I’m so excited to have author Isabel Sterling here today answering some questions for my readers. These Witches Don’t Burn is one of my most anticipated releases for 2019. I’ll share a bit about the book first and then there will be the Q&A section.
Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly By Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.
But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire.
Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.
While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.
Isabel Sterling’s delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven–and any chance she has with the new girl–is destroyed.
Release Date & Links
These Witches Don’t Burn publishes on May 28, 2019 in hard cover, ebook, and audiobook.
Isabel Sterling has been dreaming up new worlds since childhood, but she didn’t commit any of them to paper until graduate school. A Syracuse University alum, Isabel works in off-campus housing, managing a community with nearly 1,000 students. When she’s not on property, Isabel spends her time writing about magic and murder, looking for the smallest hints of the supernatural in this world, too. She lives in Central NY with her wife and their brood of furry children: cats Oliver and December and a mischievous puppy named Lily. These Witches Don’t Burn is her debut novel.
Q&A with Isabel:
What influenced you to write These Witches Don’t Burn?
Hi Krist! Thanks so much for having me on the blog. These Witches Don’t Burn started with Hannah’s voice, a “real” witch working at a magic shop in Salem, begrudgingly selling witchcraft supplies to tourists. Her voice was so strong that I knew I had to dig in and figure out her story. It took me a couple tries to get it right (the first draft is almost unrecognizable to the book publishing in May) but Hannah’s voice has remained steady throughout.
Part of what drew me to this story, and something that survived from the first draft, was the opportunity to explore the loss of first love. Many YA novels tackle falling in love for the first time, but far fewer (especially at the time I was drafting back in 2015) deal with breakups, particularly for queer girls. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins was one of the first YA novels I read where an established couple breaks up, and I really loved that. When it came time to write These Witches Don’t Burn, it was really satisfying to explore the messiness of a breakup.
How long did it take you to write TWDB?
I wrote the first draft in about two months in the spring of 2015. After a writing break that summer and fall, I rewrote nearly the entire story in the winter of 2016, which took another 6-8 weeks or so, and queried that spring.
But revisions don’t end when you get an agent or even a book deal. I did three rounds of edits with two agents before selling, and once we sold, I had two rounds of content edits and then line edits with my editor. All in all, These Witches Don’t Burn will release almost exactly four years from the day I completed the first draft.
Which character are you most like? Do you completely make up your characters or are they somewhat based off people you know?
There’s a little bit of me in a lot of my characters. I don’t think that can really be helped in the writing process, and oftentimes, I don’t realize what pieces of myself I’m putting in there until well after the fact. I will say, my characters tend to be much cooler than I ever was as a teen. Hannah often says the snarky things I was too chicken to actually say when I was a teen.
I don’t ever base a character’s personality off someone I know in real life, but I will borrow pieces of names or interests and hobbies to create characters. Since TWDB is my debut, I snuck in a bunch of family names for secondary characters as a little shoutout to my family and friends for their support over the years.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a schedule or a favorite place to write?
As much as I’d prefer to sleep in, I force myself to get up at 5am on weekdays so I can write before going to my Day Job. I write and revise in Scrivener until the point where I’m required to track changes for my editor. Though I don’t use even half of the tools in Scrivener, I find it really helpful to only see one scene at a time; it helps keep me from getting overwhelmed by the enormity of a novel. When I’m on deadline, I try to write/revise every day. I find that steady progress helps build momentum and keeps me immersed in the story. When I’m not on deadline, I’m more gentle with myself about days off to refill the well. I typically write at my desk or on the couch, depending on my mood and whether I’m in charge of watching the dog.
Do you still participate in NaNoWriMo?
I participated in 2012 and 2013, but I unfortunately haven’t been able to make November fit for my writing schedule since. NaNoWriMo will always mean a lot to me. It’s not for everyone, but it gave me the structure and motivation necessary to complete my very first (and then second) novel. I love all the camaraderie, and the “write a crappy first draft” style works well with my process. I still write most of my first drafts “NaNo-style” in that I write them relatively quickly so I can focus most of my efforts on revision (the best part!).
Do you still study music? Do you write music or play an instrument?
I still find music very inspiring, but I’ve transferred all my music writing energy into novel writing. I played flute in high school (first chair, even!) and sang in a variety of choirs in high school and college, but I haven’t done much of either since I graduated. Unfortunately, studying at a music conservatory killed a bit of my love for creating music, but I’m so happy to have been able to funnel that drive into novels.
What are you working on right now?
I’m writing the sequel for These Witches Don’t Burn! Razorbill purchased the series as a duology, so readers will get one more book in 2020. I’m excited to be able to continue Hannah’s story (even if the writing is a little tricky right now).
What books are you looking forward to in 2019?
Oh gosh, so many. In YA, I’m so eager to read Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala, We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor, and honestly, way too many to name. My wallet is going to be thin in 2019. I’ve already had the pleasure of reading The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman, Wilder Girls by Rory Powers, and Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan and you definitely want those on your TBRs. In MG, which I admitted read less of, I’m really excited for Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega and Just South of Home by Karen Strong.
If you had one piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?
This advice gets tossed around a lot, but keep writing. When you’re querying, write something new. When you’re on submission, write something new. When you’re waiting for edits, write something new. If a particular book doesn’t get you an agent or book deal, you’ll need another book to try again. And if it does sell, you’ll still need another book eventually. Plus, having a new project to get excited about is a great way to emotionally distance yourself when things don’t work out exactly like you’d hoped.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Isabel! I cannot wait to read These Witches Don’t Burn!
I hope you all add this to your TBR! I already have my copy pre-ordered!