Friday, April 10, 2015

Mary Robinette Kowal

Of all the authors whose work I love and admire I have to say that if there was one whose life I could live for a day I'd choose Mary Robinette Kowal's. She's like my high schooler dream life personified. Firstly, a puppeteer, so she's got the Jim Henson Muppet side down. Secondly writing work inspired by Jane Austen, but not being limited by that framework. Then there's the whole friends with amazingly awesome writers from Patrick Rothfuss to Neil Gaiman. Sigh. But more then anything it's the talent that I am just in awe of. Seriously, she can write, and the awards she's garnered prove I'm not alone thinking this. She has received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo awards, and the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, such an underachiever.

Going back to Pat Rothfuss, it's because of him that I first heard about Mary's Glamourists Histories. I'm still kicking myself that I actually met Mary at WisCon when Shades of Milk and Honey was just out but didn't know about the series till a year later, thanks Rothfuss, I was talking to you five feet away from Mary, you think you could have pointed her out a year earlier? But whenever you stumble upon a great series it doesn't matter when it happens, just that you finally found this author whose work you just connect with. Besides writing and doing puppetry she also uses her performance and theater skills to record the audio books of fellow authors from Seanan McGuire to John Scalzi.

But the most interesting thing about Mary is there's a slim possibility she's Jane Austen... as her publishers Tor pointed out on their website when the recreation of what Jane Austen must have looked like was unveiled:

"After an extensive period of research, utilizing forensics, eyewitness accounts, and the expertise of a period costume designer, the Jane Austen Centre in Bath has determined what Austen really looked like during her life in the 18th century. At which point we replied um, no, that’s Tor Books author Mary Robinette Kowal, puppeteer, Pat Rothfuss impersonator, and...regency author."

So let's ask this author some questions shall we? Like when she "discovered" Jane Austen...

Question: When did you first discover Jane Austen?

Answer: Golly... I don't remember when I first knew about her, but the moment I rediscovered and fell in love with her was in Lyme Regis. I'd read Persuasion, but there is something about buying a copy in a second hand shop and reading it in the town itself that makes it really live.

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

Answer: I think she'd likely be amused, given how many parodies and pastiches she wrote herself.

Question: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Answer: People. No, really! That's not as facile as it sounds. What I'm most interested in is the connection between people. Writing helps me understand why people make certain choices and the choices I might make in a similar situation.

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

Answer: It's an interesting cusp period. They had a very scientific approach to the world, but from our point of view a lot of things that were Science to them look like superstition and magic to us. It's very easy to insert magic and treat it as matter-of-factly as the idea of ill humors.

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

Answer: I knew I wanted to write a Jane Austen pastiche. Specifically, I wanted to find out if I could fit Fantasy into a Jane Austen plot mold. So, having decided that, it meant that my main character needed to be a young lady of quality. I also wanted her to be a magic user, which meant that magic had to be largely impractical and decorative, since young ladies of quality never had jobs.

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

Answer: I would break the rules and continue to do both.

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

Answer: Oh... Kind of every chance I get. I hand sew my own dresses, which started as research, and attend events with the Oregon Regency Society. I've spent an entire week wearing nothing but Regency clothes and writing with a quill. Why not? Just because you're grownup doesn't mean you should stop having fun.

Author Photograph © 2012 Rod Searcey


Newer Post Older Post Home