Posts Tagged ‘Stephanie Burgis’

The Magickal Agency Contest

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Today is a glorious, big-news day. First, I’m so pleased to feature a double interview and contest with the delightful Stephanie Burgis. It’s a double contest because we’re each giving away a fantastic prize pack of each other’s books (details below). And it’s a double interview because I asked her 10 questions, which she twisted up and turned back on me. Plus, I can now share with you the details of my THREE launch parties: Kingston, North America online, and the UK/Europe online.

First of all, though, here are Steph and I in conversation:

Ying: What book do you wish you’d written, and why?
Steph: Any of Jane Austen’s novels. SO smart, so funny, and so full of layers!
Steph: Literary death-match among your favorite novels: Middlemarch, Emily of New Moon, or A Wrinkle in Time? WHO WILL WIN?
Ying: Middlemarch in a heartbeat, because I’m not 9 years old anymore. It would also win a literal death-match, as it’s physically the biggest book.

Ying: Black olives or green?
Steph: Green, stuffed with feta cheese!
Steph: Cornish pasty or Yorkshire pudding?
Ying: Cornish pasty FTW! Did you know that traditionally, Cornish pasties had a blob of jam in one corner for a dessert-like finish? This has always troubled me. I mean, what if you started at the wrong end?

Ying:  What are 3 things that make you laugh?
Steph: My crazy-sweet dog, my son, and Joan Bauer’s novel Squashed.
Steph: Which 3 literary heroines do you wish you could hang out with in real life?
Ying: Elizabeth Bennet, Harriet Vane (from Dorothy L. Sayers’s Peter Wimsey mysteries) and, like you, Amelia Peabody (from Elizabeth Peters’s Victorians-in-Egypt adventures). It would be a lively but dangerous gathering.

Ying: And are you a giggler or a cackler?
Steph: A giggler when reading, a cackler when writing. ;)
Steph: Are you a careful bookmark-er or a ruthless page-folder when you read?
Ying: Ack! Would you fold down the corner of your baby or puppy? I THOUGHT NOT.

Ying: What trait do you most admire in others?
Steph: Kindness.
Steph: What trait do you wish you had more of in yourself?
Ying: I’d like to be more disciplined – about writing, chores, time-management…

Ying: What’s the strangest place you’ve ever found your camera or keys?
Steph: In the refrigerator!
Steph: Confession time: which children’s TV show theme-songs have you memorized since having your son? (I know EVERY “In the Night Garden” song.)
Ying: This is going to sound so horribly smug, but we unplugged our TV 3 years ago and haven’t got round to setting it up again. (But it’s not because we think we’re better than everybody else! Promise!) But I’ve seen many, many more videos of tractors and fire engines on Youtube than I’d ever dreamed existed.

Steph: I am inherently great at _remembering historical trivia_. I am inherently terrible at _remembering to re-charge my mobile phone_.
Ying: I am inherently great at _remembering phone numbers_. I am inherently terrible at _remembering poems_.

Ying: What’s your favourite intersection?
Steph: The spot where the Kaerntnerstrasse runs into the Stefansplatz in the center of Vienna. Gorgeous!
Steph: What’s your favorite building in London?
Ying: The British Library. Yes, it looks like a giant primary school circa 1988, but it’s my spiritual home in London.

Ying: Do you have any reading rituals?
Steph: Curled up under the covers, drinking hot chocolate while reading is ideal!
Steph: Do you have any writing rituals?
Ying: Coffee. Glass of water. Email-check. Blog-check. Wander away. Herd myself back. Snack. Bathroom break. Really get started. Oops – reply to urgent email. Answer door. Back to desk. This is why I need more discipline.

Ying: If your mother had to describe you in 3 adjectives, they’d be:
Steph: Eek. Tempted to turn this over to Mom to answer, but at a hopeful guess: stubborn, smart, creative
Steph: If your husband had to describe you in 3 adjectives, they’d be:
Ying: Smart, funny, opinionated. Or maybe just opinionated, opinionated, opinionated.

(Seriously. My husband jokes that I should have a radio show called, “Strong Opinions”. I counter that there isn’t enough air-time in the world…)

And speaking of strong opinions, I thought that for the launch of Body, I should do more to reach readers who aren’t near the vast metropolis of Kingston, Ontario. To that end, I’m holding 3 different events.

UK/Europe online party: Tuesday, September 28 @ 16:00 BST

US/Canadian online party: Tuesday, September 28 @ 16:00 EST

Both online parties will take place on Twitter and the hashtag will be #body. Walker Books UK and Candlewick Press will be there! We’ll be giving away swag! If you’re not already using Twitter, it’s easy to register. And if any of this is confusing but intriguing, leave a comment or email me – I’m happy to answer your questions.

The Real Live launch party: Wednesday, September 29 at 7.00pm at Novel Idea Books. Click here for a map.

I hope you can make it to one of these events!

And now, the contest details

Here’s the deal: Steph and I are both offering a prize pack featuring each other’s books. I’ll be giving away the UK edition of Steph’s debut novel, A Most Improper Magick, along with an AMIM bookmark and postcard set! And over at her blog, Steph’s giving away a copy of The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower, plus an Agency sticker and bookmark.

Here are my contest rules. (You can, of course, enter both contests.)

- To enter, leave a comment answering any one of the interview questions above.

- You may have extra entries by sharing the contest on Twitter and/or Facebook (1 extra entry per site).

- The winner will be randomly selected.

- My contest closes on Wednesday, September 22, 2010.

Good luck, dear readers, and don’t forget to click over to Steph’s blog to enter her contest, too.

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Adventures in reading

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Today, I want to talk books. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Vanessa Chu, a reader who got in touch via Twitter. We stood outside an (unexpectedly) closed bookstore on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive and gabbed about Victorian England, the research behind the Agency novels, and books we loved. I recommended some of my favourites and realized that if, like Vanessa, you adore Victorian novels and C19 history, you might be interested, too.

I’m a huge fan of John Sutherland because he talks about literary matters in a way that makes them irresistible to non-academics. Among his many books are 3 that analyze puzzling questions in Victorian fiction: Is Heathcliff a Murderer?, Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?, and Who Betrayed Elizabeth Bennet?. They’re absolutely addictive. I dare you to pick up one and not gallop the whole way through.

I adore Dorothy L. Sayers’s detective novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and am on a bit of a mission to make everyone read them. They get better as the series continues but if you’re a stickler for starting at the beginning, the title you want is Whose Body? Jill Paton Walsh’s continuations are also excellent and I’ll be reading the prequel, The Attenbury Emeralds, that’s published later this month.

Vanity Fair (the novel! not the magazine!) by William Makepeace Thackeray is extraordinary – that’s news to nobody, since it’s a canonical Victorian novel. But I find Thackeray’s comprehensive vision absolutely fascinating and VF is one of the few C19 novels to depict brown-skinned people in and about London. VF‘s narrator is quite often nasty about them – this is no PC, celebratory acknowledgement of non-whites in England – but their presence is pervasive and quite possibly dangerous.

I’m sure there are more books I mentioned, but they’re slipping away from me right now. Vanessa, if you’re reading, can you remind me in the comments?

And now, I want to talk about a debut novel that had me laughing aloud with pleasure and up well past my bedtime. Here’s my full disclosure, for what it’s worth: Stephanie Burgis and I first met about 18 months ago, when she wrote to me after reading A Spy in the House. My delight in her debut novel, A Most Improper Magick, may well be tinted by her appreciation for my work, our growing friendship, and the fact that she has one of the warmest online presences I’ve ever encountered. You can’t fake that stuff. So please consider yourselves advised. Oh, and I bought the book myself.

So. On Sunday evening, on my way up to bed, I thought, “I’ll just dip into the first few pages. Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow.” STEPHANIE BURGIS OWES ME 3 HOURS’ SLEEP. My gritty eyes aside, AMIM is an absolute pleasure: a whirlwind adventure, a cheeky homage to Jane Austen, a lively tribute to sisterly love and solidarity, and an assured, beautifully paced, pitch-perfect romp. Discerning readers of middle-grade and YA fiction, this ought to be on your wish lists. It’s out now in the UK, and will be published in the US (as Kat, Incorrigible) in April 2011. You won’t regret it.

And how about you, dear readers? What books would you recommend to me?

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Witchcraft in the time of Jane Austen

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Stephanie Burgis has a zippy new book trailer for her novel, A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK. The book is a dreamy-sounding combination of magic, adventure and romance; I’m really looking forward to it. You can also read the first chapter at her website,

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