Some very wonderful ladies recently read Spell Check as part of their book club. They asked me to come to their meeting, but due to distance and time, I was unable, so we did the next best thing: an author interview! I decided to post the questions and answers here because it was fun to answer those questions and because the questions themselves were great. Way to go Book Club!
1. What research did you have to do to write Spell Check and how did you come up with the idea?
The book Spell Check actually came from the research for another book Cross My Heart. I took a whirlwind trip to Boston because the city played such an important part in that novel, and I wasn’t sure I could rely on my memory and Google to get it right. While I was there, I took a side trip to Salem since it’s not too far (and I love Salem). I did all the tourist things available—including going to the witch memorial. It was October, and almost everyone in the entire city was wearing a witch costume. I thought to myself that if I was a witch, I’d hide out in Salem and own a new age store with potions and crystal balls. The tourist trap of the city makes it the perfect cover story.
For other research . . . I already speak Swedish, so the few Swedish words in the book weren’t a big deal at all. As far as real research, I don’t know much about a lot of things. Google was my best friend since trips to Sweden were a little out of my ability. For instance, I wanted the troll trials to be held in the middle of an epic kind of mountain. Those types of mountains don’t really exist in Sweden, but an underground lake does: Lummelundagrottan in Gotland, so it became a foundation for the lake in the story. I also had to research the lore of witches but didn’t like most of what I found, so I made up my own. The prequel that I just finished writing, “Troll Cursed,” takes place during the time when Britta and the other three girls find the stones of power and battle with the trolls. That has required much more research because I have to research the history of the time period and the legends and stories of Sweden. The research has been fun and is a side benefit of writing the stories. Also, to all Swedes: I apologize for making the dala horse out of wax. I know it is blasphemy. Forgive me.
2. Who was your inspiration for the mom in the book? I loved it when Ally asked her if she was a witch!
I love Ally’s mom! She is a mix of a lot of women I admire: the ones who work hard to provide for their kids and strike that beautiful balance between friend and parent. They are the ones who deal with the crummy stuff, have a good sense of humor, but sometimes get exhausted and overwhelmed. They are the ones who cherish their kids.
3. What made you use the Swedish background?
I speak Swedish (turns out, you can take a foreign language to get out of taking math at BYU! Woohoo!) and studied Scandinavian culture in college. I’ve always wanted to set a book there, and I love the fact that Swedes call witches trollkvinnor—literally translating to troll women. It is never not funny to me.
4. The Amazon. Why there? Very exciting, by the way.
The Amazon came from a moment when I told my husband I would rather battle anacondas in the Amazon than do something that was required of me at the moment (I can’t even remember what I was trying to get out of). The phrase kind of stuck, and I decided I probably wasn’t the only woman in the world who would rather battle anacondas in the Amazon than some of the daily garbage they deal with.
5. Who was you inspiration for Lisa Snoddy? Everyone has or has had one in their life.
Lisa is another one of those amalgamations. She is many people rolled into one. But there are a few stand-out-mean-girls in my life. I didn’t have very nice clothes growing up, and I only had one dress when I started going to church every week. I remember this one girl very vividly because she made it her life goal to be hurtful to me. As I was walking to church one Sunday, she called across the street, “There goes Julie Peterson in her one and ONLY dress!” Looking back, I shouldn’t have let it bother me, but the words stung and shamed me. As an adult, I’ve come to realize that she probably had things in her life that weren’t great, and that’s probably why she was so mean.
6. What was your inspiration behind the ring Ally’s dad gave her? It was so sweet.
Honestly, I have no idea where that came from. One day I was writing and realized her dad needed to get her a birthday present and I wanted it to be something special—even magical (though it’s only power was that it was given and received in love). The ring was just one of those happy accidents that happen when you’re writing on a deadline.
I loved writing this novel. For me, it was a fun adventure with humor and heart. It’s a great Halloween read that is squeaky clean. I love that twelve year olds and eighty year olds can read this and enjoy it equally. Thanks so much for highlighting my book in your book group and for caring enough to find out the back story.
Book groups rock!