In the latest book from the Bewitched in Oz series by Laura J. Burns, Zerie Greenapple refuses to let the oppressive government in Oz squander her magical power. But with fragile friendships and her own safety at stake, will Zerie ever be the witch she dreams of becoming? See the Land of Oz in a new light in this thrilling fantasy series, where the truth is always shifting and the integrity of friendship is constantly challenged.
I recently had the chance to ask Laura some questions about Oz, her writing process, and magic. Bewitched in Oz and its sequel, Magic Below, are available now from Capstone Young Readers.
What is your favorite thing about Oz?
If you’ve ever read L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, you’ll know that the world he created is amazingly original and fun. Some of the books were written more than 100 years ago, but the creatures, the clockwork characters, and the wacky landscapes are still really interesting and fresh. Anything seems possible in the Land of Oz, and the only constant is that most of the people try to treat one another with respect. My favorite thing about it is that it’s a ton of fun to create more stories in such a fantastic world!
If you could visit any region of Oz, what would it be and why?
Probably the Emerald City. I’m just a city girl at heart!
That one’s easy! Friendship. Zerie, Vashti, Brink, and Tabitha are loyal to one another even when they’re not getting along. They are strongest when they work together, and weakest when they’re on their own. They are a team, and they always have one another’s backs.
Name some authors and/or books that influence you as an author.
My two biggest influences are, oddly, J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Austen. They don’t have much in common, although it might be fun to write a book where Sauron had to take tea with Elizabeth Bennett! But they’re the authors that most spoke to me when I was a teen. From Tolkien, I learned how important it is to build an entire world when you’re writing fantasy. It’s not enough to make up a story; you need to make up the whole history of your imaginary country. Otherwise you won’t know what is driving your characters. From Austen, I learned how important it is to have strong characters. Her characters are so three-dimensional and complex that when you finish an Austen novel, you feel as if you know everyone in it.
If you could have a magical ability, what would it be and why?
I think I’d like to have the ability to stop time for a while. Sometimes you just need an extra few minutes in the day, and if I could make the rest of the world stop while I finished a book or took a nap, that would be great!
What does a typical day in your creative life look like?
There is no typical day! Some writers like to stick to a routine, but I’ve never managed to do that. I have days when I spend 14 hours at the computer and write several chapters. Then there are days when I can’t manage more than a paragraph. What I’ve learned is that I can’t stress over the days when the writing isn’t happening. Sitting and staring at a blank page is useless. If the words aren’t coming, I need to get up and take a walk, or run errands, or read some mindless gossip online. Eventually the ideas bubble back up to the surface, and then I get back to work.
What are some of your favorite tips for getting out of a writing or creative rut?
Ooh, I just gave some in that last answer! Another one of my favorite ways to get out of a rut is to take a shower. I’m not even kidding—it’s as if the water jolts my brain back into working. (Taking a bath works, too. Or sitting in a jacuzzi. Or swimming in the ocean. Basically, it’s all about water.)
Who is your favorite Bewitched in Oz character?
The Glass Cat. Because come on, she’s awesome.
— Eliza Leahy, Associate Editor