Check out the interview for Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis (Author Interview & Giveaway)

I get to welcome author Stephanie Burgis to my blog today for some Q&A. You might know her from her Kat, Incorrigible MG series. She just released a new book in the Adult Historical Fantasy genre. Check out what she had to say and enter the giveaway below...

Masks and ShadowsMasks and Shadows
by Stephanie Burgis
Adult Historical Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 300 Pages
April 12th 2016 by Pyr


The year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus's mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband's death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace's golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress--a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

"Romance, music and dark alchemy rise to a pitch-perfect ending in this wonderful historical novel. Memorable and utterly delightful."
Aliette de Bodard, Nebula Award-Winning author of The House of Shattered Wings

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Author Interview

Welcome, Stephanie! So glad you could discuss a few things I was curious about when I read the synopsis of this book.

What inspired you to switch genres and write Masks and Shadows?

I've always loved both adult and kids' fantasy novels, and my first published trilogy (the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy) was MG historical fantasy, set in the Regency era. However, as a reader, my own first introduction to historical fantasy came with Judith Tarr's novels for adults, which I absolutely fell in love with and devoured as a teenager. (And of course I still love them - especially my all-time favorite, Lord of Two Lands!) So my personal dream was always to publish in both genres. 

Masks and Shadows was directly inspired by the research I did for my PhD work on opera and politics in eighteenth-century Vienna and Eszterháza, which brought up so many fascinating real issues and conflicts that were ripe for development in fiction.

Can you explain a little bit about what a castrato singer is?

Some of the most celebrated, superstar singers of the 18th century - the contemporary equivalent of rock stars - were the castrati: male singers who, when they were boys, were castrated in order to preserve their ability to sing in the higher registers. The result, when they grew up, was that their voices were as high as women's voices, but had an extra power and resonance due to their larger rib cages. 

Without going into too much detail, I'll just say that although the castrati weren't physically able to sire children, they were able to have fulfilling sex lives, and were in fact famous for their romances as well as their voices. (They were also seen as the safest possible lovers for any woman who didn't want to get pregnant.) The most successful castrati became incredibly wealthy and were true celebrities.

However, they also faced a lot of prejudice for not being "real" men when it came to more permanent relationships. One of the hotly disputed issues of the eighteenth century was whether or not any castrati should be allowed to marry, since they couldn't sire children. In fact, those 18th-century debates used some of the same arguments that were trotted out again more recently by opponents of gay marriage. The Catholic church ruled again and again that no, castrati could NOT marry, no matter what; the Anglican church said initially that they could, but then the church contradicted itself in one famous case where a castrato's wife was granted an annulment years after her marriage, against her husband's will, because the court decided that in fact it had never been a real marriage after all. Still, all across Europe, couples tried again and again, in religious courts throughout the century, to get recognition and acceptance of their unions.

What was the most interesting or unique thing you found while researching the book?

I came across so many fascinating historical details while researching Masks and Shadows. One of the most intriguing things I found out in my initial research, which helped to spark the creation of my central set of characters, was the intensely difficult position of the Princess at Eszterháza. Her husband, Prince Nikolaus, had a younger mistress who was his publicly acknowledged consort at the court there, presiding over all the glittering social activities and ruling by his side - but he refused to let the Princess reside elsewhere despite all her protests. So, she was a shadowy figure in her husband's golden palace, remaining mostly in her luxurious apartments while her younger replacement ruled the court. However, in the winter months, when the Esterházys traveled to Vienna to pay court to the Empress and Emperor, Prince Nikolaus's mistress had to stay behind at Eszterháza while his wife stood by his side as his official consort, maintaining a fiction about their marriage for the sake of the Empress's moral principles. It was a fascinating, tense situation full of conflicts.

What was your favorite part of writing this book (character, scene, setting, romance, etc.) and why?

I absolutely loved writing the romance between Carlo and Charlotte, but I also loved getting to really sink into the life of the opera house at Eszterháza, which was full of drama and humor and passion - and sometimes great tragedy - even apart from the operas themselves.

Will there be more books from you in this genre?

Yes! I can't make any official announcements quite yet, but there should be another historical fantasy novel (set, again, in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and full of alchemy and romance) on its way very soon. :)

Looking forward to it, Stephanie. Thanks so much for stopping by!

About the Author

Stephanie Burgis was born in Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband, writer Patrick Samphire, and their children. Before becoming a fulltime writer, she studied music history as a Fulbright Scholar in Vienna, Austria, and worked as a website editor for a British opera company. She has published over thirty short stories for adults. Kat, Incorrigible (US)/A Most Improper Magick (UK) won the Waverton Good Read Children's Award in 2011 for Best Début Children's Novel by a British writer. It was followed by Renegade Magic/A Tangle of Magicks and Stolen Magic/A Reckless Magick.


2 print ARCs of Masks and Shadows
Provided by the publisher
Open internationally
Ends May 1st

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