The Big Idea: Stephanie Burgis
With a title like Scales and Sensibility, you might be forgiven if you thought that you knew the primary influence on Stephanie Burgis’ new novel. But, as it turns out, you’d only be scratching the surface. Burgis is here today to help you dig deeper.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Regency romances are even better with pet dragons involved…or at least, I had an awful lot of fun mixing up those ingredients in Scales and Sensibility, my new Regency fantasy rom-com! But it all began a very long time ago with my parents’ wonderfully over-full bookcases.
There are so many advantages to being raised by voracious readers. For one thing, every time I ran out of books from the library (despite our weekly visits!), I had a whole house-full of interesting options to devour. I discovered SO MANY major f/sf writers on those bookshelves, from Roger Zelazny and Lord Dunsany to Emma Bull, Terry Pratchett, and Ellen Kushner.
Maybe best of all, though, before I had even hit the age of ten, my dad had already read me The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice as bedtime stories – and really, that statement explains so much about all of the books that I’ve written as an adult!
I’ve been a huge fan of dragons, fantasy novels, and comedy-of-manners historical romances ever since. Scales and Sensibility combines all of those personal obsessions into one sparkly Regency romp. Despite the title, it’s as much an homage to Mansfield Park as it is to Sense and Sensibility (with my poor heroine – the sensible oldest sister – stuck in the home of thoroughly unpleasant wealthy relatives) – but it was also heavily influenced by my love for Terry Pratchett’s Guards, Guards, for all of Ellen Kushner’s Riverside books, and even for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Smaug, who first made me love dragons with all my heart (even though Smaug would look with disdain upon all of the tiny – but surprisingly magical – dragons in this book).
There are some books that break my heart as I write them – and then there are the books that fill me up with joy just when I most need it. I laughed so much as I wrote this story, throwing my perfectly sensible and practical heroine into the most outrageously impractical and desperate situations. I loved forcing pragmatic Elinor into a dangerous magical masquerade at a house party of doom, with the perilously unpredictable “help” of her mischievous new dragon causing even more trouble along the way. But I also loved writing Elinor’s way through all of those challenges to discover just how bold, strong, and daring she could be. I had so much fun as I surrounded her with an eccentric cast of characters that pushed her to her limits.
Then I had even more fun sharing this novel, week by week, with my subscribers on Patreon as I serialized it across 2021 in what turned out to be the sweetest part of my year. Every week, my patrons’ comments and reactions – and even, from time to time, their passionate arguments over the ethics of different characters’ actions! – filled me with the delight of a truly shared adventure. In a year where our family was dealing in real life with long covid and other hard, draining health issues, I really can’t over-emphasize just what a difference it made to be able to escape into that frothy world of fun and magic and share that kind of reading joy every week.
Now, Scales and Sensibility is officially out – today! – as both an ebook and a paperback, so I’m looking forward to sharing it far more widely. Nearing the end of another pandemic year, I think we can all use some frothy escape-reading and comfort – and let’s face it: dragons just make everything better. :)