While I was in New York, I sat down with Edward Champion for an interview for The Bat Segundo Show. I will tell you this right now: This is the hardest interview I have ever done. He had read the book more thoroughly than anyone I’ve met and asked me questions about things I had no memory of writing.
It’s awkward because I wrote Shades of Milk and Honey four years ago and, though I reread it when we recorded it, I don’t have a line by line memory of it. He took notes as he was reading. Copious, detailed notes.
The Strand, which is the big independent bookstore in NYC is offering a half-off sale on Shades of Milk and Honey. Note that they only have four copies actually in stock. Their staff also offered the following review of the book.
‘Shades of Milk and Honey’ is a captivating debut novel from Mary Robinette Kowal set in an alternate Regency England, where magic and manipulation rule the day. Though Dorchester society is magical, it is not that different from the regency society we know: Advantageous marriage is still a woman’s only way to thrive in society. At the age of twenty-eight, Jane Ellsworth is unlikely to find a husband, so she concentrates on honing her magical skills, while her sister, Melody, is courted by many beaus. But when the family’s goo name is threatened, Jane must do whatever it takes to put things right – and she might just find love in the process. Witty, intriguing, and romantic, this is a must-read.
Over on the Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia, there’s a chance to win two copies of Shades of Milk and Honey, thanks to celi.a who seems to have fallen in love with my novel. Here’s how her review starts off:
I found myself proclaiming to my friends that I’d found ‘the perfect book’ yesterday. I didn’t mean that it was THE perfect book for all time and all people. I did mean that I’d found the book that feels as if it was written expressly for me, because it fits my tastes perfectly. And luckily for the rest of you, it’s also well-written, so there’s a chance that you’ll find it just as enchanting as I did.
She goes on to talk about why she likes it AND THEN offers to give away two copies. Here’s the end of the review with the giveaway details.
Recommended for: historical fiction and subtle fantasy fans, Regency-era devotees, readers who view Austen as the comfort food of the book world, and anyone looking for a beautiful read with strong art overtones and a classic feel.
I’m giving away two copies of this book, because I loved it, and I want other people to love it too. Also, when I tried to buy it at Borders I found that they’re not carrying it in stores. Travesty!
Leave a comment on this post with a word or phrase that makes you think of milk or honey. Synonyms, colors, associations, whatever you want – write it down!
Please include a method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on September 15 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winners via email.
While at NasFic, Mur Lafferty interviewed me for her podcast, I Should Be Writing. Mur makes the whole thing feel like a casual conversation between friends which reduces the level of stress induced by trying to sound reasonably intelligent.
(Note to debut authors: when your book launches your brain is liable to have a repeating track of “Is this really happening?” rendering it largely useless.)
Part of what I like about I Should Be Writing is that Mur talks about her personal writing journey and the lessons she is learning during it. She touches on stuff that pretty much every author goes through. While my part of the interview doesn’t happen until about the 27 minute mark, it’s worth listening to the whole podcast.
Most of my fiction has at least one thing that I put in purely to amuse myself and Shades of Milk and Honey is no exception. There are a number of Easter Eggs, if you know where to look.
Periodically, I’ll post one of these and an explanation for how it got there. Some of them may be amusing, others things may talk about Regency history, still others will just be odd. Since many of them also involve spoilers, they’ll be password protected to keep the unwary from stumbling into them.
What sort of things can you look forward to? Here’s a spoiler-free example.
In Chapter 10, Beth (Miss Dunkirk) decides to rename her horse, which was previously called “Bacon.”
She asks her brother:
“Bacon? Who would name a dainty mare that?”
“I think it is the pattern in her sock. The area where the roan blends down to the white does look very much like the marbling in bacon.”
Who indeed? The answer is that Beth is named after my friend Beth Wodzinski, the editor-in-chief of Shimmer magazine. Part of her email address was “mmmbacon.”
Two weeks ago, when our CSA box came I spontaneously gave the fellow who delivers the package every week a copy of Shades of Milk and Honey. He’s a nice guy but we’ve never had a conversation longer than the basic “how are you” and “see you next time” so I’m not sure what prompted me to do it.
This week he came back with the novel in hand and asked me to sign it. He said that his wife has already started it and likes it so far. The really neat thing though? He said that he hasn’t read a book since high school but is planning to read this.
The Eugene Weekly has a nice review of Shades of Milk and Honey that manages to talk about the book without being spoilery.
Kowal has a good time with the tropes and tweaks of this sort of story, making both sisters sympathetic and tossing a few obstacles into the way, but Shades sparkles to particular life when its characters are working, thinking about or discussing glamour — the way it works, the relevance of passion, the power of a muse.
I mentioned that at the reading tonight, there would be a specialty cocktail. Rina Weisman, the power behind SF in SF, has given me the recipe to share with you
As the inventor, I graciously share the recipe for all: 1 shot Velvet Falernum over ice, fill with a nice champagne, add a dash of Rose’s Lime Juice, and topped with a maraschino cherry. DELISH! And for those of you who don’t know Falernum…it’s divine.
“This famous Bajan ‘Gold Medal’ beverage and mixer with a uniquely refreshing flavour was developed by John D. Taylor of Bridgetown, Barbados in 1890. This sugar cane based liqueur born and bred in Barbados is a staple of every Bajan’s bar. Its uniquely refreshing flavor comes from a refined infusion of lime laced with fine cane syrup and ‘botanicals’ including almonds and cloves.”
This is what a book crush is all about, this finding of a volume that is your perfect fit, the book you’ve been waiting for without ever knowing that you were waiting for it. This is one of those books that, upon finishing the last page, I closed the book, breathed a deep dreamy sigh, and floated off to bed on clouds of joy and wonder. And I’m afraid there is no way that I can explain to you why I’m so overjoyed to have found this book and why I occasionally have to clasp it to my bosom and twirl about the room in happiness. But I’ll try.
I’ve just arrived in San Francisco where I will be reading at SF in SF with Cecilla Holland this Saturday, August 21st. Doors and cash bar open at 6:00PM and the readings begin at 7:00PM. Yes, I will be performing “The Broken Bridge” in addition to reading from Shades of Milk and Honey. A Q & A moderated by author Terry Bisson follows.
But the really cool part? From the actual press release.
Join us for a celebratory cocktail before the show! We are featuring a concotion known hereafter as a “Shade of Milk & Honey” and it’s DELICIOUS! All bar proceeds benefit Variety Children’s Charity of Northern California.
They’ve named a drink after my book.
I feel like I’ve arrived. Please come out to listen and imbibe.
Budget: Before anything else happened, Rob and I sat down to talk about how much we could afford to spend. Money, sadly, defines pretty much everything that follows. In our case, we wanted to keep the budget under $500, which is unreasonably small for a commercially produced trailer but about as much as we thought we could throw into the pot. For a trailer with commercially produced new footage, you can expect to spend a minimum of $1000 per minute. In our case we had several things going for us, mostly that we work in film and theater so had a number of favors we could call in. Most of the budget would go to materials and hiring the talent.
Venue/Audience: These often linked, but not always. In our case, knowing that we wanted this trailer to be online does affect several things. It means that we know it will be mostly viewed very small. We know that it will be watched by people who are in the midst of doing other things.
Length: The next question was defining the length. Both of us thought that shorter was probably better and were leaning to something in the two minute range. Any shorter and it would be hard to have content. Longer and people would click away.
Style: Only now do we start talking about what it looks like. (You’ll note that we still aren’t discussing content.) We sat down and tossed around several ideas. Since I’m a professional puppeteer, it made sense to take advantage of that. Among other things, visually this would make the trailer stand out from other ones.
But what style of puppetry. I narrowed it down to period appropriate puppetry styles which meant either hand puppets, shadow puppets, marionettes or possibly toy theater, though stretching the definition of “period.”
Marionettes I discarded immediately because they are too expensive to build. Hand puppets have a Punch and Judy connotation which is wrong for the feel of Shades of Milk and Honey. Toy Theater has a similar look to animation but without the fluidity.
Shadow theater… There were two main reasons we settled on shadow theater. One: I actually have a shadow play in the novel. Two: At this point in England, silhouettes were very popular and they were called “shades.” It seemed too perfect to resist
We did update to a modern form of shadow theater, called shadow mask, because it allowed us to have a stylized form with the fluidity of actors.
The stark black and white also meant that we could make the glamour look really spectacular. We asked our friend Remo Bacall, the BAFTA award winning special effects supervisor from Lazytown, if he would be willing to create the glamour fx. He was, which gave us the ability to add fully rendered color to our shadows scenes.
Content: Only now do we start talking about content. The reason we wait so late for this is that content is frequently dictated by what you can afford and what looks good in the style you are using. I should clarify that “content” is not the same as subject matter. The subject matter is the novel. The content is what we use to talk about the subject mater. Make sense?
In the next post, I’ll talk about how we defined the content.
Hey! A reminder that I’m reading tomorrow night (Wednesday, August 18th) at the KGB Fantastic Fiction series with the wonderful Laura Anne Gilman.
The official press release is below. One thing that it doesn’t mention is that I’ll be performing The Broken Bridge, which is the shadow play that occurs in Chapter 10 of Shades of Milk and Honey
FANTASTIC FICTION at KGB reading series, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present:
Laura Anne Gilman is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Nebula-nominated FLESH AND FIRE and HARD MAGIC, part of the best-selling “Cosa Nostradamus” urban fantasy series. She has also sold more than twenty-five short stories, published in magazines and anthologies such as POLYPHONY and REALMS OF FANTASY. Her forthcoming novels include WEIGHT OF STONE: Book 2 of The Vineart War, and PACK OF LIES.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY (Tor 2010), the fantasy novel that Jane Austen might have written. In 2008 she received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and in 2009 her story “Evil Robot Monkey” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Her stories have appeared in STRANGE HORIZONS, ASIMOV’S, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Subterranean Press released her short story collection, SCENTING THE DARK AND OTHER STORIES, in 2009. Mary is also a professional puppeteer.
Wednesday August 18th, 7pm at
KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)
Books will be available for purchase thanks to Bluestockings Bookstore
Australian short story writer Angela Slatter, has interviewed me for part of her Drive-by Interview series. She’s a seriously talented writer and has two short story collections coming out this year, Sourdough & Other Stories with Tartarus Press (UK) and The Girl with No Hands & Other Tales (Ticonderoga Publications)
Here are the questions she asked me.
Who is/are your main writing buddy/ies?
How did you make the shift from puppetry to writing? What was the attraction?
What are your writing fetishes? i.e. what can’t you write without?
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force. Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps […]