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.
Riskies: What was the research like for this story? Was there any new or surprising historical information you discovered?
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…
Marissa, I’m so thrilled for you! I judged Bewitching Season’s sequel in a contest a couple years ago, and I was so impressed with your voice and storytelling skills. It was easily one of the three best contest entries I’ve ever judged, and I’m looking forward to getting to read more than just 30 pages and a synopsis!
Oooh lucky you, Susan! I am so looking forward to reading Marissa’s book! My BFf writes YA contemporary and I gave her a heads up about your blog. Teens are teens in many ways. Although I am really looking forward to seeing the early Victorian period from a teenaged prospective. I am Regency writer myself, but I love the Victorian age as well. The magic is a great twist as this was also the era of seances and a fascination with mysticism and all sorts of magical and psuedo magical societies.
I too have often wondered how different Victoria might have been had she married someone a little less stiff.
Marissa, do you think you will stick with writing YAs in this period or will you branch out to other historical periods? I, for one, am so glad you are doing this as young girls who read YOUR historicals might grow up to read mine one day (if I can ever get an editor to buy one!)
Welcome Marissa!! (As I take a break from tedious Sunday cleaning, LOL). This books sounds wonderfully intriguing, and I can’t wait to read it. There has been some really great historical YA out there lately!
What were some of your favorite research sources for these books?
BEWITCHING SEASON sounds so delightful, Marissa. I’m going to order several copies and read one of them myself before passing on to some young ladies I know. 🙂
Marissa, it sounds like a fascinating book. The only other author I know who writes in the 1830s is Lisa Kleypas.
Glad to see you here today, Bewitching Season sounds great!
Nicely done, Amanda and Marissa! But then, I always know you too will be wonderful. To think, I knew you when (she said, busting her buttons with pride).
BEWITCHING SEASON sounds positively fascinating. Congratulations to you on the book! I look forward to reading it as well as the sequel.
Congrats, Marissa! To be honest, I’ve never spent much time really considering the queens in their youths! (How narrow-minded of me!)
Your story sounds like a great way for all of us to take a look using a different viewpoint!
Welcome Marissa! What drew you to writing YA and how do you approach writing to this audience? In fact, how do you define this audience? and how do you deal with the possibility that they haven’t yet “done” 19th-century English history in their coursework and may be entirely clueless about the period?
OK, I’ll stop asking Qs now.
Hi, Marissa! I’m eager to hear your answers to Janet’s questions.
I am delighted that you and Regina and others are writing these historicals for the YA market. Like O Doggie GH Finalist One said, someday these readers will be reading our books.
Bewitching Season was just that – bewitching! After reading the ARC, I cannot wait for book 2! I am so glad I knew what a glove stretcher looked like…
Is book 2 really untitled? I think there’s another blog contest waiting to happen… and another ARC for me to possibly win!
Thanks for visiting, Marissa! Bewitching Season sounds delightful. I’ve got Libba Bray on my shelves, and I am hoping to read The Luxe–can’t wait to add this to the collection, too.
(I’ve got a son who is unlikely to want to read any of this stuff, so I have to compensate for my lack of feminine offspring by reading YA well into my MA).
Nice interview, Amanda! And thanks, Marissa, for stopping by!
It is nice to see more historical YA being published…especially historical YA which isn’t exclusively about how miserable people were in earlier times! 🙂
Both Bewitching Season and its sequel sound right up my alley!
I wish you the best of bookselling luck with both of them.
Hi everyone, and thank you for welcoming me here! I’m sorry I
wasn’t on had yesterday to answer your questions as I took a day trip to NYC to do a panel and my first signing at Books of Wonder. Exhausting (seven and a half hours on the train, there and back) but wonderful.
First, thank you to Amanda for inviting me here–she asked great questions that were a pleasure to answer.
Thank you so much for that. Contests were something of a lifeline back then since they gave me great feedback and occasional kind words from judges, which really helped keep me going.
I’m hooked on the 19th century and will probably be hanging around it for the forseeable future…right now my publisher is considering two more companions to Bewitching Season, one of which is set in 1814-1815–a true regency!
My favorite go-to books were Cecil Woodham-Smith’s QUEEN VICTORIA, Lynne Vallone’s BECOMING VICTORIA, Katherine Hudson’s A ROYAL CONFLICT, Pamela Horn’s LADIES OF THE MANOR, Adeline Hartcup’s LOVE AND MARRIAGE IN THE GREAT COUNTRY HOUSES, Kathryn Morrison’s ENGLISH SHOPS AND SHOPPING, Alison Adburgham’s SHOPS AND SHOPPING 1800-1914, CECELIA: THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF CECELIA RIDLEY edited by Viscountess Ridley…and dozens more to look up smaller details about carriages and what colors were fashionable in spring 1837 and on and on.
I didn’t know I was writing YA until a contest judge wrote, “this would be a great YA” on an entry. It was a huge AHA! moment for me, because I always found myself more interested in focusing on my heroine’s growth than on romance per se, and in YA I can do that.
So in a way, I think I’m writing women’s fiction, only for teens. A major theme in YA fiction is coming of age, discovering who you are and where you’re meant to be in the world…and of course love can be a major part of that.
Defining YA…that kind of depends on whom you ask, and some people like to sub-divide it into younger and older YA…it’s messy, but I consider it to be books that appeal to kids aged 13-18. I intended this book for the 13-17 crowd…girls who like romance but maybe aren’t ready for or interested in the grittier, more sexually charged (or explicit) YA out there.
As far as writing historical fiction for an historically naive audience…it’s rather like hiding the carrots under a brown sugar glaze. You slip it unobtrusively onto the plate and make it yummy-looking, so it doesn’t look too much like history. You sneak in short, one or two sentence explanations in narrative and longer ones in dialogue, as when the twins in my book grill their father about Kensington Palace– which avoids being an “as you know, Bob” moment they haven’t been in London for several years
and can legitimately ask about it.
You slip lessons about the reality of life and the marriage mart for young aristocratic girls while they shop for their season.
Oops. Got a little long-winded, but those were some good questions. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to continue the discussion.
Yes, it’s still unnamed. I’m hoping my editor and everyone else she’s hashing it over with will decide soon, because it’s making me itchy. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the ARC…and while I won’t be doing any more contests on the blog for a while, Regina will soon be…
And to everyone else who didn’t have a specific question…thank you so much for your warm wishes, and I hope you’ll enjoy Bewitching Season as much as I enjoyed writing it.