The Second of the Series! Caroline Stevermer was kind enough to answer some questions about College of Magics. I'm excited to learn that the sequel, A Scholar of Magics is about the likeable Jane, and that there is a third book in the works RIGHT NOW.
Tamago: When we first meet Faris, she is rough and untrained. It isn't until we see Faris in the Glass Slipper rescuing Gunhild that we come to realize Faris is a strong character. In many YA books, girls like Faris transform to become more conventional. In College of Magics, Faris transforms to become more the strong character we are introduced to here.
Caroline: Long answers are good, right? Then I'll mention that I got the idea for the book in the first semester of my sophomore year of college. I thought of the final plot element nine years later. Unfortunately, I was so excited, I told the story to a close friend before I'd written it down. I am, it turns out, one of those people who shouldn't talk about what they write until they've actually written it down. The whole story turned to ashes. It took me another five years to pull myself together and actually finish the rough draft so revising could begin. It went through many, many drafts.
All this was a very long time ago indeed, so forgive me if my answers aren't as specific or accurate as they would have been right after the book was originally published. I wrote A College of Magics because I wanted to read a ripping yarn in which the protagonist was a woman. The books that inspired me (for example, The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel, Rupert of Hentzau) invariably relegated girls to subsidiary roles where they had nothing to do but look pretty and act nobly. I wanted Faris to be imperfect and independent. Perfectly reasonable people dislike her intensely, and I don't blame them.
Tamago: What do you hope readers will take away from your portrayal of Faris?
Caroline: The key word for Faris was always truculent. I hope that the disadvantages of having a short temper are made clear in the course of the book.
Caroline Stevermer wrote A College of Magics in 1994, so I'm a little behind the curve on reading it. My only defense is that in 1994, I started working on my doctorate in Second Language Writing, so I missed a chunk of material coming out from then until around 2001. I enjoyed Stevermer and Wrede's Enchanted Chocolate Pot books immensely.
However, I'll confess that I was reluctant to read College because of the inevitable marketing tack toward Harry Potter comparisons. It wasn't that the Potter books were the best in the cosmos. It was that unlike the people who search for similar books, the marketing ploy convinced me I would be reading another variation on a theme.
I know Caroline is a gifted writer, and I should have trusted my instincts, but I'll admit to be doing duped by corporate public America trying to make a buck. Damn them. As I've gotten to know Caroline better, however, I thought I should read more widely in her works. I'm glad I did.
Don't let anyone compare A College of Magics to the previously mentioned magical school series. Both stories take place, to some extent, in a boarding school. There is magic in both stories, and that's it. No more similarities.
What you will find is the story of Faris, a young woman that YA-reading girls aren't encountering as much in the current universe of Bella. Faris is a heroine that I'd like my (imaginary) daughter to appreciate.
I'm back from Convergence, where both Bryon and I usually have a great time. This time was no exception. I enjoyed myself immensely, if not always because of the convention, then certainly because of what Minneapolis has available.
We saw Voltaire sing, I had a great visit with Caroline, the Broad Universe Rapid Fire reading went smoothly, and I saw Labyrinth and part of Wrath of Khan in Cinema Rex.
A couple of the more interesting panels I saw were an anthropological examination of Steampunk, and a Dr. Who writer's stories about working for Russell T. Davies.
Went to see Last Airbender Sucked all the joy right out of it, and sort of missed the point of the original. I hypothesize that if you haven't seen the original cartoon, you'll be scratching your head a lot.
All ready signed up for next year's Convergence, and took the time to register for North American Disc World in Madison next year as well.
Yes, I am still writing for the Clarion Write-a-Thon. This is the week of chapter six. Why don't you send in some money? To any of us? Even me, if you like...