Interview: Jaime Questell, Author of BY A CHARM AND A CURSE

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Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

My family has always fostered my love of reading. I remember practically inhaling books when I was a kid, and I was never told no if I asked for more. I know that my love of reading led to my love of writing.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for about ten years. I didn’t always know it was what I wanted to do, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. Then my best friend found out that I had written a novel, and she knew I wanted to read her novel, so she withheld hers until I let her read mine. Best bribery ever. Because that led to me joining her writing group, and those people are not only the best influence on my writing, they’re also my closest friends.

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

At the moment, just speculative fiction. I admire and wish I could write straight up contemporary fiction, but my brain always wants to throw in magic of some sort. But that said, I don’t want to rule it out.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

As I was writing, I kept telling myself “dark, but pretty.” I like to think everything I do has that thread of “dark, but pretty.”

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

There are so many! I’d have to say Holly Black, Leigh Bardugo, Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, and Victoria Schwab. With all of them, I think they do descriptive prose paired with layers of tension layered in fantastic settings. It’s something I strive for in my own writing.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?  What was least useful or most destructive?

The most useful thing to me was learning to keep what I call a graveyard document (I am by no means saying I invented this, just that this is what I call it). If I have some prose or dialogue that I know needs to go but I just love it to pieces, it goes into the graveyard. And maybe I pull it out and use it later. Maybe I use it in another project. Maybe it never sees the light of day again. But I feel less anxious knowing I can retrieve it when I need it.

And I’d say the least useful thing was this idea that (imagine me yelling like a drill sergeant) WRITING MUST BE DONE A CERTAIN WAY. Because that’s a lie. Writing needs to be done in the way that is most productive for that particular writer. Some people do best writing every day. Some people can write thousands of words and then not touch their project for days. Get the words on the paper. That’s what matters.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I have a full-time job with a two-hour round-trip commute, so writing time is precious. Usually, I try to write after my kids are in bed and during my lunch hour, if I can. When I have deadlines, I’ll walk over to the coffee shop next door to my apartment and camp out there while I write for a couple hours.

What do you like to read in your free time?

I love YA in pretty much all of its forms, but in particular, I love contemporary fantasy. Something grounded in the real world with enough magic to shake things up. My next project is a noir thriller, and I’m devouring everything I can find in the genre. And I even though it’s not my forte, I try to read at least a handful of non-fiction books every year.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m currently working on another YA contemporary fantasy set in a small Texas town I made up. There’s curanderas and a banshee, magic, and a town with more secrets than Riverdale.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I really want to write some horror. I don’t know if that’s YA or adult horror, but something scary, something that’ll make you keep all the lights on at night. And, to do a total 180, I kind of want to write something so achingly fluffy it’ll make your teeth rot just looking at it. 😀

What book do you wish you could have written?

I really, really, really wish I’d written Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. The world building is absolutely fantastic, and I love how ruthless her characters are. Nothing is black or white, and they way she layers tension and complications is amazing.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Okay, so pretend everyone is the right age and give people mental dye jobs.

Emma: Kara Hayward

Ben: Taron Egerton

Leslie & Lars: Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman (because they were the inspiration for both of those characters)

Marcel: Trevor Jackson

Duncan and Pia, fortune telling twins: Cameron Boyce and Skai Jackson

Gin and Whiskey, equestrian sisters: Dakota and Elle Fanning

Sydney: Darren Criss

Audrey: Robin Wright

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Is “GET OFF MY LAWN” appropriate? Because I think that would be hilarious. But if not that, I’ll take “Mother, Partner, Artist, Wordsmith, Excellent Karaoke-er”

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

I am determined to get to France. I want to eat so much cheese that I won’t be able to look at the stuff for at least six months when I get back. And Greece. I want to be somewhere overlooking the water. Living near the Gulf of Mexico, I’m a complete sucker for a place with water that’s blue and not greenish-brown.

If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?

An otter! I’d have a pool, and would float around on my back all day, playing around. Otters have it made.


Aboutthebook (1)

By A Charm and a Curse _ 500

About By a Charm and a Curse:

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for. 

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss. 

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abouttheauthor (1)

Jaime Questell High-res

About Jaime Questell:

JAIME QUESTELL grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing.


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