Happy April everyone! We are super excited that spring is on the way so hopefully there is a little more sunshine to read by soon. Today we are excited to announce some more changes to our blog as we have decided to streamline everything. As you know, we have mainly fantasy and historical fiction books as a common genre that we both enjoy. Therefore, we have decided to stick with those genres as much as possible. You’ll see some content on our Instagram page with other genres that we love to read, but the blog will be strictly in that fantasy/ historical genre theme. With that said, we are also going to keep our reviews to the Instagram page. This leaves our blog free to bring you all many more author interviews where we talk to authors about their writing process, inspirations, and try to get the juicy details about what our favourite characters are up to. Many of the interviews will have some spoilers but we will try to warn you so you can skip those questions until you’ve read the book yourself.
With that said, our first interview with this change is one that we are very excited about! You’ve seen our interview with Nghi Vo on her Gatsby retelling so you know that we had to pick up “Wild and Wicked Things” by Francesca May immediately. It is beautifully inspired by Gatsby with the addition of illegal magic, gender swapping Gatsby, LGBTQ+ romance, and a lot of gothic darkness hidden just under the surface.
Usually we have Q&A style interviews for you, but this time was special because Ashli got to sit down with Francesca over Zoom and have a full conversation. Therefore, this interview will be styled a little bit more like a Rolling Stones article so please keep on reading and let us know which style you prefer best on our Instagram post sharing this interview.
Francesca May, also known as Fran Dorricott for her first two novels, lives in England with her three fluffy cats (Athena, Atlas, and Jet). She has a BA in American Literature with a minor in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative Writing where she did a program in writing thriller novels through City University in London. This is where she met her agent who signed her mid-way through the master program in 2015. Her first novel, After the Eclipse, was published in March of 2019.
As a staple with American literature, The Great Gatsby was taught as part of Francesca’s education more than once with the first time being when she was 17 during her A levels. Her sentiments towards the book mirror many other student’s opinions.
“The first time I read the book, I absolutely hated it. I think when you first read Fitzgerald, some of his prose is inaccessible if you’re not used to the rhythm of it.”
When she read it again as her teacher suggested to the class, it was a very different experience.
“His prose is just beyond anything I think I’ve ever read. He coins phrases that you just don’t think of. Like when he describes Daisy’s voice as sounding like money.”
She’s always had a thing about the 1920’s and wanted to write a book set in the decade since she read Chicago, so Gatsby was a no-brainer when it came to thinking about a classic novel that she might want to take a lot of inspiration from. Considering her favourite thing about fantasy is the atmosphere that an author can provoke, a Gatsby style world certainly offers a lot to play with,
Wild and Wicked Things takes the themes and ideas of Gatsby and mixes them with some more contemporary themes such as LGBTQ+ relationships. Francesca replaces our favourite rich party host with Emmeline, a witch who is in love with this novel’s version of Daisy, Bea. However, the appearance of Bea’s childhood friend Annie complicates things for Emmeline as they start to fall for each other despite Emmeline’s warnings that her darkness is not what Annie needs.
“How would my Gatsby look? Written as queer woman, in 2018? Well ok, it will have to be gay because that’s just my whole vibe… if it is going to be saphic, I feel like Gatsby already has some homosexual overtones to it anyways with the whole Nick and Gatsby thing.”
This is a book with a beautiful thriller pacing where it builds and builds until suddenly we are on this insane roller coaster with our characters as their lives clash and meld in the oddest but most satisfying ways. The magic that we find in this novel was a no-brainer for Francesca as she has always loved that feeling of dark magic and the betrayal of self that it brings about in the magic user.
“When I was coming up with my magic system, I knew two things. I knew I wanted it to be a soft magic system. I knew I wanted it to have roots in classic witchcraft, wicca and paganism, but I was very wary of adding my own touches because I didn’t want to demonise classic witchcraft. It’s more like the way that you use magic almost fulfils your own inner darkness.”
Emmeline is dealing with decisions that she made in the past such as not learning from her aunt about her magic as much as she could have. For Annie, she has to deal with decisions that she is making in the present along with the past. This is where the magic system really comes into play as the two main characters have to figure out how to deal with their regrets while moving forward.
When reading the reviews for this book, it’s a fifty/fifty split between people who hate Emmeline and people who love her. We are in the loving Emmeline camp and Francesca agrees as she explains Emmeline’s character a bit more in depth.
“The reason I really like Emmeline as a character is that she is very open from the start that she doesn’t want Annie to get dragged in… she thinks that she is an awful person and you know maybe she is. I think she has a really big heart and not all her decisions come from selfishness. She is really trying to look out for Annie and trying to look out for Nathan and Isobel. That’s why she holds everyone at arm’s length; because everything she touches goes to shit.”
One of the biggest themes of this book is that idea of self-confidence and the coming of age issue of finding out how much to sacrifice in order to get what you want. Francesca admits that most of these characters have a lack of self-confidence which drives them to sacrifice too much of themselves to reach their goals. Bea is really the best example as she is super selfish and while she has the same goal as everyone else of being happy; however her idea of happiness is materialistic and she gives up everything in order to keep a rich husband.
While you might think that Wild and Wicked Things is a dark romance, Francesca swears that she is actually showing readers the pitfalls that can come from a romance; especially with magic involved. One might think that it has a happy ending, but there is a question left at the end of the book about if the relationships are going to last in the next five years with another war on the horizon and the Great Depression coming up even faster for them to navigate.
In the future, look out for a potential prequel to Wild and Wicked Things from Cilla’s point of view to see how Emmeline and her friends became who they are. You can also keep an eye out for another classic inspired book that is the Stepford Wives meets the Witches of Eastwick set in a small, creepily perfect Cornish town. We know that we are here for anything else that Francesca May writes and hope that you are too!
Use the link to your right to grab yourself a copy of Wild and Wicked Things from Book Depository and dive into this beautiful Gatsby inspired ride!