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Isabel Cooper | Can Curses Really Work? Even in reverse?

April 6, 2012

Isabel CooperLESSONS AFTER DARKI blame the Van Wickle Gates.

See, my college has these giant iron gates that are only open for matriculation and commencement, per wacky ceremonial tradition, and also per wacky tradition, there’s some kind of urban (is it really urban on a college campus? Whatever) legend that, should you pass through them at any other time, lo, you will be CURSED and condemned to STAY AT COLLEGE FOREVER, or not graduate, or something.

Said curse couldn’t really apply to me, because the time I walked through them the wrong way was after I’d been graduated, for which I blame my friends Jamey and Mike: we were coming back from the ceremony, discussing who’d won various bets regarding the valedictorian speeches ($5 each on “community,” “diversity,” a gratuitous mention of 9/11, and “Jesus Christ, my personal savior”, and I still think I could’ve swept the pool if we’d bothered to write this stuff down) and…we went the wrong way. As you do.

Since I already graduated, clearly, the curse instead decreed that I’d never get away from academia in general, and…I really haven’t. Definitely not in my writing: my first book, NO PROPER LADY, is one of the few things I’ve published that hasn’t dealt with some kind of school. (Some might say this has to do with the fact that I didn’t spend more than three months at a time outside an academic environment until I was twenty-three, but whatever: curse.)

And then, in LESSONS AFTER DARK, we’re back to school. (Again. Oh, man, why do The Four Tops happen to good people? Or even me?) A magical school, granted, and one which has slightly more in common with the Valdemar Collegium or Xavier’s School for the Gifted than it does with Hogwarts: while Englefield may educate some students for the sake of education, or not having them blow everything up on a whim, its main purpose is to produce people who can take on magical threats.

That’s part of why I like the idea. See, I like friends to lovers a whole lot; I like colleagues-to-lovers even more, because it means the characters pretty much have to interact (and get over themselves) even before any of the fuzzier emotions come into play. You think she’s a fraud just looking for her next dollar? You think he’s a self-righteous jerk who needs to lose the stick up his—well, too bad. You’re working together. So work together.

Schools let you do a lot with that trope. You’ve got a pretty wide range of people for your characters to bounce off, between the other faculty and the students themselves. You’ve got emotional situations springing up like prairie dogs on speed—I was raised at a boarding school, and good Lord, could I tell you stories, except my parents would kill me—and, as long as both your hero and heroine are faculty, you don’t have the power discrepancies that can be an issue in other institutions.

Well, not in fiction, anyhow.

Plus, if you want to explain how things work in your world, setting up actual lessons is a pretty decent way to start.

But really, I blame the curse.


A woman with an unspeakable past…

Olivia Brightmore didn’t know what to expect when she took a position to teach at Englefiend School, an academy for “gifted” children. But it wasn’t having to rescue a young girl who levitated to the ceiling. Or battling a dark mystery in the surrounding woods. And nothing could have prepared her for Dr. Gareth St. John…

A man with exceptional talent…

He knew all about her history and scrutinized her every move because of it. But there was more than suspicion lurking in those luscious green eyes. Even with all the strange occurrences at the school, the most unsettling of all is the attraction pulling Olivia and Gareth together with a force that cannot be denied.


Critically acclaimed author Isabel Cooper lives in Boston with her boyfriend and a houseplant she’s kept alive for over a year now. She maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager working in legal publishing; all the while, she’s writing dark, edgy and magical romance novels. Her debut novel, NO PROPER LADY, was named a 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year in the romance category, a 2011 Library Journal Best Romance of the Year and received an RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence for the month of September 2011. For more information, please visit

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