A Celebratory Interview with Jessica Spotswood

We at Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks are thrilled to be spotlighting one of our own today. In celebration of tomorrow’s paperback release of BORN WICKED—Book One in The Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy—Jessica Spotswood kindly agreed to answer some questions we’d been itching to ask regarding her fabulous book. Yay!

But before we dive into the Q&A, here is a bit about BORN WICKED:


The gorgeous paperback cover for BORN WICKED!

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word…especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Now without further ado, let the Q&A begin!

Jenn McGowan: What has been the most powerful learning you’ve had in writing your books — whether it’s something your characters experience or something you as an author have learned, how has this book changed you?

Jessica Spotswood: This is something I, as an author, have learned—am still learning, to be frank: I am not my book. It’s important to keep in mind when your first reviews start rolling in and your book is not everyone’s cup of tea. No matter how much you know that will be the case, logically, those first highly critical reviews still sting. It’s important to keep in mind throughout the authorly life, whenever you’re tempted to compare your path with another writer’s – when you don’t get a movie deal, or as many starred reviews, or make this or that end-of-year-list, or author-friends crow about loving some other book while remaining silent about yours. People may not like your book (or get around to reading it), and that’s okay; it doesn’t mean they don’t like you, or that you are somehow less than. And it’s helpful, too, on those challenging writing days, when you’re stuck, to remember that you are more than just writer-you, you are person-you: friend, wife, reader, board game enthusiast, wannabe yogi, etc. You are not your book.

Katy LongshoreHistorically, women and girls didn’t have the same kinds of freedoms that we have today. Obviously, your characters wish they had some of these freedoms, but do YOU ever come across a plot point that makes you wish these historical restrictions didn’t exist? And how do you get around them?

Jessica Spotswood: I do! In some cases, I have Cate flaunt the rules and sneak out and meet up with friends or Finn in scandalous midnight rendezvous fashion. Sometimes she gets caught and there are consequences; sometimes she doesn’t. But there have also been scenes where I’ve initially imagined her going to do something on her own, and then remembered she couldn’t do that, and had to have Maura or Tess or a friend accompany her. That usually works out rather well, I think, because it gives her someone to talk to, and the sisterly relationships—how differently the Cahill girls approach matters—are one of my favorite things to write.

Cat Winters: BORN WICKED portrays an alternate history in which witches came to the U.S. to escape persecution, much like the Puritans did in real life. How did you decide to take an alternate view of history…and had you been a fan of alternate-history fiction before writing this book?

Jessica Spotswood: I felt it was necessary to give New England a history where the Daughters of Persephone had once been in charge and had abused their power badly, so the Brotherhood and general citizenry have a reason for fearing witches that morphs over time into fearing unconventional women. It takes the existing restrictions against women during the Victorian era and turns them up a few notches. That significantly raises the stakes for Cate and her sisters. As much as Cate would like to turn away from her responsibilities, she can’t in good conscience.

I do like alternate-history fiction, although what I’ve read tends to be more alternate—like Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, which had fascinating world-building!

Laura GoldenCate Cahill lives in a society that’s very oppressive of women. If she could speak out without fear of persecution, what would she say to her oppressors?

Jessica Spotswood: Cate’s grown up with an ingrained fear of mind-magic thanks to her mother’s horror of it and the Brothers’ sermons. I think she’d be the first to point out that witches have done some awful things in the past. But she’d argue that not all witches would go that far. Witches would have less need to employ mind-magic if they weren’t in constant danger of discovery and fear for their lives, you know. And the Brotherhood’s got to stop using fear of magic to control people, especially women. We do have brains, and there’ve been entirely too many accusations of witchery against women who aren’t witches at all, just more clever or independent than the Brothers would like. Also, people should be able to read whatever they like without fear of persecution!

J. Anderson CoatsA friend of a friend asks me to recommend a good historical novel and I think, “That person needs to read BORN WICKED.” Who is this reader?

Jessica Spotswood: My ideal reader would love stories about sisters and forbidden magic and kissing, and would be intrigued, not offended, by an alternate-historical setting that takes some liberties.

Thank you for answering our questions, Jessica! Excellent responses. We can’t wait to celebrate the release of STAR CURSED, Book Two in The Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy, this June. Until then, a huge congratulations from all of us on BORN WICKED’s paperback edition!

If you’d like your very own paperback copy of BORN WICKED, you can order it from your favorite independent bookseller, through IndieBound, or wherever books are sold.

ImageJessica Spotswood grew up in a tiny one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania, where she could be found swimming, playing clarinet, memorizing lines for the school play, or—most often—with her nose in a book. She’s been writing since she was little but studied theatre in college and grad school. She now lives in Washington, DC with her brilliant playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey. You can connect with her through Facebook, TwitterGoodreads, or her fabulous home on the web: http://www.jessicaspotswood.com.

Also, be sure to check out the two contests currently running over on her blog! You can enter to win a Nook and 5 e-books, or an ARC of STAR CURSED. Don’t miss them!

4 thoughts on “A Celebratory Interview with Jessica Spotswood

  1. Thanks so much for the fabulous questions, ladies! 🙂

  2. Jenn McGowan says:

    I also agree — your response regarding reviews are words to live by! I also love the alternate-worlds approach you take to your book… not so much that it’s completely a new world, but enough to make people compare and contrast the reality with the actual.

    And congratulations on you paperback release! I love the new cover! (and Star Cursed!! ~swoon~)

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