I’m BEYOND thrilled to interview Jessica Spotswood today for her hotly-anticipated sequel, STAR CURSED, which debuts tomorrow, June 18. STAR CURSED is second in The Cahill Witch Chronicles following Jessica’s amazing debut BORN WICKED. We have several questions from our crack CCC team for Jess to answer, but first, a quick synopsis:
With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate’s friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.
Cate doesn’t want to be a weapon, and she doesn’t want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood’s schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she’ll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.
In the highly anticipated sequel to BORN WICKED, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess’s quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.
STAR CURSED releases on June 18. You can read the first chapter here.
And now, onto the questions!
From Katy: Jessica, if you lived in the world of STAR CURSED, what is one thing you would have done differently from Cate? And what is one thing you especially admire her for?
Oh yikes. I’m not nearly as self-sacrificing as Cate. How to say this without major spoilers? I admire her for the decision she makes at the end of BORN WICKED to protect the people she loves, but I don’t think I would have made the same choice. Also, there’s a scene early on in SC where a woman is pushed into a bonfire. Cate wants to help but realizes in the nick of time that any magic she does would ultimately be blamed on the hapless woman. I suspect I would have acted first to “save” the woman and ended up getting her in worse trouble.
From Laura: STAR CURSED is the sequel to BORN WICKED. I’ve heard that sequels can be quite challenging to write due to continuity concerns and continuing plot threads. What were the biggest challenges you faced while writing this book?
I won’t lie – writing STAR CURSED was really challenging! I handled continuity concerns by creating a Cahill Witch Chronicles series bible that referenced every detail in the text about every character, setting, and date. It was super-time-consuming but worth it to catch errors about what color the curtains are in Cate’s bedroom or what color a minor character’s eyes are. The plotting was more difficult. The middle book in a trilogy is a tricksy beast – it has to be more everything – more thrilling, more romantic, more twisty-turny, more heartbreaking – lest readers find it a placeholder in which nothing really happens. The stakes have to be higher; the pace has to be faster. I wrote the first draft under a four-month deadline and it didn’t work and I had to throw it out and start over, rewriting 75% of it. It was the best possible thing for the story – the plot just didn’t make sense and the stakes weren’t high enough – but at the time, I didn’t realize that this was incredibly common; I felt like I’d failed. Now I can’t imagine it unfolding any other way!
From Cat: We often hear about the pressures placed upon an author to create a second novel that lives up to the first book in a series. For you, what was the BEST part of extending your story into a second book?
I love exploring the evolving relationships between the sisters. Things are even more fraught between Cate and Maura in STAR CURSED. Maura is resentful and jealous of Cate: for how things ended with Elena, for being the prophesied sister, and for being in love. Cate is annoyed by the way Maura comes swanning in and tries to take over, and she’s deeply dubious about the ways Maura tries to get power. Tess tries to stay neutral but she doesn’t really succeed – and she’s keeping her own secrets.
From Jillian: Let’s say a couple of your characters are raiding your fridge right now. What are they most likely to eat? Are they disappointed or excited about what they find?
Cate loves strawberries and would be disappointed that there are some molding away in my fridge. I never eat fresh fruit fast enough! She’d probably munch on an apple. Tess would be disappointed by the dearth of fresh baked goods and horrified by the pre-packaged granola bars; she would no doubt set to work whipping up some scones (yay!). Rilla would be pleased that I’ve got some hot cocoa mix – it’s dark-chocolate mint, which I think would intrigue her.
From Jenn: What has been the biggest happy surprise of your writing career so far? And what are you working on next?
I think getting the book deal in the first place – and it being a deal that let me quit my day job – was the biggest happy surprise. Writing full-time has its challenges, but I am very grateful for them. The best daily surprises, though, are hearing from readers. It means so much when someone takes the time to email me, or tweet at me, or Facebook message me – whatever – to tell me how much she loves Cate and her sisters and Finn. If you’re ever wondering whether you should contact an author to tell them you loved their book – do it! It makes our day. As for what I’m working on now – edits for Cahill Book 3. I’m relieved to report that my editor loved my draft, and they are challenging-inspiring, not challenging-traumatic-and-sob-inducing (like STAR CURSED).
From Sharon: What was it like to return to your characters again? Was it easier to write the sequel knowing your characters so well?
Yes and no. When I stopped trying to force my characters into the plot points in the outline I’d painstakingly created and my editor had approved – yes. But after throwing out most of the first draft, I was full of self-doubt. It taught me that when I get stuck, I need to get quiet and listen to what they want and what they fear. I lost Cate’s voice sometimes and needed to reconnect with it, tell her story and not a story I was trying to impose on her.