We Do Write is pleased to have Sheena Boekweg here to chat about writing and her new novel, Funny Tragic Crazy Magic.
Welcome to We Do Write, Sheena! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m powered by candy. I eat far more candy than an almost 30-year-old woman should. I’m addicted to books, and once I start reading, I don’t do anything else until the book is finished. I don’t understand people who can read in chunks, or who say they aren’t hungry when you offer them a cookie.
To combat my sugar and book addiction, I run, do Zumba, spin, and kickboxing. The cookies are winning.
I majored in Theatre (note the spelling) and Psychology at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. I’m a mom to three beloved children, and I’m married to my best friend. I believe in happy endings because I’m living one.
I can understand both of those addictions! And if you're offering cookies, I'll have one...
How long have you been writing?
I started my first novel in 6th grade. It was about a girl who goes back in time and fights a dragon, so I think my genre of choice is pretty clear from the get go. I started writing seriously about eight years ago when my oldest son was a baby. Eight years and five novels later, here I am.
Tell us about FUNNY TRAGIC CRAZY MAGIC. What’s the story about?
FUNNY TRAGIC CRAZY MAGIC is set in a world where magic is secret, but as common as a trip to Costco for the heroine, Larissa Alvarez. Larissa is a witch who just wants to be normal. She only really uses her magic to make herself thinner. At first, she doesn’t realize that a War on Magic is going on outside of her teen-drama filled life until her family became a casualty of that war. Alone, with no one to trust, and with only a few vanity runes to protect her, Larissa finds Joe.
I love Joe. He’s slightly broken. He grew up thinking he was the product of his mom being raped, and because of that, (and how he can walk through walls), he’s always felt different from other people. He’s angry, sad, and without boundaries. The first time we meet him in FTCM he is unrepentant as he steals Larissa’s car. But at heart, he’s a hurt kid, who doesn’t know who he is, and he doesn’t trust his own instincts.
They grow to need each other, and stand together against both sides of the war on magic. They’re outmatched, but not alone. Here’s the synopsis…
Keep your head down. Don’t make waves. Don’t let anyone know you’re a freak.
Larissa Alvarez is a witch. Magic was useful enough to make her pretty, but beyond transformation runes, Larissa has ignored her mom’s pleas to learn about her magical heritage on the grounds that it’s just too weird.
But when her family is killed, and the powerful book of runes Larissa was supposed to inherit disappears, she realizes she’s not going to survive without magic. Worse still, she’s falling in love with her only ally, her best friend Joe, who has a secret that could kill them both.
Now magic is the only way she can reclaim her heritage and save the boy she loves. Larissa dives into the world of magic she’s always ignored and finds herself caught in the middle of an age-old war between Witches and Mages.
She may be poorly trained. She may not have anyone to trust. But it’s time to start making waves.
Very cool! I love that Larissa meets Joe when he steals her car. How did the idea of the story come to you?
I had a really weird dream. In my dream, these four women/rivals came into an IHOP to talk about what to do with this magical notebook they had found. The women were called the Grandmothers, and they were the head witches in two branches of magic, Wisdom and Instinct. Dream me just watched them until I realized that sitting next to me was the hottest boy I’d ever seen. Intrigued (obviously) I entered his head, and found out that he was both Wisdom and Instinct, which scared the Grandmothers. In my dream, Joe (his name from the very beginning) stole the notebook for the Grandfathers (whoever they were) and when he walked away at the end of the dream he realized that the notebook he stole was a fake. I woke up and wrote the story down, and intended to just walk away from it, but there was something so interesting to me about the system of magic that I kept it at the back of my mind to use again.
About six months later I wrote a story about this lost and lonely girl who had a secret, which she wouldn’t tell. The story itself was kind of weak, but the character Larissa stuck with me. Then, one fateful day I wondered what would happen if Larissa met Joe, and the story idea fell into my head. I daydreamed about it for months, world building, plotting, just lingering in the make out scenes…and then when I finally said, “Okay, fine I’ll write the darn story,” I wrote 20,000 words in two days.
Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?
I have the most amazing beta readers. In the beginning, I’d send them everything I wrote the second I put it down to paper, and I think I misused the privilege of having amazing beta readers. Sorry, ladies, for forcing my learning attempts on you. With FTCM I didn’t let anyone read it until after I had written the whole thing. I sent it to one person, my good friend MaryAnn, and she beta read the crap out of it. I sent it to a couple more trusted people, and then once I was satisfied, I hired a copyeditor, and then had an awesome detail oriented friend go through it after the copy editor had finished. MaryAnn, Susan, Becky, Kendra, Jana, and April were my primary beta readers for FTCM. Thank you again, ladies.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I write by the seat of my pants. If I know too much about what’s coming I get bored. 90 percent of the plot twists in FTCM I didn’t see coming until they showed up on the page. I do have to have a general skeleton of a plot before I begin writing a novel, but I often ignore what I had planned in favor of whatever comes next. I never, ever, know how a story is going to end when I start writing. So I’m always as surprised as anyone else with what the story comes up with.
FUNNY TRAGIC CRAZY MAGIC’s ending, for example, made me literally fall out of my chair when it occurred to me. My book leaves the reader wondering. It’s the kind of book that you think about, worry about later as your driving your car, or studying for a final. I want my readers to feel fulfilled at the end. Satisfied, but just a bit worried that what they know happened…didn’t actually happen.
The ending of my book surprised me as I wrote it. It’s almost like the story told me how it wanted to end, and I obliged my muse. When I finished writing it, I closed my eyes and smiled. I hope the readers do the same thing, but about half the readers have to think about it for a while before they get that smile.
I think that’s cool. (because I’m secretly evil)
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part of writing is getting the words right. Story ideas come easily to me. Characterization, and motivation is all just theatre and psychology. I’ve been training my whole life to do that. I can create really cool concepts and worlds, but sitting down at the computer, and trying to make it appear the way I want it to is sometimes impossibly difficult. When it works, writing is this amazing escape and something precious to me. It’s an association with amazingly creative people. It’s acting, and directing, and psychology, and like reading on steroids. It’s the best. Sitting at a computer, and fighting over each specific word, however, is the worst. Like George R.R. Martin, “I don’t like to write, I like to have written.”
It’s like I’m in the flow, the story races forward, but then I get stuck on a specific word. My subconscious knows what the word should be, but it gets lost somewhere in between my instincts and my brain, and I sit there saying, “What is that freaking word?” I like when the words come easily, which is usually what happens when I’m prepared, or warmed up. That first bit when my brain forgets how to speak English is just awful. I hate when my inability to write in Human stands in the way of telling a great story.
Those are the moments when I wish I had padded walls to hit my head against. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
Sugar. I wrote FTCM while eating my family's supply of Halloween candy. I have to have hot chocolate, candy, soda, or sugar cereal next to me when I write. Which is probably why I suffer from Novel Induced Weight Gain. Which is totally a medical condition I believe in.
I may be a hypochondriac, but I'm pretty sure I have that too. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Joe has the ability to walk through walls, and I’d like that ability, although Joe finds himself in a lot of trouble because of it. In fact, all of the magical abilities Larissa and Joe have, get them into trouble, so maybe I’ll choose something less “The Monkey’s Paw” twistable.
Hmmm. If I could have any super power, I’d choose the ability to watch future episodes of Doctor Who before anyone else. Yes, I could fly, eat anything I want and not gain weight, or shoot fire, but really I’d just like to be able to watch a new episode of Doctor Who without spoilers.
Or that eat whatever you like and not get fat thing.
What's the weirdest thing you've googled?
I’ve googled some pretty weird stuff. I’ve googled thoughts on alien and fairy physiology, I’ve spent hours looking at photos of abandoned buildings, long searches in Wikipedia about mythology of basically every religion ever. But the weirdest thing I’ve ever googled is, “Do hippos have fingers?”
Which, in case you are wondering, is no. They have four webbed toes, because technically hippos don’t have arms. The fact that I was wondering about what kind of things a hippo could pick up should probably tell you more about me and the quality of the story I was writing at the time then I feel comfortable admitting, so let’s just ignore it.
Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: almonds, announced, and acquanitances.
Fun. Well, I’m a nerd, so the first thing I noticed is that you have a subject, a verb, and a secondary subject, so technically you could… Never mind. Here’s my sentence.
Lady Almond, of the house Prunus Dulcis, glared at her acquaintances, including those who as’salt’ed her, and held her shell high as her name was announced.
Ha! Cute! Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...
If I’m not writing, I’m probably dancing like Beyonce. I’ve tried listening to music as I write, but it doesn’t work for me. Before I finish a paragraph, I’m closing the blinds and busting a move like I’m in the middle of a Zumba Class. I’m a dancer in my brain, and in my soul, but not so much in my body. In fact, I’m kind of horrible at it, hence the closed blinds. I also love to watch T.V. ( I’m addicted to reality shows, Doctor Who, Downton Abby, and Parenthood), exercise, read stories to my children, and I play a mean Bejeweled Blitz. I also read a lot. Like more than my husband is aware of, like more than I admit on Goodreads, and a lot more than I clean.
Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.
My number one supporter is my hot husband. He’s been so kind and helpful to me, and if it wasn’t for him, FUNNY TRAGIC CRAZY MAGIC would still be just in a file on my computer. He designed my cover, my website, and my facebook page. He’s done the laundry without complaining, come home often to a house in chaos because I’ve been writing all day, and done it all with humor, and really beautiful hair. He’s the best, and I’ll spend my whole life thanking him. I’ve been blown away by everyone who’s supported me. There are people I expected, like my mom and siblings, but people have come out of the woodworks to congratulate, or to buy my book, or to just like my page on facebook. I feel really loved. And THANK YOU to everyone who’s helped me out.
Also, a big thank you to Children’s Television, without which this story wouldn’t exist.
And finally, where can people find you and your book online?
Here’s where to buy my book: Amazon
Thank you for joining us, Sheena!
And now for the giveaway! Click the link below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!
And now for the giveaway! Click the link below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!