Brigid Kemmerer Returns with the Second Book in the 'Cursebreakers' Series

Posted by Cybil on January 1, 2020
Brigid Kemmerer is something of a polymath when it comes to compulsively readable YA. Her contemporary YA romance novels, such as the Letters to the Lost series and last year’s Call It What You Want (think Robin Hood in a high school), have won her droves of fans. She’s also locked in followers with paranormal stories like the Elemental series and Thicker Than Water.

Most recently she created the enormously popular Cursebreakers series, a fantasy saga where modern urban life and fairy tale entwine.

The first book, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, a bestseller and finalist for a 2019 Goodreads Choice Award, hooked readers with its compelling story of Harper, a troubled teen from Washington, D.C., and Rhen, a Prince cursed to repeat the autumn of his 18th birthday until he can make a woman fall in love with him before it ends and he turns into a murderous monster. As the book’s popularity grew, fans began celebrating “Curse Day” on September 23, Rhen’s birthday and the date when the curse begins.

Now Kemmerer is back with book two (her 11th novel), the hugely anticipated A Heart So Fierce and Broken, which fleshes out the world of Emberfall, focusing on Grey, Rhen’s loyal guard, and Lia Mara, the daughter of a rival queen, as loyalties are tested and the kingdom is driven to the brink of war.

This January, Kemmerer heads out on her first solo tour, visiting five cities where she’ll be joined by fellow author friends such as Jodi Picoult. The Maryland-based author told Goodreads about Rhen’s post-curse PTSD and the reality behind Happily Ever Afters, the key to her characters’ authentic relationships, and the new fantasy series she’s working on, Defy the Night.

Goodreads: Your first book in the Cursebreakers series was an innovative retelling of Beauty and the Beast centered on Harper, a high school senior with cerebral palsy, and the cursed Prince Rhen. How does book two continue the story and expand the world in which it’s set?

Brigid Kemmerer: At the beginning of A Heart So Fierce and Broken, Prince Rhen and Harper have broken the curse…but Rhen’s guardsman Commander Grey has disappeared after learning some shocking secrets about himself. While he’s in hiding, he discovers that the kingdom of Emberfall has begun to fracture, and there are whispers of civil war, along with threats of an impending attack from the neighboring kingdom of Syhl Shallow.

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GR: Why did you decide to tell A Heart So Fierce and Broken from the point of view of Grey, Rhen’s loyal guard, and Lia Mara, the daughter of the queen of the enemy kingdom Syhl Shallow?

BK: When I first put Grey on the page in Curse, he took on a life of his own as this violent and terrifying guardsman who was secretly a big softy. I knew I’d want a chance to tell his story, and as the kingdom of Emberfall grew larger and larger, I realized I’d have the opportunity.

It took me a little while to decide on the right kind of girl for Grey to fall in love with, because I kept thinking he needed a warrior princess to stand at his side. But then I remembered that we fall in love with people who see us for our true selves, not just the front we present to the outside world, and the fiercely kind and intelligent Lia Mara came to life on the page almost instantly.

GR: Rhen suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after the events of A Curse So Dark and Lonely and makes some questionable decisions in book two. Was it important to you to challenge the traditional “happily ever after” ending of Beauty and the Beast with a more nuanced portrayal of the aftermath of Rhen’s experiences?

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BK: Yes! Real life never really works out like it would in a fairy tale. I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would have done to Rhen and Grey to spend so long being trapped in the curse being tortured by Lilith, and what kind of baggage they’d carry out of it. Rhen will definitely have to come to terms with some of the choices he makes in Heart. As Rhen says in Curse, the choices we get may not be the choices we want—but they’re still choices.

GR: Book one takes place in both the modern and fantastical world, but book two is set purely in the fantasy realm. Why is this, and will book three incorporate both real and fantasy worlds?

BK: Book two shows us a few glimpses of Grey’s ability to enter Harper’s world (our modern world), and this will definitely come into play in the third book.

GR: Do you know yet how many books there will be in this series and how it will end?

BK: Right now, I’m only contracted for three books, but the world of Emberfall and Syhl Shallow (and Iishellasa, which readers will learn about in Heart) are vast and have a lot of room for more stories.

GR: Readers continually praise the depictions of relationships in your books, whether it’s friendship, romantic relationships, or that between siblings, such as between Lia Mara and her sister, Nolla Verin. How do you go about capturing the complexity of these relationships?

BK: It’s very important to me that every character—even side characters—have their own desires, fears, wants, needs, and motivations, and I make sure that those traits are at the forefront of my mind for every single interaction.

Then I consider who they trust and who they dislike—even if they’re wrong, ha ha—and I build on that every time characters are on the page together. I try not to shy away from closeness, either. I know sometimes it’s easier to create conflict if people aren’t getting along, but I think a deeper, more profound conflict can arise when people actually love each other.

GR: You’ve written YA novels in multiple genres—contemporary, fantasy, paranormal romance. Which do you enjoy the most, and why?

BK: I love them all! Really! Contemporary is sometimes easier because everyone knows what a toaster is, but fantasy gives me so much room to explore some truly off-the-wall ideas. At their core, though, all of my stories are about the family you have and the family you make and about dealing with all of the complex messes that life throws at you.

GR: What can you tell us about Defy the Night, your new fantasy series, the first part of which is due out in 2021?

BK: Defy the Night is about two outlaws named Weston and Tessa who live in the kingdom of Kandala, whose people are suffering from a mysterious fever that can only be cured by teas made from petals of the Moonflower—an expensive commodity. Wes and Tessa steal medicine to distribute it among those who can’t afford any—until Wes is caught and Tessa tries to rescue him. In doing so, she runs afoul of the king and his wicked brother, and everything she thought she knew about Kandala turns out to be wrong...

GR: Do you have a daily writing routine or any rituals that help get your prose flowing?

BK: I need coffee and music. That’s it. Otherwise, I can write anywhere at any time. I especially love writing on airplanes.

GR: Tell us about some books you recently read and loved or can’t wait to read.

BK: I just got a chance to read Havenfall by Sara Holland, and I loved it! I’m really looking forward to Hood by Jenny Elder Moke.


Brigid Kemmerer's A Heart So Fierce and Broken arrives in U.S. stores on January 7. Don't forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf. Be sure to also read more of our exclusive author interviews and get more great book recommendations.

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by KingdomReader (new)

KingdomReader This is awesome!
Good luck!


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

*screams of excitement*

message 3: by KingdomReader (new)

KingdomReader Calm yourself O mighty Lemon Demon

message 4: by Amethyst (new)

Amethyst Majestorye I meet you at Books & Books!!! I was too shy to really talk to you but I am SO glad I manage to finish the book just ten minutes before the event started! I LOVE Curse, and I am so ready to get my feels taken for a ride with Fierce!!!

I will hope that after your contract, we can see the world of Cursebreakers with a fresh set of characters! I think that'll be lovely <3

message 5: by TMR (new)

TMR Wonderful interview, and so darn eager to get the second book! 🙌🏼

message 6: by Pinktwest (new)

Pinktwest I won’t mind more books set in the Cursebreaker world!!!!!

message 7: by sophie (new)

sophie Currently reading the book, I hope it’s as great as the first one :)

message 8: by Cher (new)

Cher I don’t usually read retells of fairy tales, but made an exception for Curse due to the ratings. I just loved it! Not because of the fairy tale but despite it because, to me, this was about real people with real feelings and real challenges. Thanks for that. Truly look forward to the next one even though I’m a bit apprehensive about the whole who’s the prince mix-up.

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