Friday, September 30, 2011

Character Interview: Cate Cahill

Hi! Here’s an interview of sorts, between the protagonist of BORN WICKED, Cate Cahill, and her neighbor Mrs. Corbett. They’re discussing the arrival of Cate’s new governess, Elena. As you'll see, there are certain challenges in being a Victorian young lady in this society--even without taking into account that Cate and her sisters are also witches. Also, there is often a discrepancy between what Cate says and what she thinks.

MRS. CORBETT: I’ve just had a letter from Elena, confirming that she’ll be arriving Monday! I do hope you’ll make her feel welcome.

CATE: I’m sure she’ll be marvelous. I can hardly wait to meet her.

This is all your fault, you meddling old bat. The last thing I need is a stranger swanning about the place, poking her nose into our business.

MRS. CORBETT: I thought it my neighborly duty to tell your father what I’ve been hearing, you know. You girls are getting a reputation. As eccentrics. And eccentric girls don’t marry well.

CATE: We’re very—grateful for all your help.

I’ll have to buy us new dresses. Call more often on our neighbors. I can't have them gossiping about us. They can’t suspect the truth.

MRS. CORBETT: Elena was wonderful with my daughter Regina. Of course, she was only with us for a few months before Regina was married. (preens) It was a very advantageous match.

CATE (with a steely smile): You must be very proud.

Could she be any more transparent? Father’s hired a governess to help me catch a husband. How mortifying.

MRS. CORBETT: Indeed. You know, your own intention ceremony is coming up soon.

CATE: I’m well aware, yes.

As if I could forget for a second. If I don’t find a husband soon, the Brotherhood will choose one for me. And it could be anyone. A widower with half a dozen children. An old man three times my age. Someone from another town. I don't want to leave my sisters.

MRS. CORBETT: You must start planning for it. Assuming you intend to marry, and not join the Sisterhood (Cate thinks: as if I'm the sort to spend the rest of my life shut up in a nunnery, studying Scriptures!) would do well to learn to be a bit more pleasing. Gentlemen prefer women who are a bit—softer. Less snappish. Who take more care with their looks.

CATE: Yes, ma’am.

Gentlemen prefer girls who would never disagree with them, because they don’t have a single thought in their pretty little heads, she means. As if I would marry a man like that!

MRS. CORBETT: Your father has encouraged your eccentricities, with his notions of educating girls. But the Brothers would hardly approve. You must be more circumspect. For your own safety.

(CATE is silent, as she panics.) What is she saying? Do they suspect us? Girls have been arrested for less than reading banned books. If they knew what we really are—that we’re witches—it’d be the asylum for us. Or the prison ship.

MRS. CORBETT: I daresay your mother would have instructed you in all of this, Lord rest her soul. You poor girls. It can’t be easy, coming of age without a mother’s guidance.

CATE (biting her tongue): No, ma’am. We miss her very much.

I wish she were here. I wish she could tell me what to do. How to keep my sisters safe.

MRS. CORBETT: Well, good day.

CATE: Good day.

Good riddance.

Jessica Spotswood is the author of BORN WICKED, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, coming Feb. 7, 2012 from Putnam. She likes reading stories about independent girls who still get in a fair amount of swoony kissing, so that's what she tries to write. She lives in Washington, DC with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.

Currently on her nightstand: CINDER, by Marissa Meyer.