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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

SPFBO Finalist Interview: Stephanie Burgis


Photo credit S. Samphire

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Stephanie Burgis grew up in America but now lives in Wales with her husband (fellow writer Patrick Samphire), their two young sons, and their extremely vocal tabby cat. In between those two points, she spent time playing in orchestras, studying music history in Vienna, and editing the website of an opera company in Leeds. 

She writes fun, funny MG fantasy adventures for kids and wildly romantic historical fantasy novels for adults.

You can keep up with her new releases, read exclusive short stories and get sneak peeks at upcoming works by signing up to her newsletter: www.stephanieburgis.com/newsletter

Publisher: Self-published (October 4, 2021) Page Count: 382 Cover art: Ravven

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Michigan, obsessed with fantasy and history. Now I live in Wales, in the UK, surrounded by castles and mountains, with my husband (fellow fantasy author Patrick Samphire), our two kids, and our very vocal tabby cat. I’m a dual UK-US citizen, and I write wildly romantic fantasy novels for adults and fun, funny MG fantasy MG novels, too. You can read a whole bunch of my published short stories and excerpts from all of my novels on my website ( www.stephanieburgis.com ).

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

No! I’m lucky enough to be a full-time writer.

Who are some of your favorite writers, and why is their work important to you?

Some of my biggest inspirations as I was first developing as a writer: Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien, Georgette Heyer, Emma Bull, Nalo Hopkinson, Terri Windling, Octavia Butler, Ellen Kushner, Patricia McKillip, Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Robin McKinley.

Currently-publishing authors I adore: (still Ellen Kushner and Nina Kiriki Hoffman but also) Tasha Suri, P. Djéli Clark, Aliette de Bodard, Tansy Rayner Roberts, A.J. Lancaster, Cat Sebastian, KJ Charles, C.L. Polk, Colleen Cowley, and many more!

All of them write wonderfully warm, intelligent, kind and funny stories and books that I LOVE.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

Humour, kindness, coziness, and (in my adult work) romance.

What made you decide to self-publish Scales and Sensibility as opposed to traditional publishing?

My first two novels for adults were traditionally published, and I’d originally planned to keep on doing that for all of my full-length novels. However, my experience in self-publishing a series of novellas just for fun (with the Harwood Spellbook series, which began with Snowspelled, a SPFBO semi-finalist from a few years back) was so positive and joyful that I decided I wanted to try self-publishing S&S, too, rather than sending it off to any traditional publishers. It’s been a fantastic experience! I love being a hybrid writer - I plan to keep on traditionally-publishing all of my MG fantasy novels, and I’m keeping my options open as far as future adult books may go - but at the moment, I’m more than happy to self-publish my adult romantic fantasies while I trad-publish my MG books.

What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?

The flexibility and freedom! I love being able to publish as and when I choose rather than fitting into an external publisher’s schedule, and I love having the final choice on what I publish, rather than having to convince an acquisitions committee that yes, it WILL definitely be commercial enough for them to take a chance on it.

On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on?

I love and respect all the editors, marketing assistants, publicists, and other publishing staff I’ve worked with in all of my traditionally-published novels, and I’ve learned so much from every one of them. I also love how smoothly traditional publishing houses distribute books into libraries and bookstores for easy reader-discovery!

Contrary to many self-published authors, you went wide instead of being kindle exclusive. Why? Did it pay off?

I think that anything that increases Amazon’s monopoly is going to be bad for authors as well as readers in the long term, and as a point of principle, I’d rather sell wide, so that’s what I’ve done so far for the last several years of my self-publishing career. The majority of my sales do come from Amazon, but I also have readers who prefer to use Kobo e-readers or Nooks, and I’ve always wanted to make my books available to all of them.

All of that being said, I also need to make a living (and there is a cost of living crisis going on here in the UK which is very much affecting our family’s income!), so I have considered experimenting by putting at least one of my books into KU in the coming year. However, that book definitely won’t be S&S, because I sold audio rights to S&S to Scribd (where you can listen to the wonderful audiobook) - and therefore, Scribd have the contractual rights to keep the ebook there as well, meaning that I can’t make it exclusive to Amazon at any point within the next 7 years.

Why did you enter SPFBO?

I entered a few years ago with my first self-published novella, Snowspelled, and made it to the semi-finals - but the main criticism was that (fair enough!) it was too short to be a reasonable contender for the SPFBO finals. In other words, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d be back with my first full-length self-published novel!

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

Dance wildly around the house, bake celebration brownies for the family, and glow with happiness!

How would you describe the plot of Scales and Sensibility if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

Pet dragons and magical masquerades combine in a sparkling Regency romantic comedy!

What was your initial inspiration for Scales and Sensibility? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

I wrote the first draft of Scales and Sensibility in 2010-2011 but was told by my then-agent (quite accurately) that although he found it “laugh-out-loud funny,” it was also “100% unmarketable” in the current publishing industry. Self-publishing wasn’t as developed or widely available an option at that point, so I cried a lot but shelved the book…until 2021, when I realized the market had changed and it was time to give (a newly-edited version of) Scales and Sensibility another chance! I didn’t send it to my agent that time round, though - I chose from the beginning to self-publish it, first through my Patreon (one chapter a week) and then moving widely once my patrons had all had the chance to read it first.

If you had to describe it in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Witty, romantic, and cozy.

Is it part of the series or a standalone? If series, how many books have you planned for it?

It’s the first in a planned trilogy of standalone romantic comedies, each starring a different Tregarth sister dealing with dragon-related mishaps and falling in love along the way.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Scales and Sensibility’s protagonists/antagonists?

Elinor Tregarth is the heroine, a sensible, practical young woman who’s been taken in as a poor relation to clean up all of the messes left by her spoilt cousin, Penelope, under the miserable household regime of Elinor’s overbearing uncle-by-marriage, Sir John Hathergill. She might have kept on gritting her teeth and enduring it forever if she hadn’t been so outraged by Penelope’s mistreatment of Sir Jessamyn Carnavaron Artos, Penelope’s pet dragon…but when Elinor finally walks out with Sir Jessamyn in her arms, everything very swiftly spirals into magical misadventures and chaos!

Oh, and Benedict Hawkins is the easy-going, kind-hearted (and animal-loving) gentleman Elinor falls in love with…which would be perfect if only he hadn’t arrived to court Penelope!

How did you select the names of your characters?

I named the heroine, Elinor, after the heroine of Sense and Sensibility - I wanted to give the serious, sensible oldest sister a chance to find out just how creative and outrageous she could actually be, when she’s out to protect her sisters and the pet dragon she loves!

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

The main difference between the early-19th-century UK of Scales and Sensibility and the real, historical UK: in S&S, real live dragons (very small ones) were rediscovered in the course of the Napoleonic wars…but as far as everyone believes, they’re not magical after all.

But of course, people have been wrong before… ;)

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Scales and Sensibility and the artist?

I adore the cover art for Scales and Sensibility, which was designed by Ravven, who is such a pleasure to work with every time. I asked her for a Regency heroine looking determined with a country house in the background and a small blue-and-green dragon on her shoulder, and she SO absolutely delivered! :) I can’t wait to show everyone the cover she’s designed for Book 2 in the series, too. Cover reveal coming soon!

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2022/2023?

In 2023, the audiobook for my cozy-spooky rom-com, Good Neighbors, will be published on Valentine’s Day, followed later in the year by Book 2 in the Regency Dragons series, Claws and Contrivances (date TBA). Also, my next MG fantasy adventure novel, The Raven Throne, will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in the UK and US in August 2023.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

I am so excited to read all of this year’s finalists (and so many other books, too, that I’ve been introduced to through this year’s reviews)!

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