Stephanie Burgis is an American-born writer who lives in Wales with her husband (web and ebook designer Patrick Samphire), their son, and their crazy-sweet border collie mix, Maya. Her first book, Kat, Incorrigible, was chosen by Bank Street College of Education for its Best Books of 2012 list, and her second book, Renegade Magic, was named a “New and Notable Book for Teens” by Kirkus. You can read the first three chapters of both books on her website.
Let the conversation begin!
Coffee or Tea?
I choose them both! I start every morning with a cup of loose-leaf Earl Grey, followed soon after by a delicious latte. Mmm.
Why do you write?
Because nothing else makes me feel so right. On days when I don’t write, I feel grouchy and irritable and restless. When I do write, even on hard, frustrating writing days, I feel like I’m doing what I was meant to be doing with my life.
When are you the most productive?
In the mornings. I love the days when I can dive into writing as quickly as possible after breakfast.
Daily word count?
I have to divide my days between freelance writing work and my own novel-in-progress, so this changes depending on what day of the week it is! I try to hit 2,000 words a day on my freelance projects (which come pre-outlined), but my own novel moves more slowly – I aim for 1,000 words a day but don’t always hit it.
If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Blue. It’s been my favorite color ever since I was in preschool!
As a teenager, what was your favorite musical group?
I was a total classical music geek as a teenager (I was training to be a classical musician, too, at that point!), so, y’know, I’m going to have to say the Cleveland Orchestra. I was training to play the French horn professionally at that point (there have been a lot of twists and turns since then!), and theirs was my favorite horn section.
Is there a story behind your name? What is it?
I was named after my great-aunt, but unfortunately, it didn’t go quite as planned. Since that side of my family is Croatian, her name was actually spelled “Stefanie” – but the nurse at the hospital where I was born, in Lansing, Michigan, decided to rewrite that as a more Americanized “Stephanie” (sigh). Since it had been a rough delivery, my parents were in no state to notice the spelling change until it was too late and the birth certificate had already been issued!
I spent a lot of my childhood defiantly spelling my name “Stefanie”, the way it was originally supposed to be spelled, but by the time I turned 18, I’d given up and resigned myself to “Stephanie” forever (although some of my closest relatives do still spell my nicknames Steff or Steffi, the Croatian/German nicknames for Stefanie).
If you could live anywhere for one year, all expenses paid, where would you live?
Stockholm! It’s full of beautiful eighteenth-century architecture, palaces, and it’s all built on a series of islands, so it’s physically breathtaking. It’s also full of fabulous cafés and it includes the best science fiction/fantasy bookstore I’ve ever been to in my life! My husband and I have visited Stockholm together twice and both agreed that it would be a dream city to live in, if only we could afford it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was seven years old. However, I figured out early on that I would also need a day job, and I went through a lot of different options there – lawyer, actress, marine biologist…by the time I was a teenager, I settled on musician, and I did my first degree in French horn performance. Now, though, I’m a fulltime writer, just like I always dreamed of being.
What was the worst smell you have ever smelled?
The smell of the sulfurous spa waters in both Harrogate and Bath. Aauugh. A total aroms of rotten eggs! Sadly, there was no way to get out of drinking that water for research for my second novel, Renegade Magic (set in Bath)! So when you read the description of my heroine, Kat, drinking that awful water, please spare a compassionate thought for her writer, who did the same. (And you can see the photographic evidence here.)
What is the craziest (or stupidest) thing you have ever done?
The craziest thing I ever did was probably when I got on a plane with my dog and flew to Europe to be with my long-distance boyfriend, with no job prospects or guarantee that I wouldn’t have to fly right back in defeat in another few months. I’d applied to several British PhD programs (in music history), but I didn’t know yet whether I’d get into any of them, or whether I’d even be able to afford to attend if I was accepted! Luckily, I did get into a British PhD program with a full scholarship – and I’m now happily married to that boyfriend! – so it was a crazy move that paid off in gold.
What is your favorite season?
Back when I was living in America, it was spring – I loved watching everything come back to life, and spring was the one season when the temperature was perfect for me, never too cold or too hot. Now that I live in Wales (which has a very different climate from the American Midwest), my favorite season is summer, because that’s when the temperature is most like a Michigan spring!
What’s the best dinner you ever had?
My wonderful British publishers took me out to an amazing dinner at an all-vegetarian Italian restaurant (Zilli Green) in London last year. Since I’m vegetarian and Italian is my favorite type of food, this would have blown my mind anyway – but the food was so mouthwatering, it went beyond fantastic. I LOVED it. Even the vegan tiramisu (!) was luscious, believe it or not.
If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?
I think that’s actually a really good guiding question for any writer to ask her/himself when they’re picking the next book to write! Luckily, I’d definitely say the book I’m writing now, a screwball 30s roadtrip with ghosts and gangsters which includes a bunch of my own personal family history.
What’s your passion?
I can’t narrow that down to just one thing! My biggest single passion since I was seven has been writing, but my passion for parenting has been just as strong ever since I had my son. So: writing and parenting, together. They’re both incredibly satisfying in very different ways, and I couldn’t do without either of them anymore.