The winner is:
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Today I’m so excited to interview Stephanie Burgis. Her book, KAT INCORRIGIBLE, was released in the United States on April 5, 2011 and was released in the UK as A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK on August 1, 2010. I heard such great things about it when it was released and I knew I had to read it. I wasn't disappointed. I loved Kat, the main character, and the magical system Stephanie created.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?
Hi Stephanie. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. I know you’re from East Lansing (Yea Michigan!) but have traveled a lot. Tell us a little about yourself and how your travels have influenced your writing.
I love East Lansing, and it will always be home to me, but as I grew up, I heard so many stories about the different countries my great-grandparents and other ancestors had come from. Learning about their childhoods in countries like the Ukraine, Croatia, and elsewhere, along with their travels (many of them dangerous) across Europe and the ocean gave me a yen for travel from a very early age. When you add that to my love for nineteenth-century British novels (first sparked when my dad read me PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, when I was eight!), and it’s not a surprise that I ended up settling in Europe as an adult!
There was a while when I was writing a lot of books based in central and Eastern Europe, where much of my family originally came from, but when I wrote my first Kat book, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE (A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK), it was the first time I’d set a novel exactly where I was living at the time. I lived in Yorkshire, England, and Kat lived in Yorkshire, too, so the landscape I was describing was the view from my own window (minus the modern cars, of course!). Also, I visited Bolton Abbey regularly - it’s a beautiful medieval abbey connected to an old manor house, and it was one of my favorite spots to walk around when I was living in Leeds - so I sent Kat to my own fictional version of it, “Grantham Abbey”, which was really fun. Then in Book 2, A TANGLE OF MAGICKS (RENEGADE MAGIC), I got to send her to my favorite city in the UK: Bath. It was a great excuse to go back to Bath again and again for “research”! ;)
2. That's so awesome that you live in such a neat place and can tap into your travels in creating your settings. KAT INCORRIGIBLE is set in the Regency era. What research did you do to create an accurate historical setting?
Luckily, I’d always been fascinated by that time period, so I’d spent years reading biographies, diaries, and letters of Regency-era women just for fun long before I ever had the idea of writing Kat. By the time I actually started writing Kat, I had a really good grounding in the history, atmosphere, and society of the time period, so it was really just a matter of looking up all the thousands of tiny details that came up in the process of writing Kat’s stories. Then, to make absolutely sure I absorbed the right Regency voice, I spent ten minutes re-reading Jane Austen’s letters before every writing session as I wrote KAT, INCORRIGIBLE!
3. I loved how you incorporated a new magical system of the Guardians, Kat’s special magical object, and witchcraft. How did you develop your magical system and did any fantasy books you’ve read influence how you created it?
Honestly, it was a really intuitive process…at least right up until the end of the first draft, when I had to make go through it with a fine-tooth comb and force it into consistency and internal logic. Since I’ve been devouring fantasy novels since I was a little kid, I’m sure they all influenced me at one level or another, but the basic impetus was just starting with the idea of an alternate Regency England where witchcraft was real and considered to be far too scandalous to be engaged in…and then wondering: if everyone knows about witchcraft, what kind of magic don’t they know about? Because you know that if magic were real, the kind everyone knows about could not be the only kind that exists!
4. I could so sympathize with how Kat yearns for an independence not allowed girls of her time and is actually quite self sufficient. What made you decide to develop her as a character like this and is there any part of yourself in her?
In some ways, I feel awkward about claiming that I intended anything about Kat’s strength, because honestly she appeared fully-formed in my head, her voice and capital-A Attitude already VERY strong - but I’m sure that that happened because strong, feisty heroines have always been my favorite heroines, as a reader. And in a lot of ways, Kat is the girl I wish I could have been. Personally, I’ve always been shy and had trouble expressing how I really think if it might lead to any conflict, whereas Kat says EXACTLY what she thinks, no matter how controversial, and leaps head-first into danger! So it’s really cathartic for me to write about her adventures.
5. I'm shy too, but love to read about strong, assertive main characters too. Especially girls. Your book was published first in the UK with a totally different cover and title than in the United States. What went into the decisions regarding the different titles and covers and why was it released in the UK first?
The funny thing is, the trilogy sold first to my American publisher, in 2008, with an intended publication date of February 2010. It only sold in January 2010 to my UK publisher. So originally, it was intended to come out first in the US! But my American publisher, in consultation with the buyers at Barnes & Noble, decided that the first cover chosen for the book just wasn’t right, so they postponed publication until April 2011 to gain the time to find just the right cover and even think up a new title that felt closer to their vision of what was most essential about the book - Kat, herself, creating fabulous chaos. :)
The British covers of my books have a different illustrator than either of the American covers, partly because the book is being published by two different publishers in the different countries, and partly because the audiences in the two countries really are so different in terms of what kinds of covers appeal. But the UK edition was published with the title I’d originally thought up for my American publisher, because it actually fit perfectly with my British publisher’s vision for the cover and audience. So it all worked out really well in the end, even though it wasn’t what I’d originally expected!
6. That's so interesting how it was supposed to be published here first. Your agent is Barry Goldblatt. Tell us a bit about your journey to find an agent and why you chose an agent in the United States since you live in Wales?
Barry represents a lot of my favorite MG and YA authors, and his co-agent in the UK is a fabulous agent, Nancy Miles. So signing with him was perfect for someone like me who dreamed of being published in both countries - I got both Barry’s and Nancy’s enthusiasm and expertise! That having been said, like most writers, it did take me a long time to find an agent - about 9 months from start to finish. So it took a lot of stubborn persistence (and comfort chocolate) along the way!
7. What was your marketing strategy when your book first came out in the UK and did you change it at all when your book was released in the United States? Are you doing anything differently for your second book?
The most obvious difference between the two countries is that I can’t make physical visits to schools and bookstores in the US, unfortunately. So I’m much more reliant on email and Skype to meet American readers! I also learned from my first book that book trailers are much more helpful for the American audience - they don’t seem as popular in the UK, so I haven’t bothered to commission one for the British edition of Book 2. (However, maybe I’m wrong about this? I’d love to hear some feedback about this from UK readers!)
I have been able to do in-person visits to schools and bookstores here in the UK, though, as well as leading writing workshops for kids and appearing in various author events my publishers have scheduled for me. That part is so much fun - I *love* meeting readers in person!
8. I wouldn't have guessed that book trailers would be more popular in the United States. It's something we should all keep in mind if we get published in the UK too. Your sequel, RENEGADE MAGIC, will be released in the United States on April 3, 2012 and is being released in the UK as A TANGLE OF MAGICKS today. What advice do you have about writing a series?
My series is one where each book is meant to stand on its own as a self-contained adventure (although of course there is character development across the series), because that’s the kind of series I really love to read. The hardest part is always the beginning of each new novel, where you have to figure out just exactly how much information any new-to-the-series readers will need in order to be able to enjoy the action and understand what’s going on. The most important thing is just to focus on the essentials - they don’t need to know everything that happened in the last book, only what actually impacts the beginning of this book! Sometimes that’s hard advice to follow because I want people to know about all the cool stuff that happened in the last book…but honestly, that just gets in the way and makes new readers feel frustrated that they might be missing something important.
9. Knowing how much backstory to share is always hard for me to figure out. Thanks for the tip. What are you working on now?
I just finished editing Kat Book 3 (still untitled) today! Whew.
Good luck Stephanie. You can contact Stephanie and read the first chapters of both books at her website and visit her at her blog.
Stephanie's publisher, Attheneum Books for Young Readers, generously donated a copy KAT, INCORRIGIBLE, for this giveaway. To enter the contest, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on August 13th. I’ll announce the winner on August 15th.
Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Here are all the links to where you can find Marvelous Middle Grade Monday bloggers:
I'm going on vacation on Wednesday so will probably be offline while spending time with my family.
Next week I'll be doing a regular blog post. And I'm doing an interview with debut author Jonathan Auxier on August 10th--his birthday--and giving away a copy of his book PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES.
On August 15th, I'll be interviewing a teen in high school for my ASK THE EXPERT SERIES. And on August 22nd, I'm so excited to interview Kelley Armstrong and give away a copy of her book, THE GATHERING.
Hope to see you next Monday!