Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin: “We came up with a story about two covens of witches–one good and one bad”

5 Questions With...

B*Witch by Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin

[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin and ask them five(ish) questions. Their novel B*WITCH is out July 7th!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind B*Witch?

PAIGE & NANCY: We had so much fun writing The Sacrifice of Sunshine Girl that we decided we had to write another book together. So we Skyped a lot (we live on opposite coasts), talking and brainstorming, and we kept coming back to the idea of witches. Not olden-day witches living in misty English forests, but contemporary teen witches. After more Skyping and talking and brainstorming, we came up with a story about two covens of witches–one “good” and one “bad”–who use their magical powers to make potions out of Starbucks drinks and switch out their mani colors, who then get caught up in way more serious matters, like hate groups and witch killings.

What character do you most relate to and why?

PAIGE: All of our witches have such unique personalities and characteristics that I think a little piece of me is inside each one. With Greta it’s the name, it is a beloved family member. With Binx it’s her sassy remarks and attitude. With Ridley it’s her sense of loyalty and friendship. And with Iris, it’s her anxieties and insecurities as a witch and human. I love them all, and they are all a little bit relatable to me and I think that is what makes this book so fresh and real.

NANCY: I’m with Paige on this one. We loved writing the chapters from alternating points of view, which allowed us to really get into the different characters’ heads (and personalities and voices). The fifth POV, Div, is one of the mean-girl rival witches, but even she has her own relate-able qualities, like her sense of protectiveness toward the other girls. If I had to single out certain things about certain characters, I would have to mention Greta because of her devotion to Gofflesby, her cat familiar (I love love love cats); Iris’s anxiety disorder (because I struggle with that, too); and Binx’s anger about racism, including and especially racism against Asian Americans (she is Japanese American, like me).

Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

PAIGE & NANCY: Powerful and relatable characters have always been a thing. But right now, at this moment in history, a lot of really, really difficult stuff is happening–climate change, a global pandemic, etc.–and it feels like teen readers are hungry for books that offer them a lens into this complicated, messed-up world, a way to think through problems and solutions. The characters in B*Witch were borne out of this time; they are (like many real-life teens) smart, scared, brave, vulnerable, and determined to make things right. 

Please describe the content of B*Witch and what can readers expect from the read.

PAIGE & NANCY: Teen witches Greta, Binx, and Ridley practice magic together … in secret, since witchcraft is illegal. Then a hate group targeting witches shows up in their small seaside town, and soon, one of their sister witches is found dead. To solve the murder, the three girls (and a new witch, Iris) reluctantly team up with a rival coven of witches, the Triad, who practice dark magic. But old (and new) crushes, friendships, and breakups—not to mention secrets that don’t stay secret—get in the way of their magical detective work, and one of them may be the next victim.

What’s next for you in the book world?

PAIGE & NANCY: We are writing the second book in the B*WITCH series. It carries forward some of the characters and storylines from the first book and adds more mystery, more romance, more backstabbing, and maybe even some necromancy. And a videogame con. And dating apps. And a Helmet of Inscrutability. And vegan scones.

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

PAIGE: This is funny to say but Stephen King is my favorite writer as of late. I am reading Christine for the first time and rereading The Eyes of the Dragon for the hundredth. He is spooky and dark and I love it. 

NANCY: I’m going through a big graphic novel phase right now. I think it’s partly because my writing style is very visual, so graphic novels really speak to me. I don’t have one favorite writer in this genre at the moment, but my current favorite titles are Your Name (written by Makoto Shinkai and based on his film); Watchmen (written by Alan Moore); Shade: The Changing Girl (written by Cecil Castellucci); and The Witch Boy (written by Molly Knox Ostertag).

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