agreed to team up and write our own book of fairy tale spells. And so The Sisters Grimmoire was born, and I was on my way as a published author.
What were the differences between writing books, writing your Tumblr blog, and writing in a long form fashion on your website?
Of the three, I have to say that blogging is the easiest. There is much more material to work with, and prompts for inspiration in the form of asks and posts from other witches. Plus, there’s very little pressure to deliver things on any kind of deadline, or to write on any particular subject, or to meet a minimum word count. It’s great for brainstorming, especially when writer’s block threatens.
Most the material on my website came from posts that I saved from my blog. Any time I answered a question at length, I’d save the text and many of these later became full-length articles. I posted spells that I’d created and tested in my own practice, and little tidbits of advice that I discovered along the way. These were mostly the things that I wish somebody had told me when I was starting out. (Which, as you know, became the inspiration for Grovedaughter Witchery.)
Writing The Sisters Grimmoire took some definite work. Creating the spells was the bulk of it, and making sure I didn’t repeat myself or make things too complicated or use the same methods too often. Editing was just as difficult; it was like having the write the book over again in places. The Witches’ Cupboard was a little easier, since it was a collection of recipes, and Anna did most of the formatting and wrote the bulk of the introductory material.
And then came Grovedaughter Witchery. My first solo project. The one I like to call “the accidental book.” I looked at my files one day during National Novel Writing Month and realized that I had half a book’s worth of Practical Witchcraft 101 material just sitting there. The other half I had to collect or create, along with refining and editing what was already there. I won’t lie to you – it was tough. Sometimes even discouraging. I pulled numerous all-nighters over the course of two months, ran out of ideas on several occasions, and almost gave up twice. But every single bit of that effort was worth it the day the proof copy arrived and I could actually hold that book in my hands and say, “Yeah…I wrote that. This is my baby.”
If you think there were tears, you are extremely correct.
What was it like working with a co-author? What were the benefits and pitfalls?
It was nice to have the constant support of another creative mind, not to mention the constant motivation of knowing she was working on the project too. Working by myself, sometimes I tend to let my writing projects sit for long periods of time, or lose interest if I don’t get fresh inspiration quickly enough. Having Anna right there on a daily basis with new ideas and as a sounding board made the creative process a lot easier.
That being said, when two witches with very strong wills and differing viewpoints collaborate on a single projects, there’s going to be some…shall we say, differences of opinion on how things were supposed to come together. We were always careful to keep things friendly and professional, but we butted heads a lot during the editing process and nagged each other sometimes when things weren’t progressing as quickly as we might’ve liked. Happens during any team project, really. But we worked things out and put forth a pretty decent book when all was said and done. Splitting the royalties wasn’t exactly fun either, but it was only fair. Again, part of teamwork.
What was it like working by yourself? What were the benefits and pitfalls of that?
There’s a lot to be said for having full creative control of a project. When you’re not answerable to anyone but yourself and your audience for content, there’s a certain satisfaction in that. I suppose that ties into self-publishing as well. Also, I’m very happy with being able to track how the book is selling and to order copies from CreateSpace on my own schedule, without having to ask someone else for updates. (The collaborative projects were originally published on Anna’s account, since she had more experience, so I had to ask her for sales numbers and such, or to place an order if I wanted print copies. Not a bad thing, but an extra step.)
There’s a flip side to that too, though. You have full control when you’re working alone, but…you are working alone. You have to be your own motivator and your own editor, find your own inspiration, and set your own schedule. The additional creative freedom comes with additional work.
How have the launches of your book been? What techniques did you find beneficial?
When you self-publish, you have to do all your own advertising. CreateSpace does not offer this service like a major publisher or distributor might. Anna and I posted preview spells and general updates ahead of the publication of The Sisters Grimmoire to generate interest, and boy did it ever. The Witches’ Cupboard came as sort of a holiday surprise, so most of the advertising for that was done sort of after the fact.
With Grovedaughter Witchery, I combined what had worked before – previews and progress reports before publication, and regular advertisement after. The online response was very enthusiastic, and it resulted in very good sales for the first couple of months. Around the third month, the numbers started falling, but that’s normal, and I took the opportunity to branch out into wholesale accounts with brick-and-mortar shops.
Keeping up-to-date records of sales leads and numbers and expenses has been invaluable. If you’re going to go into any sort of business, you need good recordkeeping skills, and you need to be proactive in keeping it current and well-organized.
How was writing your latest book different from writing your first? Is it getting easier or harder?
Bit of both, really. It was easier in that I had material to work from, and I’d sort of laid the groundwork already with my blog and my website. Plus, I had an idea of what to expect from the process of writing the first two books with Anna. Like I said before, self-motivating and time management was a challenge. I have a feeling that future projects are going to get more difficult, as I have to come up with more and more new material, but that’s a challenge I’m looking for ward to.
Why did you decide on the topics that you did? Did you see a gap in the market, or were you encouraged by your existing readers? Or something else entirely?
For Grovedaughter Witchery, it was a combination of things. I mentioned noticing that I had a stockpile of material, and that was a big part of it. And I did see a gap in the market. I’ve mentioned on several occasions that the modern pagan literature market is really saturated by Wiccan and Neo-Wiccan authors, because that’s who the major publishers like Llewellyn and WillowTree Press are most willing to work with. So there’s a whole lot of one set of viewpoints and not terribly much for anyone else. So when I realized that I had a chance to write a secular, practical book for beginners, I was pretty excited.
The response to my initial inquiries – sort of “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a book, what do you guys think?” – was more than enthusiastic. I almost want to say “explosive.” I received hundreds of notes and comments to effect of “OH MY GOD, PLEASE WRITE THIS BOOK,” and there was a lot of excitement pretty much right away.
What was the magical/spiritual process of the book like? Did you test and experiment for the books, or did you only share things you’ve done for a long time?
I started out with material that was from personal experience, and methods that I know have worked in my own practice. I did test a number of the new spells and recipes that I came up with for the Grimmoire and for Grovedaughter, just to make sure they would work for a wider audience and be workable for beginners.
Have you done any kind of magic/spells to help move the books along – whether the process of writing it, or selling it? Did you work with Spirits with some parts of it, or not at all?
I put a little glyph on my desk, right underneath where my waterglass would sit. It looks like a little campfire, representing Brighid’s Flame of Inspiration. I also did a couple of spells for abundance and good sales. Apart from that, though, it was just elbow grease.
Are there any other projects in the pipeline?
Yup! The copyright for The Witches’ Cupboard is reverting to Anna in September, and we’re each planning new projects to republish our own material. So I’ve got a book of magical powder and oil recipes nearly finished. The book collects all of my recipes from The Witches’ Cupboard and Grovedaughter Witchery, plus I created a few dozen new ones that haven’t been published anywhere before. It’s called Pestlework, and it’s slated for publication this August.
As promised, I’m working on a second volume of The Sisters Grimmoire too, as another solo project. That will be my main focus after Pestlework is done. I’ve been reading the works of Andrew Lang to get material for new spells, and let me tell you, it’s going to be epic. I’m hoping to top one hundred spells, and it’s looking like I’ll be able to do that. I plan to start posting preview spells sometime this autumn, maybe as a Halloween treat.
I’m also collecting research for a book tentatively titled “The Grovedaughter’s Garden,” which will be a volume of practical advice on plant magic and container gardening for witches who don’t have a yard or plots of open ground to work with for growing herbs and flowers. That’s barely in the pre-writing stages, but I’m excited about it.
In addition to all of this, I have an entire folder of writing prompts for short horror fiction that I return to every now and again. That’s a long-term project that I hope will one day become a personal anthology.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still writing, still researching. Hopefully with more several books published! I’m hoping to get into the festival circuit as well, starting this September when I’ll be making an appearance as a vendor at the Autumn Moon Festival in Virginia Beach, if all goes well. Ideally, I still want to get my books into brick-and-mortar stores, and make a living as a writer, but if I have to keep my day job, then so be it.
And of course, it goes without saying that I’ll still be witching it up!
Buy It Here: The Sisters Grimmoire: Spells and Charms for Your Happily Ever After
Email: BreeNicGarran@outlook.com (for business inquiries)