Mary Robinette Kowal



Mary Robinette Kowal
Hugo Award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal is something of aRenaissance woman
.  She writes short stories, novels, and fascinating blog posts.  She has written for AMC's website, recorded audibooks, and helps to put out a weekly podcast for aspiring authors.  She is also an actress and professional puppeteer.  

Her novels are in the Glamourist History series.  The short explanation for them is:  Jane Austen!  With magic!  What they actually are are amazing stories set in an alternate Regency England where all truly accomplished young women 
are trained in illusion magic.  The first book, Shades of Milk and Honey, follows Miss Jane Ellsworth and her family through what starts as a typical Austonian plot.  But things quickly escalate beyond Dear Jane's scope.  The second (Glamour in Glass) and third (Without a Summer) novels move far beyond the drawing room as Jane and her family are thrust into world shaping events.
Mary is also the driving force behind the Month of Letters Challenge.  This 
celebration of letters and mail challenges participants to send one item through the post every day it runs in February. (I missed it by one day.)
Mary is an amazing author and performer.  I hope you enjoy getting to know a little more about her.
As a reminder, her latest book, Without a Summer, just came out April 2 from Tor Books.
Mary, herself, will be at Little Professor on September 14 for a book signing!


Sara
1.  I know that you’re a professional puppeteer and you’ve spoken several times on Writing Excuses about how puppetry can inform writing, but what kind of puppetry, exactly, do you do?   Also, do you have a favorite puppet?

Puppetry Reel

Mary
I perform across the gamut. The training that I received was that all puppetry uses the same general principles to make them look alive, but different mechanical techniques to execute those principles. Figuring out the mechanics is the easy part. It's like knowing that the principle behind how a faucet works. Water comes out of it, but some you twist, some you wave your hands in front of, and some you step on a petal.  

I've performed everything from a 125 pound body puppet to a three-inch shadow puppet. I did a national marionette tour to elementary schools, performed off-Broadway in a puppet production of Titus Andronicus, performed for Jim Henson Productions, film, television, stage... But the style I gravitate to is something called tabletop. It's worked directly on top of a playboard, and the puppets often look like unstrung marionettes. For me, it combines the immediacy of a hand puppet but with the advantage of a complete figure for body language.


Sara

Groma Kolibra
2.  How many typewriters do you own now and how did the collection start?

Mary
16 currently. When my husband and I met, we each owned one typewriter. When we were dating, we'd sometimes while away a Saturday morning by going to yard sales and one day found a beautiful typewriter, which we bought together. Suddenly, our two individual typewriters had become a collection of three and then... it was sort of down hill from there.


Sara
3.  Do you have a literary guilty pleasure?

Mary
Not really, because I tend to think that if you enjoy a book, you shouldn't feel guilty about it. The closest would be my deep, deep love for the work of Myrtle Reed, who wrote romance in the early 1900s. She's best known for Lavender and Old Lace, the title which Arsenic and Old Lace is spoofing. Hugely popular in her day but the prose is fairly purple by today's standards. I adore these books with an unapologetic passion.


Sara
4.  You write in all sorts of genres from Regency-era urban fantasy, to contemporary fantasy, to hard sci-fi.  Do you have a favorite?

Mary
It's akin to puppetry for me. I like a whole bunch of different styles and will switch depending on what tools I need for the story I'm trying to tell. 


Sara  
5.  Do you remember what you bought with your first book royalty check?

Mary
Since I just got my first, yes. I bought a bottle of single malt scotch (Provenance 20 yr), a fountain pen (Noodler's Konrad), and a green Corona #3 folding typewriter.


Sara 

This is the 1904 Edition
6.  What is your favorite volume of the Encyclopedia (or complete Oxford English Dictionary)?


Mary
The Oxford Historical Thesaurus online version is one of the sexiest things I have ever seen. Otherwise, it is volume K of my 1907 Encyclopedia Americana.


Sara

Mary w/ parasol on the Steampunk Cruise
7.  Your Glamourist Histories are very well researched.  What one thing do you most wish had carried over from the Regency era?

Mary
Parasols. There are lots of things that I wish were still in general practice, like live music in the home, but in terms of daily life... parasols. In the heat of summer, having a bit of portable shade makes an astonishing difference. In fact, when I was just in Mexico, I had my parasol with me for a costumed event. I took it with me on an excursion to some Mayan ruins because, as a red head, I burn easily. Everyone in the group gave me a funny look the first time I opened it. The next day though, other people had serious sun burns and suddenly, I wasn't the only one carrying a parasol.

Also, it's comforting to have something over your head when a snake falls out of a tree. (Not a hypothetical example.)



 Sara
8.  You recently posted a Spotify soundtrack for Without a Summer.  Do you have specific music you associate with your writing?

Mary
I find that I tend to prefer silence when I'm writing, or the hum of a coffee shop. When I have music on, it tends to get into my brain and I listen to it instead of writing. In a coffee shop, the background noise forces me to focus and that's useful sometimes.


 Sara
9.  What was your favorite book as a child?

Mary
The one I still go back to is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
October Daye


Sara
10.  You do amazing voice work on audiobooks.  Do you have a favorite that you’ve recorded so far?

Mary

I love Seanan McGuire's October Daye series and that remains my favorite on-going work. But... the one that I wish I could record a sequel to is Kage Baker's Rude Mechanicals, which I recorded for Subterranean Press. You can actually listen to it for free on their website.

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