In By A Charm And A Curse, Emmaline is a fortuneteller for Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic, the most prestigious traveling circus around. But there’s a secret to the circus, its vibrant performers, its sparkling reputation, and lack of injury or incident: It’s held together by a centuries-old charm that requires one member of the Carnival Fantastic to be cursed… and that one person is Em.
Tricked into the circus’ clutches by the mysterious “boy in the box” before her, Em’s curse is what keeps for her new companions flourishing, including the adorable mechanic she’s reluctantly crushing on, Ben.
Breaking the curse would destroy everyone in the cirus, but there’s another out for Em: She can pass it along to someone else, just as it was passed along to her, with a simple kiss. She’d be free to leave Le Grand Carnival Fantastic forever, but she’d be dooming someone else to her current life.
We chatted with author Jaime Questell about crafting this wild world, developing character relationships, the fascination with carnivals, and more! Take a look!
How it you first come up with the idea of Emmaline’s curse and the charm for the rest of the traveling circus connected to it?
The first thing I knew about this novel was that a girl fell from a great height and survived because of magic. As I wrote everything leading up to her fall and just after it, I knew I had a choice: I could go a more traditional way, and have Leslie, the carnival owner, be evil along with everyone else working there, or I could turn things on their heads. I decided to go with option two. I made Leslie sympathetic to the curse victim, and conflicted because the people she loved and cared for were taken care of because of the charm. Everything evolved out of that conflict.
Theoretically, this story could have happened in any large group, what about circus/carnival life was so appealing for the story?
I held my book launch this weekend and someone asked something similar, and as I came up with my answer on the spot, I realized I’ve always been fascinated with carnivals. I think the concept of a found family is one that’s prevalent in YA and fiction, and a carnival is just a great big found family. On top of that, I got to throw in glittery costumes and dogs, who can perform tricks and a foul-mouthed teen equestrian, so it was a perfect situation.
Em is always surrounded by the people who her curse benefits and by the person who actually cursed her, Sidney. What was it like creating that dynamic?
They say that authors like to torture their characters, and in that regard, it was perfect. Tension is what keeps readers turning pages, so both forcing Emma to constantly be around these people and having her get to know that nothing in life is black and white and that these people are complicated with their own motives and emotions was so much fun. That said, it was hard, too. She couldn’t ever get too chummy with Sidney, for example, because of what he did to her, but that kind of tightrope act was what kept things interesting as I moved along.
How did you develop the chemistry between Em and Ben? What makes them such a great pairing, in your opinion?
Emma and Ben work so well together because they can give and take from and to each other. In their own ways, they each need a fresh start, someone who can let them be who they are without expectations and support the other. But I also think that they see each other more clearly than their friends and family do, in a way that only outsiders can.
If you had to be part of a traveling circus, what would you like to do and why?
So first thing you need to know about me is that I am super uncoordinated. That really throws tricks or gymnastics out the window. I’m a great baker, though, so I’d probably do well deep-frying candy bars, but honestly, now that I’ve had time to think about it, I would probably want to be the person who trains (plays with) the dogs for the stunt show.
By A Charm And A Curse is your debut. What have you learned about yourself as a writer and about publishing during this experience?
SO. MUCH. First, I learned that it’s really easy to get wrapped up what’s going on around you, and that it’s important to metaphorically keep your eyes on your own paper. Other book deals, other reviews, other blurbs – none of that matters. What matters is your work, your next project.
Will you write any other stories involving curses and trickery?
This is the only thing I’ve written that involves curses or trickery, though I think that those are both fun aspects to work with. My current project doesn’t involve any curses, but it does involve trickery, as it’s set in a town full of secrets. It’s been a lot of fun trying to figure out what all the characters are hiding.
By A Charm And A Curse is out now. You can order it via…
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled Publishing
Missed out exclusive excerpt? Check it out here!
ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.