Witches Protection Program
by Michael Okon
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
The Witches Protection Program.
His first assignment: uncover a billion-dollar cosmetics company’s diabolical plan to use witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt’s evil deeds. Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector, Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in witches…and believe in himself.
Filled with adventure and suspense, Michael Okon creates a rousing, tongue-in-cheek alternate reality where witches cast spells and wreak havoc in modern-day New York City.
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“What is this place?” he asked.
“This is where the magic happens,” she told him cryptically.
She opened the door, whispering, “Prepare to be amazed.” Then, with a giant pop of her gum, she disappeared.
“Where…” Wes turned, looking for the woman, but couldn’t see her anywhere. “Where is…”
“Oh, she’s gone. Come in already,” a male voice ordered impatiently.
Wes spun to the speaker, his eyes settling on a small man seated at a glass desk. He was in a neat gray suit but wore a black turtleneck, which made him look like some odd, eccentric leftover from the beatnik generation. He was older than Wes’s father, Wes guessed somewhere north of sixty, with the thickening middle of a sedentary life, a tanned complexion, and silver hair. His chubby face sported a neatly trimmed goatee. Wes wondered where his beret might be. The man studied Wes with interested black eyes that glowed with merriment.
“What kind of department is this?”
“Mr. Wesley Paul Rockville. Son of Harris and Melinda, brother to Lauren and Andrew. Tough act to follow. Runt of the litter?”
Wes bristled, wondering where this pint-size dude got off calling him a runt. At six foot three, he was hardly considered small. “I fail to see what this has got to do with my reassignment,” he said icily.
The older man ignored him. “The young gun who had his free will sucked right out of him.”
“No one took my free will!” Wes shouted, his face hot.
“I think Miss Genevieve Fox did a pretty nice number on you.”
“What are you talking about?”
Alastair cocked his head, a smile playing on his lips.
“I don’t think this is funny, um…Alastair. I’m getting out of here.” Wes had had enough. He was pissed and hungry.
“Sit down, Agent Rockville. It’s time you learned about your new assignment.”
Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.
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The idea of a secret government agency that protects witches was born out of the one place I do all my thinking. The bathroom. I was in my bathroom one lovely evening in the fall of 2014 and gazed at my wife’s pile of trashy magazines. Since I’m more inclined to read a screenplay or novel while doing my duty, I figured I could take a break and peek through some entertainment pop culture. I flipped the pages and noticed a picture called Wetless Protection Program in some script font above Neil Patrick Harris’s head. I think it was NPH. But in my eyes, I read it as Witches Protection Program and said, what a great title. I then realized I goofed and it said Wetless, not Witches. What a silly idea. A government agency that protects witches. I turned the page to some story about Brangelina or whatever, and my eyes popped open. I turned the page back to Wetless. That’s it. I got my next book idea. Witches Protection Program. I began creating the story that night and within a week of that fortuitous encounter in my master bathroom, I had a full beat sheet following the adventure of Wes Rockville and Morgan Pendragon.
Wes, the protagonist is dyslectic., why did you make that part of his character?
Perfect heroes are rarely heroes. Heroes must have flaws, tics, issues, that they must overcome. That’s what life is all about. We are all heroes and have to overcome the obstacles in life. I wanted people to identify with Wes and his struggles because we all have them. It really is that simple. If I would have made Wes into this beefy hunk that could solve a riddle by snapping his fingers, the readers wouldn’t identify with that. Wes has to have real human issues, and not being able to read is one of them.
Does Morgan Pendragon embrace her witch skills?
Well, you’d have to read the book to find out, but the short answer is YES.
Both the frog and gummy bat scene were hysterical if not a little mocking of magic. Why did you write them that way?
I have a wicked sense of humor and I wanted to incorporate everyday items that readers are familiar with (i.e. frogs, gummy spiders…etc…). I wanted readers to see the gummy worms come to life in their minds, to see Wes and Morgan shrink down to frogs to break into the Pendragon labs in Jersey. I wanted the readers to feel that if Wes and Morgan can go through this, they could as well. I didn’t want the magic to feel cheesy or fake. So I used real things to make it feel real to the readers.
If it was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main roles?
Easy. Channing Tatum as Wes. Christoph Waltz as Alastair. Zendaya as Morgan. Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett, or Halle Berry (whoever is available) as Bernadette. Emma Stone as Scarlett. They can reach out to my film agent with their availability.
You built a world where witches exist alongside everyday people. Do you see this as even possible?
Absolutely! I drive around NYC frequently and I’m always wondering if the woman who just passed my car was a witch, or if that dude in a business suit is a warlock (hint, hint at the WPP sequel). That happens more times than you can imagine.
Everyone loves the character, Junie. What made her so enjoyable?
Junie is a mish-mash of my great-aunt Junie, and my aunt Marilyn. The real Junie has since passed, but my aunt Marilyn is a character in real life. She is gruff, cool, funny as hell, and will tell you exactly how she feels. And if you go to her house, she’ll cook you something right off the stove (just like Junie in WPP). I feel safe with Marilyn, who is a Bronx native and she’ll tell ya about it.
Where do you find the characters you write about? Are they pure invention?
Characters speak to me. Most characters have a piece of me in them. But others are actors/actresses in my head or people I’ve known my entire life. For example, I’m no cop. I can’t shoot anything if I tried, but Wes is. And he is based on this friend of mine who is an NYC Police Officer. I incorporated Channing Tatum, and voila, Wes is born. Alastair was an amalgamation of Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained and my own father. A stern, yet sympathetic father figure who will stop at nothing to protect his family, and what is right in this world. All my characters are mishmashes.
The book was originally published under the author Micheal Phillip Cash, your pen name. Can you give us the back story.?
It’s a pretty incredible story that I have a hard time believing. I wrote Monsterland and self-published it in 2015. My mom is my publicity manager and she blitzed the bloggers with my book. That fall I was reading a book called Selling a Screenplay by Syd Field. In the book, there was an entertainment attorney named Susan Grode who seemed very knowledgeable about the publishing and film industry. I told myself, when I receive my first contract, I’m going to reach out to her to see if she could help me. About two months later, I received a post on Facebook from an agent in London who asked to represent me. I said sure and asked him to send me a contract. I emailed Susan and introduced myself and mentioned that I had someone who wanted to rep me and I was hoping she could read this contract. She told me before I sign with this London agent, why don’t I meet her friend in Brooklyn, an agent named Nick Mullendore with Vertical Ink Literary Agency. I met Nick for lunch and he signed me that day as his client. That evening, Susan brought me on as her client as well. Nick began trying to sell my book Monsterland to the big publishers and, it was rejected. Throughout his attempts of selling, he had a call with a film agent and he was pitching her a romance novel. She said she wasn’t really into romance and was looking for something with monsters. He sent her my book Monsterland, she read it over a weekend, and we had a call that Monday. She told Nick and me if we get the book published, she will get it into a producer’s hands to make into a film. Nick found a publisher called WordFire Press owned by Kevin J. Anderson, who has written all the Star Wars and Dune canon books. WordFire signed me to a two-book deal for Monsterland 1 & 2. After the deal was signed, my film agent did what she promised and got my book into the hands of a billion-dollar grossing producer who is now shopping my book to certain studios. In two years, I went from a self-published author to a published author with a literary agent, an entertainment attorney, a film agent, a two-book publishing deal, a publicist, and a producer who is interested in turning my book to a film. It’s been one wild ride, to say the least.
Is this version different?
A few things have changed, but not much. However, there are some changes. The script I submitted to my agent who is shopping it around to the studios now is NOTHING like the book.
What are you working on now?
LOTS of projects! I have 5 manuscripts completed including Monsterland 3. A few new screenplays I’m playing with. Exciting things on the horizon, so stay tuned.
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