Check this interview with Rachel Cotterill who is here to talk about her book Watersmeet.
— Today we are talking about Watersmeet your new book. Can you tell us a bit about this story?
Thanks Lynzie. Watersmeet follows the story of Ailith, a young woman who has grown up in a large family and works in her father’s pottery workshop. Her parents would like to see her marry up, but she’s reluctant to settle for a life with someone she doesn’t love. And then she discovers she’s a mage, and has the opportunity to travel across the country by herself, and suddenly everything changes for her.
Watersmeet is the first in a new epic fantasy series – it has castles and intrigue, magic and mysterious strangers, and other elements that will be familiar to readers of the genre – but at heart it’s also a romance. I do enjoy a bleak, grim fantasy as much as the next person – but I wanted to write something with a more optimistic outlook this time.
— What kind of place is Watersmeet? Can you tell us more about your fantasy world?
Watersmeet itself is a huge, imposing fortress that sits at the confluence of two rivers (hence the name). The area known as the Twelve Baronies is dominated by a dozen major castles, each with its own ruler and accompanying legal system. And as the river valleys are the most fertile areas for crops, Watersmeet is one of the wealthiest.
The power of the Lords Barons isn’t absolute, though: a few generations back, an accord between the temples and the nobility led to the adoption of the Temple Law, which lays out harsh penalties for the worst kinds of heresy.
— Your leading character is Ailith, who discovers that she’s a mage – what is Ailith like and how does she cope with finding out she’s a mage?
As the story begins, Ailith’s family is entirely preoccupied with preparations for her twin sister’s wedding. It’s obviously a time of celebration, but as twins, the girls had always assumed they’d get married on the same day, so Ailith is feeling a little left out and concerned for her future.
And then this stranger turns up, tests her, and tells her she can do magic: it’s a total shock. At first she’s inclined to ignore it and hope it will go away, but curiosity gets the better of her, and she can’t help experimenting. Ultimately she’s a scientist, but the world of the Twelve Baronies is just on the edge of its industrial revolution, so there isn’t an obvious place for her.
— What about the Lord Baron of Watersmeet, can you tell us a bit about him?
Leofwin has lived alone for years, dedicating his life to alchemical studies, and pottering in his rooftop garden for relaxation. The last thing he wants is a young apprentice to train, but there’s something about Ailith that captures his attention. And once she’s through the door, he really doesn’t want her to leave.
— Can you share with us your favourite passage from the book?
I’m happy to share an excerpt, but I should warn you, it’s a bit of a spoiler! This was definitely my favourite scene to write, though.
Ailith didn’t stop to think, she just bolted through the servants’ door into the kitchens, running away almost as soon as Garrick and his retinue had left the Great Hall. Ymma was overseeing a couple of young boys as they wiped down the prep table, while at the end of the table she arranged garnishes on the platters that would have been going out next, had the feast not been interrupted in such a final manner. The boys both stopped to stare, and Ymma scolded them back to work before she even glanced up to see what had caused the interruption.
“Saaluk’s hands,” she said, taking in Ailith’s fine clothes and tear-stained face. “What happened?”
The day had already been so topsy-turvy that collapsing into a kitchen chair in a silk gown seemed almost normal by comparison.
“I said I didn’t want to go,” Ailith said. “I told Frida. I knew I’d muck it up somehow.”
“You were brilliant.” Lufe had followed her in from the hall, and crouched at her side, pulling her into a hug. “Gods, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“And you should’ve seen his lordship’s face,” Nia added. “He’s never looked so pleased as when you smacked that boy.”
“‘That boy’ is heir to Highfort,” Ailith said morosely. “And I’ve ruined everything.”
Ymma set down the mop and bucket. “Let me get this straight,” she said, leaning on the table and staring hard at Ailith. “Little miss not-a-lady, all dressed up in silks and diamonds, just smacked some lordling?”
“And his lordship was pleased as anything,” Nia said.
“Ha!” Ymma clapped her hands together. “You are most definitely not a lady.”
But she said it like it was the best compliment in all the Twelve Baronies, and Ailith couldn’t help but smile.
— What kind of audience will enjoy this story?
I hope it will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy, but particularly readers who enjoy romantic elements and happy endings. Based on my own reading habits, I suspect fans of Maria V. Snyder and Deborah Harkness should find something here to enjoy.
— Is there another character or setting that you can tell us about?
One of my favourite characters is Frida: she’s worked at Watersmeet since she was very young, and when Ailith arrives at the castle she’s assigned to attend to her. They’ve had very different backgrounds, Frida was orphaned as a child, while Ailith has grown up surrounded by a huge family, but they get along well and have a lot in common. Frida is incredibly smart, but more than that, she’s got a common sense that Ailith sometimes lacks. Their developing friendship is one of the highlights of the book, for me, and Frida will have her own chance to star in a future novel.
— Can you tell us about the other books you have written?
I have two other novels previously published: Rebellion and Revolution (Chronicles of Charanthe 1 & 2), which are adventure stories set in an alternative, dystopian world.
— And finally what is next for Rachel Cotterill?
I have two books in the pipeline right now.
I’m working on the second Twelve Baronies novel at the moment. Originally I thought that Watersmeet would be a stand-alone story but having created the world, I discovered that there was a lot more to say. The second volume will centre on Yutta, the heir to Wulfsberg, a mother of two who’s scarily competent with a sword.
And Reformation, the third and final novel in the Chronicles of Charanthe series, has been underway for some time and will hopefully see publication this year.
You can read more from Rachel Cotterill here