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SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis


Please welcome Stephanie Burgis to The Qwillery as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 5 Interviews.

Follow the SPFBO 5 finals at https://mark---lawrence.blogspot.com/2019/10/finalists-for-5th-spfbo.html



SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Stephanie:  When I was six years old, I wrote an epic story about a young dolphin and her family. You will be shocked to hear that - although my mom saved it! - it has STILL never been published. ;)



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Stephanie:  Pantser all the way.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Stephanie:  First drafts are fun - editing is WORK. (Essential work! But it's definitely the harder and less enjoyable part.)



TQDescribe Snowspelled, the Harwood Spellbook 1, using only 5 words.

Stephanie:  Frothy fun feminist fantasy romance.



TQWhat inspired you to write Snowspelled?

Stephanie:  I love Regency rom-coms and fantasy adventures, so Snowspelled - set in an alternate version of early 19th-century England in which a Boudiccate of powerful, hard-headed women governs the country while the "more emotional, irrational" gentlemen are expected to see to the magic - is a perfect mash-up of just about everything I find most fun.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Snowspelled.

Stephanie:  I commissioned the cover art from Leesha Hannigan, a Scottish artist I love. The front cover represents a scene from early in the book, and I loved all the tiny details she inserted in service of the worldbuilding (as she'd read the book and really got it). Also, I would kill to wear that coat! :)



TQIn Snowspelled who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Stephanie:  The heroine herself, Cassandra Harwood, came very easily to me once I had her voice set in my head. She's brilliant and loyal and an absolute bulldozer of a person who always wants to do what's best for everyone she loves...but can have a very hard time understanding what those people actually want for themselves. Still, I couldn't get her personal/family dynamic just right until I figured out the character of her sister-in-law (and best friend), Amy Harwood, who is Cassandra's absolute opposite in personal presentation (a perfect, charming politician who reads people like books) but matches her 100% in loyalty to the family. Once I understood Amy's character, in fact, I fell so hard in love with her that I ended up writing a prequel story about Amy's own earlier romance with Cassandra's sweet, geeky brother, Jonathan.



TQDoes Snowspelled touch on any social issues?

Stephanie:  It's certainly unabashedly feminist.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Snowspelled.

Stephanie

To attend a week-long house party filled with bickering gentleman magicians, ruthlessly cutthroat lady politicians, and worst of all, my own infuriating ex-fiancé? Scarcely two months after I had scandalized all of our most intimate friends by jilting him?


Utter madness. And anyone would have seen that immediately…except for my incurably romantic sister-in-law.



TQWhat's next?

Stephanie:  The direct sequel to Snowspelled, Thornbound, came out just a few months ago, and there's also a prequel novella (with a different heroine), Spellswept. The next book in the series is Moontangled out this February and starring an f/f couple (two women who've been side-characters in Snowspelled and Thornbound). And as I also publish MG fantasy adventures about dragons and fierce girls (this most recent series, which started with The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, is being trad-published by Bloomsbury books), I have an MG book which came out in November 2019 called The Princess who Flew with Dragons. It's full of grumpy princesses, scholarly dragons, and radical goblin girls, and it was so much fun to write!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephanie:  Thank you so much for having me!





Snowspelled
The Harwood Spellbook 1
Five Fathoms Press, September 4, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules...

Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks...and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.




Spellswept
A Prequel to the Harwood Spellbook
Five Fathoms Press, October 30, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
In the world of the Harwood Spellbook, 19th-century Angland is ruled by a powerful group of women known as the Boudiccate - but in order to become a member of that elite group, any ambitious young politician must satisfy tradition by taking a gentleman mage for her husband.

Amy Standish is a born politician...but Jonathan Harwood is her greatest temptation. On the night of the Harwoods' Spring Solstice Ball, in an underwater ballroom full of sparkling fey lights and danger, Amy will have to fight the greatest political battle of her life to win a family and a future that she could never have imagined.

It will take an entirely unexpected kind of magic to keep everything from crashing down around her.

Warning: this novella contains forbidden romance, dangerous magic, and political intrigue in an underwater ballroom. What could possibly go wrong?

Published first in the anthology The Underwater Ballroom Society on April 30th, 2018.




Thornbound
The Harwood Spellbook 2
Five Fathoms Press, February 25, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
Cassandra Harwood scandalized her nation when she became the first woman magician in Angland. Now, she's ready to teach a whole new generation of bright young women at her radical new school, the Thornfell College of Magic…

Until a sinister fey altar is discovered in the school library, the ruling Boudiccate sends a delegation to shut down Thornfell, and Cassandra’s own husband is torn away from her.

As malevolent vines slither in from the forest and ruthless politicians scheme against her, Cassandra must fight the greatest battle of her life to save her love, her school, and the future of the young women of Angland.




Moontangled
A Harwood Spellbook Novella
Five Fathoms Press, February 3, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.

Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!


For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.

Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!

Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.

Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.





About Stephanie

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie Burgis
Photo by Richard Burgis
Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband and two sons, surrounded by mountains, castles and coffee shops. She attended the Clarion West science fiction & fantasy writing workshop in 2001, just a year after completing her time as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Vienna, studying music history, in 1999-2000. After spending three more years as a PhD student studying opera history at the University of Leeds in the U.K. (focusing on opera and politics in 18th-century Vienna and Eszterháza, and doing the research that would later result in her first novel for adults, Masks and Shadows), she went to work for a British opera company and stayed there until the onset of a serious chronic illness, M.E./CFS, forced her to give up work outside the home and focus purely on her writing (and, later, on her parenting, too).

Since then, she has published nearly forty short stories for adults and teens in various magazines and anthologies. Her most recent MG fantasy novel is The Girl with the Dragon Heart (Bloomsbury 2018); the first book in that series, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, won the Cybils Award for Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction 2017. Her most recent publication for adults is the romantic fantasy novella Thornbound: Volume II of The Harwood Spellbook. The f/sf anthology that Stephanie co-edited with Tiffany Trent, The Underwater Ballroom Society, has been longlisted for the 2019 Locus Award for Best Original Anthology.

Her trilogy of MG Regency fantasy novels was published in the US as the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy and in the UK as The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson. The first book in the trilogy won the Waverton Good Read Award for Best Début Children’s Novel by a British writer, and the full trilogy was re-released in the US as A Most Improper Boxed Set. Her first two historical fantasy novels for adults, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets, were both published by Pyr Books in 2016, and Masks and Shadows was included on Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List for 2016.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @stephanieburgis

Guest Blog by Stephanie Burgis - Finding the Fun in Snowspelled


Please welcome Stephanie Burgis to The Qwillery. Snowspelled, the 1st novel in the Harwood Spellbook series, was published on September 4, 2017.



Guest Blog by Stephanie Burgis - Finding the Fun in Snowspelled




Finding the Fun in Snowspelled – Stephanie Burgis

I started out my adult life as a serious academic, studying 18th-century opera and politics. So it only makes sense that in my first two darkly romantic historical fantasy novels (Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets), I had one overriding priority for my worldbuilding: all of the magic had to fit discreetly into the real-world history of the time period (something I cared passionately about).

Not only did I write a version of alchemy in those books that matched real 18th-century theories of the world, but I hoped to persuade my readers – at least during the hours that they spent absorbed in those stories - that hey, maybe history really could have happened that way after all, because none of the secret magic in my books actually contradicted the real-world history we know.

I loved that creative challenge. I loved coming up with carefully-researched and deeply romantic novels that also included thoughtful Historical Notes at the end. I loved that many of my readers were inspired to go read more about the time period of each of those two novels afterward!

But then 2016 happened, and I – like so much of the world – got really, really stressed.

Suddenly, I wasn’t interested in writing dark stories in any genre. I didn’t care about intellectual challenges.

What I cared about – and desperately needed - was escape.

If I was going to get through what felt (and still feels) like a very dark time in the world, what I needed was a comforting writing-project that felt like pure, frothy fun in every possible way.

So I started writing Snowspelled, a fantasy romance novella (or short novel – I’ve never been sure which one to call it!) set in a blatantly non-real version of history – a version I could escape into any time I needed it.

In my version of “Angland,” the Romans never did manage to quash Boudicca’s famous rebellion. Instead, aided by her (fictional) next husband (a magician), she expelled the Roman Empire forever...and from then on, it was officially accepted throughout the nation that ladies (being more naturally pragmatic) would handle the practical matter of politics, while men (being “the more emotional sex”) would deal with tempestuous magic.

(Can you imagine just how satisfying that viewpoint felt to write just after the November 2016 U.S. elections?)

At the point when Snowspelled begins, in early 19th-century Angland, the nation is ruled by a collection of powerful women known as The Boudiccate, while men study magic at The Great Library of Trinivantium. The fundamentally multi-ethnic nation shares its countryside with powerful elves, trolls, fairies, and more, all held together by fragile, often complicated alliances.

But rules, of course, are only made to be broken. And my heroine – the first woman magician in Angland - has more than enough confidence to go her own way in ALL things, whether or not the Boudiccate (or her infuriatingly appealing ex-fiancé) agree...

...So when she’s trapped in the most awkward houseparty of her life, snowbound in the midst of Angland’s elven dales, of course Trouble-with-a-capital-T ensues immediately.

And oh, it felt so delicious to write!

Snowspelled gave me exactly the escape I needed, at just the moment when I most needed it. My biggest hope is that it’ll be a fun and comforting escape-book for you guys, too.





Snowspelled
The Harwood Spellbook 1
Five Fathoms Press, September 4, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 166 pages

Guest Blog by Stephanie Burgis - Finding the Fun in Snowspelled
In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules...

Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks...and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults from the author of Kat, Incorrigible, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets.





About Stephanie

Guest Blog by Stephanie Burgis - Finding the Fun in Snowspelled
Stephanie Burgis grew up in Michigan but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffee shops. RT Book Reviews called her most recent romantic fantasy novel for adults, Congress of Secrets, "a perfect combination of romance, historical fiction and fantasy," and her most recent novel for children, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, was an Amazon Best Book of the Month. To find out more and read the first two chapters of Snowspelled, visit her website: www.stephanieburgis.com





Facebook  ~  Twitter @stephanieburgis


Melanie's Week in Review - January 29, 2017


Melanie's Week in Review - January 29, 2017


Hello reader. I was really hoping to knock your socks off with an over the top Week in Review to take our collective minds off the news. However, the news is pretty much all I have been reading in the last week and none of it was good. I did find some time for a couple of short stories.  So this week this WIR is going to be short and sweet.


Melanie's Week in Review - January 29, 2017
Seanan McGuire is back with this poignant short story (or maybe it was a novella?) of Jenna, the girl who died before her time. Jenna life was cut too short when she died not long after her sister Patty. Jenna is now a ghost living out her allotted time as a volunteer at a suicide prevention hotline and saving elderly cats. When ghosts start to go missing Jenna maybe the only one who can save them.

McGuire doesn't fail to produce interesting plotlines and Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day does not disappoint. Jenna is clearly still mourning the loss of her sister decades before and McGuire allows that feeling to pervade every page of this story. This is a story that is truly bitter sweet. McGuire is always worth a read.


Melanie's Week in Review - January 29, 2017
Ilona Andrews posted on their blog that she had read Stephanie Burgis' short story The Art of Deception and I decided to give it a go. This is the story of a down on his luck swordsman Niko and his landlord/girlfriend Julia. When Julia gets a summons home Niko reluctantly agrees to join her. What neither was expecting is their pasts catching up with them...and almost killing them. Swords and sorcery is a deadly combination.

I enjoyed this story and was quite disappointed when it came to an end. Niko and Julia were a couple I could easily read more about. Alas, the story was over too soon. Definitely worth a read especially if you are a fan of short stories.


That is it for me this week. Apologies this is a short one and I hope to have more to tell you about next week. Until then Happy Reading.





Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day
Tor.com, January 10, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 192 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - January 29, 2017
When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.
But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is a new standalone urban fantasy novella from New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire.





The Art of Deception
Five Fathoms Press, August 9, 2016
eBook, 48 pages
Review Copy: Reviewer's Own

Melanie's Week in Review - January 29, 2017
Niko Hrabanic was once a famous swordsman. But after a scandal-laden departure from his last job at a royal court, he's now hiding out in a rural inn, making himself useful to his attractive landlady in all sorts of ways that don't actually involve paying rent...

...until a summons from the mysterious and dangerous White Library shakes up his life all over again. His landlady, it turns out, has secrets of her own. Now Hrabanic and Julia will have to confront both of their pasts - and if they're going to have any hope of survival, they'll need both Hrabanic's sword arm and Julia's magical training.

It's time for them to become experts at the art of deception.

*Shortlisted for the 2016 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction*

The Art of Deception is a 12,400-word novelette full of swordfighting, banter, and a twisty plot. It was originally published in the 2015 anthology Insert Title Here, ed. Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Press).

SPFBO 5 Interview: Stephanie BurgisGuest Blog by Stephanie Burgis - Finding the Fun in SnowspelledMelanie's Week in Review - January 29, 2017

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