“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their Inspirations and Influences. In this feature, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.
Stephanie Burgis’ new adult romantic fantasy novel, Thornbound (Volume II of The Harwood Spellbook) is out now and we are delighted to welcome the author today to talk about Inspirations and Influences behind the work.
I grew up absolutely devouring books about girls who were The First in any field. I thrilled as I read about Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and watched her struggle to become the first female knight – AND she got to have great adventures and romances, too! (Those books are fabulous, and they meant so much to me.)
Again and again, I devoured those stories of girls (often first disguised as boys) throwing themselves into fields exclusively claimed by men, ranging from real-world academic scholarship to warfare, music or magic, depending on the particular genre.
Again and again, I found them massively empowering and fun, and I’m so grateful for all of them.
But something unexpected happened as I got older. I hit my late 30s and found myself no longer so excited to read or watch another story about The First. Reading about one young woman punching her way through a glass ceiling can be exhilarating, and so many of those stories are truly great – but I’d read an awful lot of them, by then. And I started wanting to know: What happens next?
When you read about the kind of girl who beats all obstacles to become the Chosen One in her field, her end-game victory is usually her personal success. (And hooray! I am all for a woman proving her own awesomeness to the world.)
As I got older, though, with nieces and my own children growing in front of me, my personal priorities started to broaden. Yes, of course I still want personal success in my own field. But I also want things to be better for younger generations, in so many ways. And one of the women I happen to admire most in my own life is my mom, who (pre-retirement) worked really hard throughout her own career to mentor younger women in another traditionally male-dominated field.
It’s not enough to punch a hole in the glass ceiling that’s just big enough to fit through on your own. Not if you want to make a difference. And the heroines of my Harwood Spellbook books are powerful women (in one field or another) who care desperately about making a difference in one way or another. (And – like Alanna! – they get to have adventures and romance, too. J )
So that was how I came to Cassandra Harwood (first introduced in Snowspelled: Volume I of The Harwood Spellbook). In an alternate version of 19th-century England where Boudicca successfully kicked out the Romans centuries ago, it’s been long established that hard-headed women should manage the practical matters of government…but leave emotional, irrational magic to the gentlemen. Cassandra rebelled against those rules when she was younger and successfully forced her way into the all-male Great Library of Trinivantium to become Angland’s first-ever lady magician.
But then…nothing changed. Yes, she’d proven her own magical power, but that only made her the exception to that same old tired rule.
It was only after she lost her own ability to do magic (because she had to over-stretch herself, because she was the first and the only one) that she finally realized (in Snowspelled) how many other, younger women were watching her career path from a distance, all of them equally desperate for those same opportunities. And there are so many ways to make a difference in the world that don’t involve only your own personal success.
Thornbound is the story of Cassandra’s fight to open Angland’s first-ever college of magic for women. Nine shining young women full of magical potential are on their way to become the first full class of female magicians – but it’s not only the male magicians in the nation who are furious at this new development. The powerful, all-female Boudiccate is desperate to preserve their own gender’s exclusive hold on the national government by shutting Thornfell College down. One of Cassandra’s oldest personal enemies is on her way, too, with revenge and blackmail on her mind. And a malicious fey lurks in the forest nearby, wielding piercing thorns and a magic that no human can control.
I hope you’ll join the adventure! You can read Chapter On on my website now – and for the month of February, you can snap up the ebook of Snowspelled, the first novella in the series, for just 99c/99p.
Here’s to all of us making a difference together.
Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband and two sons, surrounded by mountains, castles and coffee shops. She writes fun MG fantasy adventures and has published five so far, including The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (Bloomsbury 2017), The Girl with the Dragon Heart (Bloomsbury 2018) and the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy (published in the UK as The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson). She also writes wildly romantic adult historical fantasies, including Snowspelled (2017), Spellswept (2018) and Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets (Pyr Books 2016). She has published nearly forty short stories for adults and teens in various magazines and anthologies. You can find out more at her website:www.stephanieburgis.com