Just because it’s Thanksgiving (weekend) doesn’t mean that I don’t have some fun stuff planned! As you already know I read and LOVED! Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood. So much so, that immediately after finishing the book – which I gobbled up in a mere few sittings – I e-mailed her to see if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for the blog.
And she said yes!
Before jumping into the interview, in case you didn’t already know this, Jessica Spotswood is the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles (which include: Born Wicked, Star Cursed, and Sisters’ Fate), A Tyranny of Petticoats, and of course her latest Wild Swans. If you want to know more about Jessica, and all of her fabulous books, make sure to check her out online!
So, sit back and relax while getting to know this awesome author a little better!
BookBandit Blog (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself, and about your path as a writer?
Jessica Spotswood (JS): I live in Washington, DC with my playwright husband and a very old cat named Monkey. In addition to writing and editing YA books, I also work part-time for the DC Public Library as a children’s library associate. I’ve been writing since I was in fourth grade; I started off writing stories about horses at the stables where I took riding lessons. In high school, I wrote three historical fiction novels that were all sort of terrible Gone with the Wind knockoffs about headstrong girls who rode horses and kissed boys and fought with their sisters during the Civil War. (I also rode horses and fought with my sisters and wanted to kiss boys? And I read a lot about the Civil War because I grew up near Gettysburg.) I focused on theatre in college and then grad school, but after grad school, when I got to read for fun again, I started reading YA. I fell in love with it and started writing again. I spent three years writing and rewriting and rewriting my first YA book, which was about an artist who finds a portal to another world where artists are considered dangerous enemies of the state. I got an agent with that book, but it ultimately didn’t sell. Over the nine months it was on submission though, I wrote Born Wicked which sold to Penguin as a trilogy and came out in 2012.
BB: What was the inspiration behind your latest book, Wild Swans?
JS: In 2014 I read April Tucholke’s creepy-gorgeous novel Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, in which the setting – a crumbling old family mansion called the Citizen Kane- functions almost as another character. I wanted to challenge myself to write a contemporary book where the setting played a really important role, and I wanted to write something set on Chesapeake Bay, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where I went to college. Originally, the book was going to be sort of Southern Gothic with a ghost; I ended up cutting the ghost. But when I thought about what kind of girl would live in a big old (first literally, then metaphorically) haunted farmhouse that had been in her family for generations, a girl who’d been raised by her strict professor granddad, I came up with bookish heroine, Ivy.
BB: If you had to describe Wild Swans only using three words, what three words would you use to describe it?
JS: This one is way harder than The Cahill Witch Chronicles, which was always witches + sisters + kissing. A Tyranny of Pettycoats is easy, too: badass historical girls! It’s right in the subtitle!
Um …. I’m going to go with: family + expectations + legacy.
BB: How did writing Wild Swans differ from writing your other books?
JS: The biggest difference is that it’s contemporary, not historical, and there’s no magic! I’ve always felt very like a very character-driven writer, but I really had to dive deep into my characters and the relationships in the book – Ivy and her troubled, selfish mom; Ivy and her two half-sisters she’s never met before; Ivy and her granddad, who has very high expectations for her; Ivy and her fierce best friends, Claire and Abby; Ivy and her forever best friend, Alex, who is in love with her; Ivy and her granddad’s hot tattooed poetry student, Connor. The stakes were about Ivy’s fears of being like her mom and disappointing the people she loves, not about being hanged for witchery in a society where magic is outlawed 🙂
BB: Poetry is a big part of Wild Swans. Who is your favorite poet, what is your favorite poem, and why?
JS: I love Mary Oliver’s poem “When Death Comes,” especially the lines When it’s over, I want to say all my life/I was a bride married to amazement. The whole poem is really lovely, but I think those lines in particular remind me to never lose my sense of wonder. I have anxiety and depression, and it’s easy for my brain to focus on the zillion things I could worry about instead of all of the tiny beautiful moments.
BB: If you could offer any advice to aspiring writers, what advice would you offer?
JS: Read lots. Write lots. Find someone you trust to give you feedback on your work. Ask them what they like and what they want to see more of as well as what didn’t work for them and what confused them. It’s important to learn to take constructive criticism and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Great interview, right! A big THANK YOU to author Jessica Spotswood for taking time out of her very busy schedule to answer a few of our burning questions! If you haven’t read Wild Swans or any of Jessica’s other books, what are you waiting for?!
For more information, check Jessica’s website out for more information about her and her books!