I am very excited to welcome Martina Boone, author of The Heirs of Watson Island Trilogy here to A Bookish Affair today!
Thanks so much for having here on the blog today, and for asking such great questions!
What inspired you to write "The Heirs of Watson Island" trilogy?’
There were basically four things that came together to make it work.
- I had written an adult short story with a plantation and two twins—one of whom ran away when she was young. The story and the characters, including the plantation, stayed with me. I combined that with inspiration from Edisto Island in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and the Boone Hall Plantation, along with Magnolia and Drayton Hall, and a number of other plantations in the deep South, because the combination of magic, history, and folklore of the Lowcountry area created this incredibly rich nexus of Native American, African, and European history, belief systems, and magic—a lot of which has been forgotten or deliberately buried.
- A historical figure I came across in my research was Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who at the age of 17 in the early 18th century ran three plantations for her father, the governor of Antigua. Working with seeds her father sent her from the West Indies and an overseer from Montserrat, Eliza also developed a viable way to grow indigo (the dye used to create blue clothing) that worked in the Carolinas. As a result of her work, indigo became the third biggest export in the Colonies up until the Revolutionary War. If I’d learned this kind of history in school, I would have been more interested! But as with all wealthy individuals at the time, Eliza didn’t accomplish any of this on her own. Her family used slave labor, and I was both fascinated and appalled by the fact that the letterbook she left behind showed such a moral and apparently kind and thoughtful person while at the same time she could ignore what she and her family somehow reconciled slavery with her morality. It got me thinking about how people justify all sorts of impossible things to themselves. The worst of it is that there are thirty million people enslaved in the world right now. Most of them are women and children—as has too often been the case. Eliza’s story inspired me to explore some of the issues and paradoxes around women’s rights through American history. Despite all her accomplishments, Eliza didn’t own the slaves she supervised. Even her own clothing belonged to her father and husband. While she had the appearance of freedom and power, women within the Cherokee nation had more rights than European women had, and yet the Cherokee were painted as savages, despite being called one of the five “civilized” tribes. There are so many contradictions and infuriating wrongs in all of this that I wanted to consider. The threads of all of this run through the trilogy, but you won’t see them clearly until Illusion.
- I had the characters, the setting, and some of the background history, but it wasn’t until I had a dream about a ball of fire drifting through the woods at night and setting the river around the island on fire that I had the visual anchor and the missing piece. Researching the mythology of the Cherokee, and their history, gave me the answer to this mystery, which contains some mind-blowing twists based on physics and real historical events. The mystery of the Fire Carrier is the core of the trilogy, and I wanted to use that specifically to raise awareness of the hidden and forgotten history of what happened to the Cherokee and other Native nations, and what continues to happen to women and children all around the world. Who the Fire Carrier is remains the central question that won’t get answered until the end of Illusion. Persuasion gives you a lot of clues on this though. : )
- The factors that make the relationship between Eight and Barrie so hard came out of exploring the psychology of the magic that the three families of Watson Island received as a result of the Fire Carrier being on the Island. This let me really dig in to heighten the way that real relationships between young adults are already complicated. As teens in high school relationships head for college and their future careers, they have to weigh their own future plans against those of whoever they are dating or in love with and decide whether the relationship is real and worth risking their own dreams and aspirations. The magic on the island amplifies all of these questions and pushes Barrie and Eight to the limit.
Your second book, "Persuasion" just came out. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
Persuasion is a little darker, a bit faster paced, and a lot more magical than Compulsion. There are a number of new characters I love, more of Cassie, more of Eight and Barrie together, growth for Aunt Pru, and lots more about the gifts and the curse as Barrie investigates what the that means to her and the other founding families and as she starts to really explore who the Fire Carrier is, what he’s doing on the island, and what he wants from her.
Was your writing process for "Persuasion" any different than for “Compulsion?"
Persuasion was a much slower write for me than Compulsion. It required a lot more careful historical and records research, but it also required talking to a lot of experts on a wide variety of subjects and working more closely with the archeologist/anthropologist who helped me on the series as the dig at Colesworth Place began.
Who is your favorite character in the series?
I still love Barrie—and I love Barrie and Eight together. They’re truly spectacular and great for each other when they aren’t fighting the magic that keeps tearing them apart. Honestly, I love Aunt Pru and all the characters. Two new characters I adore are Obadiah and Berg. With Obadiah, I didn’t know if he was a hero or a villain until I finished writing the final book—and I want to give Berg a whole book of his own. Such a hottie! : )
In addition to writing books, you recently became a member of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia board. Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming fundraiser?
I became involved in the Literacy Council when they invited me to give the Keynote address at their annual recognition dinner. It was the night after the Charleston shooting, and it felt so strange to give a speech about hope and opportunity when my heart was so broken and so heavy. But listening to the stories of the people who the Council was helping filled me up with hope and optimism again. The stories of what the learners had gone through—were going through—and their resilience, determination, and sheer hard work were truly inspiring. The generous hearts of the volunteers involved in the Council’s work were also apparent and inspiring. When they asked me to join the board, I jumped at the chance to be involved.
The fundraiser is my small way of giving back. We’re going to host a book fair as part of the Persuasion launch at the Barnes and Noble in Tyson’s Corner. I’ll be at the store for four hours from 5pm to 9pm, building stories on the fly with readers and aspiring writers, judging Halloween costumes for kids 10 and under and 11 and over, answering Q&As on writing, my books, publishing, and virtually anything else. I’ll also be signing Compulsion and Persuasion. There will be cupcake decorating, crafts, and a lot of activities for children, teens, and adults. And ALL purchases of anything—any book, or product (except gift cards) in the store the entire day—will contribute a portion of the sale directly to the Literacy Council. Purchases for several days online will also add additional revenue to the LCNV. All anyone has to do is provide the event code, which is: 11709870.
If you could bring three fictional characters with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
Macgyver, because he’d get me off the island. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because she’d kick the a$$ of anything that needed a$$ kicking, plus she’d be totally fun. The third is a toss up. I can’t decide between Hermione Granger and someone totally hot like Lord Henry Wotton or Mr. Darcy. Because, you know, eye candy and conversation. : )
Happen to be in the DMV area and want to go to the book launch for Persuasion?
When: Oct. 30
What: Persuasion book launch party and fundraiser for the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
Where: Barnes and Noble
Tysons Corner Center
7851 L. Tysons Corner Center
McLean, VA 22102
Details: Author Q&A, costume contests, crafts, book signings and more!