Southern Fried Wiccan
by S.P. Sipal
Release Date: March 2015
Cilla Swaney is thrilled to return stateside, where she can hang up her military-brat boots for good. Finally, she’ll be free to explore her own interests—magick and Wicca. But when she arrives at her grandma’s farm, Cilla discovers that life in the South isn’t quite what she expected. At least while country hopping, she never had to drink G-ma’s crazy fermented concoctions, attend church youth group, make co-op deliveries...or share her locker with a snake-loving, fire-lighting, grimoire-stealing Goth girl...
...Who later invites her to a coven that Cilla’s not sure she has the guts to attend. But then Emilio, the dark-haired hottie from her charter school, shows up and awakens her inner goddess. Finally, Cilla starts believing in her ability to conjure magick. Until...
...All Hades breaks loose. A prank goes wrong during their high school production of Macbeth, and although it seems Emilio is to blame, Cilla and Goth pay the price. Will Cilla be able to keep the boy, her coven, and the trust of her family? Or will this Southern Wiccan get battered and fried?
Q: Where did you get the idea for Southern Fried Wiccan?
Southern Fried Wiccan came to me in a dream about a young girl exploring Wicca and coming into conflict with her Southern Baptist Grandma. It was this concept of whether a Wiccan and a Baptist could find any common ground that intrigued me the most.
One of my primary author themes is religious tolerance, and I wondered if it would be possible to find such a thing between these two, apparently opposing, belief systems. The characters and plot came together as I started exploring the concept. I hope it works!
Q: What kind of research did you do for the book?
I was a Religious Studies major in college and then did a semester at Duke Divinity School before going to work for Habitat for Humanity, so I've always had an interest in religious beliefs. Since school, I've delved quite a bit into ancient spiritual concepts, especially those involving the goddess. Besides drawing on this background, for Southern Fried Wiccan I talked to several practicing Wiccans and also found a local coven to attend. I wanted to make sure that the story was an honest reflection of Wiccan beliefs, while giving Mother Faith's coven its own particular tone based on her unique outlook.
Q: What character do you relate most to?
I put a bit of myself into almost every character I write. Like Cilla, my heroine, I love to ask questions and explore other cultures. But perhaps I put more of myself into one aspect of her grandmother (though I'm not that age yet!). G-ma's love of fermenting cultures, like kefir and kombucha and beet kvass, comes directly from me. I always have something brewing or bubbling away on the counter.
Q: If you could meet one character from your story in real life, who would you most want to meet?
Mother Faith, the high priestess of the coven Cilla attends. Mother Faith has a broad knowledge of goddesses and spiritual beliefs as well as a deep empathy for the young people who attend her coven. I think she would be fascinating to talk with.
Q: What is your favorite scene in Southern Fried Wiccan?
I think there are actually two, and they are related and close together. Both of them come toward the end but before the climax. One is a scene between Cilla and her grandmother where Cilla learns some family secrets that helps her understand better where G-ma's opposition is coming from. The other scene is when Mother Faith helps Cilla make her wand while explaining some of the deeper meaning behind the connection of the witch to the wand, of all life forms to each other. It was a difficult but special scene to write.
Q: How did you get your start writing?
My best friend got me into this! We'd always read the same books, passing them back and forth in college and afterwards. And quite often would comment on how we should write something together. One day, she finally emailed me the first line to a story and said, "Now you write the next line." We went back and forth like this, first passing back just sentences, then writing paragraphs at the time, and finally progressing to whole scenes. Before long, we figured out we were actually going to do this thing and decided we'd better learn what we were doing, so joined a local writers group. A year and a half later, and our first book, a western historical romance, got published! We're still best friends, but we write individually now.
Q: Which books/authors most influenced your writing?
As a child, the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder had a profound effect on me. To be able to so fully immerse myself in a world and time period so different from the one I lived in was amazing. Then, starting in college and beyond, I was greatly influenced by a wide variety of nonfiction I read exploring ancient spiritual concepts. Finally, I discovered JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. Rowling didn't influence me to start writing as I was already doing that, but the shift in how I was writing, incorporating my love of myth and mystery, was a result of my fascination with her series.
Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I'm totally stealing this from someone else, I just don't know who – having written. Actually, to be honest, I love the initial inspiration and the zeal that comes with fleshing it out. However, all the stuff that comes between the initial brainstorm and the final, polished product is difficult and painful. With each book, I keep thinking it will get easier, but it doesn't. Still those two rushes at the beginning and end make it all worthwhile.
Q: What advice do you give to aspiring writers?
Give up writing if you can. It's a long and difficult road that doesn't pay much. If you can't give up, if it's simply too much a part of you, then do it right. Do the work. Read the craft books, attend the workshops, join a writers group, give and get critiques, read inside and outside the genre you write, write something new, and constantly improve your craft. Because, for most of us, writing for publication is not going to happen easily.
Q: What are you working on now?
Many stories. I always have too many books going on at one time. The one I'm hoping to share with readers the soonest is a YA contemporary fantasy involving the Jinn based on a Turkish understanding of these tricky beings. It involves an all-Jinn symphonic rock band, a houseboat-living half-Jinn girl, and the fantastic fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. I've had so much fun writing it!