H. Liguore (jane_hunter) wrote in broaduniverse,

Interview: M K. Hobson

Today we're visiting with Broad Universe's M. K. Hobson! To start, tell us a little about you, your background? How did you get started as a writer?

I became a writer for the same reason someone decides to learn to sew her own clothes—because she can't find what she wants, and what she does find doesn't fit, and even if it does fit, the color is horrible. When you make your own clothes, you can tailor them to fit you, choose the colors you like, and add beads and buttons and whatever strikes your fancy. That's what drew me to writing and what keeps me writing to this day.

2) What does a day in the life of M. K. Hobson look like?
I am self-employed as a communications consultant, so I have some flexibility in how I structure my time. Because most of my clients are on the east coast, I try to be at or near my desk (or at least my cell phone) from 6 a.m. (when the east coast opens) to 2 p.m. (when the east coast shuts down.) My second full-time job (as spouse, mom to a 12-year-old daughter and slave to 2-year-old labrador retriever) doesn't conform to any fixed hours, and neither does my third full-time job (that of working writer.) But it all works out somehow. As a dyed-in-the-wool workaholic, I'm not much for "relaxing"—unless it's with one of the many reality shows I follow, like "Top Chef" or "Project Runway."

3) What's your writing process?
For me, writing is like having a big box of jigsaw puzzle pieces and trying to put them together without a picture to go by. A novel or a story usually starts with a handful of random sparkly bits that catch my interest—a cool character, an evocative setting, or a wicked little plot twist. I stare at those sparkly bits for a while, searching for other sparkly bits that seem to go along with them. I just keep doing this until I've got enough sparkly bits and they mostly fit together. Then I smooth them out, make the words pretty, and voila—I have a story or a novel.

4) What is you most current project? Release date? Where to buy?
My debut novel, "The Native Star" is coming out August 31 from Spectra. It's a historical fantasy romance set in the United States in 1876—but it's an America where Witches and Warlocks are accepted members of society. The story follows Emily Edwards (a timber-camp witch who's business is suffering from an influx of mail-order patent magics), and Dreadnought Stanton (a pompous New York Warlock with a past) as they cross the United States from California to New York trying to unravel the mysteries of a unique artifact called The Native Star. Along the way, they have to face evil magical forces and their own growing attraction for each other. Folks can find it at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Native-Star-M-K-Hobson/dp/0553592653) or just about any other fine retailer. Or put in a request for it at your local library!

5) What was the inspiration for the book?
Careful readers will find elements in THE NATIVE STAR that pay direct homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" series—they were my favorite books as a child, and I still reread them every few years.

6) Who is your favorite character, and why?
In THE NATIVE STAR there’s a character named Penelope Pendennis who is hands-down one of my favorite characters to write. Penelope's an outspoken women’s rights advocate, labor organizer, and magical adventurer. She plays a small but important role in THE NATIVE STAR, but since it's not her story, she never really gets the chance to take center stage. In the sequel to THE NATIVE STAR (which is coming out in May 2011 and is as-yet untitled) I had to write her out entirely, or she would have taken over the whole book! But there are a lot of stories to tell about Penelope Pendennis, and I look forward to telling them someday.

7) What do you love most about steampunk?
The times we currently live in are incredibly vulgar—and I blame technology, which allows you to put your emotions on display without actually having to make an emotional connection. What I love about the steampunk aesthetic is that it focuses on the sensual elements of technology—the hand-polished wood, the shine of gears, the warmth of steam. You kind of get the best of both worlds with steampunk—you get the convenience of technological advance, but it feels more real and tangible, less fraudlent.

8) Tell us one thing about yourself people would be surprised to learn?
That I know the difference between the first and second bustle era (yes, there were two) and that I have incredibly strong opinons about both. The 1870s were the first appearance of the bustle, and by far the best. It was the age of the apotheosis of the bustle. The dresses were simply divine, with sumptious fabrics and lots and lots of luscious drapery. Contrast this to the second bustle era (in the mid- and late-1880s) which was distinctly horrible. Draping disappeared; the look became tailored and severe. Skirts became smoother and the bustles more "structured." The overall effect was about as stylish as walking around in one of those horse costumes, you know, the kind it takes two people to wear? Absolutely hideous.

9) Are there any writers (living or dead) that are influencing you right now?
I am a great admirer of Sinclair Lewis, Gore Vidal, and E.L. Doctorow. Of writers working in genre today, the ones who consistently blow my mind include James Morrow (The Last Witchfinder), A.M. Dellamonica (Indigo Springs), N.K. Jemisin (One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), and Alaya Johnson (Moonshine.) Looking into the future, I am looking forward to books from a couple of exceptional new talents: Saladin Ahmed and Genevieve Valentine.

10) Favorite bookstore/library?
Powell's Books at Cedar Hills, hands down. The main Powell's Books store in downtown Portland is undeniably great, but the Cedar Hills branch is so incredibly supportive of the genre. Their science fiction and fantasy section head, Peter Hoenigstock, is amazing. He puts so much work into scheduling readings, signings and other events. His love of fantasy and science fiction really shines through.

11) If you could choose any planet or fictional fantasy world to live in, where would it be?
I would take any fictional universe in which time travel was allowed. Then I could indulge my fascination with New York City history by visiting it at various time periods, from the 17th century to the present day.

12) Any advice for new writers?
You've got something no one else has—your own voice and your own vision. Don't write something just because you think it will sell—you're sure to end up with a drab, soulless work. A book I recently read (which I will not name) served as a cautionary tale in this regard. It was written by an already-successful romance writer who switched genres, apparently to hop on the bandwagon of a hot new trend. The resulting book came off as smarmy and opportunistic—and it just wasn't very good. Write the stories that turn your crank, and don't try to outguess the market.

13) Give me one thing you want Broad Universe readers to remember after they finish this blog?
I'm so proud to be a member of Broad Universe because I believe that women are the best supporters of other women (contrary to the catty portrayals favored by the mainstream media.) Do something to support a woman writer today. Check out the new releases in Broad Universe's catalog. Buy a book and review it online. Find a short story and tweet about it—or better yet, nominate it for an award. When you see authors sharing news or promotions, help boost their signals on your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Spread the love, and I guarantee it'll come back to you tenfold.
Photo credit: James W. Fiscus


M.K. Hobson was born in Riverside, California, but grew up in Portland, Oregon. She attended the University of Oregon, where she ran Catalyst Films (the campus film society), helped launch The Student Insurgent (a radical progressive ‘zine that’s still being published) and drove night-shift cab in nearby Springfield, Oregon. After graduating with a degree in English and Communications, she moved to Hiroshima, Japan to teach English. Returning to the United States two years later, she purchased The Northwest Neighbor, a community newspaper founded by legendary Portland mayor Bud Clark. She ran the paper for several years before moving on to a career in the field of corporate communications, working with Fortune 500 clients in the fields of retirement and healthcare.

Currently, she is one of the co-hosts of Podcastle, the acclaimed short fiction podcast. She lives in Oregon City, Oregon with her husband and daughter.
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