Interview with Mindy Klasky

September 30, 2008

Today I offer a new interview with author Mindy Klasky, one of my SFNovelists friends.  Mindy is the author of the Jane Madison books, about a librarian who discovers that she’s a witch.  The third book in the series, MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, is coming out tomorrow.  Enjoy the interview.

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.

I’ll start with a caveat:  I don’t know anything about economics.  My understanding of the current mess in the financial markets is rudimentary at best.

Okay.  That said, I’ve been going back and forth all day with a Republican friend of mine about who’s to blame for the failure of the bailout/rescue bill and what Obama should have done and what McCain should have done, and whether Pelosi or Boehner is being a bigger idiot right now (and that, my friends, is a difficult call).  But it occurs to me that we, the American people, are as much to blame for this mess as anyone.  Why?  Because we want it all.  We always want it all.  We want low interest rates, and we want money to be available for whatever we want to buy whenever we want to buy it, and we want low mortgages, and we want big houses, and we want new televisions and computers and all sorts of other toys, so we want lots and lots of credit and lots and lots of credit cards.  Bad debt lies at the root of this entire nightmare, and we are the kings and queens of bad debt.

When this crisis broke two weeks ago folks on the left (myself included) screamed bloody murder because we were going to bail out the wealthy Wall Street types “who caused this problem” and leave the middle class holding the bill, and folks on the right screamed bloody murder because the bailout was just one step short of “nationalization of the banks” and it was a fiscal nightmare.  Early polls indicated that nobody wanted the bill to pass and phone calls to Congressional offices were running 99-1 against.  And yeah, maybe both sides had and continue to have a point. 

But now the bill is dead and the markets have tanked and we’re up to ears in financial shit and suddenly everyone’s saying, “Oh my God, the bill is dead!  What the fuck are we going to do?”  And you know what people?  We’re right where we deserve to be. 

This is a really serious time for the American economy.  John McCain and Barack Obama are both right when, in their saner, bipartisan moments, they say that we have to do something and do it quickly.  Sure, it would have been great if our leaders had ignored all those calls and polls and done what was right despite the fact that we were acting like spoiled brats, but frankly they’re politicians and we should know better than to expect that much of them.  The bailout bill sucks.  It blows bulldogs.  It’s hideous and awful and it establishes all sorts of awful precedents.  But you and I both know — and people looking at the drop in the Dow and the failure of Washington Mutual and the nationalization of banks this past weekend in England and the Netherlands are finally starting to figure this out, too — that doing nothing at all is going to be ten times worse.

So suck it up America.  Call your Congressperson and/or Senator and tell him/her that you were wrong to make those angry phone calls last week, and it really would be helpful if we could find a way to dig ourselves out of this shithole before the entire global economy falls off the same cliff that the markets fell off of today.  You want bipartisanship?  Here’s bipartisanship:  Democrats and Republicans on the Hill are behaving like preschoolers.  So lets whip all of them into shape and tell them to fix this mess, before it’s too late.

A Post About Being an Artist

September 29, 2008

Today’s post, “Paul Newman and What Being An Artist Means to Me,” can be found at  http://magicalwords.net.  Check out the site and the post.  And, of course, enjoy.

As I’ve mentioned in this space before, once upon a time, before I was a writer, even before I got my Ph.D. in history, I worked in political consulting.  It was a great experience, and I still view campaigns as a consultant might.  So I spend a good deal of time during campaigns thinking strategy and trying to come up with responses to the other side’s attacks. 

Since Friday night, I’ve been thinking that Obama needs an answer for John McCain’s “Senator Obama doesn’t seem to understand…” attacks.  I’m not sure that the attacks helped McCain that much; they came off as obnoxious and patronizing —  snarky, I called them yesterday.  But I also don’t think that Obama should let them go unanswered for another 90 minutes.  And you know that McCain will repeat the attacks in the debates to come.

So here’s my suggested response:

“Senator McCain keeps trying to tell me what I don’t understand.  What he doesn’t seem to understand is that I don’t measure my grasp of an issue by the degree to which I agree with him.  There are lots of Americans who disagree with the Bush-McCain strategy in Iraq, who disagree with the Bush-McCain approach to Afghanistan.  It’s not that these Americans don’t understand the issues.  It’s that they simply think Senator McCain is wrong, just as I do.  Haven’t we had enough of this approach?  Do we really need four more years of an Administration that is so convinced of it’s own infallibility that it can’t get anything right?”

Yeah, something like that.

One more thing that warrants comment in the wake of Friday’s debate.  I keep reading comments from people on the right who are arguing that McCain won the debate because, in part, Obama said several times “John is right…” or “Senator McCain is right…” as if acknowledging that an opponent is right about something is a sign of weakness.  They point out, correctly, that McCain never said that Obama was right about anything, and instead attacked all of his answers.  I believe these folks (including the McCain campaign) have completely misread the public mood.  One of the reasons Obama did so well in post-debate polling the other night is that he was likable.  He didn’t come across as angry or mean-spirited.  He came across as poised and reasonable.  Americans are sick and tired of partisan bickering, and McCain, who claims to be a different kind of politician, who claims to be able to reach across party lines to get things done, showed himself to be deeply partisan and intolerant of views that differed from his own.  Obama’s willingness to recognize his points of agreement with McCain didn’t lose him the debate; it helped him win it.

My two cents on last night’s snoozer at Ole Miss:  Judging it simply on the basis of their debate performances, I have to say that I thought Obama and McCain were pretty even.  Obama did well on certain questions — those relating to the economy, those relating to Iraq, and the exchange on striking at militants in Pakistan.  McCain also had several good moments, most impressively his discussion of issues relating to Russia. 
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Debate Silliness

September 26, 2008

It’s been quite a couple of days on the political front, and I really don’t know what I’m going to do with the BOW Award tomorrow.  It’s just no fun for me giving it to McCain yet again, but I really don’t know who else has earned it the way he has.  But that’s for tomorrow’s post.  Today I’m just still reeling from the past 72 hours worth of madness.  The uncertainty of it all — the debate craziness, the “suspension” of McCain’s campaign (in quotes because his surrogates were still out there talking, he still had ads on the air, and anyone who thinks that his trip back to D.C. wasn’t part of his Presidential campaign is delusional), the negotiations over the bailout plan for Wall Street.  As I say, so much uncertainty.

That’s why I’m so grateful to the McCain Campaign, for removing at least some of the uncertainty from tonight’s procedings.  It seems that we needn’t tune in to watch, because John McCain has already been declared the winner!  Yes, that’s right.  Declared the winner by whom, you ask?  Well, by the McCain-Palin campaign of course.  http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/2008/09/mccain_wins_debate.html?nav=rss_blog

Seems that the McCain folks sold an advertisement declaring McCain the winner to the Wall Street Journal web site and it ran Friday morning.  A campaign spokesman for the McCain campaign later explained that the Journal had run the ad earlier than it was supposed to.  The paper has since taken the ad down.

Note to McCain campaign staff:  Spin works best after the fact.  Offer it ahead of time and it looks a lot more . . . well, like spin.

UPDATE/EDIT:  Forgot to mention the most important part of this story.  This ad appeared at the WSJ site BEFORE McCain announced that he was going to participate in the event, supposedly before he had even made up his mind to go to Mississippi for the debate.  That whole “I’m not going to go unless we have a deal” stance was, apparently, a sham.

Finished!!

September 24, 2008

Here it is, the final progress bar for Book III of Blood of the Southlands! I finished it today. The first draft, that is. I’ll put it away for a while and then read through it again before sending it in to my editor at the end of October. And then there will be revisions and copyedits and all that. But the book is finished.

So, time for me to do my End-Of-The-Book happy dance, and then move on to other things.

By the way, I’m still looking for a title for this book. There’s still a Name-the-Book Contest up on my website.  Check it out and help me choose a title for my latest creation.

Yesterday, I began a two part discussion on Character Development with a post at http://magicalwords.net.  Today, I continue that discussion with “Character Development, part II,” which is posted at http://www.sfnovelists.com.  I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post and will enjoy today’s as well. 

Today I begin a two-part post about Character Development.  Part I of this discussion, aptly named “Character Development, part I” (maybe I’ll do a post about coming up with original catchy titles next week; won’t THAT be helpful…?) is posted today at http://magicalwords.net.  Here I describe the basics in my approach to developing my main character for a new book or series.  Part II of the discussion will be posted on Tuesday at http://www.sfnovelists.com.  In that post, I’ll delve into a bit more detail and talk about what I do with my characters once I’ve come up with basic information about them.  I hope you’ll enjoy both posts and will find them helpful.

Another Long BOW Award

September 21, 2008

BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award time again, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are definitely making it hard for me to spread the love with this thing.  They’re like a sports team that can’t be stopped — the Big Red Machine, if you will (the name used to describe the awesome Cincinnati Reds baseball teams of the 1970s).  Every week I think they’ve outdome themselves with their buffoonery, and then the next week comes along and they prove me wrong.
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