An Interview with Stephanie Burgis: When Dragons Wear Dresses
As many followers of this blog will know, I am a keen reader as well as a huge advocate of girls' empowerment. When I got the chance to interview the magical author Stephanie Burgis I was, quite literally, over the magical moon! Stephanie's novels have kept me entertained on many a train journey, with my absolute favourite being, "A Most Improper Magick" which is all about the un-ladylike adventures of an unconventional and lovable heroine called Kat. If you love books, magic and empowering protagonists, this is an interview which you will definitely want to read.
Stephanie and I settled down with two steaming mugs of chilli hot chocolate and she shared her most unlady-like secrets with www.shaherazad.com fans. Here goes:
SU: What was your inspiration behind writing Kat’s unladylike adventures?
SB: I always loved witty Regency-era rom-coms by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer but also exciting, magical fantasy adventures. The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson (a.k.a. the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy in the US and Canada) was my opportunity to blend two of my favourite genres! As the youngest sister, Kat observes (and gets involved in!) her older sisters' romantic misadventures, but she also leaps on the back of highwaymen's horses and has fabulous magical adventures of her own!
SU: Kat, Angeline and Elissa are all empowered young ladies but in very different ways – why is this?
SB: The three sisters love each other dearly but are all very strong personalities in their own right, and they each approach the world with a different viewpoint. Elissa is an intensely responsible and compassionate oldest sister who tries her hardest to do everything "correctly" and secretly fantasizes about being a Gothic heroine; Angeline is subversive and rebellious but also brilliant and subtle; whereas courageous, loyal Kat just goes at the whole world with a battering ram! :) I love all three of them so much.
SU: A Most Improper Magick prompted me to think of so many classic childhood novels which I love – how and why did you engineer classic literary references into your book?
SB: I really wanted it to have a warm, welcoming, classic feel, and I also wanted to pay homage to some of my own favourite books. :)
SU: Which model of 18 Hour Heels would Kat, Angeline and Elissa each wear and why?
SB: Elissa would wear Don't Wait Up in Blush - she would love the colour and the sweet flower strap! Angeline would wear The Moon is Mine for subtle, witchy glamour. And Kat would definitely wear Equally Ever After in hot, take-no-prisoners Mulberry!
SU: Who is your target audience for this book?
SB: The books are officially published in the ages 9-12 section, but I've been thrilled that so many adults have loved and engaged with them as well. I really wanted the books to work for both children and adults!
SU: If Kat was a social media user, which network do you think she would be on?
SB: Probably Instagram - she wouldn't have the patience for typing up long entries!
SU: What would you like your readers to remember most about your writing?
SB: My personal writing mission is to write smart, empowering comfort books that give my readers escape from any stress or worries in their own lives - but also leave them feeling uplifted and supported in their own challenges afterwards.
SU: What (if anything) are you working on at the moment?
SB: Right now I'm working on edits to my next MG fantasy novel (a sequel to The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, which came out from Bloomsbury Books this February) and also first-drafting the second of two romantic fantasy novellas for adults. (The first one is called Snowspelled and will come out sometime this autumn.)
SU: When is your favourite time to write?
SB: I always prefer to write in the morning, with a strong latte and - in my ideal world! - some dark chocolate. And ever since I watched the new Wonder Woman movie, I've been writing with a WW action figure standing next to me for inspiration!
SU: Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?
SB: I was an obsessive reader from the time I was tiny, but I still remember the day I announced to my mum - I was 7 at the time! - that I'd found something I loved EVEN MORE than reading: writing! So I was going to be a writer. And I've never changed my mind since then. :)
SU: What would you advise young girls who are currently at school and thinking about writing as a career?
SB: Read as much as you can; write and write and write, and see if you can find people who will read your stories and then give you encouragement (because that is so important - if someone makes you feel bad or small about your writing, please NEVER show them anything you've written ever again!) and also honest feedback about what could be better. It's so important to practice editing, so that you can keep on improving!
Also, try to find a day job to train for that you would genuinely enjoy. Most writers don't make a living income from their books even after they're published, and even those who do often don't start getting published until their 30s or 40s. I finished my first novel at 14 and didn't sell a novel until I was 31! There can be a very long training period - and the last thing you want to do is get stuck in a job you hate while you wait to start selling your books. If you choose a day-job career that's interesting and rewarding, you'll be a happier person AND get great material for your books!
SU: Could you tell us something about your latest book?
SB: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is a deliciously chocolate-fuelled magical adventure about a fierce young dragon who finds herself horrifyingly transformed into a puny human girl...but isn't about to let that stop her from conquering new territory AND learning to make the best chocolate ever.
Stephanie Burgis is a dual citizen of the US and UK and currently lives in South Wales, the land of dragons, with her husband and children. She is famous for fantasy and middle grade novels which talk of adventure, empowerment and magic. You can read more at www.stephanieburgis.com. Thanks for inspiring us Stephanie.
PS. When do dragons wear dresses? You'll have to read Stephanie's "The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart" to find out!
Image: Stephanie at the Hay Festival wearing 18 Hour Heels.