The Riskies are proud to welcome author Marissa Doyle! Her debut YA historical novel, Bewitching Season, is available now from Henry Holt. You can visit her at her website, or at her own blog Nineteenteen. Or here! Comment for the chance to win a copy…
Riskies: Welcome to Risky Regencies, Marissa! Tell us about Bewitching Season.
Marissa: Well, it’s a Young Adult book…but I hope it will have appeal for older readers as well, since there’s a little of everything in it! History (the plot is based on historical events and people), fantasy, mystery, and of course romance. It’s the story of a pair of twin sisters entering Society in 1837, and how they become embroiled in and eventually foil a plot against the soon-to-be Queen Victoria…with magic.
Riskies: Ooooh, Queen Victoria and magic! What gave you the idea for this story?
Marissa: Bewitching Season came from a happy and fortuitous confluence of two events–a group writing prompt in my local RWA chapter happening at the same time I was reading a biography of Queen Victoria. They just wrapped around each other and clicked! The opening line of the book, in fact, is straight from that writing prompt.
Marissa: Research is always the fun part because it gives me an excuse to get onto used book sites and buy fascinating but out-of-print sources–yum! I didn’t run across anything very surprising, but that was all right; my goal was to deliver a strong flavor of what it was like to be a teen in the 1830s. Not just the clothes and parties and the details of everyday life (which are so seductive in themselves, and which I wanted to depict as well as I could), but the whole mindset. That you didn’t just go off to do what you wanted as you entered adulthood, that parents/family and society expectations generally trumped individual hopes and longings. I wanted teens to understand this book wasn’t just people in funny dresses, but a completely different world from what they know here and now.
Riskies: How was the young Queen Victoria different from the dour old lady so many people imagine? (Speaking of young people in the time, LOL)
Marissa: Very!! I blogged about this recently…she was such a typical teen in so many ways. She was very much a product of her genes. Remember all her disreputable uncles (and aunts) and her 56 illegitimate cousins? She loved to party and dance all night, and go to the theater, and generally have fun. But once she marred Albert, much of that changed. He liked to go to bed at 9, and parties and balls made him feel ill. And she got pregnant on their honeymoon, so she went from party girl to woman with aching back and morning sickness rather abruptly. She practically worshiped him and accepted his word as unvarnished law, so once he condemned her partying as frivolous she gave it up. I sometimes can’t help wondering what would have happened if she’d married someone a little less rigid and humorless!
But even in old age she could be charming. Many of her grandchildren were devoted to her, and loved just hanging out with her and telling her jokes so they could hear her laugh, which was supposedly delightfully girlish and giggly even in her 80s.
Riskies: What are some of the challenges in writing for the YA market?
Marissa: What has struck me about writing YA isn’t the challenge, but the freedom. There really are no rules in YA beyond those of good, compelling, honest storytelling and writing. I happen to like HEAs with the adorable and adoring hero, but if my story and heroine had chosen another path that would have been perfectly acceptable in YA. And I love being able to focus on my heroine’s growth as a person as much as on other elements.
Riskies: What else is “risky” about this book?
Marissa: Hmmm…probably the mix of history and fantasy! I’ve done my best to make the historical figures as accurate and true to the historical record as possible, and the underlying premise of the story–Victoria’s long struggle with her mother’s comptroller Sir John Conroy–is all true. I just took it a step further by asking “what would happen if Sir John tried to gain control from Victoria by use of magic?” It seems to have worked, as reviews from places like Kirkus and Booklist have all mentioned that despite the magical elements, the books manages to remain firmly in the historical world. That makes me very happy!!!
Riskies: What do you think of the Young Victoria movie coming out later this year??
Marissa: I soooo can’t wait for it to be released! Victoria’s youth was so dramatic in many ways, and she herself is such a strong character. I’m only surprised no one has done this already! And from what I’ve seen, the costumes look spot-on, which for some reason is reassuring about the rest of the historical correctness of this film. As I said, she had such an interesting young womanhood that too much Hollywood embellishment will (I hope!) be unneccesary.
Riskies: I know you and Regina Scott have a blog, too! How is it going so far?
Marissa: It’s wonderful! I’ve been contemplating blogging for a while, but didn’t want to do another navel-gazing, day-in-the-life-of-the-writer blog. Then Regina and I did a workshop together on writing historical YAs at the Beau Monde Conference in Dallas, and it hit me–we both were writing these historical YAs, so how about a blog on teens in the 19th century? And how about the 2 of us doing it together? And so, Nineteenteen was born!
I love having Regina to discuss blog post ideas with, among other things. We’re also part of the Class of 2k8, a promotional group of 27 debut YA and middle-grade (10-13) authors, so our work often ties into the blog.
Riskies: And what’s next for you?
Marissa: More YA! The sequel to Bewitching Season, which is still unnamed and which tells the story of the other Leland twin when she goes to study magic in Ireland, is out next spring from Holt! And after that? I hope to have more news soon…