I’m happy to share this new Students Want to Know interview with debut author, Stephanie Burgis. Her middle grade novel has already debuted in the UK as A Most Improper Magick, but it’s recently debuted in the United States as Kat, Incorrigible. I adore the cover (so cute!) and this one has been added to my to-read list after reading the summary and getting to know Steph through this wonderful experience. I hope many of you will read her novel as well
Summary (From Goodreads): Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Step-Mama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society–if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother. She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings–saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles–find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman, battle wild magic, and confront real ghosts along the way!
- When you get writer’s block, what is your method for getting the creative juices going again?
Steph: There are lots of different great tactics for this – in fact, I wrote up a whole blog entry once about my top ten ways to fight writer’s block! You can see it here: http://community.livejournal.com/10_ers/196076.htmlLong walks (without any music or company) really help for thinking through story problems, and so do trips out to any place that gets you excited about creativity, whether that’s the comic shop or an art museum.
One of my favorite tactics, though, is to sit down with a whole stack of magazines and newspapers and start tearing out every image that feels like it might somehow connect to my story or my characters. Then I put them all together on a large sheet of construction paper as a collage…and somehow the process of organizing them into a collage and seeing how they fit together often helps me see what’s important about the book I’m writing, and what parts I should concentrate on (or, sometimes, how I’ve been going in the wrong direction). I don’t know why this works so well, but it really does, and I know a lot of other writers who find collaging useful, too.
- Do you like writing historical fiction?
Steph: I love it! I love getting to play with history, and I think it’s especially fun to imagine how magic might work in a historical setting.
- What do you prefer more—writing books where the setting takes place in the U.S. or Britain?
Steph: I like them both – I love both the US and Britain (I’m actually a dual citizen now, American and British), so they’re both fun settings for me. The three Kat books are all set in different parts of England, but the story I’m working on right now is set in America. It’s fun to switch around!
- Do you have a favorite author?
Steph: I have too many favorite authors! It’s hard to narrow them down. Some of them, though, are JRR Tolkien, Jane Austen, JK Rowling, Georgette Heyer, and Franny Billingsley.
- Did any other books influence you to write this?
Steph: Yes, definitely! Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer were two of the biggest influences, as they taught me to love Regency-era romantic comedies, but also JRR Tolkien taught me to love fantasy adventure from the very beginning.
- How did you come up with the characters’ names?
Steph: That was really intuitive – I just cast around until I came up with names that seemed to fit the characters’ personalities. I’m not good at doing that logically, but if I let myself relax and just dream my way through it, I can usually come up with names (and plots!) that make me happy.
- Does dating the story in 1803 give it more spunk than if it was dated currently?
Steph: There were so many restrictive social rules for genteel girls in 1803 – they couldn’t have real careers of their own, they had to marry to achieve status (and get an income), there were so many things they couldn’t do if they wanted to be proper and acceptably ladylike…so that makes it really fun to create a heroine who breaks all the rules and refuses to be limited by them. Also, I just really enjoy setting stories in historical eras, for the fun of imagining myself into different time periods.
- Where did you get the idea to incorporate magic into the story?
Steph: I’ve always loved fantasy adventures so much that I would never write a novel that didn’t include magic of some sort. It just wouldn’t interest me! I do love lots of novels by other authors that don’t include magic, but somehow when it comes to writing my own, I need to have a fantasy plot to make it fun. And with Kat, Incorrigible, I loved getting to mix up my two favorite genres: fantasy adventure and Regency romance!