Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interview with Mindy Klasky, author of the Jane Madison series

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mindy Klasky at Capclave. Now I'm proud to count her as a friend, but I'm not here to talk about her warmth, her disarming sense of humor, or her inexplicable faith in humankind.

About a year ago I read SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, the second in Mindy's Jane Madison series, without having read Book One, A GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT. This is not something I would normally do or even recommend (books are in a certain order for a reason, after all), but I was getting ready to write Bad to the Bone and was studying second books in series to see how other authors pulled it off.

Not only did I enjoy Sorcery immensely ("fun and charming" says my book journal), but I absorbed the characters and situation instantly. It was a masterpiece of seamlessly introduced backstory. This is a particularly tough challenge when writing in first person narrative. There's always the "Why would she be thinking this fact right now?" issue, and in most books I just accept the seemingly inevitable awkwardness.

I actually marked up my copy with a pen, bracketing every place where Jane introduced another tidbit of her past, so that I could go back and study how it was done, because the overall effect was, "I really want to read Girl's Guide, but not until after I finish this book." I was so thrilled to find a Book Two that truly stood alone while at the same time felt like it was part of a larger narrative tapestry.

Anyway, the conclusion of the Jane Madison series, Magic and the Modern Girl, comes out today, and I can't wait to see if (please please please) Jane ends up with David.

Here's Mindy to tell you more about the book, the series, her exciting new project, and her plan to raise charity dollars by making us all fat:

Mindy Klasky is the author of nine speculative fiction novels, including MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, the third volume in the Jane Madison series, about a librarian who discovers that she's a witch. You can learn more about Mindy at her website - www.mindyklasky.com - including reading chapters from each of her novels.

Available at Amazon and Powell's (and at most online and bricks-and-mortar bookstores near you!).

1. Why this book? What made you want to write this story?

I started writing the Jane Madison series because I wanted to play with a world that was light and fun, with a clearly defined supernatural influence. (I had just finished the dramatic, dark, magic-less Glasswrights Series, along with a trunked novel about a world-destroying conspiracy of evil-doers who torture children, murder scholars, and do other depressing dastardly deeds.)

Despite the lighter tone, Jane confronts some serious questions in the books - most often about the nature of friendship and family. MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL was specifically sparked by my interest in how friendships change over time, particularly as we get older and more settled, losing some of the angst that cements some ... younger relationships. I think that it's the perfect conclusion to the Jane Madison Series, wrapping up loose ends, while letting readers envision a future for their favorite series characters.

2. Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

I have always enjoyed authors who build incredible characters, giving them realistic plots through which to navigate. Over time, my list of favorite authors has evolved to include more Young Adult authors (such as Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld.) I find myself veering away from authors who take political stances that I find distasteful, particularly when their politics stray into their storytelling. (Orson Scott Card? I'm looking at you!)

3. Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?

I love the opportunity in genre to answer the "what if" questions. I could certainly write a searing indictment of contemporary culture, drawing on "ripped from the headlines" stories about spousal abuse, abandoned children, tortured prisoners, etc. I find it more intriguing, though, to structure my inquiries in speculative terms. Readers free themselves to think more broadly when the framework for their thoughts is patently impossible. Jane Madison readers can ask themselves about their relationships with their mothers, grandmothers, best friends, and romantic interests without needing to cut too close to the emotional bone. Readers are less defensive and more expansive when they are freed from the direct constraints of the real world.

4. What do you find most interesting about Jane Madison?

Jane is a bundle of contrasts and insecurities. Usually, she knows what she should be saying and/or doing; she just doesn't remember to state those words or take those actions in the immediacy of the moment. (Her judgment is even more impaired when the men of her dreams are around....) I enjoy structuring Jane's foibles - mostly because she is, at heart, an educated, eloquent, strong woman who acts in her own best interest and in the best interest of those around her. (That action becomes even more challenging in MAGIC, when Jane meets her true love, only to find that "the course of true love never did run smooth.")

5. You're a writer. What else are you? What are your interests? Hobbies?

I've been a lawyer and a librarian. I'm a wife, a daughter, a sister, and an aunt. In between juggling all of the professional and familial hats, I am an avid reader, a cat-wrangler, a baker, a quilter, a movie-watcher, a Boston Red Sox fan, and a scrapbooker. (Basically, I can't just sit and watch TV; I need to have something in my hands. I get most of my quilting done during the World Series.)

6. Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you need to know in order to write it that you didn't know before? Do you have some special preparation you do for writing?

For each of the Jane Madison books, I've conducted a lot of "spot" research, doing quick online searches for information about specific crystals, individual runes, and other magical paraphernalia. Jane and her best friend often quote Shakespeare, challenging each other to identify the play, act, and scene. I usually start out knowing the quotation, but I need to research the specific reference. MAGIC is heavily tied to Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, so I re-read the play in preparation for writing this volume. I can't write without a live connection to the Internet (although I have to restrain myself from checking my email every twenty-seven seconds!) In the rare times that I've tried writing without an Internet connection, I leave myself cryptic notes (e.g., "Find Stomach Crystal.")

7. I see a lot of food, especially baking, in this book. Is that something that really interests you? Or is it more driven by the needs of the story?

I've always enjoyed baking, although I am almost always dieting. Creating the Cake Walk bakery gave me a chance to indulge my sweet tooth in low-caloric ways!

This fall, my baking interest is going to grow beyond the four corners of the Jane Madison series: I'm launching a charity calendar that will include some of the Cake Walk recipes, along with favorite recipes from a variety of paranormal, urban fantasy, and mystery authors. All profits will go to First Book, a charity with the mission of getting underprivileged children their first books to own. (Details will be posted on my website shortly!)

8. Jane's best friend, Melissa, goes on numerous disastrous first dates throughout the series. Do you have your own share of first date disasters to tell?

Every one of Melissa's horrific dates has a seed of truth in one of my own first dates. (In one horrific year, I went on 28 first dates - a record that convinced me that I was perfectly happy to live the rest of my life alone. A couple of years after swearing off dating, I logged on to match.com (in response to prompting from my concerned, married brother.) I reluctantly completed my dating profile, clicked on "match" and the first profile that came up belonged to the man I married 17 months later.)

9. What are you writing now?

I've started a new urban fantasy series, the As You Wish Series. The first volume, THERE'S THE RUB, will be in stores in October 2009. It's about a stage manager who discovers a magic lantern with a wish-granting genie inside. Alas, her wishes don't go precisely as she plans....

10. Anything else that we should know about you, your writing, and the Jane Madison Series?

In addition to selling the Cake Walk recipe calendar, I am raising money for First Book by auctioning off a stunning, handmade necklace-and-earring set inspired by the Jane Madison series. The glass jewelry was created by a prominent librarian and jewelry artist specifically for this First Book fund-raiser. Details (including pictures of the incredible themed jewelry) will be posted on my website on October 1; the auction will close on October 31.

Thanks for taking the time to ask these questions! I hope that people will stop by my website and/or email me any questions at mindy@mindyklasky.com.

Now playing: Sad To Be Alone - Sonny Boy Williamson
via FoxyTunes

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I have to say I feel a lot better knowing I'm not the only one wh accidentally read the second of Jane Madison series before the first! It was a simple mistake, but as you said, the book was so well written I didn't need to! I did of course, just finished today actually, and I'm excited to read the 2nd one again and then the last one. I'm sad that the story of Jane is over, but I'm excited for more of Mindy Klasky!

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 10/14/2008 5:21 PM

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