“One of my favorite quotes from the book is: If you’re not any good, what’s the point? Milbourn girls don’t do mediocre. Because that’s messed-up thinking, but it’s also so relatable, I think.” shares Author Jessica Spotswood as she shares some personal experiences that inspired some scenes of her new book, Wild Swans. Read along and find out more!
Tell us something about your recently published book, Wild Swans!
Wild Swans is a contemporary YA novel about a complicated family, fierce female friendships, and first love, set on the Chesapeake Bay. Ivy Milbourn has been raised by her granddad after her mom walked out when Ivy was two. Now, the summer before Ivy’s senior year, her mom is coming back home with the two half-sisters Ivy’s never met.
How different is this book from your previous works?
It’s a contemporary book with no magical elements, whereas my anthologies are historical fiction and fantasy and my trilogy, The Cahill Witch Chronicles, was historical fantasy. But I think readers will find similar elements. There’s still a mix of sibling rivalry and love, a diverse cast of fiercely loyal girl friends, and a bookish boy (this time he’s a biracial poet with tattooos of poems). My new heroine, Ivy, is like the CWC’s Cate in that she’s struggling against high expectations and often doubts her abilities – but the stakes aren’t whether Ivy will be hung for witchery, it’s whether she’ll succumb to the mental illness and addictions that her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother struggled with.
How did you come up with the book’s title? Is there a meaning behind it?
The title is based on the poem “Wild Swans” by Edna St Vincent Millay. To me, the poem really fits Ivy’s mom, Erica, who is desperate to escape this small town, her father, and the family legacy that she finds suffocating.
Are there certain personal experiences you’ve drawn from that inspired some parts of the book?
Absolutely. I’ve written very openly about feeling like my trilogy didn’t live up to the publisher’s high sales expectations and how that made me feel like a failure for a while. I absolutely used that experience to write Ivy. Because the women in her family have all been incredibly talented artists, and because her granddad pushes her to discover her own extraordinary talent, Ivy feels like she’s not enough. One of my favorite quotes from the book is: If you’re not any good, what’s the point? Milbourn girls don’t do mediocre. Because that’s messed-up thinking, but it’s also so relatable, I think. For instance, it’s so easy in the publishing industry to compare your career to other writers’ and feel inadequate if you’re not a bestseller, with a movie deal, with a book tour, etc. But, like Ivy, I’ve learned to try to focus on what I want for myself and not let others’ expectations be the measure of my self-worth.
Which character from Wild Swans do you particularly see yourself in? Why?
Ivy! She’s such a perfectionist and desperate to please, and that’s something I struggle with, too. I think a lot of girls do, because we get a lot of pressure from society to be nice and put other people first. We’re taught that putting ourselves and our own needs first is selfish, but that’s so untrue! Over the course of the book, Ivy starts to stand up for herself more, starting with telling her best guy friend (who has a crush on her) that she can kiss whoever she wants and he doesn’t get a say in that, to eventually standing up to her mom and her granddad.
How did you celebrate Wild Swans‘ pub day?
It happened to be my birthday as well as my book birthday, so I spent a lot of time online thanking everyone for their good wishes! Then I went out to dinner with my best friend and my husband, and had a cocktail and some really great Brussels sprouts. (I am super into Brussels sprouts lately!)
Jessica Spotswood is the author of the contemporary novel WILD SWANS and the historical fantasy trilogy The Cahill Witch Chronicles. She’s also the editor of the feminist historical anthology A TYRANNY OF PETTICOATS. Jess grew up in a tiny, one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania, where she could be found swimming, playing clarinet, memorizing lines for the school play, or—most often—with her nose in a book. Now she lives in Washington, DC, where she can be found working as a children’s library associate for the DC Public Library, seeing theatre with her playwright husband, or—most often—with her nose in a book. Some things never change.
The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?
But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….
Purchase links for Wild Swans:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | IndieBound
Win 1 of 3 swag pack (sets of bookmarks for the Cahill Witch Chronicles, A Tyranny of Petticoats, & Wild Swans plus signed bookplates) from Jessica Spotwsood!
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— Bea (@beatricereads) May 29, 2016