For the first time in five years, Brittany Geragotelis is coming home.
Part of her can’t wait, another part is a little apprehensive.
Geragotelis is a 1997 Oak Harbor High School graduate and author who moved to New York 12 years ago and recently signed a deal with a major book publisher. She will be returning to her hometown for speaking engagements on two dates in October.
Geragotelis will be visiting with students at Oak Harbor High School and Oak Harbor Middle School on Oct. 18, then making a public appearance at Oak Harbor Library at 2 p.m. on Oct. 19.
“This is my favorite part about my job,” Geragotelis wrote in an email interview with the Whidbey News-Times. “Talking, connecting and interacting with kids is really rewarding.”
Geragotelis is author of a series of young adult fiction books based on the Salem Witch Trials set in modern times. She signed a three-book, six-figure deal with Simon & Schuster in early 2012 and is busy planning a new series.
The first book, “What the Spell” came out Jan. 29 and is about a teenage witch trying to survive high school. That book was followed by the July 9 launch of “Life’s a Witch.” The last book in the series, “The Witch is Back,” isn’t expected out until 2014.
“Life’s a Witch” was a story she originally self-published on a free publishing website called Wattpad.com. Her book drew millions of views and began the momentum that ultimately led to a bidding war from traditional book publishers for her writing services.
Some of the writing in her books reveals insight into her own difficult high school experiences, which leads to some of her reservations about returning home.
Being a cheerleader at Oak Harbor High School didn’t stop Geragotelis from being bullied.
“I always have mixed feelings about coming home -- I had a pretty horrible high school experience,” said Geragotelis. “There was a lot of bullying and a lot of me feeling alone and misunderstood. So going back to the scene of the crime, well, it can bring back those memories.
“But I love seeing my family, and I know that despite the experience I had as a teenager, there are so many people from Oak Harbor who are really supportive of me and my books.”
At the top of the fan club is her mother Diane Geragotelis, who’s ecstatic about her daugher’s homecoming.
Diane and her husband John have been to New York on different occasions to visit their daughter and traveled to Florida for her wedding in April. But her daughter coming home will be special for her parents.
Brittany Geragotelis did return to her high school to talk to students in a journalism class when she was editor for American Cheerleader magazine several years ago. This time, however, will be different.
“Now it’s totally different because she’s actually made it big,” her mom said.
With her new platform, Brittany Geragotelis wants to help teenagers who also might be having a difficult time in high school. She wants to offer them hope.
In her paranormal action books, she writes about female characters who deal with issues and emerge as heroines.
“High school was not easy for me. And I know it’s not easy for a lot of kids today,” Geragotelis said. “I love being able to have a platform to talk to kids about what they’re feeling and experiencing, and being able to give them a little hope. That whatever they’re going through, things will get better, and that life can turn out to be pretty amazing despite where you come from.”
She also has advice for young aspiring writers, adding that no dream is too big. She said she has dealt with rejection practically her entire adult life but has perservered.
She said times have changed in the publishing world that benefit young writers.
“We live in a time where most of us can actually take our dreams into our own hands,” she said. “Want to sing with people all over the country? Upload your video on YouTube and create your own fanbase. Justin Bieber did it. So did Cody Simpson and Austin Mahone. Want to be a filmmaker? Shoot your movie and put it on YouTube, Hulu and Netflix like the creators of the film, ‘The Graduates.’ Want to be a published author? Upload your novels to write sites like Wattpad or self-publish it through Amazon. About half of the bestsellers on Amazon are self-published. We as creators finally have the power to make things happen to ourselves. I hope to encourage kids to explore all their options.”
Geragotelis isn’t sitting still.
She is self-publishing a new book, “Ki$$ & $ell,” which she said should be available in the next month to buy in paperback and as an e-book. The book is a tale about a teen who decides to sell her first kiss on eBay.
She is participating in book panels around the country and was in New Orleans for a conference this week.
She is in discussions with production companies about turning some of her stories into a TV show or movie. She and her husband are moving to Los Angeles at the end of the year, which would make trips back to Oak Harbor more convenient.