Kass Morgan is the bestselling author of The 100, which was the inspiration for the CW show of the same name, and Light Years. An editor of middle grade and young adult fiction, she received a B.A. from Brown University and a master’s from Oxford University. Danielle Paige is the bestselling author of the Dorothy Must Die series and Stealing Snow, as well as an upcoming Fairy Godmother origin story series, and the graphic novel Mera: Tidebreaker. In addition to writing YA, she works in the television industry, where she received a Writers Guild of America Award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She is a graduate of Columbia University. Morgan and Paige have teamed up for a new supernatural YA novel, The Ravens, which releases next month. We asked the co-authors and friends to interview each other about the genesis of the book, their collaboration, and plans for a sequel.
Kass Morgan: Greetings, Danielle! I can’t believe it’s been more than six months since we’ve hung out in person. I miss our fancy hotel lobby writing dates! Thank goodness we finished this book before the pandemic because upscale French fries definitely became integral to my writing process. At least our characters get to hang out together. (Is it weird to be jealous of one’s own fictional creation?)
Since The Ravens was your brainchild, do you want to kick us off by talking about your inspiration and the moment you realized this might be a fun book to write with a friend?
Danielle Paige: Hi, Kass! Such strange times!! I miss you and our writing dates and those French fries! Thank goodness for Zoom so I can still see you! And I love that Vivi and Scarlett are still hanging out together even when we can’t.
As for the genesis of The Ravens, I had the idea of writing about sorority witches years ago, before I wrote Dorothy Must Die. I’ve always been fascinated by sororities and witches. Covens and sororities are all about sisterhood and secrecy, and there’s so, so much potential for drama. So putting them together and getting to write the book with a true sister and friend felt like magic.
I’m so glad you said yes! You brought so much to this book and together we made it our own, a throwback to the witch stories and books we grew up loving, and a new take on what it would mean to be a witch in a modern context.
So what influenced you in writing The Ravens?
Morgan: I was actually really inspired by your interest in exploring what it means to be a witch today. I’ve always been fascinated by witches—I inhaled movies like The Craft and Practical Magic, made pilgrimages to Salem, and studied the witch trials in college. In those contexts, witches were always framed as the consummate outsiders—women who were feared or shunned for being too assertive, too powerful, or for challenging the social order in some way. That’s why I found the premise of The Ravens so appealing. Kappa Rho Nu is the most prestigious sorority at Westerly College, and its members are admired for their drive, talent, and ambition. No one knows that the girls are witches, of course, but the Kappas are revered on campus. And, okay, maybe they’re a little intimidating to non-witches, but who wouldn’t be mildly threatened by a straight-A physics major whose winged eye-liner doesn’t budge?
Speaking of which, I loved imagining how the Ravens use magic in everyday life, smoothing over the small annoyances the rest of us mortals just have to deal with... like smudgy eyeliner. Which of your own fantasies informed your world-building?
Paige: I share your love for The Craft and Practical Magic, and I also love Charmed and Buffy. And I think we were just immediately on the same page as to what we wanted our sorority of witches to be. In real life sororities are reexamining their history and exclusivity and we wanted to create a sorority on the page that was always inclusive and diverse. The girls of Kappa Rho Nu are never judged by any other metric than their power and their potential.
As for the world of The Ravens, I love how you can find magic in the smallest moments, from eyeliner application to summoning a storm or even affecting the consciousnesses of those around you. Our girls have to grapple with what it means to use their power. Is it okay to use your magic to break in line at the coffee shop? (I miss coffee shops!) Is it okay to give a bully a bad hair day? Is it okay to make your boyfriend tell you where he was last night? And that’s where it gets interesting and complicated. Where do you draw the line, when your power just might be limitless.... And that’s what our sisters have to figure out before it’s too late.
Morgan: Speaking of sisters, I suppose we should introduce our main characters! It’s fun thinking that we could’ve gone either way, but I’m glad we ended up dividing the chapters the way we did, with me writing from Vivi’s POV and you taking Scarlett’s. Vivi had a nomadic childhood criss-crossing the country with her fortune-teller mother. She’s always hated watching her mom swindle desperate people out of their money and thinks that only rubes believe in magic, which is why it’s such a shock for her to discover that magic is real and that she’s a witch! But I think, even more than learning to perform spells, Vivi is drawn to Kappa Rho Nu because she craves friendship and belonging above all else, which is something I think we can all relate to. However, as a legacy witch, Scarlett goes on a very different journey in this book, right?
Paige: I love your Vivi! I think it’s sometimes really hard to write the good girl or rather the good witch. But you gave Vivi such a great arc—her relationship with her mom, her discovery that she is a witch, and how she deals with it all just makes us root for her every step of the way.
Scarlett was just so easy to write. She comes from witch royalty as far as Kappa Rho Nu is concerned. Her mother and sister and every witch before her have all become Kappa presidents and gone on to great success after college. Scarlett wants nothing more than to do the same. She has big Louboutins to fill and her every action has been calculated to get there. She has the perfect boyfriend, she gets the perfect grades, she plans the perfect parties, etc. all with the aid of her magic. And then Vivi shows up, a baby witch with no sense of her own power or their history. And Vivi is assigned to be her Little Sister during rush, so Scarlett’s success becomes tied to Vivi’s. And just as this is happening, other mysterious, magical things begin to happen and Scarlett finds her perfect world and her sisterhood in mortal danger.
Morgan: I had so much fun reading Scarlett’s chapters—you nailed her voice. I love how perfectly you balanced her sass, snark, and vulnerability. We’re working on the sequel right now and I just wrote a scene where Vivi shuts down a member of the rival sorority by channeling her “inner Scarlett.”
I think some people might be a little surprised by our writing process, especially the fact that we wrote the first draft of our chapters simultaneously instead of passing a document back and forth. I think it worked really well as it gave us both lots of freedom to play and experiment, so when it came time to start the second draft, I felt like I had a whole new toolkit to work with. I was actually pretty amazed by how much I enjoyed co-writing; it was a joy and a comfort to always have someone to bounce ideas off of! I also appreciated how reading your chapters made me want to up my game. Were you surprised by any aspect of the process?
Paige: I felt exactly the same way! It reminded me in a way of writing for soaps (my first job was a scriptwriter for Guiding Light), in that we had this extensive outline that we stuck to and then we worked independently. Getting your half of the draft was like getting a love letter! It was filled with surprises and beauty and so much fun. And you also made me up my game. I honestly fell in love with your writing the day we met at the NYPL Teen Lit Festival that David Levithan runs. (I miss festivals, and conventions, and book events.) I knew then that we would be friends and I am so glad that we are now writing partners!
Morgan: Me, too! Total writer kismet. I’m so grateful you brought me on board for The Ravens. I’ve never had this much fun writing a book, and collaborating with you reminded me why I have the best job in the world.
The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige. HMH, $18.99 Nov. 3 ISBN 978-0-358-09823-2