A Tangle Of Magicks blog Tour - Interview with Stephanie Burgis

I am thrilled to receive today Stephanie Burgis, author of A Most Improper Magick (my crazy fan-girl review here), to talk about the release of the second book in the Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, A Tangle Of Magicks. I have finished reading the book and I loved it so much! I'll post my review during the week so you can see how in love I am with the story :)


Hi Stephanie, 

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you to Portrait of a Woman for the release of A Tangle Of Magicks! I was very excited to read A Most Improper Magick back in 2010 because I literally couldn't take my eyes off the cover! The book is just as original as the cover and Kat’s story is very adventurous, funny and magical. It really ticked all my boxes so I was even more excited to read A Tangle Of Magicks and see where Kat would take us next!

Portrait of a Woman: Both books mix magical elements with a Regency setting and an incorrigible main character, but how did Kat’s story come to you in the first place?

Stephanie Burgis: I was actually in the middle of writing a different book - a dark, angst-ridden adult novel. Then one day, as I was chopping onions in my kitchen, I suddenly heard a girl’s voice in my ear (it really was as unexpected and vivid as that), saying: “I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed in boys’ clothes, and set off to save my family from ruin…”

That was it! I was hooked. I abandoned the onions, ran to grab a notebook and began to write. Kat had swaggered right into my life, and I was caught up in her story from that moment onward.

PoaW: I have to admit that that first line got me hooked to the story as well! If A Most Improper Magick looks at the widespread phenomenon of highwaymen during Regency England, A Tangle Of Magicks takes us to the streets of Bath and the myths behind its famous roman baths. Why did you choose to write about this city? Did you have to do a lot of visiting and research to be able to recreate what it was like during Kat’s time? 

SB: I fell in love with the city of Bath years and years ago, well before I ever started writing about Kat - and the Roman Baths, in particular, just overwhelmed me. They are so amazing, and they feel genuinely magical to walk around even now! So when it came time to write Kat’s second adventure, I knew immediately that I wanted to send her and her family to Bath…not least because it gave me the perfect excuse to go back myself, again and again!

Luckily, Jane Austen actually lived in Bath around the period that Kat visited, so there’s been a lot of historical work done on Bath in that time period by Austen scholars, and I found all of those books and articles really helpful. I also read several tourist guidebooks to Bath that were written right around 1800. Finding those felt like striking gold!

PoaW: After reading A Tangle Of Magicks, I have been dying to go to Bath and see those roman baths for myself! I went on your (gorgeous!) website and realized that you have a very varied background in terms of studies, countries visited and work. What does this variety bring to your writing and to the themes in your books?

SB: Well, my background in academia really helped because I spent years researching late eighteenth-century Europe in connection to my degrees, as well as also reading letters and diaries of 18th and 19th century British women just for fun. And if I hadn’t spent a few years living in Vienna, Austria (which I loved!), I might have felt far more nervous about moving permanently from America to the UK to be with my now-husband…which directly led to writing about Kat! My first book, A Most Improper Magick, was set in exactly the area of Yorkshire where we lived as I wrote the book, and A Tangle of Magicks was inspired by our daytrip to Bath. I couldn’t have written any of these books if I hadn’t moved to the UK!

(And thanks for the kind words about my website! I’m lucky enough to be married to a fabulous web designer - Patrick Samphire, a.k.a. www.50secondsnorth.com - so I’ll pass the compliment on to him!)

PoaW: My favourite part of the book is the importance of family and I really love Kat’s evolution and how she is growing up. A Tangle Of Magicks features a bit more Kat’s father and her brother Charles and we start to see a bit more of their personalities. Are we going to see and learn a bit more about them in the next book? (why yes, this is a shameless attempt to get more info on book 3 :) )

SB: You absolutely will - especially Charles! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but Kat 3 is definitely where Charles comes into his own. ;)

PoaW: Amazing! Can't wait to read book 3!! Kat is one of my favourite characters! She is strong, courageous and has the best personality ever! Do you have a top 5 of your favourite heroines in literature and which qualities do they need to have to catch your interest?

SB: Thanks so much! My biggest love as a reader is reserved for smart, feisty heroines who stand up for what they believe in, even if they make mistakes along the way. My top five are:

  1. Amelia Peabody, the heroine of Elizabeth Peters’s Crocodile on the Sandbank and a whole series of funny mysteries set in Victorian-era Egypt. She’s smart, determined, and is never afraid to bash an evil-doer with her parasol!
  2. Elizabeth Bennet, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She’s witty, intelligent, and refuses to give in to social pressure when she knows it’s wrong.
  3. Ellie, the heroine of Joan Bauer’s Squashed (one of my favourite YA novels ever). She may be fighting an upward battle, but she’s passionate and loyal, two of my favourite qualities in a heroine - and the novel is hilarious!
  4. Flora Segunda, of Ysabeau Wilce’s Flora Segunda. She’s theatrical, feisty and fabulous.
  5. Jane Eyre, in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. She’s brave, analytical, and refuses to compromise her own integrity and sense of self-worth, even for the sake of romantic love.

PoaW: That's exactly how I love my heroines in books too! Young Adult literature is becoming increasingly important and as it grows, it gets regularly attacked for being too dark, too controversial and at times too influential. As a YA/MG writer, do you think there is too much darkness in YA literature these days and do you think teens need to be specifically shielded from some themes?

SB: I think kids deserve to have a wide variety of reading options. A book that’s too dark for one reader may well be the book that saves another. I personally tend to prefer writing and reading books that are bright and fun, high-spirited adventures - but I would be horrified if anyone took away the darker books from the shelves. Kids come from lots of different backgrounds and have a lot of different needs, and it would be terrible to take away a book that some kids really need just because some other kids aren’t ready for it yet.

PoaW: On the same topic, you recently participated in a panel about the importance of honesty and creativity in engaging young people organized by The Reading Agency, Bounce! and various publishing companies including Templar. What came out of this event?

SB: That event was so much fun! I really enjoyed being part of such a varying group of authors - Anthony McGowan and Colin Mulhern write very gritty contemporary YA fiction (Colin’s book is about 11-year-old cage fighters in a very freaky contemporary underworld)  while Isla Whitcroft writes glamorous, fun action adventures for a great teen heroine (and martial artist) who gets to travel around the world and use excellent spy gadgets. It was incredibly stimulating for me as a writer to get to discuss writing with such great writers who all write such different kinds of books.

PoaW: Goodreads links to Colin Mulhern's Clash (here) and Isla Whitcroft's The Cate Carlisle Files: Trapped (here)

PoaW: And last, there is a Kat book 3 in the works which will be published in 2012. Will there be more Kat books (pleeeaaase!) and do you have any other projects coming up?

SB: I honestly don’t know the answer to your first question, because it’s just too early to even guess. Truthfully, I would LOVE to write more Kat books - I have lots of ideas for where her further adventures will take her (whether I ever end up writing them or not). However, in terms of hard publishing reality, I can’t even try to sell any more Kat books until Kat book 2 has come out in America and had time to show sales figures, which won’t be for at least another year…so of course I’m working on other projects in the meantime, because I can’t bear to stop writing while I wait! I’m actually just about to send a couple of potential projects to my US editor, so I’m at the stage of feeling far too nervous to talk about them in public right now…

PoaW: I'll cross all my fingers and toes! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and writing such wonderful books!

SB: Thank you so much for having me here!


You can read a short story taking place between Kat book 1 and Kat book 2 on Stephanie's website.

Stephanie Burgis website : http://www.stephanieburgis.com/
Templar fiction facebook page

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