Some people who don’t write believe that once you draft a story and slap it on the page, it’s done. Maybe you do one or two light edits, to check for grammar and spelling. But Virginia Boecker’s debut novel The Witch Hunter went through “three major rewrites, the second from scratch.”
“My protagonist wasn’t even a witch hunter until halfway through the third rewrite! One sentence she was a princess, the next she was a witch hunter, and that’s when the story really clicked into place,” explained Boecker.
The Witch Hunter tells the story of Elizabeth, a witch hunter accused of being a witch. She receives help from the unlikeliest of places – the most wanted wizard in the kingdom and his group of witches, wizards and healers.
Originally pitched as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” meets “The Tudors,” all Boecker knew when she first began writing the manuscript was that she wanted it to have a female protagonist and she wanted it to take place in England in the 1500s, but with a more contemporary feel.
Beyond that, Boecker “pantsed” it, or wrote the entire story without a set plan.
“I didn’t have a plot, I didn’t have an outline. I just sat down and started typing a story.”
As she continued to write and the story continued to evolve, Boecker discovered her favorite thing about writing was “the way solutions and ideas present themselves to you through the work. Oftentimes out of the blue, and things you never could have imagined. There’s a certain magic in that, I think.”
One thing that sets The Witch Hunter apart from other YA books featuring witches? Despite accusations, Elizabeth isn’t a witch.
“Because most stories are from [the witch’s]perspective, I thought it would be fun and interesting to try something different and explore it from the other side,” said Boecker.
In The Witch Hunter, Elizabeth has grown up hating witches, a hatred she channeled into her job as a witch hunter. But circumstances in the story cause her to question that hate.
“Oftentimes, the things you grow up around and the ideals you’re taught to believe do not hold with the values and ideals you begin to create for yourself. Rejecting those taught ideas can be difficult, especially when you’re young,” said Boecker. “Different is okay. Different is good. Hopefully the story shows that you don’t have to simply accept dictated values if they don’t hold with what you believe.”
For Boecker, everything about the publication process is surreal.
“When I sat down to write [The Witch Hunter], it was something I did for myself, just to see if I could do it. At the time, I never imagined it would be published! So to be on this path, in the company of so many wonderful and talented people – authors, agents, editors, readers – it’s so humbling. I’m really grateful.”
Along with a sequel to The Witch Hunter, Boecker has a stand-alone novel she’s currently working on and is “really excited about.”