My name is Jan, and I’m Martina Boone’s assistant. I’m hijacking her release day post, because COMPULSION is the book of MY heart, not just Martina’s.
In December 2012, she sent me a manuscript called FIRE CARRIER. And I fell in love with the setting, the characters, and the story. I knew from the first read-through of the first draft that this was THE book, the one that would get her an agent and a deal. Now, Martina is a VERY humble person, so she didn’t realize just how fantastic this book was. So we worked on it, back and forth, through about 15 revisions. I told her I thought it was ready, and she (humbly) agreed that it might be. So she started querying, and it didn’t take long at all. Amanda Panitch at Lippincott Massie McQuilken pulled it from the slush pile and gave it to Kent Wolf. There were a few more revisions, then Annette Pollert at Simon Pulse loved it too. Somewhere along the way, it became COMPULSION. And that’s all she wrote.
From the very beginning, since that early draft called FIRE CARRIER, I have loved and championed this book. I’ve always been a reader, and I have read a LOT of books. But this unedited draft was one of the best books I’d ever read, and through revisions and editing, it’s only gotten better.
And now that I’ve rambled on, I’ll get to the real post. An interview with Martina.
Talk to me about the setting for COMPULSION. Why the South?
The South is both picturesque and heartbreaking. It’s also full of history, Spanish moss, crumbling houses, and people who are tied to each other by blood, duty, and secrets. That’s gold for anyone who’s working on a novel.
Watson Island is loosely based on Edisto Island, and I borrowed from actual Charleston area plantation history to create the three plantations that shaped who the three families became. There was tons of material to work with-I mean, pirate treasure, ancient spirit witches, blood feuds, lonely, demented characters, curses, forbidden romance . . . How could I resist?
Why is THIS story the one you had to tell?
Pirates, ghosts, witches, voodoo, treasure, forbidden love, mystery, murder? Who wouldn’t want to tell this story? LOL. Seriously, it’s the loneliness of the characters, their quest to find each other, and ultimately their ability to save each other or destroy each other. The characters became as real for me as my own family, and I wanted to share them to make them live for other people, too.
Why Eight? Is that anything like Four?
Nope. Not at all. Family and tradition are big in the South, and that’s even more true on Watson Island where the family histories go back three hundred years and the gift is passed down to the oldest child. Eight is short for Charles Beaufort, VIII. His father is Seven. And obviously, that tradition goes back a few years. 🙂
Speaking of Eight, what makes him the perfect hero for this story?
Eight makes Barrie stronger and helps her see herself through his eyes, helping her to realize that she is more than she ever thought she could be.
What was the most surprising part of writing COMPULSION?
How it turned out. People who read my blog, AdventuresInYAPublishing.com may know that I used to think of myself as a plotter. I wrote outlines. Long outlines. Thirty or forty thousand word outlines. And if someone asked me to write a synopsis of a book, I had to first write the outline – at which point, I eventually realized that I wasn’t writing an outline at all; I was writing a first draft. I don’t know where I first heard the word, but someone somewhere mentioned doing something they called a discovery draft. Coming across that term was one of the biggest AHA! moments of my life. So yeah. It turns out I’m not a plotter, but I’m also not completely a pantser. I’m a plantser. With COMPULSION, I knew where I was going – I had that draft to use as a roadmap, but things kept changing. I was constantly surprised.
The relationships in COMPULSION are very complex. Do you feel like that’s realistic?
I think that junior high and high school aren’t very realistic. They can be horrible, terrible places where people do things to each other than I can’t even imagine putting into a book. Schools are all about finding who you are, and that’s what books are about. I feel like sometimes writers need to make things a little bigger in a book to give readers the chance to let themselves feel like what’s happening is removed from them, even while it is speaking directly to them. I mean, are there going to be Hunger Games in the near future? Man, I hope not. But that doesn’t make Katniss’ feelings resonate with me any less.
What was the hardest part about writing COMPULSION?
There are several scenes that made me cry—and I still teared up even when I was reviewing copyedits, despite having been through something like a hundred and forty-seven drafts (okay, maybe not quite that many…). But yeah, there are a lot of emotional scenes that wrung me out and left me feeling like a strand of overcooked spaghetti. Hands down the hardest scene for me to write was the beginning, though, which is ironic because I founded and still mentor the First Five Pages Workshop, where I (along with some AMAZING authors) help aspiring writers nail the early part of their manuscript.
My problem with the beginning is that Barrie is literally broken at that point, but the reader doesn’t know that. Even Barrie doesn’t know it fully. It was so hard trying to find a way to show the reader a girl who would be interesting to read about, a girl who would become strong, while at the same time hinting at her brokenness—at the way that she perceives herself before she’s found that she is worth loving. Barrie is like a lot of girls who don’t recognize the strength and beauty within themselves.
What makes COMPULSION different from the other Southern Gothics coming out?
At its essence, the Southern Gothic fiction I really love is about haunted families and the kind of tradition that passes down from one generation to another whether the next generation wants it or not. It’s about haunting settings, quirky characters, and dangerous situations, but it’s also about epic love. COMPULSION is about all of that in equal measure, but it’s also a coming of age story, a story about finding your place, your family, yourself. There are definitely weird, memorable characters. Someone I really respect once described it as MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL meets ROMEO AND JULIET meets THE SIXTH SENSE. I hope that’s kind of different.
Talk to me about insta-love. There’s a moment when the love between Eight and Barrie feels that way, even though it isn’t. Did you worry about that when you were writing?
If you stop reading at the point where Eight and Barrie meet because you think it’s going to be insta-love, you’re going to miss discovering that that’s very far from the case. They fall for each other fast because they go through a lot. But they also have extenuating circumstances. And trust me, their love story is far from over yet.
As far as insta-love in general goes? My husband told me he loved me in the middle of a poker party a month after we met. We married less than a year after we met, and we’re still married. Love can happen very fast and still be real and lasting. I’m not personally a fan of the kind of insta-love where a character is in danger but the second she sees a hot guy, all she can do is think about how hot he is. Or the kind where one or two super-hot guys fall in love with a heroine who’s not only ordinary looking but doesn’t really do anything that makes her stand out. Barrie takes action early on, even though she’s scared and not used to handling things on her own. She’s naïve, so sometimes her decisions aren’t the smartest, but you know what? I was making naïve decisions when I was a lot older than Barrie. That’s what I love the most about her. She does the best she can at the time. It isn’t always perfect.
What are you doing today to celebrate release day?
Running around like a crazy person, because I’m in the middle of the Compelling Reads Tour and have an event tonight at the library in Bethesda, MD. I did spend some time with friends both in person and online last night at midnight though. Oh and I went to the bookstore this morning to sign (and pet) their copies of COMPULSION.
About the Book
Three plantations. Two gifts. One ancient curse.
All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.
Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who somehow seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.
Martina Boone writes contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she would love to visit. She is the founder of YA Series Insiders and Adventures in YA Publishing, a two-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers blog. She’d be quite happy on a desert island, as long as she had her family, her dog, her cat, plenty of books, and a way to keep writing. Oh, and vats of Nutella.