Interview: Rosie Danan discusses Do Your Worst, curses, and more

Do Your Worst by Rosie Danan. Image Courtesy of Berkley.
Do Your Worst by Rosie Danan. Image Courtesy of Berkley. /

Do Your Worst is Rosie Danan’s latest steamy romance, and while the subject matter is different from her past books, readers still get in-depth characters and plenty of heated scenes between the two main characters.

The book follows Riley, a cursebreaker who is looking to make a name (and a living) for herself by breaking one of the biggest curses in Scotland at a castle in the Highlands. When she first gets there, she meets Clark, an archaeologist who is fresh off a scandal and looking to redeem himself by doing a survey of the same Scottish castle Riley is looking for curses in.

When they first meet, sparks fly…until Clark tries to get her fired. From then on, they are enemies and will do anything to ensure the other looks ridiculous. But while they are trying to prank one another, they soon find out that maybe they don’t hate each other as much as they once thought and maybe there is something supernatural driving them together.

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Rosie Danan about Do Your Worst, one of the most memorable scenes in the book, and what’s coming next for her.

Rosie Danan talks Do Your Worst, her writing process, and curses

Culturess: What sparked the idea for Do Your Worst?

Rosie Danan: I began working on this book two years into the pandemic, so I knew I wanted to pursue a concept that was particularly escapist and even a little, dare I say, zany. What I love about a curse is, inherently, it can be broken. More often than not, in fairy tales, it’s an average person who saves an entire village. There’s something empowering and hopeful in that concept for me.

Sometimes when I’m deciding which project to dive into, I like to think about stories that have stood out to me, hunting for why they resonate. This time, I found myself really nostalgic for paranormal programming from the 90s and early 00s—Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, The Mummy (1999).

I particularly liked the contrast between characters tussling with the supernatural while simultaneously managing very human problems like worrying about paying their bills or dealing with family drama.

Culturess: The book takes place exclusively in Scotland. What about that place drew you to putting the story there?

RD: Well, originally, I was going to set the story in France because I’d read about this amazing French Chateau that I wanted to use as inspiration for the setting. But then as I was starting to draft, I realized not speaking French was a significant complication for a story set in a small rural village. I switched to Scotland in no small part because they speak English.

But also, I was lucky enough to get to visit the Highlands on my honeymoon and I have always felt they have a mystical quality to them that made the land feel like a believable setting for an ancient curse. I spoke to some locals about the long-standing fairy lore in the area and they gave me some fun fodder to weave in as well.

Culturess: How did the sex ritual come about during your writing process and was it as fun to write as it was to read?

RD: It was not something I originally concepted, but early readers kept being like “This is a curse book! Where is the sex ritual in the castle?!” so I added it in during revisions and I’m very glad because people seem to enjoy it ☺

It was very fun coming up with the steps by blending different aspects of arcane lore to make up what I felt was compelling curse-breaking methodology. One of the more fun parts of writing a paranormal romance is once you include magical elements in a story, you create a bit of a sense that anything is possible which makes for rather shall we say “unique” steamy scenes.

Culturess: If you were a curse breaker like Riley, what type of curse would you want to break?

RD: Oh wow. With great power comes great responsibility. There is no shortage of oppressive horrors in our world at the moment that I’d love to have the power to end, unfortunately, I think most of them are man-made rather than magical.

Before the events of Do Your Worst start, Riley specializes in breaking curses on people’s love lives which feels like a very fitting endeavor for a romance writer so perhaps I’d jump in to help there.

Culturess: Belief is a big part of this book. Belief in the curse, but also belief in yourself. Both Riley and Clark struggle with belief in one way or another. How/Why is belief so important to these two characters?

RD: Reality is the stories we tell ourselves. Both Riley and Clark’s perceptions of themselves have been shaped by their families, for better or for worse. What I really loved about writing them as enemies to lovers is that they originally reinforce the “worst” parts of one another, but then as they get to know one another they realize those assumptions aren’t true. Once they believe in each other, it’s easier for them to believe in themselves.

Culturess: Did you come across any big struggles while writing Riley and Clark? They are so different, but you brought them together in a way that felt effortless.

RD: I wouldn’t say it was a character struggle so much as a storytelling struggle. I wasn’t sure initially how clear I was going to make it that the curse on Arden Castle is real and then later when I was going to make that clear within the timeline of the story.

Because Riley is a curse breaker that has been raised to believe in curses her whole life, and Clark—as someone who lost everything as a result of falling for a deception— does not believe in curses. And therefore, sees Riley as both manipulative and deceptive.

In early versions of the manuscript, I tried to write in a way that created ambiguity. So that you, as a reader, were not sure who was right here, whose side were you on. I really wanted to toe the line between our world and the world of the narrative, to almost make you believe ‘wait you’re building a kinda compelling case here…is it possible that curses ARE real?”

In my head, that was going to add tension to the story. In practice, it didn’t work at all. I think it was partially because I wasn’t accounting for the fact that the natural reader’s response is not believing in a curse, so it was never a fair fight. To make you believe in Riley, to make you like her, I need to give you a reason to believe in what she was doing and why from the very beginning.

Culturess: What do you have coming up next? Anything you can tell us about?

RD: I can’t say too much yet, but readers can expect another high-heat paranormal rom-com in a contemporary setting.

Next. Raiders of the Lost Heart is a debut romance full of adventure. dark