Author Interview: Stephanie Burgis!
It thrills me more than a thousand Godiva
chocolate bars to have Stephanie Burgis, author of the scrumptious novel The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and its deliciously intriguing sequel The Girl with the Dragon Heart, with us today on Mitten Authors! So settle down with a nice cup of cocoa - throw in some chili spice
if you're feeling dragonish - and let's talk about chocolate, sequels, and the hurdles of writing with this wonderful MG author.
Question #1: If each of your main characters were a chocolate (can be drink/truffle/dessert, etc.) what would they be and why?
Stephanie: Aventurine, my fiery dragon-girl, would be a chili hot chocolate, of course! Not only is it her favorite drink, but it's just the right combination of hot and dangerous but sweet and full of richness, too. Silke would be a really gourmet truffle, slipping in some clever, sophisticated flavors through that smooth chocolate sweetness. And the heroine of my next MG book (which I am dying to announce!) would be a dark hot chocolate, prickly but SO rich and strong.
Me: Stop - you're making me want to eat your characters! (I think there's a twisted compliment in there somewhere.) I LOVE dark hot chocolate! And I LOVE your writing. This new MG book sounds like a win-win. ;)
Question #2: When you began writing The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, did you know there was going to be a sequel?
Stephanie: No! I planned for it to be a standalone, because I knew Aventurine's main story would be concluded in this single book. By the time I was halfway through, though, I'd fallen in love with her new best friend, Silke - and Silke wasn't going to settle for just being anyone's sidekick! She needed to star in her own story next. (Of course, she still has Aventurine by her side, though. Best friends always stick together!)
Me: Yes! When I finished The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, there was so much more I wanted to know about Silke. She'd caught my eye and my heart, and I was over the moon when you announced that she was having her own sequel! What an amazing character.
Question #3: What's the biggest difference (or challenge) between writing Silke and writing Aventurine as the main protagonist?
Stephanie: Silke sees the world so differently from Aventurine - and not just because she was born a human while Aventurine was born a dragon. Aventurine is blunt and headstrong, never bothers to shade the truth (no matter how anyone else might feel about it!) and doesn't particularly care about how anyone else is feeling unless they're someone she really loves (in which case, they might still have to tell her their feelings because she won't guess them on their own). Silke, on the other hand, is like a vibrating radar, tuned to the emotions and schemes of every single person around her - and she is incredibly clever about the way she reshapes herself to interact with different people. She's also just as strong and loyal and loving as Aventurine - but she goes about it in completely different ways, so writing from her voice created an entirely different kind of experience for me. (And it was really fun to go between those two extremes!)
Me: I think that's what I love about their relationship, how different they are, but their values are the same. Love and loyalty run deep with them. And their differences actually complement each other, making a feisty, clever, chocolate-loving force to be reckoned with!
Question #4: Describe the ideal reader of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and its sequel The Girl with the Dragon Heart. Someone who likes...
Stephanie: Strong girls, created families, fabulous dragons, and delicious chocolate. :)
Question #5: All authors deal with writer's block at some point or another. What are some of your tricks for breaking through?
Stephanie: Usually, if I'm blocked, it means that I've taken a wrong turn so my subconscious is resisting moving any further forward. So, I need to reread what I've written so far and figure out where things went wrong...and then be ruthless about excising those last few pages or chapters or however long it was since I last felt happy about the way my story was moving. I have to believe in what my characters are doing, and if I don't - if things are happening because I thought it made sense, but they don't feel true to my heroine or someone else - then I have to go back and take a different path.
Long walks can often help with thinking that kind of question through! Or, alternately, setting times to think about it when you're doing something boring and repetitive like washing dishes.
Me: I know so many writers (myself included) who have major breakthroughs doing mindless things like walking and dishes! It's like magic. Great advice.
Question #6: If you could say one encouraging thing to aspiring authors and the writers living in what we fondly call the "query trenches," what would it be?
Stephanie: Be stubborn! And never pin all of your hopes on one book. I wrote my first book when I was 14 years old. I wrote an average of one a year from then onward...and sold my first book at age 31. So: if it's what you truly love doing, don't give up! And make sure you're writing what YOU want to read, not boxing yourself in to what you think you "should" write.
Bonus Question: What's the best time of day to drink hot chocolate? ;)
Stephanie: Any time! :) But for me, personally, I love drinking it in mid-afternoon or in the evening. Mmmm, bliss!
Me: Thank you so much for being here with us, Stephanie, and giving us insight into your writing process and characters! If anyone is interested in knowing more about Stephanie's books (or purchasing them because they're fantastic!), you can visit The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart's Amazon page here, The Girl with the Dragon Heart's page here, and Stephanie's MG trilogy Kat, Incorrigible's page here.
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, The Girl with the Dragon Heart, and the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy (published in the UK as The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson). She also writes wildly romantic adult historical fantasies, most recently Snowspelled and Spellswept. You can find out more and read excerpts from all of her books on her website: www.stephanieburgis.com.
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