Regency Fantasy: A Joint Interview – GUEST POST by Stephanie Burgis and Quenby Olson
Regency Fantasy: A Joint Interview
with Stephanie Burgis and Quenby Olson
Steph: Which was the first book or movie or TV adaptation that introduced you to Regency Era Britain? And why/how did you get hooked on that setting?
Quenby: Oh! I remember finding a three-books-in-one set of Regency romances by Clare Darcy at the library when I was still a pre-teen. I ADORED them, and so started looking for other Regency romances that I could find. Then, only a couple years later, came the Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice adaptation, and Regency romance saw a resurgence in popularity.
What is your favorite comfort fantasy read, one that you find yourself drifting towards again and again when you need something that will soothe and/or cheer you?
Steph: Oh, I LOVED those Clare Darcy romances, too! I remember just devouring them. I’d started with Jane Austen because my dad read me Pride & Prejudice when I was 8 (!!!), and I imprinted hard, but then I went hunting for everything else I could find Like That, which meant Clare Darcy and Georgette Heyer and Sheila Simonson and basically just: Regency Regency Regency. 🙂
My favorite comfort fantasy read – that is such a good question, and the answer shifts every year! I still really love Lord of the Rings, which I used to re-read fairly religiously every few years, and which I last read out loud to my older kid a couple of years ago, but at this point, it’s so baked into my bones that I almost don’t need to read it again…at least not until it comes time to read it to my younger kid!
What I turn to most often nowadays as a comfort re-read is Ilona Andrews’s fabulous Innkeeper series, a deeply cozy and funny fantasy/SF hybrid set in a Texas inn that welcomes visitors from every universe. There’s a light romantic thread that I deeply enjoy, but there’s also just so much humor and kindness, wildly imaginative fun, fantasy action, and a core found family I adore.
How about you? What are your fantasy comfort reads – and to start a new question after that, what do you find particularly fun about setting your own fantasy stories in the Regency era?
Quenby: For fantasy comfort reads, I would have to go with The Hobbit. I remember reading it over and over to my oldest child when she wasn’t feeling well (it was always her request!) to the point that I think of it now and I just remember being snuggled in with her, reading and reading until she fell asleep against me.
And I think what I love about adding fantasy to stories in the Regency era is that we’re so familiar with that time period due to books like Pride and Prejudice and all of its adaptations, that we know what life was like then, the strictures of it, the levels of society and so on. So to take something that seems so familiar and well known and add that dash of change in order to stir it all up into something new… I love the prospects that spiral out from that!
Same question to you about the Regency settings, and also how often do you find yourself being swallowed up by the winding paths of research, or do you allow yourself to hand-wave some of the specifics of the time period since you’re adding fantasy to the mix?
Steph: There’s a great L.P. Hartley line that was repeated pretty often by one of my music history professors many years ago: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” When I read historical fiction in any setting, I enjoy it in so many of the same ways that I enjoy fantasy fiction set in entirely fictional worlds. I’m getting that same fabulous sense of enjoyable dislocation, in a world with different mores and rules – and adding actual magic to my favorite historical fiction setting makes it even better! It combines two things I adore, history and fantasy, and I just want to roll around in it forever. 🙂
Since I started out as an academic, forced to footnote every single tiny detail, I sometimes struggle to let go of that desperate need for 100% historical accuracy, even now – but it is a wonderful get-out clause to be able to remind myself, “Even if I get this tiny detail wrong for 1817, so what? Dragons didn’t actually exist then, either! Maybe this detail actually *changed* as part of the cultural response to the discovery of dragons [or whatever other historical alterations I’ve made for my current series]!”
On the other hand, I do really enjoy sinking into relevant research. When I was getting started on my upcoming book, Claws and Contrivances, I had SO much fun devouring the diaries of Anne Lister (better known as “Gentleman Jack”) as research for one of my central characters, and I definitely kept on reading for fun well after I’d picked up enough details and context to inspire my own quite-different fictional character. (Those diaries are total soap operas and utterly DELICIOUS.) Similarly, since my heroine’s aunt writes Gothic novels, I had way too much fun researching the real Welsh Gothic novels of the time period.
What about you? How do you balance the twin lures of research and efficiency/magic? And apart from our own fantastic Regency fantasies, which other authors and novels would you recommend?
Quenby: I think I approach historical research similarly to you. I seek to hit as many factual details as correctly as possible, while also being aware that 1) this is a work of fiction, so if I need to bend something slightly for plot (HOW FAR COULD THIS MANY HORSES AND THAT TYPE OF COACH TRAVEL IN ONE DAY? Eh… I’ll fudge it) I occasionally will, and 2) if it’s a fantasy, all of the build up of magic and dragons and other things that have existed in that world for centuries might mean that women have a greater role in a certain portion of society or that gowns just might have more pockets in them. For reasons.
With Miss Percy, I had a wonderful time researching so much of the history and topography of Wales for the characters’ journey across it (a tremendous shout out right now to Beth from The Fantasy Hive for beta reading the second Miss Percy and helping to add so many bits and bobs to round out my setting) and now with the third and final book, I’ve been focusing on London and twiddling over all sorts of minutiae to do with the Prince Regent, London itself, the origins of the British Museum, the pelicans in St. James’ Park, and more! And I always end up coming away from each book learning so much more than I needed to, simply because the research is always so fascinating.
And now, as for recommendations? I’m going to mention The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (which I know is one of your favorites, too!) and also The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by S.A. Chakraborty. Definitely two of my top reads of the last year.
Steph: Oh, yes! Both of those books are SO wonderful. Seconding both of them, and also, for anyone who wants more Regency fantasy (moremoremore!), I love both Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown series and Caroline Stevermer & Patricia Wrede’s Sorcery and Cecilia series SO much. (Also, I think C.L. Polk’s The Midnight Bargain hits a lot of those Regency-loving notes despite being set in a very different world!)
Stephanie and Quenby’s books are available on Amazon, you can pick up your copies below:
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
Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chasing the cat off the kitchen counters. She lives with her husband and children, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.