Susan Bishop Crispell and Kate Moretti
on wine, books, AND writing.
kate: Susan, we both wrote about magic and small towns in wildly different ways. Yours is romantic and sweet and magical and so filled with chocolate (which I love). What is it about writing about a small town? The people? The gossip? What really pulls you to those insular communities?
susan: Oh, it’s all about the people for me. I love quirky characters and how they’re always in each other’s business. Small towns are rife with emotional drama and personal interactions that give all the feels. I love how everyone’s lives are interconnected and how what one person does affects everyone else. I mean, if one member of a book club says yes to an extra glass of wine then convinces the rest of the group to read all the sex scenes in the book out loud, everyone in town will hear about it the next day.
kate: The possibility for mischief is so high. Everyone knows everyone and gossip, in a thriller, can be such an atmosphere enhancer. I love that everyone has a history: teachers, students have known each other since they were kids, neighbors have lived together for years.
susan: I think small towns lend themselves to magical elements too. It’s so easy to believe that strange, other-worldly things happen in these close-knit towns that feel so familiar. And you make that magic a driving force in The Blackbird Season.
kate: The town turns on a troubled girl, who they all call a witch. There’s tarot cards and falling birds and superstition: it’s all very dark and eerie (but thrilling)! Not at all like the magic in your books! You have romance, love, family. And one enchanting little girl.
susan: That’s what makes magic so fun. It can be dark and mysterious in one story, but whimsical and hopeful in another. I like to say that my books have a pinch of magic and a dash of love. The magical elements are always tied to the characters themselves. So the magic works best when they are being honest with themselves. And when characters are being stubborn, you invent a truth-telling chocolate so they have to face their feelings head on.
kate: I should really put more chocolate in my books.
susan: You can never have too much chocolate!
kate: And wine! Like maybe a nice oaky Chardonnay?
susan: I couldn’t agree more. But it’s not all chocolate and wine or magic and small towns with us! Both of our books deal with weightier issues too. The Blackbird Season tackles a possible affair between a beloved teacher and his high school student and a town that is all-too-willing to condemn him. How did you balance that moral gray area with a character the reader wants to believe in?
kate: For me, the character you root for is one you understand, even if you don’t want to admit it. You have to tap into something universal, so when your character falls down, the reader wants them to get back up. You’re able to do something similar with Penelope and Noah, knowing from the start of the book that he broke her heart. Yet we still root for them to get together in the end.
susan: I always knew that Penelope and Noah belonged together. The magical hot chocolate told Penelope so. Then he broke her heart, proving her magic wrong for the first time ever. But it took her daughter’s dying wish for her parents to be together for Penelope and Noah to finally accept what the universe had always been trying to tell them: Love is the truest form of magic.
kate: Or murder. You know, one or the other.