Jaime Questell, author of By A Charm and A Curse, dropped by The Nerd Daily to take us on a journey through the setting of her novel!
BY JAIME QUESTELL
When I set out to write about a carnival, I knew I wanted to cram in all the things I loved about carnivals, circuses, and fairs, and then make it was being viewed through an old school Instagram filter. Like everything is golden and hazy and soft around the edges. So, with that in mind, let’s take a walk through LeGrand’s Carnival Fantastic.
Even though LeGrand’s is a travelling carnival, it’s always set up the same way. A walkway lined with carefully hand-painted, larger than life posters, each featuring a different performer leads to the ticket booth. Sun-bleached calico pennants zigzag between the posters, snapping in the breeze.
Once inside, you have two options. To your left is the midway, each booth housing games like ring toss and skeeball and that game where you have to fill a balloon using a water gun until it bursts. Tucked away in this aisle is the fortuneteller’s booth, just waiting for someone to come by and take a chance on a fortune. Down the pathway to the right is Juliet’s reason for existence: carnival food. If it can be put on a stick and fried, this is where you’ll find it. Fried candy bars? Check. Deep-fried turkey legs? Yep. Frozen, chocolate-dipped slabs of cheesecake? Shut up and take my money. I won’t lie, one of the best things about the Texas Renaissance Festival is the sheer amount of redonkulous food, and that was the inspiration for this part of the carnival.
A little bit further in are our performers. Let’s swing a left and start all the way at the end of the row. Here, in a big open ring, are Gin and Whiskey, our equestrians. Like many of our performers, their family has worked for carnivals for generations. Both girls learned to ride when they were small, and their talent coupled with the charm that protects all carnival performers and patrons, allows them to push their physicality to the limit.
In the tent next door is Marcel the knife-thrower. He and his father alternate acts, but Marcel is the one to see for daring acts that leave the viewer breathless. Marcel is the most precise, the one able to hit the smallest target, to get the knife closest to his assistant, Gin.
Smack dab in the middle of the row are the twins, Duncan and Pia. For as long as LeGrand’s has been in existence, a member of their family has travelled with the carnival. Their tent is filled with tea leaves and cups, crystals and tarot decks, incense, and bottles and bottles of enchanted wine. But even then, they don’t need any of that. Pia just needs your palm, and Duncan, well, Duncan just needs to be near you, and then all your secrets are his.
In the next tent over we have the Moretti brothers, tumblers extraordinaire. Their daring feats cannot be matched, though if you ask, there are some who think the brothers rely too heavily on the charm that protects the performers.
And in the last tent in performers’ row we have Mrs. Potter and her dogs. With turns of phrase that belong to another era but vibrant purple hair that belongs to this one, Mrs. Potter is something of a character. And her dogs! Basically every dog I’ve ever wanted is part of Mrs. Potter’s act, and they’re all phenomenal.
Behind the performers’ tents are the big rides, the carousel, the haunted house, and the roller coaster. And behind all of that, looming over everything, is the Ferris wheel. The structure is wooden but solid, and is one of the oldest attractions at the carnival. And it’s where this story begins.
About By A Charm and A Curse
Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.
Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for. Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.
About Jaime Questell
JAIME QUESTELL grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing.