An Interview with Jaime Questell, author of By a Charm and a Curse
Jaime Questell is a writer and graphic designer from Houston, Texas. She has also been a bookseller, a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and an administrative assistant. None of these jobs involved wrangling corgis, which is quite sad. She lives in the ‘burbs with her husband, children, and pets.
I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
By a Charm and a Curse is my first published novel, but of my other manuscripts, the one I’m currently working on might be my favorite. It has witches and a good dose of the Mexican culture I grew up with. It’s set in a fictional Texas town that’s buried in secrets, and it’s been so much fun coming up with all the components.
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
OMG, that first novel! It is so, so rough. It’s definitely been gathering some cobwebs, but I don’t want to write it off forever. I’m thinking it could be reshaped one day, or potentially be harvested for dialogue (because there’s some funny stuff in there, if I’m remembering correctly).
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I am so awed by the people who have an unending supply of ideas, but I definitely like to let things percolate. I like to make hidden Pinterest boards where I can post images that relate to the idea I have, so I can remember them later, but for the most part I just let the idea simmer in the back of my mind while I work on other things.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
Writing time is limited and precious, so I’ll write anywhere: at home, at Starbucks, while on my lunch hour, waiting for an oil change. And I prefer my laptop to write, but again, because I need to write whenever and wherever I can, I’ll write on my phone or in one of the bazillion notebooks I usually have on me. That said though, I do find that if I’m stuck, writing by hand usually works to get me unstuck.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I am incredibly lucky to have four critique partners who go over my work before I send it to my agent. I’ve worked with them for years, and their commentary is always on point and insightful. And I don’t work with an editor until my work is sold, but my agent is very editorial, which is fantastic. She really knows her stuff, and makes my writing better.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
Everywhere! My favorite indie bookshop is Murder by the Book in Houston. They have a great selection and a knowledgeable staff, and I love shopping there. But I also like to utilize the library. I recently discovered Overdrive, and it’s made my audiobook habit much easier to feed.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:
1. childhood? When I was a kid, I could not get enough of The Baby-Sitter’s Club. Every birthday, every bit of money I was able to save went toward those books. And then, when I was a little older, it turned into a Sweet Valley High obsession. Those felt so taboo after the BSC, I mean, there was kissing.
2. adolescence? The movie version of Jurassic Park (and let’s be honest, Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park) got me hooked on Michael Chrichton, which led to me reading everything I could get my hands on. Around this same time I became obsessed with the classics, but, of course, never the classics assigned to me in class. I loved Alexandre Dumas, and read The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers over and over.
3. young adult? I was working in a bookstore at this time, and that was pure temptation. I read everything and anything, but Sophie Kinsella and Louise Rennison were favorites at the time.
4. adult? I love to read across genres now. Some of my current favorites are Leigh Bardugo, Holly Black, Kelley Armstrong, Heidi Heilig, and Victoria Schwab. Basically, I’ll read anything that sounds good.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. You manage your own profile, please tell me as much as you are comfortable with in regards to your preferred platform and an estimate of time you spend doing it [and whether you like doing it!].
I’m too much of a control freak to relegate to anyone else. But I agree that social media is so overwhelming! It can be hard, feeling like you have to do everything. I think it’s better to choose one or two platforms and do them well. So I choose to focus on Twitter and Instagram. Every now and then I start to think that I should have a Facebook author page, but then I remember how much it would stress me out and that the page would suffer. I’m going to quote Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec here and say, “Never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”
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.
Author Website: jaimequestell.com
Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jaimequestell
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jaimequestell/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15396319.Jaime_Questell
Author Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/jaime_q/