A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
This cannot be a coincidence.
Well, Ok, it can be. And it probably is. But STILL.
In honour of this general serendipitous awesomeness, and for the sheer hell of it, we’ve interviewed each other.
FYI: Scroll to the end of this blogpost to find out how to WIN copies of both new books!
After months on the run, Allie returns to Cimmeria Academy to find the school in turmoil.
The atmosphere is thick with danger. Overshadowing it all is the shadowy figure of Nathaniel. He is close – very close – to getting everything he wants.
A secret civil war is tearing the British political elite apart. And Allie’s family is in the thick of it. Both sides want her.
She knows Nathaniel will take her by any means necessary. But she is determined to fight him to the end.
Her friends are ready to fight by her side – even to die for her. But if anything happened to them she couldn’t live with herself.
The fightback starts here. Everything is at stake now. The winner takes all…
Resistance is the thrilling fourth book in the international bestselling Night School series.
RUTH: Resistance is number four in the incredibly successful series! What can you tell us about it?
CJ: At the end of Fracture, book 3 in the series, Allie and Rachel got on a plane and left, not only Cimmeria Academy, but England. We’re left not knowing what will become of them. Book 4 starts three months later. They’re still on the run. But they are not alone. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s safe to say in Resistance there’s no more time left for deception. They need to find out who among them is helping Nathaniel. They need to decide who their friends really are. And they need to get ready. Because now they are fighting for their lives.
RUTH: I know that many readers are hoping that this volume will answer the question of WHO ALLIE ENDS UP WITH. I’m saying nothing 😉 But forget Allie for a moment, if you were at Cimmeria, who would you be dating?
CJ: Seriously. Lucas. I would always go out with Lucas. But I’d fancy the pants off of Carter and Sylvain.
RUTH: I know that you grew up in America, but your books are set in the UK. Do you have to make a mental effort to cultivate a “British” voice or does it come quite naturally after years of living here? Are there any slips you’ve made or nearly made?
CJ: I’ve lived in the UK so long now (14 years!) that I feel like a local, even if I still sound like a Yank. When I sat down to write Night School I first tried to set it in the US but I found I didn’t really know US teens anymore – I’d been away too long. I live in the English countryside, where you can’t swing a cat without hitting a boarding school, so I am surrounded by teens just like the ones in my book.
Research is easy – I go to Starbucks with a notepad and big ears. Where I go wrong is the school lingo. My husband is British, so he looks out for the little things. He catches it when I say ‘Going to class’ when I mean ‘Going to lessons’. Or ‘writing a paper’ instead of ‘writing an essay’. Little things like that will get me but I like to think we catch them all!
RUTH: Your books have been translated into LOADS of different languages and consequently have lots of different titles and jackets. Do you have any favourites?
CJ: There are some really amazing Night School covers out there. I love the Polish covers, which are illustrative and moody, with models playing the lead roles. Those models have become pretty famous in Poland AS the characters – which is amazing. So there are posters of the model playing Carter West and all it will say on the poster is ‘Carter’.
Also, I’ve learned that all the German subtitles, placed together, form a sentence – almost a poem – that explains the books. And I love that to pieces.
I mean, the French cover for Fracture is gorgeous. Just LOOK at it.
RUTH: As a reader, it’s really fun to stick with the same characters through so many books, and I love the way we’ve seen Allie grow and change. How does that feel to write? Did any of the characters surprise you with the directions they’ve taken?
CJ: The characters have done nothing except surprise me!
Allie has become so tough and smart – the angry child swinging blind in Book 1 is a world-weary young woman by Book 4. She’s learning to give orders as well as to take them. She’s learning to be a leader, even if she doesn’t realise that just yet.
Carter has changed as well – learning to trust Allie to make her own decisions. When they were a couple in Book 2 he was so desperate to protect her, he suffocated her. Now he understands that you have to have faith in those you love. And that sometimes love can’t fix everything that’s wrong.
Sylvain has changed the most, though. The spoiled little rich boy of Book 1 has learned there are things money can’t buy. Problems your family can’t solve. He’s now willing to sacrifice himself for his friends and for the girl he loves. He understands that everything can never be given to you, that you have to work for anything worth having. And he doubts everything he’s ever been taught.
RUTH: Next year sees the release of the FINAL volume in the Night School series and the completion of Allie’s journey of discovery. Can you share any details about this?
CJ: By the end of Resistance, Allie understands who she is, and why everything has happened. She knows who she loves and what she wants. Night School 5 is about whether or not she can have it. Because wanting something and having it are two very different things.
RUTH: Are you working on anything else at the moment?
CJ: I am quietly, secretly, working on a new series, which I am co-writing with the French author, Carina Rozenfeld. It’s all hush-hush at the moment, but I can’t wait to tell everyone all about it. If you like Night School, I think you’ll LOVE the new series!
Eighteen-year-old Witch Hunter Luke Lexton has failed his initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum – the secretive brotherhood devoted to hunting witches.
Instead of killing the witch he picked from the Book of Witches, he has committed the worst possible crime: he has fallen for her.
Sixteen-year-old witch girl Rosa Greenwood has failed to secure her struggling family’s future by marrying the handsome, cruel, rich and powerful Sebastian Knyvet. Instead she has set fire to his factory and has brought disgrace on her family.
Now together they are on the run – from Rosa’s ex-fiancé and from Luke’s former brothers in the Malleus. As they flee across England, and with the danger of their past catching up to them… can they overcome their differences?
Can a witch hunter ever find love with a witch?
CJ: Witch in Winter was set in the present but Witch Finder is set in Victorian England. How much research did you have to do to create the vivid setting for it? Do you have any favourite research methods – favourite books or websites
RUTH: I love research-heavy projects – one of the reasons I chose to set Witch Finder and Witch Hunt in the 1880s was because I knew that I wanted something that would let me loose in lots of dusty old texts. There’s something about finding all those little details and facts that sets my imagination going, and a lot of my plot ideas are triggered by some small nugget I’ve stumbled over in research.
I’d already done the most important part of the research for the Witch Finder series during my degree – doing loads of reading of period texts, to try to get the “voice” of the book. It’s tricky writing historical fiction because it’s very easy to slip into something a bit “forsoothy” if you know what I mean – lots of distracting archaic language that actually stands in the way of your story.
And it’s easy to send yourself mad doing research on tiny details, for example trying to find out if the word “glasses” was used for eye-wear in 1881, or whether “spectacles” would be more historically accurate. But equally you can’t have people talking in 2014 slang and discussing ideas and concepts don’t yet exist. You have to try to find a balance between evoking the right feel, but not getting bogged down with it.
The aspect that I found most difficult was the small practical details that are hard to find out about, but easy to get wrong. Like – would you have to make an appointment to see a blacksmith, like getting your car serviced, or would you just be able to turn up with a shoeless horse and get it sorted there and then? What fuel did they use – coal, coke or charcoal? What age did girls start wearing corsets and were they uncomfortable? How was milk delivered in the 1880s, by horse, donkey or on foot? Would an upper-middle class family like Rosa’s own their own horses in town, or did you usually hire your horses in?
Money is also a big factor in Witch Hunt – Rosa and Luke have a set amount and have to make it last. I found it really hard to find out little details like how much a night in an inn would cost.
I do a lot of research on the web – Lee Jackson’s Victorian London was enormously helpful with finances, and of course there’s always Wikipedia for a handy overview of stuff you just need to get a broad outline about.
I also read a lot of books, both memoirs and specialist ones, for example there’s a brilliant book about horses in Victorian England called Carriages at Eight, and luckily I had some very kind friends who I could ring up for answers when I was at a last resort! My best friend is a curator at the Museum of London which was extremely handy, and a blacksmith who specialises in historical bladework very kindly answered all my dumb questions about the practicalities of running an urban forge.
CJ: I know that Witch Finder and Witch Hunt set in the same universe at the Winter Books. How do they relate, and does it matter what order you read them in?
RUTH: They are indeed set in the same universe – although obviously Witch Finder is set more than a century earlier than A Witch in Winter – and some elements overlap. People who have read one series will recognise the Ealdwitan that appears in both, and also the Malleus Maleficorum. None of the characters overlap – the one thing witches can’t do, in my books anyway, is defeat death and ageing. They can do their best to stave it off and appear young, but their life span isn’t any longer than normal human folk. But the structure of the world is the same from one series to another. It doesn’t matter which order you read them in but A Witch in Winter is possibly aimed at slightly younger readers – I think it’s normally marketed as 11+ while Witch Finder and Witch Hunt are usually described as 13+.
CJ: You grew up in Lewes, which has a wonderful historic feel. Do you go to places like that to get in the mood for Victorian writing? Are there any locations that readers could visit to see the kind of past you’re writing about?
RUTH: Yes, places are hugely important to me in my writing. I suppose in a way, A Witch in Winter is my love-letter to Lewes (although Lewes is not Winter in a number of important ways), and in the same way Witch Finder and Witch Hunt are my homage to the other place I have lived and loved; London. I miss Lewes dreadfully, but I have lived in London almost half my life now, and I love it too in a very different way.
I love the way it’s so brash and modern and fast-moving, but at the same time the history is so close beneath the surface that you can scratch it. If you go down to Spitalfields and Wapping and Limehouse you can still see the wharves and the warehouses that I’m writing about – the markets and the mudflats, the narrow streets lit by hissing lamps. Fournier Street is a real street which still stands and still looks very much the same as it would have done when Luke walked down it.
Then, as now, London was a city of two halves, the affluent West End and Knightsbridge, and the sprawling mass of humanity who lived down river from the filth created by their wealthier neighbours.
Unfortunately the social divide is widening again and a lot of the problems we think of as Victorian issues – child poverty, people being forced out of their neighbourhoods to make way for wealthier “more sanitary” housing they can’t afford – many of those issues are creeping back.
CJ: You’ve said in the past that writing about witches is another way of writing about power, particular feminine power. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Sebastian exploits his workers’ desperation and poverty, Rosa’s mother exploits her loyalty and desire to be loved, Luke is exploited by the Malleus, who twist his grief over his parents into a weapon against someone completely unconnected.
According to the norms of the time, Rosa should be one of the most powerless people in the book: she’s a young unmarried woman and a minor in the care of her mother and brother. There aren’t many people with fewer rights under Victorian law.
But the neat thing about writing about witches is that you can subvert the normal order a little bit (I don’t think it’s any co-incidence that in both series the female main characters are witches, with all the power and responsibility that goes with that, while both my male main characters are normal human beings). Rosa has very little legal power or protection, and physically she’s no match for either Luke or Sebastian. But she is a rather good witch…
The interesting thing about the 1880s was that they were a period when women were just starting to flex their muscles. The book centres around the match factories which were just beginning to be a national scandal because of their horrendous working practices, and it’s set in the run up to the match girls strike of 1888 where a group of poor, uneducated match workers – mainly women and girls – took on the establishment and forced a change in the law which led to far better conditions for workers and eventually to the prohibition of the lethal white phosphorus. Meanwhile, women at the other end of the social scale were agitating for a different change in the law; a change in the marriage law.
Witch Finder is set in a curious pocket in British legal history, whereby the law had already been changed so that women could own property in marriage and inherit land (previously if a married woman inherited anything it all passed automatically to her husband), but the law which stated that everything a woman owned on marriage passed to her husband, still stood.
So Rosa, because she has inherited from her father while unmarried, will lose everything if she marries. This was just about to be changed, but Rosa doesn’t know that!
All of these issues are things I was trying to explore in the book. I think I was also, subconsciously maybe, writing against a lot of the Victorian coming of age stories I had read and loved as a child. The classic journey of the Victorian girl heroine is from feistiness to compliance; Jo March in Little Women learns to tame her temper; Katy Carr in What Katy Did learns the price of rebellion; even Anne in Anne of Green Gables becomes a calmer, less romantic person and gives up her wild fancies and furious rages for marriage and motherhood.
This structure makes the beginning of the books great fun to read – Jo is a brilliant heroine, full of fire and rebellion – so much so that you almost don’t notice the way she has to knuckle under to achieve happiness. But as I got older, the overall message started to trouble me more. I think in a lot of ways Witch Finder was me trying to write the reverse – a heroine who goes from meek compliance to rebellion, and a hero who isn’t there to teach lessons, but to learn.
CJ: You’ve now finished two (!!) young adult series (Witch in Winter and Witch Finder) — how does it feel when a series ends? Do you miss your characters? How do you move on to a new project? Holiday? Meditation? Or is it easy for you?
RUTH: Um… I don’t know really! I do miss my characters but they carry on living inside my head – I quite often find myself thinking ‘Anna would like that’ or ‘I bet Rosa would have thought this.’ I’m always thinking ahead though – I’ve usually started to think about the next project by the time I reach the end of the current one, so I guess the best cure for missing one series is to start another.
CJ: Do you think you’ll ever revisit Winter and its witches? Maybe take a look at the next generation of magical types?
RUTH: Not yet… but I wouldn’t rule it out completely. I feel like I’ve said all I have to say about Anna and Seth and their story is probably done. But I might return to some of the other characters one day. I feel like maybe Abe and Emmaline deserve their own endings. I get a lot of letters pleading with me to continue the story – lots of people want Anna and Seth to have a baby – so… never say never!
One lucky reader will win a copy of Night School Resistance and Witch Hunt! All you have to do is comment on this blogpost or Tweet a link to it to your Twitter followers, including @CJ_Daugherty or @RuthWarburton in your tweet! Do it by the end of Friday 7 June.
One lucky winner will receive both books!
CJ Daugherty is the author of the Night School series of romantic thrillers set in an exclusive boarding school where no one is ever who they seem to be. She is represented by Madeleine Milburn. Her book, Night School: Resistance publishes 5 June in the UK and the US. The series has been translated into 21 languages.
YA fiction: The Winter Trilogy (A Witch in Winter, A Witch in Love, A Witch Alone), Witch Finder Series (Witch Finder, Witch Hunt). All out now with Hodder Childrens.