Author Spotlight: Gita Trelease talks Enchantée
I'm thrilled to feature Gita Trelease on today's blog! Born in Sweden to Indian and Swedish parents, Gita Trelease has lived in lots of places, including New York, Paris, and a tiny town in central Italy. She attended Yale College and New York University, where she earned a Ph.D. in British literature. Her debut YA fantasy, Enchantée, released just this month and was also chosen as:
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick
Book-of-the-Month Club Pick
Amazon Best Book of the Month (Teen & Young Adult, Literature & Fiction)
Love. Magic. Revolution... Gita Trelease’s debut fantasy about an orphaned girl who uses dark magic to save her sister and herself from ruin is “a soaring success” (NPR)
Paris is a labyrinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t...
When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.
But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose―love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic―before Paris burns.
And now, here's my chat with Gita!
Hi, Gita! Welcome and congrats on Enchantée. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thank you! Enchantée is the story of an impoverished young magician desperate to keep herself and her sister alive on the eve of the French Revolution. Ten years ago I was doing a lot of commuting and picked up the longest audiobook I could find at the library, which turned out to be Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser. Her book is an incredibly rich and surprising account of the queen’s life and her world, and that, along with Sofia Coppola’s film of the same name, planted the seed for Enchantée. But many years went by before I decided to write a book set during the French Revolution. I’d lived in Paris after college, and had visited Versailles, and I wanted very much to create a story that included both the decadent world of the court and the gritty Paris of the strivers who sought to change France. But how would my character move between these two different worlds? I think for a fantasy writer the answer is always: magic! Still, I wanted a magic that felt real, that could plausibly exist within the historical record. Magic with a cost. And because the girl I imagined at the center of this story was an impoverished orphan, I gave her magic fueled by the only thing she owned and could command: her own sorrow.
I’m so intrigued by Camille’s double life in Enchantée. What was your favorite thing about writing her?
Camille’s circumstances put her in a situation in which, to save those she loves, she must work magic. It’s something she hates and which, to be completely honest, could kill her. In my mind, this makes her a real hero. But she’s also flawed—sometimes her passion and determination lead her to make risky choices and sacrifices she has no business making. That complexity and tension is really fun to write.
The French Revolution provides a turbulent backdrop for Enchantée. What was your research process like, and how much of it were you able to incorporate into the book? Was it a balancing act when it came to weaving fact and fiction?
Yes, it really was a balancing act! I didn’t want the historical or the fantasy to take the upper hand. Achieving that equilibrium means that I was always moving from research to writing and back again. The idea for the book came first; research followed. The research in turn inspired more writing—not just about historical events but also plot, character, and even some of the magic in the book. For example, after writing the first draft of Enchantée, I came across a tourist’s account of his visit to Versailles in which he described the palace as rotting and falling apart, and that helped me expand the magic system, which in turn altered the story in a big way. The research that found its way into the book was only a fraction of what I uncovered, but my hope is that because there’s so much about the time period in my head when I’m writing, the world beyond the edges of the story feels substantial and real.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
For me, the first draft is the most challenging part of the writing process. I can find moments of joy in it—some fun or clever dialogue, a description that comes alive, a bit of magic—but mostly, it’s excruciating. The first draft is the moment in the long process of writing a novel when what’s on the page is the furthest it will ever be from the beautiful story I have in my head. It’s hard to keep going when the gap between reality and that ideal vision is so profound. Inevitably I feel like a failure. I don’t know why this helps me, but it does, so I’ll share it: I’ve learned that I work best when I write most of the scenes out of order. I do create an outline before I actually begin writing, and I know what the last scene will be—always—but the rest I have to write non-linearly. I’ve realized that that’s just how my mind works, and my writing goes better if I can honor that and not force it to write from beginning to end or to speed-write a draft, both of which approaches work so well for writer friends of mine. Writing my second book has revealed to me my own process, and after some failures, I’m realizing it’s so important to honor that process, however odd it might be. It’s mine, after all!
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Enchantée teach you?
Writing Camille’s story taught me that I can’t assume responsibility for everything in my life. I can try my hardest, I can be as brave and determined as possible, but it doesn’t mean that everything is within my power to change.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I’m currently obsessed with Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, an atmospheric and creepy novel in which a girl begins to worry that she is—to put it mildly—not herself. I’ve also been devouring variations of the Bluebeard story and looking at art based on it, which I think may find its way into the Enchantée sequel I’m working on now.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
You don’t do this alone. As a traditionally published author, I have incredible support from my publishing team and my literary agency, but I also couldn’t survive without my friends in the writing community. Their kindness, empathy, and support help make the writing life what it is: an amazing journey.
Many thanks go out to Gita for taking the time to tell us more about Enchantée, the inspiration behind it, and how she managed to keep a balance between historical and fantastical elements. Be to sure to add this beautiful YA to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,