Last October I was willing to try anything to get out of doing an oral report for one of my classes. I mentioned to my teacher that I have a blog and often did book reviews. She offered me an out if I got an interview with one an author. I asked a couple of authors and Jessica Spotswood and she responded always instantly.
The original plan was to then put it the school newspaper, but that didn’t end up happening. So, I asked Jessica if she would mind if I posted the interview on my blog. And she agreed!
So, here’s the interview! Keep in mind that this was last year so... yeah.
First things first, what’s your book about?
The short version: sisters + witches + kissing! And the longer version: BORN WICKED takes place in an alternate version of 1890s New England. Cate Cahill and her sisters Maura and Tess are witches, but magic has been forbidden by the priests of the Brotherhood. If anyone finds out their secret, it could mean an asylum, a prison ship – or worse.
Why did you pick witches?
I wanted to write about smart, independent girls in a society that doesn’t value them – that is afraid of their power. Making the Cahill girls witches in a country where magic is forbidden heightened that and put them in very real danger.
Was there ever a point where you wanted to write it in modern day or was writing in another time era part of the fun?
Writing in another era was definitely part of the fun for me with this story. I love reading historical fiction, and although this is an alternate history, I really enjoyed the research and worldbuilding. I think I wanted to highlight the romance of the Victorian era (candles, fancy dresses, carriages) with the Puritanical restrictions against women.
How do you come up with the plot and characters?
I come up with the characters first and build the plot around them. What is the worst possible thing that could happen to my main character? What does she fear; what does she want? What are her strengths and her weaknesses? I go from there.
There’s a lot of romance in your novel. Do you feel like romance is a big element in writing today?
I do. I don’t think every YA book needs a romance – but I prefer to read and write books that do. I love kissing scenes!
How long did it take your book to get published? Did you do anything special to celebrate?
Everything happened very quickly with BORN WICKED. It took me about a year to write and revise, and then it sold to Penguin in a week, and less than a year later, it was on shelves in bookstores! (This is not typical. It took me two years to write and revise my first book, which got me an agent, but then never sold. And with most books it takes 18 months between sale and publication.) To celebrate my book deal, I had a party with some of my best friends and cupcakes and lots of pink champagne. To celebrate my release day, I signed stock at some local bookstores, and then went out to dinner with my best friend and my husband.
When you pitched the idea to your publisher, did you already know it would be a trilogy or is that an obstacle you had to face later?
We pitched it as a trilogy, and I wrote very brief synopses of books 2 and 3. But we changed the end of BORN WICKED so much during edits that those synopses basically fell by the wayside.
What is your writing ritual like?
I don’t have much of a ritual – I write in coffee shops in the afternoon and in my office late at night. I do like to have tea, though.
What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you’re writing?
I don’t listen to music while I’m writing, but I listen to it in the shower and during plot-brainstorming walks. My playlist for BORN WICKED involves lots of Snow Patrol, Florence + the Machine, and Mumford & Sons.
Most authors admit to being outcasts when they were younger. What was it like for you growing up?
I was pretty shy and anxious as a child. I was bullied in middle school and definitely sought refuge in stories – both reading and writing them. In high school, though, I was pretty revoltingly cheerful. I started doing theatre and got involved in marching and jazz bands, and I had a huge wonderful group of friends.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? If so, what triggered it?
Yes and no. I started writing in fourth grade, and throughout high school I wrote books – big, sprawling historical YA novels. I loved writing more than anything, but I grew up in a small town in PA and didn’t know anyone who was a writer; I never thought of it as a real career choice. In college and grad school I studied theatre. It wasn’t until after grad school that I realized I was miserable, and really missed having a creative outlet, and started writing again.
If you had not become a writer, what do you think your profession would be?
In grad school I was studying dramaturgy, with a focus on working with playwrights on new work. I do love theatre – but not as much as I love writing.
Who are some of the authors who inspire you?
My favorite books of 2011 and 2012 were CHIME by Franny Billingsley and BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore.
What is your biggest goal as far as writing?
To keep writing and support my family doing what I love. I hope to have a long career writing YA (and maybe eventually adult historical romance) that readers enjoy. Three of my big writing goals have already come true – to see my book on shelves in stores, to have a shelf of foreign editions (BW is being translated into eleven different languages so far!), and to go on tour. Of course I’d love to be a New York Times bestseller or have a TV show made – but those are more epic daydreams.
Let’s say your book gets turned into a movie, are there any particular actors you could see playing certain characters?
I can never seem to think of an actress for Maura. A younger Reese Witherspoon would be a fantastic Cate, with her pointy chin! Elle Fanning would be a perfect Tess. And Andrew Garfield is my modern hipster dreamcast Finn, with his crazy hair, although he’d need some freckles and glasses!
So, now that you’re published, how is your response with fans? Any weird/bad/favorite fan encounters?
I received my first handwritten letter from a reader the other day, which was a lovely treat. Going on the Breathless Reads tour last February was amazing because I got to meet lots of smart, passionate readers in person! Really, every time a reader takes the time to email me and tell me how they felt about the book, it makes my day!
What’s something your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
As a teen, my favorite book and movie was GONE WITH THE WIND. You know how sometimes your family will latch onto one thing you like and give you gifts based on that? I had a big collection of GWTW memorabilia – various editions of the book, an original 1939 movie program from the premiere, music boxes, china plates, and a life-sized cardboard cutout of the hero, Rhett Butler!
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Find people you trust to read your work. I have writer-friends who read for me now, and my husband – who’s a playwright – is my first reader and best critic. But at first I just asked friends who were former English majors and voracious readers. They told me what they liked and what confused them and what they had questions about, and really listening to their opinions helped me learn to revise. As a writer, you will always get criticism, so you should learn early on how to take it constructively, how to use what helps you and discard the rest.
I know for me it’s seems like forever before the sequel to Born Wicked comes out. Do you think you’re as excited for it to be out in the world as your fans are to read it?
Excited and nervous! STAR CURSED was the most difficult book I’ve ever written, my first book under contract and my first sequel. It took fourteen months, and I rewrote it almost from scratch and then did another round of extensive revisions with my editor. I’m really proud of it now, and I hope readers will love it!
Is there anything you fan girl about? Absolutely! I get super-excited about books by my favorite authors. The two 2013 books I’m most excited about right now are Stephanie Perkins’ ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER and Gayle Forman’s JUST ONE DAY.
What news can you share with us about your future work? The sequel to BORN WICKED, STAR CURSED, comes out June 2013. In it, there’s a book-burning, a kissing scene in a library, and an enormous betrayal – and Cate will go inside the place of her nightmares, Harwood Asylum.
Sprite or Coke? Diet Coke
Favorite Color? Pink!
Superman or Batman? Batman
Mornings or Nights? Night owl
Chips or Candy? Candy (Reese's Peanut Butter Cups)
Coffee or Water? Tea
Current TV addiction? Revenge, Vampire Diaries, and Hart of Dixie
Book you are reading right now? Minx by Julia Quinn (Regency romance)
Movie that makes you cry? Titanic
Comfort food? Sugar cookie dough
iPhone or Blackberry? iPhone
Most played band on iPod? Snow Patrol
Favorite author? Kristin Cashore
Number of books you own? 6 bookshelves full & constantly culling!
Thank you Jessica Spotswood for your time!
Readers, don’t forget to get STAR CURSED on June 18th!