An Interview with M.K. Hobson

Here’s my promised follow-up interview with M.K. Hobson about the Kickstarter Project for her third novel, THE WARLOCK’S CURSE. In my years as a bookseller and writer I’ve interviewed over thirty writers, occasionally as a paying gig, but usually because of the simple reason that I loved their work. Mary is the first author I’ve reconnected with for a second interview (another first, her Kickstarter was the first one I ever backed!).


CG: What encouraged you to give Kickstarter a try?

MKH: It’s very simple. Spectra didn’t want to continue my Veneficas Americana historical fantasy series and I did. I’ve got a very strong vision for this series, and since I managed to build some good momentum with the first two books, I thought THE WARLOCK’S CURSE was a prime candidate for testing the “new publishing” waters. Additionally, the book was almost complete by the time Spectra passed on it, and I was quite excited about the work I’d done, and I wanted to share it with readers (and because I’m ornery as a mule) I decided that’s what I would do.

CG: How’s the early response been to your project?

MKH: Very encouraging! We reached 40% of the funding goal within the first couple of days, and we’re getting close to 50% at the time of this writing. The funding velocity has, of course, slowed, but that’s par for the course. My expectation is that it’ll pick up again as we approach the finish line. I think backers get what we’re trying to do, and that’s to publish a book that objectively meets or exceeds every quality standard of a book published through traditional channels. That means professional cover art, editorial, copyediting, and publicity—all paid for at non-discounted industry-standard rates. In some ways, I’m testing this new model to see where it fails. Because where it fails (if it fails) is where we will find the answer to the commonly-asked question: “What do we need traditional publishers for, anyway?”  And if it doesn’t fail … well, we will be able to draw some interesting conclusions from that, won’t we?

CG: THE WARLOCK’S CURSE begins another duology in your Venficas Americana series, what is it about a two book arc that appeals to you over a standalone novel or a trilogy?

MKH: A duology gives me the right amount of space to tell the story I want and provides a nice symmetrical dramatic structure. You can build to a good nail-biting cliffhanger, send everyone out for refreshments during intermission, then bring things to a thundering climax in Book 2. Trilogies, in all honesty, creep me out. That middle book … what is that? It’s not the beginning, it’s not the end, it’s just … the middle. And stand-alone novels … well, clearly, I’m far too wordy for those.

CG: THE WARLOCK’S CURSE features Dreadnought and Emily’s son, why keep the series in the family for the third and fourth books?

MKH: From the get-go, I’ve imagined this as a multigenerational family saga. I am fascinated by family histories, how the triumphs and tragedies of each generation indelibly mark the next. I also have this funny concept that will begin to play out in the next two books—as we progress onward through the series, the characters we loved as heroes in the past books will inevitably form the core of whatever “shadowy cabal” the characters in the present book are striving against. The parents always think they know best, and the children are always out to prove them wrong. I think that’s a pretty true-to-life family dynamic, don’t you?

CG: You’ve continued your story through the generations, how far would you take it forward if you could? Could readers expect a futuristic, SFnal take on credomancy?

MKH: Absolutely! I’ve plotted duologies going forward in time through to the present day … but what the “present day” will be by the time I catch up to it is really anyone’s guess. Once I catch up to that “present,” it’ll surely be a hoot to see where I can take it from there.

CG: What was the most interesting thing you learned about the time period of THE WARLOCK’S CURSE?

MKH: I was astonished by how much disparity there was between the theoretical and the techological. By 1910, Einstein’s “annus mirabilis” was already five years in the past … and the “birth” of quantum physics came five years before that, with the debut of Planck’s constant at a meeting of the German Physical Society in 1900. But twelve years later, Americans were still hand-cranking their gasoline automobiles—electric starters didn’t first appear until 1912. That boggles me. The scientists had quantum physics figured out, but you couldn’t start a damn car without breaking your arm?

CG: Aside from the obvious addition of magic, were there any points where you deviated from history to serve your story?

MKH: In these next two books, I had to struggle a lot more with the problem of “breaking history.” Some of the quasi-magical/pseudo-technological advances I’ve put into this book make 1910 America feel a lot more like 1920s America. This is mostly because I felt compelled to avenge history’s more egregious sins against the sainted Nikola Tesla. As a result, there’s a form of “radio” in 1910 (though it’s delivered by Tesla’s World Wireless System, and is played on “Teslaphones”) and I consigned Edison to moving picture-moguldom, which is exactly where that slimy bounder belongs. It’s all very satisfying fictionally, but historically, it opens several cans of rather slippery worms. I had to fight to keep the cool technology from getting too advanced, because I have to leave places for myself to go in the next books. If the 1930s starts looking like the 1950s, and the 1950s starts looking like the 1980s, then we’ve got Nagel posters hanging on J. Edgar Hoover’s office walls, and no one wants that.

CG: As a sartorial aside, do you have a preference for the clothes of either time period of your two series?

MKH: The 1870s will always be one of my favorite eras, because the style is so decadent and sumptuous. The 1910s are much more restrained—slightly dull, even. But when you set the two eras side by side, you begin to see how truly revolutionary the simplicity of the 1900s was. It’s hard, from the vantage point of today, to appreciate how very different and fresh the fashions were. But when you stand in the 1870s and look *forward* … it’s much easier to see, and much more impressive.

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