Jen: Today we welcome Jaime Questell to Romancing the Book. Jaime, will you share a short bio with us?
Jaime: 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.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Jaime: By a Charm and a Curse follows Emma and Ben, and LeGrand’s Carnival, which is bound together by a charm and a curse. I had been listening to the song Coin-Operated Boy by the Dresden Dolls and the song made me think of a girl falling from a great height. From there, I started wondering why she fell, and did she survive? All of those ideas grew into a short story, and at my writing partner’s urging, that short story turned into a novel.
Red flashes before me, and it takes my eyes a second to realize it’s a rose. A boy holds the flower so close its petals tickle my chin. His face is painted white, with rosy circles dotting his pale cheeks and dark powder shaping his eyebrows into wry arches. His glossy black hair has been styled into a plastic-y, slick wave that makes me think of a twenties soda jerk. When he grins, his teeth are all perfect and white. “Pretty flower for a pretty lady.”
A flush colors my cheeks. “Oh! I couldn’t.” The rose is lush and perfect, so big it looks artificial, but there’s no way to fake the heavenly scent coming off it.
But the boy’s grin widens, and then he’s pressing the stem into my hand. “I insist. You can pay me back by bringing your family to visit my booth later.”
“Oh,” I say, “it’s just us.”
The boy’s grin turns wolfish. “Us?”
I whirl, my brain finally realizing that if Juliet had been behind me, there’s no way she’d have let the boy’s words from before go without comment. The crowd swirls around me–families and some people I vaguely recognize from school–but no Jules. “My friend is here…somewhere.”
The boy’s bright white teeth flash in the rapidly diminishing light. “Of course she is. When you find her”–he presses something small and cold into my palm–“come and see me.”
I glance at my hand. It’s just a quarter, shiny enough to reflect the dancing lights from a nearby booth off its surface. Why on earth would he give me a quarter? I shove the coin into my jeans pocket and am about to ask him that very question, but he’s already gone.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Jaime: I am such a plotter. I need an outline, even if it’s a basic one mapping out the story beats. And sometimes, when I get stuck, I make what I like to call a micro outline, which is meatier than a regular outline but lacking the emotions and pretty prose. I admire pantsers, going where the writing takes them, but I could never work without a plan.
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Jaime: Dark but pretty.
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
Jaime: I really want to write horror one day, like, scare the pants off you, make you keep the light on to fall asleep horror. And I kind of don’t want to say I’ll never write a particular genre, because I feel like the second I write something off, I’ll get an idea. 😀
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Jaime: I started by looking up vintage photos of circuses and carnivals, because I wanted LeGrand’s to have a timeless feel. I also looked up circus jargon. I didn’t want to include a ton of it, just enough to make everything feel real. It was really helpful! Because of those old photos, Marcel became a knife thrower and Gin and Whiskey became equestrians.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Jaime: Oh wow, there are so many! I love Leigh Bardugo, Neil Gaiman, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Kevin Hearne, Jaye Wells, Delilah S. Dawson, Julie Murphy…way too many to keep going. And I just finished another 2018 debut book, Heather Ezell’s Nothing Left to Burn, which was fabulous, and I started Karen McManus’ One of Us is Lying.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Jaime: I’m working on another young adult novel, set in a small (fictional) Texas town. It’ll have witches and banshees and secrets on top of secrets on top of secrets.