Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Caroline Stevermer

Caroline Stevermer is a fellow Midwestern girl, growing up on a diary farm in the middle of nowhere. Sadly I only had a defunct diary farm in the middle of nowhere to visit on the weekends, otherwise known as my grandparent's house. Writing since the age of eight she went to Bryn Mawr college and got a B.A. in Art History. Her first sale as a writer happened in 1980 and she has been writing even since. I first found out about Stevermer because I had foisted Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on my friend Ann, who was then known to quote the book at me, who then said, have you heard about Sorcery and Cecelia? I had not! I was beyond excited to hear about another author writing in the Regency era with a magical bent. What is so unique though about Stevermer's series with Patricia Wrede is that they took their love of Austen even further and wrote the three books in the series in epistolary form, each one writing one of the characters, and therefore writing back and forth in a letter game, to the delight of all readers.

Stevermer's work thrives in magical realms, even if they are magical realms that look very much like our own twisted in her unique way. Her Galazon series features a school of magic, long before Hogwarts made it cool. The acclaimed author Terri Windling called the first book, College of Magics, "charmingly distinctive . . . [marked by] the sly wit and sparkling prose that have earned her a cult following." And as for this cultist, I am happy to say that she still lives in the Midwest because I've been lucky enough to meet her twice at WisCon, getting my Cecelia and Kate books signed of course, and seeing her on several panels on very unique subjects. Here's to her continued success, but enough from me, how about a little something from Stevermer in her own words?

Question: When did you first discover Jane Austen?

Answer: When I was in high school, Scholastic Books featured an edition of Pride and Prejudice for fifty cents. I think I still have it. To be honest, I didn't appreciate her until I was in college. I made the mistake of considering her high literature and missed how wonderful her books are.

Question: What do you think Jane Austen would think of her impact with so many literary offshoots, from parody to pastiche?

Answer: Sad to say, I fear she would find our interest in her sadly ill-bred. She had a keen sense of humor, so perhaps she would enjoy laughing at us.

Question: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Answer: It's difficult to pin down, as the sources are so varied. Often from a desire to read about a girl having and adventure on her own terms.

Question: What makes the early 19th century mesh so well with magic?

Answer: I think many time periods mesh well with magic, but to focus on the early 19th century specifically, perhaps it is because advances in science made at the time could as well be advances in science. Electromagnetism in particular seems magical to me.

Question: The world building and system of magic varies greatly in the regency fantasy genre, how did you go about creating yours?

Answer: I worked with Patricia C. Wrede to make sure our sections matched enough to make sense. In my own "College of Magics" and "Scholar of Magics" novels, I was inspired by the C. S. Lewis book, "The Discarded Image." What if the geo-centric model of the universe actually worked?

Question: If you had to choose between writing only period literature or only fantasy literature, which would win?

Answer: Gosh, I don't think I could separate them! I love writing in historical periods not my own, but I can never, ever stick to facts. So I guess fantasy would win out. But probably not for long.

Question: Be honest, have you ever dressed up in Regency clothes just to pretend for a moment you are in the past?

Answer: Not in Regency clothes, but for summer jobs in college I worked as a costumed guide in historic houses, so I've worn both hoop skirts and a bustle routinely. They do change the way one moves.


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