Marissa Doyle on Betraying Season
We first met twin sisters Persephone (Persy) and Penelope (Pen) in Bewitching Season, where Persy got to play the lead role in the story. In Betraying Season, it’s Pen’s turn. What was different about letting this sister loose on the page?
I didn’t have to channel my inner shy teen anymore and write through that lens. Pen is a lot more confident than her sister, maybe a little more impulsive and quick to draw conclusions and make judgements. What surprised me a little was that it wasn’t harder to write her—just different. Both Persy and Pen are very real people in my head.
What made you choose Ireland as Pen’s destination in this book? Did you consider having her stay home in England?
Ireland came in very naturally through Michael Carrighar in Bewitching Season. When Ally agreed to marry him and Pen resolved to make up her neglected magical studies, it just seemed to make sense to have her accompany them back to Michael’s home in Cork in order to continue to be taught by Ally. What Pen does there and whom she meets ties in neatly with the big conspiracy theory that gained wide circulation after Victoria became queen and until she married—that her “wicked” uncle, the King of Hanover, was plotting to have her assassinated because he was heir presumptive to the British throne until she had children. I am not making that up, by the way. Isn’t history fascinating?
Have you always been interested in history, even as a kid?
Is this a leading question? Absolutely! I’ve been a history geek ever since about the age of nine when Masterpiece Theatre aired The Six Wives of Henry VIII on our local PBS station, and I was riveted to the TV. We happened to have the book on which it was based and I immediately read and re-read that…it wasn’t a very good or accurate history, I understand now, but it made those 16th century people come alive in my head. I’ve been hooked on history ever since and read historical fiction, especially Jean Plaidy, all through my teens. I’ve tried in turn to give kids a glimpse of just how fascinating history can be through the blog I cohost, NineteenTeen (www.nineteenteen.blogspot.com). We post snippets about how upper- and middle-class teens lived in the 19th century and about the personal lives of figures like Queen Victoria, the Prince Regent, and others—the history behind the history, so to speak.
There are so many fascinating aspects of Irish myth and magic involved in this story. Did you do lots of research?
Oh, always. It’s such a rich field to explore. The best part was researching one thing and running across something else that could enhance yet another part of the story, which would in turn alter another thing. For example, looking at a map of southern Ireland to find names to use in the story led me to Bantry Bay—and the realization that it sounds like the Irish term for witch, bean draoi (pronounced ban dree)—which led to my naming the witch Lady Keating’s house Bandry Court. Research can get distracting at times, and often there are conflicting viewpoints and sources, but sifting through it all is what makes it such a delightfully fun part of writing.
What is the difference between a clurichaun and a leprechaun?
A clurichaun is a leprechaun relative from southern Ireland. They preferred to live in wine cellars and stand guard over them, especially from servants who fancied sneaking an illicit snort from their masters’ stores. They often wore red coats and buckled shoes, were generally inebriated (or at least appeared that way), and were smaller than standard issue leprechauns.
If you had magical powers, what would you use them for?
Umm…cleaning my house, keeping my yard weed-free, and promoting world peace?
Facetious answers aside, though, that opens up a question I think about a lot— writing about people using magical powers. I like Harry Potter as much as anyone, but it annoyed me when he got into difficulties that he could have solved with spells but didn’t, even when he’d used them to solve other problems (and when, indeed, a big deal had been made about his learning them). So I’ve spent a lot of time trying to think like a person with magic, and define just what magic in my world can or can’t accomplish, in order to avoid that pitfall. I hope I’ve succeeded.