I’ve written lots of romances as Mary Jo Putney. M. J. Putney is my YA alter ego, since I didn’t want the romances confused with my young adult paranormals. Hence, a name different enough to show these are a different kind of book, but similar enough that it’s clear who I am.
I’m fond of reading, cats, travel, and most of all, great stories. Dark Mirror is my first young adult novel, but not the last. The Dark Passage series is set in an alternative early 19th Century England world where aristocratic young people who have magical powers are sent to the infamous school at Lackland Abbey to be “cured” of their despised abilities.
The series is, in fact, sort of a multiple character saga with romance and adventure, part of which is set in World War II.
I love writing in this world, so who knows? There may be lots more stories ahead!
From author's website.
Dark Mirror is your debut young adult novel. What did you find most challenging about writing in this genre? Do you prefer to write YA or adult romance?
MJP: The part that worried me most was writing with a voice that would be appealing to YA readers. I wasn’t a very good teen even when I was one! I couldn’t write YAs with contemporary settings, but I figured I could handle historical settings. So far, so good.
As for preferring YA or adult—no preference. I have to love all of my stories or I can’t write them. There are specials rewards to each.
What inspired you to set up a world in which the nobility found magic too vulgar for their class?
MJP: I don’t really recall the original inspiration, but the concept seemed like fun from the beginning. I first played with the idea in an adult romance called The Marriage Spell, but there was just so much more I wanted to do that I developed a proposal for the Dark Passage series.
The two time periods of the novel share many interesting parallels. Why did you choose these periods? Did you have to do much research for the novel?
MJP: The majority of the books I’ve written have been set in Regency England, and I’d often thought about the similarities to England in WWII. In both cases. England stood alone against a powerful Continental conqueror, protected by the English Channel, the British Navy, and the courage of their people. It was easy to see how Regency mages might be drawn to a similar time period where their abilities were be needed.
And yes, there was a huge amount of research! The Regency I know pretty well, though there were still things that needed research. But WWII is within living memory, so it was a real challenge to get the details right. I did my best, but I suspect that some errors still crept in.
Would you rather live in Tory’s time or Nick’s? Why?
MJP: Nick’s time was more immediately scary, especially where he lives on the south coast with bombers flying overhead, but his time is more familiar to me, so I guess I’d choose 1940. And probably be shocked by the differences between then and 2011!
If you were a mage, what kind would you like to be?
MJP: Being an enchantress with the ability to persuade others to do what I want would be cool but bad.
Maybe the ability to teleport to other places. Think of how lovely it would be to visit Venice without having to spend hours on airplanes! Or spend a week in the Caribbean when the snow and ice get be Too Much. (You can tell I’m writing this in mid-February!)
If magic existed, do you think it would be accepted by modern society?
MJP: If it had always been visible, it would be part of modern society already. But if mages appeared and started doing magic in our world, where there is no belief that it exists—well, it could get very interesting. People who have different abilities might prefer to keep them hidden. Which is why it’s fun to imagine that there could be mages living quietly among us!
Did you feel a closer connection with a particular character? Do any of them draw upon yourself or people you know?
MJP: The whole book is written from Tory’s point of view, so she’s the one I know the best. I like her. She smart and has courage and tries to do the right thing.
Any characters I write are rooted in the people I’ve known throughout my life, but none of them are ever based any specific acquaintance or family member.
If you traveled 150 years into the future, would you want to know about things that haven’t happened yet in our time? How do you think that future world will be different from now?
MJP: I’ve read enough time travel stories that I think I’d be afraid to learn what’s going to happen! It would be way too easy to get worried. As to what the world will be like 150 years in the future—I can’t even begin to guess. Look how much our world has changed in the 150 years since 1861, and the rate of change has increased enormously in the last several decades.
What is a random fact readers probably don’t know about you?
MJP: I spent six years in college and ended up with two totally different bachelor’s degrees, which is just odd.
What can you tell us about future books in the Dark Passage series?
MJP: The second book, Dark Passage, which will be out in September 2011, sends Tory and her friends to France. I’m not sure about the third book. I’m debating two quite different plot directions.
Thanks to M. J. Putney for this great interview, and to Sarah at St. Martin's for setting it up!
Thanks to Sarah and St. Martin's, I'm able to give away three (3) copies of Dark Mirror!
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