The power of a portrait

Exclusive piece by Margaret Rogerson

When I started brainstorming ideas for An Enchantment of Ravens, the first thing I knew was that I wanted to write a Robin McKinley-esque heroine whose strength was centered around a specific—and ideally somewhat unique—craft. I decided to make Isobel a portrait artist because of my own background in the area. Though I haven’t done a portrait in years, and I work with charcoal and sepia pencils instead of oils, it was a topic I felt I could write about authentically from the heart. As soon as I finished the first chapter, I knew I’d made the right choice. My own passion for art acted as a door of sorts, allowing me to enter Isobel’s mind and bring her voice to life.

The second thing I knew during the early stages of plotting was that Isobel’s identity as an artist needed to have narrative significance. For Enchantment to say something meaningful about art, her craft couldn’t just be a means of supporting her family, a beloved hobby, or a device to bring about the story’s initial inciting incident. It needed to be powerful, and it needed to act as a vital force of change. Ultimately, plotting with that in mind helped inspire the idea that immortality in this setting is far more of a burden or a curse than an advantage. Living forever means never changing, with the result that the fair folk are stagnant beings devoid of meaning, for whom attempting any creative act can literally prove deadly. To them, human Craft is almost a form of magic—a magic they bitterly envy, and one that may hold far more power over them than they realize.

My agent originally pitched Enchantment as a story in which the protagonist “learns to love while staying true to herself.” It’s important to me that Isobel is a character who loves passionately but refuses to sacrifice her art or identity for the sake of romantic love, even when faced with dire consequences. I hope you can find something to relate to in her journey, whether you’re an artist, baker, knitter or Instagrammer, or simply someone who gazes into the autumn woods and dreams.

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