Earlier this year, Houston author Kimberly Frost launched her Southern Witch series with Would-Be Witch, which was released in February, and Barely Bewitched, which released in September (a third installment is planned for 2011). The series combines horror with humor and centers on Tammy Jo, a young woman who lives in a small Texas town. While she comes from a magical family, Tammy Jo's powers don't seem to work too well, but she's working on them.
Frost, who's a doctor in an Medical Center emergency room when she's not writing, says the idea for the Southern Witch series came from her own reading and television watching habits. "I was reading humorous mysteries and a lot of dark urban fantasy. I was watching shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and thought, 'I like it when they combine the humor with the horror, what if I did that for a book?' But I wasn't sure it would work."
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Later she bumped into an editor in a hotel hallway during a writer's conference and mentioned the idea. When the editor responded positively, Frost started writing Would-Be Witch that same day. "This book sort of took me by storm. This character had been rattling in my head for about a year. As soon as I gave myself the go ahead, I started working on it that day." While still at the conference, Frost finished the beginnings of the story and had a critique partner read it. "She was reading it and she started laughing. She'd read a little more and she'd laugh. I thought, 'I think I have something here.' So I got excited about it and wrote it really quickly."
One of the first things that Frost decided was that Tammy Jo would live in a small town in Texas. "I'm a big fan of quirky characters and small town life. I have some friends who are from small Texas towns and I just love their accents, I love their stories. That's how I decided on the setting."
Having an incompetent witch for a main character might seem to be risky; wouldn't readers rather follow the story of someone who had real powers? What's the use of making her a witch, if she doesn't use magic very well? But Frost says the series isn't about magic, it's about Tammy Jo. "I think of it as a coming of age story in the world of magic. Even though she's working as a pastry chef and she's competent in that, she's never really been comfortable with the paranormal aspects of her life and she gets thrown into all these adventures. As the [story] develops, she gets more and more confident.
"In a series, there's always the question of do you let a character evolve and change or do you let them stay the same. If the character the people fell in love with in the first book gets too different in the following books, you can have a problem. For me, I wanted her to grow. I thought these experiences would change her and as a writer, I wanted to see her grow, to grow-up. It's about her changing as a person, as well as changing as a witch."