Friday, April 12, 2019

Alison Goodman

Alison Goodman is one of those rare authors whose books remind you why you love reading. They are so rich and detailed that you can't help but fall in love with reading all over again. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Alison has an obvious love of learning having been a D.J. O'Hearn Memorial Fellow at Melbourne University. She holds a masters degree and is currently working on her PhD at the University of Queensland. But her academic bent doesn't surprised me in the least with how much detailed research goes into her books. You have to have a love of learning to want to find out how exactly women relieved themselves when they were presented to the Queen in Regency England. While she published her first book in 1998 it was her Eon/Eona duology from 2008 that really cemented her as an internationally bestselling and award-winning author. In fact in 2008 she was a James Tiptree, Jr. Award Honor Book, which is part of WisCon and seriously, if this means she, like Zen Cho, was in Madison at some point and I missed her I'm going to be very sad. At least it was in 2008 and that's before I started going, so at least I can console myself with that.

While it was her duology, before duologies really took off again, that made her a New York Times bestselling author it's The Dark Days Club books that are where it's at for me. This series has won a plethora of awards which proves that occasionally awards get it right. But awards don't matter as much as seeing that an author truly loves what they are writing. Alison lives and breathes the Regency. Just look at her Pinterest boards! I just adore that Alison has Pinterest boards! Because I am a visual person, despite my love of reading, and to visually see inside her brain, to look at her writing process in this medium, to troll through the architecture and art of the Regency period which she absorbed while writing a series I love adds a whole new level of reading enjoyment for me. What's more, she doesn't just virtually live in the Regency world, according to her website "Alison can dance a mean contra-dance, has a wardrobe full of historically accurate Regency clothes and will travel a long way for a good high-tea." Now the problem I have is that there really isn't a good place for high-tea near me to lure her in with... 

Question: When did you first discover Jane Austen?

Answer: I was quite a latecomer to Jane Austen and only started reading her in my late teens. Before that I read all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency books, so that was my real introduction to the era. My Lady Helen series is probably more of a direct descendant of Heyer than Austen - more emphasis on an adventure plot, a rich Regency setting, and lots of banter between the lead female and male.

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

Answer: For all her gentility, Jane Austen was not without ambition! She published novels that were not in the usual mode for a woman of her time (and let’s not forget that a woman publishing in the early 1800’s was fairly unusual in itself). Not only that, when her brother was no longer able to negotiate with the publishers on her behalf, she took over the management of her career. I think that secretly - and in her letters to her beloved sister, Cassandra - she would have been thrilled and victorious about the afterlife of her novels, but publicly she would have been properly demure.

Question: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Answer: The Lady Helen series is often called Pride and Prejudice meets Buffy, and I can see why - Buffy and her girl power was definitely an inspiration. I find inspiration in all manner of things including Pinterest, newspapers and magazines from the Regency era, diaries written by people who lived at that time, and history books and documentaries (I have a list of my favourite books and documentaries that I used for the Lady Helen series on my website under Research at I also love visiting Regency cities and towns in England, and going to re-enactment events like balls and festivals. Frankly, anything and everything can be an inspiration. Writers are like magpies - we pick up all the shiny things that catch our eye and stash them away in our mind or notebooks for use in a story one day!

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

Answer: For me the early 19th century meshes so well with magic because it sits between the superstitions of pre-1700 and the new rationality that came with the Enlightenment. It was also a time when the bawdy, raucous manners of the Georgian era were being replaced by a new civility, which placed an emphasis on manners and gentility. In the Lady Helen series, I play on this duality and have created an underbelly of demonic chaos in the form of the Deceivers, deadly creatures that feed on the wild emotions of people that have been supressed beneath the new gentility.

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

Answer: Oops, I think I kind of answered this in the previous question. But let me elaborate - I built the magic system in the Lady Helen world directly from the idea of how early 19th century society was changing from the boorish Georgian era into the more refined civility of the Regency. With that as a starting point, I created a personification of that wildness in the form of the demonic Deceivers who live in human bodies and move in society, feeding on emotions. As soon as I had worked out their powers, I could then work out the powers of Lady Helen and her fellow Reclaimers, the human counter to the Deceiver threat.

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

Answer: I think it would have to be period literature. It would pain me to give up fantasy and all its mythic aspects and story freedoms, but in the end I love the research that goes along with writing period fiction. The one thing that I probably wouldn’t miss about writing fantasy is keeping track of the magic system. If you are writing a magic system, I recommend keeping up-to-date notes about what can and can’t happen in your magic world, and also create a chart at the end so that everything is kept straight as you edit. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.

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

Absolutely - I proudly own my Regency geekdom. I have a full Regency wardrobe including a ball gown, spencer jackets and all the under-things. I’ve also learned how to dance in the Regency manner and go to balls and Regency events in full costume. I love it!


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