June 6, 2011

author interview: stephanie burgis

Today, I welcome Stephanie Burgis, author of Kat, Incorrigible, the first novel in The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson. (You can read my review here)

When did you decide you were going to be a writer?

I actually remember that moment really clearly! I was seven years old, riding in the car with my mom and my little brother, and I announced to my mom that I had finally found something that was even MORE fun than reading: writing! So I was going to be a writer. My family was shocked...mostly because I had been SO obsessed with reading for so long at that point that they couldn't imagine me liking anything better than that! ;)

As a debut author, what were some of the struggles you faced between writing Kat, Incorrigible/A Most Improper Magick and publication? What was your writing journey like?

The first struggle, of course, was finding an agent, which took about 9 months from start to finish. Once I found my fabulous agent, though, everything sped up a lot. I did a 3-week-long rewrite for him, and less than two months later, we'd had offers on Kat!

After that, the major hurdle was finding the right cover for the book. I love that my editor and publishing house were so committed to that - we went through three different covers on the way! Although it was sometimes hard to be patient, as the publication date kept getting shifted back so that we could work on better covers, it was definitely worth it in the end. I absolutely love the cover we have now.

I really connected with Kat (she is my twelve-year-old self incarnate); why did you choose to tell the story from her perspective?

I've always loved Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer novels, and in a lot of them, the heroines have younger sisters who only pop up for a moment or two in the books, just long enough to be snarky and totally disrespectful of their romantic-heroine older sisters! I always loved those moments, and I thought it would be so much fun to write a book where the snarky younger sister got to be the heroine, having her own fabulous magical adventures while her older sisters pursue romance.

What was your inspiration for the different magic systems in Kat, Incorrigible (and subsequent books in The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson)?

It all started with the idea of how much fun it would be to mix up magic and Regency England - and to make magic the most shocking thing that a young lady could possibly do! Witchcraft was the obvious first step - but then I started thinking: there must be something more. Everyone in society knows about witchcraft, fears and despises it - but what *don't* they know about? So the Guardians were invented, a rival group of magic-workers with a completely different form of magic and a different form of magical inheritance. And in Book 2, you'll find out what other magic secretly exists in the world...

Kat, Incorrigible is rife with highwaymen; why the fascination with them (both yours and Kat’s)?

There's so much glamor and excitement in the *idea* of highwaymen! The first time I remember hearing about them was when I was ten and I read Alfred Noyes's poem "The Highwayman", all about a romantic, doomed hero (the highwayman, of course), his loyal, lost love and the evil, evil people who hunt him down for his (noble, gallant) crimes.

It's very close to the appeal of Robin Hood. The ideal highwayman in popular culture (for a long time now!) has been a gorgeous, noble, gallant young man (probably an aristocrat in diguise with a romantic background) who never, ever harms anyone who doesn't deserve it and will usually turn down a lady's most expensive jewelry in exchange for getting a (mad, passionate) kiss.

Of course the reality was very different, dangerous and scary. I doubt there were many (if any!) highwaymen who were really handsome, gallant, and romantic, but people have loved that image for ages, and I had an awful lot of fun playing with it in Kat, Incorrigible.

Why do you think Regency England resonates with so many readers, garnering a love for Jane Austen-esque fiction?

It's filled with beautiful, exotic (to us) clothing and fashions and archaic social rules, and writers have made it a setting where wit and style and romance are valued above all else. Who wouldn't enjoy reading about that? :)

What is your favorite part about writing?

The sheer joy of creation and escape into a world of adventure, humor and all-out FUN.

Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

Cultivate your stubbornness! It's important to keep working to get better and better at your writing (and don't expect to sell the first or even third novel that you write - I finished my first novel at age 15 and didn't sell any of my novels until I was 31, so you can guess how many I wrote in the meantime!), but you also have to develop enough of a shell to keep sending your work out, both to critique groups that can help you (even when their criticisms burns) and to agents and publishers who will reject you over and over again. Rejection is just a fact of the writing life that we all have to deal with, all throughout our careers. It's not any reflection on you or your potential.

The biography on your website mentions growing up reading The Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice. If you could spend the day with a character from each story, who would it be and why?

I'd love to spend a day hanging out with Elizabeth Bennet, gossiping and laughing. As far as Lord of the Rings...hmmm. I adore the book and the characters, but honestly, it's very much a boys' club, so that makes it harder to figure out a character for me to hang out with. Aragorn is fabulous (especially as a ranger) but I could never keep up with his outdoor pursuits; we don't know much about Arwen except that she's wise and kind; Eowyn would think I was a wimp...the hobbits, of course, are by far the most fun. Can I pick two of them at once? I'd hang out with Pippin and Merry all day long.

What is one random or strange fact that people don’t know about you?

When I'm alone and stressed, I often tell myself stories out loud to calm myself down. So if you could see me in my house, discovering a broken refrigerator or a leak under the sink, you'd probably hear me whispering, "Once upon a time..."

Anything else you'd like to add?

I'd just love to point out that you can read the first three chapters of Kat, Incorrigible on my website: http://www.stephanieburgis.com

Thanks so much for having me, Brooke!

Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but fell in love with Regency England when she discovered the novels of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. She decided to be a writer when she was seven, and sold her first short story when she was fifteen. Stephanie lives with her husband, fellow writer Patrick Samphire, their baby, and their dog in Wales.

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