Friday, March 13, 2015

Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis is one of those lucky Jane Austen lovers who has somehow managed to escape the United States (East Lansing, Michigan to be exact) and relocate to Great Britain, where she now has dual citizenship, I am so jealous. She lives in Wales, after some years in Yorkshire, surrounded by castles (even more jealous) and coffee shops, and one would hope a bookstore or twelve. Stephanie shares her life with her husband Patrick Samphire, who is also a Middle Grade writer among other things. They have two sons, who I am sure will grow up to be book addicts, who could avoid that fate being raised by these two? Stephanie has exquisite tastes in books, and one of her favorite by Austen is Northanger Abbey, which I also adore and view as her most underappreciated book. She is also a huge fan of Caroline Stevermer who happens to be the next featured author this month!

Stephanie has spent much time in school, from the United States to Vienna to England she has learned about music and then writing. I love finding a fellow educational enthusiast who is willing to take the time to learn! Though occasionally it feels as if you'll never be done with school. Writing a vast plethora of short stories, literally over thirty stories for teens and adults, she has turned to writing books, as well as more short stories. After a health setback she took her writing from a darker place to a lighter place, and place a comfort that I know all Janeites feel is home, Regency England. Though Stephanie's has a little some extra, a little magic! Her first book in this series, Kat, Incorrigible, won the 2011 Waverton Good Reads Award for Best Debut Children's Novel by a British Writer, under its UK title, A Most Improper Magick, and rightfully deserved I say! Now let's talk to Stephanie a little more.

Question: When did you first discover Jane Austen?

Answer: My dad read me Pride and Prejudice when I was eight years old, and I fell head-over-heels in love! I ended up devouring all of her novels, and I've re-read almost all of them many times since then.

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

Answer: I'm sure she'd be pleased by her success, although she might wish she had gotten paid better for the books at the time she originally published them...

Question: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Answer: All of my books feature families, not just solitary characters, and that definitely comes from my own experience growing up in a big, noisy, loving family. As for the rest of it - the setting of my first Kat book, Kat, Incorrigible, was based on Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, where my husband and I used to go almost every weekend to soak in the atmosphere and walk our dog. Walking around Georgian House museums all across the UK was really, really helpful. And the second Kat book, Renegade Magic was directly inspired by my many trips to the city of Bath, and particularly by the wonderful Museum of the Roman Baths, which is amazing. I highly recommend a visit to anyone who ever gets the chance!

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

Answer: It's recent enough - and popular enough - to feel accessible even for people who don't generally read historical fiction, but it's also distant enough from our own time period to feel exotic and a bit like a fantasy setting in itself! I think the fact that we accept so many different social rules and expectations when we're reading Regency-era novels sets us up as readers to accept different rules of magic/reality as well.

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

Answer: I loved getting to create different layers of magic and secrecy in my world-building, rather than just having one system of magic. There's the magic everyone knows about (and is horrified by), witchcraft, but then there's also secret Guardian magic and the wild magic that even the Guardians fear. I don't do a lot of plotting or outlining before I write my books, but I discovered all the different layers as I wrote and had a lot of fun with them!

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

Answer: Fantasy would have to win, for me. I've published lots of contemporary fantasy short stories in various magazines, and the MG novel I'm working on right now is set in a secondary world that's only loosely based on early nineteenth century Germany. But I would never want to give up writing historical fiction, either! I have a historical fantasy novel for adults coming out next year, Masks and Shadows, which is set in a real eighteenth-century palace in Hungary, full of intrigue, magic and romance. It was delicious to get to play with another rich historical setting as I wrote that book. I can't imagine giving up writing historical fiction!

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

Answer: Ha! No - but only for lack of opportunity. I would loooove to dress up in a real Regency outfit just to feel it for myself instead of having to guess exactly how those gowns really feel on my characters.


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