Author Interview: Carolyn MacCullough on Once a Witch and Always a Witch

As some of you already know, I have much love for Carolyn MacCullough and her amazing books. After meeting her a while back I knew she was an author worth talking to when I started doing interviews. Having been excited for Always a Witch since January I also knew its pending release made for a great time to discuss it and its predecessor Once a Witch with Carolyn who was kind enough to take the time to talk to me for a bit about both books.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Carolyn MacCullough (CM): I always wanted to be a writer, but a few other things got in the way first.  I attempted to be an actress–which meant waiting tables while going to a few auditions here and there before I realized that stage fright was just going to do me in anyway!  But, I was always telling stories, imagining stories, writing down snippets of stories until one day I applied to the MFA program in Creative Writing at The New School.  And that’s what got me to take writing more seriously…

MP: Always a Witch is your second novel about Tamsin and her Talented family. What was your inspiration for these books?

CM: Running.  Or my desire to be a runner (which I’m sadly not cut out for).  My then boyfriend (and now my husband) taught Kung Fu and in an effort to appear more athletic (because when you’re newly in love you want to impress the person you’re in love with) I decided to take up running.  I ran through brownstone Brooklyn–a truly beautiful place to go running (if you have to go running at all) and everyday I would pass this little stone gargoyle.  He seemed to be grinning at me–I think he understand I was just a poseur of a runner.  And I always wanted to know what stories he would tell if he could only talk.  Then  I started thinking about a character who had the power to make stone statues talk.  Then I started thinking about this character’s sister who didn’t have any power at all, but who had the misfortune to be born into a family of characters who all had some power or other.  And then I went home and started typing.  And I stopped running after that.

MP: Speaking of inspiration, Tamsin is a really unique name. How did you pick it? 

CM: I love picking character names!  The names (along with the characters themselves) just come to me and I think “of course.  That’s who you are,” when I hear them.

MP: Before Once a Witch (and now Always a Witch) you wrote three YA novels (Falling Through Darkness, Stealing Henry, and Drawing the Ocean) that are not fantasies. What was it like writing in a new genre? What was your favorite part of writing a fantasy?

CM: I loved reading fantasies when I was a kid (and still do) so I’m not sure why it took me so long to start writing in this genre.  I spent my whole childhood looking/wishing/hoping for magic in some way to happen to me so my favorite part of writing a fantasy is that you get to bend the rules of the ordinary.

MP: New York City plays an important role in both books with several real locations appearing in the story including Jefferson Market Library, Grand Central Terminal and Madison Square Park. How did you decide what locations to include?

CM: They were mostly the locations that I spent time in/around and know pretty well.  I also think they’re iconic and deserve places in as many books as possible.

MP: Tamsin spends a good part of Always a Witch back in 1887. Did you need to do a lot of research to get details right? 

CM: Yes and that was hard.  I agonized over what to include/not include/too much/too little.

MP: If you could have a Talent like the Greenes what would it be? (I’m partial to Gabriel’s Talent for finding things.) 

CM: I love Gabriel’s Talent, too since it seems really useful especially when you’re running late and can’t find your keys.  But I think I would choose the Talent of being able to control time–to freeze it and/or rewind it.  I need do-overs in life.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? Will we be seeing more of Tamsin and her family?

CM: Sadly, no.  Not at the moment anyway.  I’m working on another YA paranormal set in an ocean village.  And yes, it’s a romance, too!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

CM: Read.  Read, read, read everything you can.  It’s the best education out there.  And it’s free!

Thanks again to Carolyn for this great interview and remember Always a Witch will be released August 1st so watch for it! (While you’re waiting for the release date, why not read my review?)