Mary Robinette Kowal: It’s an alternate history set during WWI, which imagines what the war would have looked like if Spiritualism worked as advertised. So the British Intelligence department has set up a group of mediums, called the Spirit Corps, and they take reports from the ghosts of soldiers. And of course, there’s a traitor.
Shawn Speakman: One of my favorite series is Naomi Novik’s Temeraire. I love it for how she takes known history and twists it to something new and exciting. You have done this in a way with GHOST TALKERS with your World War I Spirit Corps, a special force that helps to gather information. What was it like writing within known history?
Mary Robinette Kowal: It’s fun and tricky. One of the things I love about it is all the really cool stuff you learn about history that gets left out of most textbooks. For instance, the role of women during wars gets largely glossed over. We think of them as just being in nursing. Did you know that there were women fighter pilots in the first world war? How about the motorcycle couriers, riding up and down the front lines to deliver orders? Ambulance drivers, train engineers, munitions… I love this stuff. The hard part is often convincing people that the history is actually real and not something that I just made up.
Shawn Speakman: Main character Ginger Stuyvesant finds herself in a tumultuous time and in an era where women were relegated to the back lines and menial jobs. How did you go about construction such a strong character set against that era?
Mary Robinette Kowal: First of all, I based her on real women. Women who were not relegated to the back lines or menial jobs, although they often did have to fight to be seen and heard. Bear in mind that this is the era of Suffrage. Women had powerful voices and were already fighting for things that seem, to us, like modern values. That made it dead simple to create a strong character.
Shawn Speakman: While at San Diego Comic-Con, I heard that you narrate your own audio work. I would imagine its more work but quite fulfilling. What do you like about it? And did you have any problems pronouncing any of your own words in GHOST TALKERS?
Mary Robinette Kowal: It’s often easier to narrate my own work than someone else’s simply because the rhythms match my natural speech patterns. As for what I like about it, it’s the same things that I enjoy about narrating other writers’ books — getting to spend time in someone else’s shoes, playing around with voices, and frankly just reading. And yes… yes, I did have trouble pronouncing some of my own words in GHOST TALKERS. Remind me not to include Middle English next time, hm?
Shawn Speakman: What are you working on next? A sequel to GHOST TALKERS? Hope so!
Mary Robinette Kowal: I’m currently working on Artemis One, which is another alternate history, although this one is science-fiction. It’s a prequel to my novellette “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” and takes place forty years earlier in 1952. The novel begins about five minutes before an asteroid slams into the Earth. No big deal.
Exactly! No big deal! Ha! Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal is in fine bookstores today! It is getting great reviews. If you love well-crafted alternate history, Mary’s new book is perfect for you.
More news soon!
Shawn Speakman is the author of The Dark Thorn, an urban/epic fantasy hybrid novel bestselling author Terry Brooks calls, “a fine tale by a talented writer.” He also edited the bestselling anthology Unfettered.