Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen, set in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades went on to earn great acclaim, became a finalist for the prestigious Nebula and Locus Awards, and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel, Glamour in Glass, which continues to follow the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a deeper vein of drama and intrigue.
In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to France for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, they struggle to escape. But when Vincent is captured, Jane is left use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison… and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war.
Here are Mary's answers to my questions:
Your website states that you are a both an award-winning author and an award-winning puppeteer. How do you divide time between both professions and has puppeteering played an active influence on your writing life (or vice-versa)?
Since I've spent most of my life free-lancing, I treat each project like another freelance gig, which is essentially what they are. It sometimes involves a fair bit of structured procrastination as I move from puppetry to writing and back. In other words, the one that is due soonest, usually gets priority.
Puppetry has had a very clear influence on my writing in the way I approach characters and use blocking to convey emotional stakes. Also, frankly, twenty-years of live theater teaches you a lot about the way audiences respond.
To my surprise, it was easier. I already knew the characters and the world, so there's less invention required, which lets me just dive into the story. But I also wanted to write a book that didn't require reading the first one so I deliberately wrote Glamour in Glass so that you could go back and read Shades of Milk and Honey as a prequel. This allowed me to avoid the massive info-dump that so many sequels have that the beginning. I just treated everything like backstory and only brought it up when it was necessary to the plot of the new book.
What an excellent strategy to avoid info-dump--and it sounds like it worked well, especially since the series has such a great premise! What do you want readers to take away after they finish your books?
I'm writing books that I want to read, so I want my readers to have the same sort of experience that I love in books. I like books that make me cry, at least once, and preferably tears of happiness. So I want them to believe my characters and to be happy for them.
Very perceptive-- and it sounds like you really know how to get into the mind of your audience. You also make some of your writing available on your website—a great idea! What led to this decision and how has it benefited you and your readers?
I'm following in the lead of writers before me on that. It gives people an opportunity to sample my work and decide if they want to take a chance on something longer. Where the idea really took off was when I was nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I was the only short story writer in the category that year and realized that it was going to be very difficult for people to find my work since it was all in magazines. I put up a sampler packet of my published work and the response was amazing.
Definitely a smart way to get your work out there. What other projects are you currently working on? Will GLAMOUR IN GLASS have a sequel?
I'm currently working on Valour and Vanity, which is book 4 in The Glamourist Histories. I pitched it as "Jane Austen writes Ocean's Eleven" and sometimes regret that. Heists are hard. I recently turned in book 3, Without a Summer, which is book 3 and comes out April 2, 2013.
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