Author Stephanie Burgis
Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffeeshops. She is the author of two historical fantasy novels for adults, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets, both published by Pyr Books. She’s also the author of over thirty short f/sf stories and a trilogy of Regency fantasy novels for younger readers, beginning with Kat, Incorrigible. To find out more and read excerpts from all of her books, please visit her website: www.stephanieburgis.com.
Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess?
I imprinted SO HARD on so many literary heroines as a kid! It’s actually hard to narrow it down – Anne of Green Gables! Jane Eyre! Elizabeth Bennet! Meg Murry! I loved them all – but: when it comes down to it, I identified with Jo March (from Little Women) in SO many ways.
Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?
She was a writer! (Which I already knew I wanted to be, from the time I was seen.) And she was fiercely ambitious with her writing from very early on in her childhood. In the book, she and her sisters even wrote a magazine as kids where she self-published her own stories – and as a kid, I actually did the same, circulating it ONLY among my own family members! Jo loved acting in plays that she’d written, she was wildly romantic, but she was also socially awkward and frequently messed up in important social situations when she most needed to do her best. She dreamed of traveling in Europe, just like I did; she was devoted to her family and she fought fiercely with them too. She felt real to me and she was wonderful.
How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?
My MG heroines probably have more in common with her than most of my adult-fic heroines, but there are definite commonalities throughout. I love writing fiercely ambitious and determined heroines (of any age), in the same way that I’ve always imprinted on them as a reader.
In my new historical fantasy novel, Congress of Secrets, I set out to take the trope of the powerful, manipulative, woman who’s often portrayed as a villainess and make her the heroine of the story instead. Caroline, my heroine, has been planning her scheme for years, and now that she’s finally back in Vienna under the guise of a new identity (using the 1814 Congress of Vienna as her excuse for the trip), she’s ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish it…even if she has to resort to the same kind of dark alchemy that ruined her childhood.
However, while she is ruthless in her determination, she’s not unfeeling; like Jo, she’s actually devoted to her family, and her whole scheme is based around trying to save her father from unjust imprisonment. So, while she and Jo March might not have many surface similarities, a few of the essential qualities are the same.
About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (mostly) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and S.B. Divya. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.
Tor Books has posted the first chapter of my upcoming novel, The Nature of a Pirate, at its blog. Some of you may have heard me read this chapter… but for those who haven’t, or anyone who wants a refresher, here’s the opening. A taste of a taste, call it.
Kitesharp was bleeding.
The wounded ship was fifty feet long, with a crew of fourteen sailor-mechanics, and when dawn rose over the Fleet of Nations, her blood trail was just a thin line of crimson threaded into her wake. It twisted against the blue of the sea, a hint of pinkish foam that might have gone unnoticed for hours if it hadn’t begun attracting seabirds and sharks.
The whole Fleet watched as the birds shrieked and Kitesharp’s captain raised a warning cone up her mainmast. Soon—presumably after her bosun had been below for a look—a sphere was raised, too. From a distance, both cone and sphere would appear as flat shapes, seeming to onlookers to be a triangle and circle. It meant Ship in distress. Help required.
This particular distress call had gone out twice before.
The entire book will be available in less than a month, on December 6th.
One of the other books I reviewed this year was the newest by Connie Willis, Crosstalk, a light screwball comedy about the dangers of too much human contact, whether it comes in the form of pushy family, social media, or telepathy.
Kelly introduced me to Connie’s writing when we were first married, so this isn’t the first time I’ve written about her work. Another Tor essay of mine tells new-to-Willis readers how to get started. And here’s a snip of the current review:
In screwball comedies, miscommunication abounds, and many of the minor characters are pathologically single-minded as they pursue a host of weird goals. Crosstalk fits this mold. For example, Briddey’s sister is obsessed with what her daughter might be seeing on the internet… and she doesn’t much care whether it is zombie movies, Disney princesses, or actual terrorists. It’s a normal enough concern, perhaps, something any parent might relate to… until you consider the spy software she has installed on her daughter’s computer, or the fact that she absolutely expects Briddey to happily interrogate her own niece.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d lie and avoid these people, too.
Here’s the cover:
Fran Wilde is the author of the Andre Norton and Compton Crook Award-winning and Nebula-nominated novel Updraft (Tor 2015), its sequel, Cloudbound, newly out from Tor in September 2016, and the novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary (Tor.com Publishing). Her short stories appear in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Nature. She writes for publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, iO9.com, and GeekMom.com. You can find her on twitter @fran_wilde, Facebook @franwildewrites and at franwilde.net. Here’s what she says about this lovely piece of ink.
My tattoo is still new enough that I’m not yet thinking about what I’ll get next (everyone tells me that’s coming). I have zero regrets.
Getting a tattoo was something that scared me, because I’d been told all my life that I was pain-sensitive and there’s a lot of discussion about pain thresholds when it comes to tattoos. But this summer, I realized that my fear was much less important than my desire to do something for my body and for me, after a long stretch of having things done to it.
The tattoo is, in part, a tiny bit of crypto, a bit of lotus, and almost all compass rose. Traditionally, the compass rose has a “safe passage over troubled waters” meaning. I wanted it on my spine because that’s the spot that needed celebrating most, and maybe a little bit of protection too.
Trouble was, everyone said that a back/spine tattoo would hurt more than other places. Was I willing to risk it? I didn’t tell many people what I was getting, and I didn’t tell nearly anyone where. Just in case I chickened out.
Turns out, I didn’t chicken out. Nor – to my surprise – did it hurt. I pretty much fell asleep on the table while the tattoo was being done. The inking process (by Clifton W. Carter Jr.
) produced some sort of pain white noise that was more relaxing for me than standing up, or sitting down, due to the pain I’m usually in. I cannot tell you how much this matters.
My tattoo didn’t necessarily change the world’s view of me (or if it did, I haven’t heard / don’t care all that much) as much as it changed my view of me. I know now that I’m not pain-sensitive, for one, and all the people (family, doctors, that one school nurse) who convinced me I was can go jump in a lake.
I know better now that when people tell me I am something — whatever it is –, to examine the whys of their statements, and to decide for myself who I am.
I know also that no matter what, the ink was something I wanted to do and I did it, even though it scared me.
At the beginning of this year, I declared a map year for me, my writing, everything
. At the time, I meant that I’d be exploring new ways of being in the world, and new ways of seeing. I didn’t realize then that I would become my own compass for that journey, and that the trip will continue for as long as I’m standing, or writing.
That’s what the ink is telling me, though, and I’m very excited to head out for new directions.
You can find Fran Wilde at her website, blog, on Twitter, or order her books at Amazon (US), Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and Powell’s.
About this post: Inksplanations (and variations thereon) is the name for a series of short interviews with a number of genre writers about their tattoos. Why they got them, what they mean, how getting ink did or didn’t change them–any and all of these topics are fair game. What drives a literary artist to literally become canvas for an image or epigram? Did they get what they were seeking? I wanted to know, especially after I got my 2016 poppies from Toronto artist Lorena Lorenzo at Blackline Studio, and so I did what any curious writer would do. I asked.
Happy Halloween, everyone!!
This week in my Creating Universes, Building Worlds class at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, one of my students said, in passing, that they thought James Cameron’s Xenomorph Queen, from Aliens, was a great villain, and that they thought Cameron was generally particularly good at creating villains. So I asked if they thought the Queen was a true villain, or–to split a semantic hair–an antagonist? She’s acting, after all, to avenge her offspring, and to survive.
What I was wondering, in that moment, was this: does villainy require premeditation, evil intent, or cleverness?
We batted that around a bit, talking about whether a baddie with simple motivations, like the Queen or the original Terminator (who does presumably know that what he’s doing is illegal within the time period he’s visiting, and who does a few pretty clever things to find Sarah Connor) is truly villainous. Here’s a snip from one of my posts in that discussion:
One definition of villainy is “wicked or criminal behavior.” If we were to contrast the Xenomorph Queen and the first Terminator, there’s an interesting question of intention. The former certainly isn’t setting out to be criminal. She’s essentially a big space-wasp. Wasps are parasites and what they do to their prey species is thoroughly horrible. And, to add in another wrinkle, she is smarter and more thoughtful than her soldier-spawn, who are orders of magnitude smarter than the face huggers. It is common in action movies to work your way up from dumb thugs to smart villains.
The Terminator is after one kill and causes a lot of collateral damage as he pursues it… in some ways, what he does is less horrible than space wasp parasitism. And, as you note, it behaves in ways that are consciously criminal and much more premeditated.
Anyone else have some thoughts? Is villain a value judgment? A level, like boss monster?