Mary Robinette Kowal's debut novel has been awarded RT's fifth Seal of Excellence. Kowal, a highly respected puppeteer and vocal actor, wowed RT editors with Shades of Milk and Honey, a Regency England-set fantasy. The book seamlessly blends historical fiction with fantasy to create a novel in the same vein as Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott with one small addition - magic. In this interview, RT goes behind the scenes of Shades of Milk and Honey to learn how Kowal got into the "Jane Austen frame of mind." And don't miss the exclusive hidden extra that Kowal shares from Shades of Milk and Honey and the author's look ahead at the story's sequel, Glamour In Glass.
RT BOOK REVIEWS: There are three major components to Shades of Milk and Honey, the heroine, Jane, the Regency-era setting and the magical element of the glamour — which came to you first? How did that element inspire the others?
Mary Robinette Kowal: The Regency-era setting came first. I was reading Persuasion by Jane Austen and wishing that there were a fantasy that had the same sort of quiet intimacy. I also am very fond of Anne Elliot, the heroine in that novel, who is not flashy like Lizzie Bennett but struggles within the bounds of society just as much.
From there glamour and Jane developed very much together. In order for the world to be recognizably the Regency and avoid breaking history I needed the magic system, which is called glamour in my world, to comparably gentle. Also since Miss Austen's novels focus on young gentlewomen, I wanted to come up with a form of magic that would allow my heroine to be a practitioner without being outside the bounds of conventional society. While considering what might drive one to develop such a talent and interest in glamour, I wound up deciding that Jane would be quite plain and somewhat motivated by feeling as though she were in the shadow of her much more beautiful younger sister.