Witches of East End Blog

Q&A with Melissa de la Cruz

By Tracy_Goldenberg 08/14/2014 05:52PM GMT

WitchEES everywhere have fallen in love with “Witches of East End” as it has come to life in front of our eyes every Sunday night, but the magic started years ago with the original book series by best-selling author Melissa De La Cruz. We caught up with Melissa to get her take on seeing her books come to life, her role on the show, hopes for the future in East End, Dash versus Killian, and so much more!

What was your reaction when you were first approached about having your books turned into a show?
I was thrilled! We were actively trying to get it made (and by "we" I mean my agent and management company). We had a ton of interest from a few producers, but I decided to go with Erwin Stoff at 3Arts, who is a producer and a manager at the company. Erwin had already sent the book out to a few writers to try and package it when my agent got a call from Lifetime asking if the book was available. It was so easy. We had the network before we even had a studio.

I had turned down three movie offers for "Blue Bloods" because I was not ready to sell it, but I was more open about "Witches of East End" from the beginning. I thought I would try to see what happens if I said "yes" to Hollywood. Lifetime loved the book and once that train got started, I occasionally would check in, but Erwin would assure me it would happen. So I stopped worrying about it, and lo, sure enough it happened.

Were you at all worried about granting others control over the story you created?
You know, for some reason, I just wasn't. I had a meeting with Erwin and we just bonded on so many things. He's an immigrant like me, who came to the US when he was 14, the same age I was when my family moved here. Also, my agent Richard Abate was very gung-ho about "Witches" from the beginning and told me this was the one that would get made. They really liked that it was a story about a family, that while it was supernatural, it was about real people. Erwin had also made "I Am Legend" and "Constantine," and my husband, who is my writing partner, those are our favorite movies. I just trusted them immediately. Richard has been my agent for over ten years, he's one of our best friends. When that happened, I just let go. I don't make television shows or movies, I write books. So I trusted Erwin and Richard to do what was best for the book.

When Maggie Friedman's script came in, I cried. I thought it was beautiful, and such a great translation of the book into a television show. I didn't even notice the changes. Of course you have to see the girls learn they are witches on screen! I understood the decisions she made. I saw my book in the script and I was very moved that she had read it so deeply and then translated it into another language -- television language. When I read the script, I knew the show would get made. It was good and I knew other people would see that, too.

How different is the show from the series?
It's different but the same. The storylines are a little different, but the heart of the show, about the family, about the love triangle, about this doomed love between Freya and Killian, is still there. The heart of the show is the heart of the book. They kept the Asgard mythology (again there were tears on my part!) but changed it so it could be a dramatic television show. I like how they've developed it, as a family war that the Beauchamps lost. That's true to the mythology too.

They've killed a few characters who are still in the books, and they livened up Ingrid, which is fun. She's a bit uptight in the books. They gave everyone jobs which I thought was awesome, and it made me laugh. I realized when I read the script that oh, I forgot to give people jobs! So Dash (Bran) is a doctor and Joanna is an art teacher, and when you read the book, you can see why they gave them those particular jobs. The show fleshes out the book, it opens it up, and I love that about it.

The books are complete, but the show may continue. What would you like to see happen?
You know, everything I always wanted to see is already in the show. I wanted to see the house, I wanted to see the girls, I wanted to see Fair Haven. The pilot is my favorite episode because there are scenes in it that are right from the book. And I love that Freddie is back. That was important to me, because that makes the family complete. So I'm really open to whatever happens. I'm excited to see where the story goes on the show. I guess one thing I would like to see is for Ingrid to find her true love. Poor Ingrid on the show has the worst luck.

Tell us your role in working on the show. Have you been on the set during filming?
I'm a Consulting Producer and I have a great relationship with the show. I give notes if I feel like they might be helpful, and they keep me posted on what is going on. I was on set for the pilot taping and I try to visit the set twice a season just to say hi to everyone because I'm such a fangirl of the show. I didn't want the show to be something I had to work on full time, as I am busy with my books, and I didn't want to get in the way of the writers and showrunners either. They have to feel ownership of their show, and not have someone looking over their shoulder. I treasure my friendships with everyone involved in the show. I'm really happy for everyone who works on it, from the actors and writers and crew to the network and studio. The show has gotten so much support and love. I'm so moved that they care about the characters as much as I do. John Green keeps reminding people that "The Fault In Our Stars" is not HIS movie. He's just the head cheerleader. I totally feel the same. I'm there to give encouragement and support and love to "Witches of East End." I named the fanbase (WitchEEs was my idea). I rally the troops!

Do you remember where you got the idea for "Witches of East End?" What inspired you?
I wanted to write about a family of women, about sisters and a mother. I wrote it after my dad had died, and maybe in a way I was trying to console myself by saying, "Hey, Dad's gone, but look how amazing it is that you have such a close relationship with your mom and sister (and brother too)." The family structure is my family structure (two girls and a boy) but their characters are their own and of course it's fictional! And I really wanted to write a cozy mystery like Alexander McCall Smith's books, about a small town, and add magic to it because that's what I do. I was tired of writing glamorous big city stuff. I wanted to write about something else. There's so much of me in that book, about my values and my thoughts about women. I really wanted to write a woman who was sexual and powerful, and her sexuality was not something that weakened her, but strengthened her. I'm tired of the slut-shaming in our culture. I wanted to celebrate beautiful and sexy women.

Did you do any kind of specific research for the "Witches of East End" book?
I did research on Norse mythology and on the history of witchcraft in America, the Salem witch trials, etc. I also looked up spells, and changed them a little to make sure that if anyone TRIED to make the spells in the book, they wouldn't end up poisoned.

What’s your take on witchcraft practice in the modern world?
I think it's great, witchcraft is an ancient and feminine practice, and I see it as honoring the female spirit. Go Wiccans!

What makes you a believer or a non-believer in the supernatural?
I am Filipino, which means I was raised in a culture that believes in ghosts, spirits, the supernatural. I believe and I don't believe. My dad told me a very moving story about his brush with the supernatural and that has stayed with me. I don't believe death is the end for us. I believe there's more out there. I feel very in touch with my spirituality, while I am not religious.

What was most exciting scene from your book that you saw come to life?
The bathroom scene with Freya and Killian! They filmed it and in the original take it's just like the book. But they cut it for the show, which I thought was the right way to go. She just kisses him. But oooh, in the original, they get it on, just like the books! I love the flowers burning too.

The character Wendy wasn’t in the books. What's your take on her?
I love Wendy! She's SO much fun and adds such a spark. I love how there are two sets of sisters in the show. Wendy is my mom's favorite character. Joanna has a sister in the books who's more of a cranky old biddy, so it's great that Wendy is so much more alive and spunky. I wish she was in the books so I could write about her!

Have you had any interesting exchanges with any of the stars on the show?
They are the best! Such a great, welcoming cast, just such good vibes all around. They're all friends and we are all friends, and they are just so much fun to hang out with. I'm sad I didn't make it up to Vancouver for the premiere party. I really enjoy my time with them. They are goofballs, which I was glad to see. I don't know how that happened, but I am pretty much a goofball, so maybe it was that karma that brought them all together. They are all ridiculously good-looking and talented, and have such great senses of humor. We are always laughing. Really, it's been a wonderful experience all around.

Did the actors cast as Killian and Dash meet up with what you envisioned in your head?
Yes, and more. Daniel and Eric ARE Killian and Dash. It's crazy how perfect they are. The producers did such a great job with casting! My author friends are all into Killian while all my Mom pals all want to marry Dash. It's so funny. They do such a great job bringing these characters to life.

A lot of women seem to have a gift for creating supernatural stories. Why do you think that is?
I think maybe as women we are close to our spiritual, supernatural selves maybe? We are drawn to it as daughters of the moon? :)

How did you get into writing? What are your best tips for those who want to write in your genre?
I was a very ambitious little girl. I've always wanted to be a writer, and I never gave up that ambition. I wrote my first novel at 22, but wasn't able to sell a novel until I was 27. In the meantime I was a journalist. I would say to work on your craft, learn to hone your skills as a storyteller, and don't worry so much about publishing at first, but focus on the writing. Then find a platform. Find readers who respond to you. It's such a different world now. Take advantage of social media. Don't give up and don't get bitter.

Who is your writing role model?
Stephen King, for sure. I loved his books as a teen and I love his outlook on writing and life. He's an idol and an inspiration. JK Rowling, too. I love that she is the first billionaire who gave so much of her wealth to charity that she's not a billionaire anymore. The first billionaire to do so! Puts them all to shame. And she's a female writer, of course! I think what I admire about them is not just their gift for storytelling but that they value their personal lives as well -- their marriages and their children. They figured out how to live with success, which is sometimes just as difficult as living with failure. I look up to them, professionally and personally.