Happy Autumn everyone!
It’s the perfect season for whimsical romantic fantasy! If you’re in the mood for swashbuckling romantic adventures and witchy romcoms it’s the perfect time to preorder The League of Gentlewomen Witches. I highly recommend ordering The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels while you’re at it. If you love T.J. Klune or William Goldman’s the Princess Bride, that blending of fantastical with romance, pick up India Holton. Her books are pure romances with crossover appeal to fantasy readers. I loved every bit of The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, from Cecilia’s pearl-handed revolver to the Irish pirate to the ‘let’s kill each other slowly’ vibes.
I’m so glad to have India Holton on the blog today! I hope you obsess over her answers as much as I did.
Thank you so much India for talking to me. Another thank you to her publicist, Stephanie Felty, and Berkley for setting up the interview.
THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEWOMEN WITCHES
by India Holton
Genre: Romance, alternate history/comfort fantasy
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Random House
On sale: March 22, 2022
A Fastidious Witch.
An Uncouth Pirate.
And A Whole Lot of Mayhem.
A witch who is as proper as a Jane Austen heroine, and a pirate who is no Mr Darcy, race across Victorian England in pursuit of a magical amulet in this historical fantasy romcom companion to The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels. Featuring enemies to lovers, literal hijinks, and a romance that might bring disaster upon everyone.
Hi, India! Welcome. Thanks for talking with me. Let’s start off with an introduction. Tell me a little about yourself and your books.
Hi! Thank you for the interview! I live in a cottage near the sea, and spend my days flying it around, having wild and romantic adventures … or sitting at a desk writing, depending on whether you like your truth metaphorical or, er, true. My books are fantasy romcoms featuring unusual, determined women and the men who adore them.
So it’s no secret that Romance is having a bit of a love affair for witchy romcoms and comfort fantasy. As a Romance and Fantasy reader, it’s something I’ve been waiting to happen for such a long time. What do you love about this new trend and why did you set out to write The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (League of Gentlewomen Witches forthcoming of course)?
Way back in the silvery mists of time when I started reading fantasy, romantic plotlines were not uncommon, and light fantasy/scifi was popular. I grew up with Robin McKinley, Sharon Shinn, Anne McCaffrey, and so on. But the trend for darker fantasy has taken over shelves for a long time now, and the light stories have been shifted into YA. I spent years bemoaning this with fellow readers, and finally decided to make my own little contribution towards uplit/romantic fantasy for adults making a comeback. I’m delighted to see more and more books in this vein!
I find it sorta rare to find true enemies-to-lovers in Romance. A lot of this is due to many people, both authors and readers, misinterpreting what an enemies-to-lovers romance looks like. You seem to have perfectly encapsulated what it looks and feels like in a really amazing enemies-to-lovers romance. Did you just see something missing from Romance and wanted to build on what was already there? What did you want to do with this very controversial trope?
Thank you so much for the kind words. The relationship between Ned and Cecilia was inspired by the old adventure romcoms of the 1980s – Moonlighting, The Scarecrow and Mrs King, Romancing the Stone, etc, as well as the classic screwball romcoms such as Bringing Up Baby. So it wasn’t as much seeing something missing as wanting to return to something that had been. I love how enmity can also somehow be incredibly fun, as well as bristling with sexual tension. In Wisteria, I kept the traditional style of slow burn. In Gentlewomen Witches, which is even more of an enemies-to-lovers set-up, I wanted to turn slow burn on its head, and explore romantic tension.
In the companion to Wisteria, you have very correctly chosen a certain Irish pirate as the hero? What more can you tell us about him and can you talk about Gentlewomen Witches please?
Alex! I love Alex and could talk about him all day. When he turned up in Wisteria, I had to struggle not to let him take over my heart – and the book’s plot! He is my big scary pirate and I cannot wait to hear what other people think about him. Gentlewomen Witches grew from an image I had of two people fighting and kissing in a storm. Once I started writing, it propelled itself along at top speed, much in the same way as its feisty characters. It’s slightly darker than Wisteria, and has a higher heat level, as well as even more interfering aunties. Basically, it’s my drama queen of a book! Whereas Wisteria included quotes and themes from the Bronte’s works, Gentlewomen Witches focusses on Jane Austen’s, which was a lot of fun because I’m a huge Austen fan – although not quite to the same degree as my heroine Charlotte! (Notice all the exclamation marks in this paragraph? It’s that kind of book.)
I love how everything in your book reminds me of these really canonical fantasy books, like William Goldman or Terry Pratchett. What did you want to do with humor and tone?
Thank you! That’s such an amazing compliment. What I wanted to do was actually very personal: to return to my most authentic voice. I’d spent years self-publishing lyrical fairy tales, and had lost all spirit for it. But the Dangerous Damsels books read like my juvenilia – that wry, dry, sardonic tone I had when I first got my hands on a typewriter at age eight and immediately started creating parodies. Wisteria very much felt like a coming home to me.
Pirates or Witches? And why?
To be a witch and marry a pirate. Because of mastery. There’s nothing more sexy and interesting as mastery, be it the self-mastery required with witchery or the general swaggering, confident mastery-of-the-whole-world-including-gravity of piracy.
What item could your characters not live without? Don’t lie. Cecilia dreams about explosives.
Cecilia couldn’t live without books. Ned couldn’t live without Cecilia. I won’t answer about Alex and Charlotte, as it would be spoilers. You’ll have to read the book and tell me what you think! 🙂
If you, by some chance, got the opportunity to choose actors to play Cecilia, Ned, or even your couple from League of Gentlemen Witches who would choose?
I’m afraid I don’t know many actors these days. For Cecilia it would need to be someone like Phoebe Dyvenor [Bridgerton] or Anna Taylor-Joy [Emma, Queen’s Gambit], who appears delicate but is really strong. For Ned, I think Joe Alwyn [The Favourite] has the right look. For Alex, someone like a young Gerard Butler or Harrison Ford. And as for Charlotte … goodness, that’s hard to say. Someone incendiary!
Lastly, you write such beautiful and romantic lines. Do you have a favorite quote?
Once again, many thanks for the compliment! I confess, I have many favourite lines, and the most romantic of them tend to be spoilers. But this one, by Miss Darlington of all people, is one I quote often:
“So it was a matter of love at first sight?” Miss Darlington surmised. “How romantic. I am always suspicious of love earned by familiarity – it shows a lack of imagination.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
India Holton (she, her) is the author of Indie bestseller The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, and the upcoming The League of Gentlewomen Witches, two fantasy romcoms set in an alternate Victorian era. She lives in coastal New Zealand, where she grew up running barefoot around islands, following ghosts through forests, and messing around in boats. She spent several years teaching and now writes about plucky girls, unconventional women, and the men who love them. India’s writing is fueled by tea, buttered scones, and thunderstorms.
India Holton is represented by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.