The Big Idea: Mindy Klasky
Posted on October 1, 2009 Posted by John Scalzi 16 Comments
Mindy Klasky is well known as a fantasy writer, but her latest book, How Not to Make a Wish, has a trick up its sleeve — a secret so big that I can’t reveal it to you here. No, not me; it’s too big for me. Fortunately, Mindy Klasky is here to reveal Wish’s big secret — and its big idea. Have you steeled yourself? Are you prepared? Can you handle the truth?!? Okay, well, good. Here’s Mindy Klasky.
Pssst… I have a secret: My latest novel, How Not to Make a Wish, is a fantasy.
What? That doesn’t sound like such a big deal, especially since my first six novels were traditional fantasies published by Roc? Well, it’s a bigger deal, when you realize that How Not to Make a Wish is published by Mira. As in, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises. As in romance.
And there’s the Big Idea: Romance, as a genre, can be a lot more flexible than many readers think. In fact, romance can embrace (pun absolutely not intended) a woman’s search for independence, for freedom from convention, for reliance on herself above all others. And she doesn’t always need to have a tall, dark, and handsome hero waiting in the wings to make everything all right.
How Not to Make a Wish, the first volume of the As You Wish series, tells the story of Kira Franklin, a Minneapolis stage manager who discovers a magic lamp that contains a wish-granting genie. When Kira wishes her way into a production of Romeo and Juliet, she thinks that she is advancing her career, stabilizing her home life, and discovering true love. But then things start to go wrong. Very wrong. Wrong in ways that even Shakespeare never considered when he wrote his classic tale of star-crossed lovers.
In many circles, romance novels are scorned as written-word pablum for ignorant women who don’t know how to think. Bad romance novels often follow a formula. The hero is an alpha male, intent on dominating the heroine. The hero and the heroine are immediately attracted to each other; sexual sparks fly before they know each others’ names. The couple fights, often over silly misunderstandings, solely so that they can reconcile (and reward themselves – and the reader – with great make-up sex.)
But not all books published by romance publishers follow such dull and boring formulas.
How Not to Make a Wish is, first and foremost, a fantasy novel about what goes wrong when magic is practiced without appropriate limits. Kira’s gender-bending genie is a trickster, a bored supernatural being whose only diversion is to twist Kira’s words, placing her in circumstances she never anticipated and certainly never intended.
As in all good fantasy novels, Kira’s use of magic comes with a cost. Bound by the rules of wishing, Kira cannot explain to outsiders the changes that her genie wreaks. Kira risks her professional standing, her family, and her friends, all so that she can stay within the bounds of genie magic.
In the end, Kira reaches her peace with the magical challenges before her. (No, that’s not giving away the plot. Really.) Her solution is born out of her unique set of skills, her individual capabilities, her strength as a strong and independent woman.
Yeah, there’s some kissing along the way. A couple of bedroom scenes (with the door, mostly drawn shut for a bit of character-based privacy.) A realization that sharing life with another person can be fulfilling, often in unexpected ways. Those romantic touches round out the story.
But ultimately, How Not to Make a Wish is a book about a woman becoming the person she wants to be. And that’s not a bad Big Idea for a fantasy novel masquerading as a romance.
How Not to Make a Wish: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s
Read an excerpt here. Visit Mindy Klask’y blog. Enter her monthly contest.
Harlequin’s imprints put out some good books. I really enjoyed the first book in the Retrievers series by Laura Anne Gilman. It’s published under Harlequin’s Luna imprint, and there’s definitely a romantic thread to the story, but it’s really an urban fantasy novel about two mature adults, whose business partnership and strong friendship develops a romantic side over the course of the story.
I find it odd that two of the three reviews of Staying Dead quoted on Gilman’s site mention the “romance” first thing. I doubt that would be the case if the book were published by, say, Tor…? (Or maybe I’m just Captain Oblivious and the romance is more prominent than I thought?)
Romance is 40% of the book market, as I understand it. So it’s pretty prominent.
Whoops… just realized it’s probably kind of rude to start a comment thread like this by talking about somebody else’s book. Sorry.
How Not to Make a Wish sounds enjoyably complicated. :) I love it when people get imaginative about the price of magic; it really should be more than a tool with really spiffy special effects, something has to make it magical. That tease about the ending really has me wondering now — how does one “make peace” with that kind of chaotic magic run by a bored trickster?!
I always preferred formulae. Then again, I pronounce it “la-BOR-a-tory”.
It sounds like a fun read. I like the Glasswrights fantasy series, but one reason I enjoyed Mindy’s Georgetown witch books was because they had so much local color, and a real DC feel. Since I’ve never been in Minneapolis, I’m wondering if this book will give me a feel for the Twin Cities area.
The cover cracks me up, and I’m a total sucker for genie-twists-your-words hijinx!
I’m also drawn to the fact that the big idea is that the romance genre can be something more. One of the best werewolf stories I’ve ever read came in the guise of a romance, so I’m a believer.
Good luck to you, Mindy!
People who think romance is all about following a formula are not really very familiar with the genre. It always makes me laugh when so many of them are fans of mystery, or sci-fi, or epic fantasy — nope, no formulas there, not at all. HA!
Storytelling is about using formulas, hopefully with some unique twists and details. Genre fiction is full of formulas and conventions to follow, boldly defy or even mock (hopefully in an affectionate and clever way), but those conventions and formulas are what define each genre, whether followed slavishly or not.
The basic formula, or convention, of romance is that the story focuses on the development of a love relationship between characters who end up together at the end. That’s it — and that allows for a huge variety of characters, situations, and plot details. (Which may be why it IS the biggest selling dimension of publishing.) Of course there are some that are so formulaic that most readers find them too predictable, but you’ve got to admit that’s true in any genre.
There’s some excellent fantasy, science fiction, and mystery/suspense in the romance aisles of the bookstore. With some books, the decision to label by one genre or another seems more a marketing decision (to whom do we want to sell this book?) than a descriptive choice.
Mindy’s book sounds like a lot of fun; I can’t wait to read it. Welcome to romance!
It’s also available in (sadly, DRM-infested) electronic editions over at eHarlequin:
Harlequin’s Luna imprint has lots of great fantasy writers writing for them: There is often a flavour of paranormal and urban fantasy more than romance.
We have the series that started C. E. Murphy’s career which is urban fantasy Urban Shaman, we have Mercedes Lackey’s Hundred Kingdom series starting with The Fairy Godmother, we have Catherine Asaro’s Lost Continent series starting with The Charmed Sphere and – my personal favourite – Michelle Sagara West’s Elantra series starting with Cast in Shadow which I consider urban fantasy in an epic fantasy setting (and while there are romantic tensions the heroine is oblivious to that).
West, Asaro and Lackey definitely aren’t romance-only names and have quite distinguished bibliographies on offer.
Caution for people who only want male protagonists – being a predominantly romance publisher means that Harlequin’s Luna imprint has female protagonists (even though there are cool male characters, too).
John – Thank you so much for having me as a guest here!
And to all who have posted, thanks for your willingness to reach across the genre aisle :-)
Of course, I’m an avid Luna reader, like so many who have posted – the imprint covers a pretty broad spectrum. (And as Laura Anne Gilman was my first editor, at Roc, I feel a particular affection for her Retriever books…)
I found an eReader(DRM) edition over at Books on Board.
I actually just finished reading this book and it was WONDEFUL. Seriously. I loved Mindy’s magic series and thought there was no way that this one could top it–but clearly, she brought in some kind of genie of her own, because it wildly exceeded my expectations.
I enjoy paranormal romance (although I’m not that big on the traditional romantic stuff), especially if there is a touch of humor. And I like fantasy, so it makes sense that this would appeal to me.
But what isn’t obvious from the summary is how aptly Mindy carries you into the world of the theater and those who live there. All the secondary characters are real and three-dimensional, and her heroine is likeable, flawed, and believable. This one really is magic.
If I had three wishes, one of them would be that the next book in this series would come out tomorrow!
Something screwy with those italics in the third paragraph.
Arg! now I’m going to have to go read a romance novel! How could you?!
This book does sound like a lot of fun :)
Me likey. Will get.