One of the greatest things about collaborating in a group blog is being able to celebrate the release of our members’ books! Jessica Spotswood’s final installment in her Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy, SISTERS’ FATE, will be on shelves tomorrow and we’ve been dying to ask her some questions about it, but first…
A fever ravages New London, but with the Brotherhood sending suspected witches straight to the gallows, the Sisters are powerless against the disease. They can’t help without revealing their powers—as Cate learns when a potent display of magic turns her into the most wanted witch in all of New England.
To make matters worse, Cate has been erased from the memory of her beloved Finn. While she’s torn between protecting him from further attacks and encouraging him to fall for her all over again, she’s certain she can never forgive Maura’s betrayal. And now that Tess’s visions have taken a deadly turn, the prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another looms ever closer to its fulfillment.
From J. Anderson Coats: The complicated relationships and interactions between the three Cahill sisters are especially well-drawn. Do you have sisters of your own to draw on for inspiration and/or horror stories? What tips do you have for capturing this dynamic?
Thank you, Jillian! Like Cate, I’m actually the oldest of three sisters. Growing up, my middle sister and I argued a lot and tended to define ourselves in opposition to one another, whereas my little sister is eight years younger than me, so there wasn’t much sibling rivalry there. I definitely drew on my relationships with them to portray Cate and Maura and Tess. As for how to write siblings, I wrote a whole post about it for WriteOnCon last summer. But here are some questions I’d ask yourself: Where does your protagonist fall in the birth order? How do your siblings see the world differently? What are some secrets they share (or don’t share)? What are some memories they share (and how might they see them differently)? Who is the favorite – or the perceived favorite? Is there something about her sibling that your protagonist envies? If they aren’t close now, were they ever – and what happened to change things? What role might your siblings still be playing, even if they’ve outgrown them?
From Susan Hill Long: You’ve spent so much time with the Cahill sisters, and seen them through the arcs of three books. What are your feelings about saying goodbye to these characters?
It’s bittersweet! Last year at this time – when I was finishing up edits – I felt eager to explore new characters. Now, I rather miss the Cahill sisters. After three books, I know Cate’s voice and her world so well. I know how she’d react to various situations, what she’d say, how she’d say it. There’s something lovely in that familiarity. I’ve definitely considered writing a short story set in the Cahill Witch world, featuring another main character, to celebrate the paperback release next summer, if I have time – or at least writing a little snippet for my newsletter subscribers, if I ever manage to get my newsletter up and running! But overall, I’m really proud of the trilogy, and I hope readers will be satisfied with how things end for Cate and her sisters and Finn.
From Sharon Biggs Waller: Writing a trilogy is a massive undertaking. I know what it’s like to live with particular characters for one book so I can imagine you’ve grown quite attached to them. How did you say goodbye to them?
I’m not sure I have entirely said goodbye to them, to be honest! I still think about writing shorter pieces set in their world, and even though I’ve gotten a finished copy of SISTERS’ FATE, it doesn’t feel entirely real yet! Maybe once it’s out in the world on Thursday and I start hearing from more readers? But I’m looking forward to celebrating the whole trilogy at a launch party next Saturday at my fabulous local indie, One More Page Books, with wine and cupcakes and friends!
From Jenn McGowan: As you complete your final book, what has surprised you most about the trilogy? Was there a subplot or character that became more important than you expected, or did some other unplanned-for development take your story in a new direction?
Oh, so many things surprised me! I’m not much of a plotter, and I ended up entirely rewriting STAR CURSED; only the ending stayed basically the same. But overall…hmm. One of the things that surprised me most was how important Rory and Sachi became. In BORN WICKED, my editor wanted me to make them mean girls, perhaps rivals for Finn or Paul. But it was really important to me that Cate have strong female friendships. However, I had no idea that they’d end up following her to New London in STAR CURSED and that Sachi’s arrest would create such a high stakes situation for Cate and Harwood Asylum, or that things would get very dangerous for them again in a pivotal scene in SISTERS’ FATE. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was to write newspaperman Alistair Merriweather – my favorite new character in SISTERS’ FATE. He sort of leapt off the page! I’d love to write a short story about him and Rilla someday; I adore their banter. They kept trying to take over every scene they were in!
From Cat Winters: What advice do you have for authors who are just now sitting down to write a trilogy for the first time?
Make sure you really love these characters, because you’ll be spending years writing about them! And don’t worry if you know how you want the trilogy to end, but aren’t exactly sure how you’ll get there. That was absolutely the case with me, and I figured it out along the way, with the help of a fantastic editor, some great critique partners, and a lot of wine. (Just kidding about the wine.) (Or am I?)
From Laura Golden: What was your favorite scene to write within the entire trilogy? Your least favorite? Why?
My favorite scene in the entire trilogy is probably the first kiss between Cate and Finn, with magic and feathers. You can see a version of it in the BORN WICKED book trailer here. It was one of the first scenes I wrote. But there’s also a scene in SISTERS’ FATE – I can’t say much without spoilers, but it’s in Chapter 20 and someone dies, and as I wrote it in the coffee shop, I cried. I’d known for years that death was coming, and still I cried! It’s so sad and I’m very proud of it. I’m also very proud of the last scene of STAR CURSED, because it’s made lots of readers cry and I love that – not because I’m evil, I swear, but because it means they’re invested in the characters! As for my least favorite – gah, all the Inez scenes were difficult to write. It was important to me that she not become a cardboard villain, so I kept trying to add in all this backstory for her, and my editor kept cutting it. I hope we ended up with a good balance!
From Katherine Longshore: As you and Cate Cahill both head into new unknowns, what advice would you have for her going forward? What advice do you think she might have for you?
I would tell Cate to be patient. This is highly ironic advice coming from me, because I am hideously impatient myself. But I happen to know that good things are ahead for her, even if they won’t happen at the speed she’d like, either romance or social revolution! As for what advice she’d give me…she’d probably tell me I ought to keep in better touch with my sisters and email them more often. I’m going to visit one of them this weekend, Cate! (I think she’d approve.)
Bonus question: What’s next?
I’m super-excited to be editing an anthology, PETTICOATS & PISTOLS, which contains 15 short stories about strong, smart, resourceful American girls throughout history. It’s all YA historical fiction and historical fantasy. I’ll be writing one of the stories, and the other contributors include fellow Corsets & Cutlasses members Katherine Longshore and J. Anderson Coats, as well as Elizabeth Wein, Robin LaFevers, Andrea Cremer, Beth Revis, Marie Lu, Marissa Meyer, Robin Talley, Caroline Richmond, Lindsay Smith, Kekla Magoon, and Y.S. Lee. It will be out in winter 2016 from Candlewick. After that – well, I’m working on several proposals, so we’ll see what happens!