By Writing Excuses | July 8, 2012 - 8:48 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Season 7

Mary talks to us in depth about Glamour in Glass, and yes, there are spoilers. She discusses the challenges she faced with the project, and some of the inspirations and key concepts that drove it.

Brandon, Dan, and Howard fire questions at Mary, and while she’s supposed to be on the spot she fields everything with aplomb (with the exception of that one surprise at 4:42.) We learn about the military applications of the glamour magic system, a system that up until now we’d only seen in the drawing rooms of high society.

The content here is particularly fascinating (and useful!) if you’re looking to write alternate history, as Mary goes into quite a bit of detail about what went into the rather significant changes she made to the history in her books. Her research process is worthy of your close attention.

Hello Kitty at 4:42: The cat’s name is “Pinecone” and its arrival was unexpected.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Hollow City, by Dan Wells, which, as of this writing, doesn't show up on Audible's site. We counsel patience.

Writing Prompt: Have Queen Victoria's cousin not die. How is history changed?

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This entry was posted on Sunday, July 8th, 2012 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Alternate History, Season 7. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

28 Comments

  1. July 8, 2012 @ 11:14 pm


    Could you guys discuss “retconning” in a future podcast?

    Posted by Ronald
  2. July 9, 2012 @ 5:03 am


    Loved it, as always. I can’t get enough of your podcasts or books! Can’t wait to see what you guys come out with next, this has all helped with my writing so much! :D thank you!

    Posted by Royce Shatzel
  3. July 9, 2012 @ 5:34 am


    If anyone has questions about process or the books, I’m available to answer them.

  4. July 9, 2012 @ 6:05 am


    For our listeners… I’ve posted the initial outline for GLAMOUR IN GLASS so you can see what that looks like. The password is my exclamation at 4:42 in the podcast.

    http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/extra-the-glamour-in-glass-outline/

  5. July 9, 2012 @ 7:30 am


    I just read ‘Glamour in Glass’ and really enjoyed it, so this episode was extra interesting for me. I thought the tension between Vincent and Jane was convincing, though my favorite bits was Jane’s very real insecurity about her worth as a person if she couldn’t weave glamour. Loved that.

    I also liked that Mary kept modern sensibilities from intruding into Jane’s perspective – an important aspect for an aspiring writer to remember. I’ve read historical fiction where the author makes the protagonist an “eccentric” for the time which basically means that they talk about women’s rights and other modern ideas that took me out of the time period. ‘Glamour in Glass’ managed to touch on some of those topics without ruining the historical accuracy of what a woman raised as Jane had been would have thought.

    The idea of researching for a whole year seems daunting to me – did you really not start writing at all until you were done? I would be afraid that I would forget things that I wanted to include.

    Posted by Erin
  6. July 9, 2012 @ 10:40 am


    The idea of researching for a whole year seems daunting to me – did you really not start writing at all until you were done?

    I make notes about the outline and adjust things as I research, but… the cool thing that I’ve forgotten is often the sort of thing that gets shoe-horned in as the “Look! I did my research!” element, you know? As for not writing until I finish? I don’t really finish researching, I just get more specific with it. So I start very broadly to get an understanding of the period and then fine-tune as I have more of an understanding of what I need the story to do. For me, research and writing are parallel processes.

  7. July 9, 2012 @ 12:00 pm


    I’m a fairly new listener to the podcast and so have not yet delved into the archives where this may have already been covered, but I’m interested in how the research you do blends into world building. My main WIP is a SF epic and I find that my world-building tends to be done alongside the rough drafting (and I would say that even if it had not sprung out of NaNoWriMo).

    Posted by Dunx
  8. July 9, 2012 @ 1:53 pm


    Is “my exclamation at 4:22″ correct? Because you’re not talking at 4:22… I’ve checked both the downloaded file and the popp player, but can’t find it. I’d be interested in seeing your outline, but can’t figure out the password. I’ve tried various variations on the “hello kitty” stuff at 4:42, but can’t get that to work either. Any other hints?

    Also, is there a video feed to view, or was that just a joke?

    Posted by Rolf
  9. July 9, 2012 @ 2:09 pm


    @Rolf — you’re correct, it should be 4:42.

    Also, the exclamation should be delivered in initial caps, with a space separating the words. You know, just like the television programme.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  10. July 9, 2012 @ 2:13 pm


    Oh, and there is no video feed. This is an old Monty Python reference from the audio version of “Crunchy Frog.” There was a visual gag, and in the audio version a narrator interrupts and says “for those of you not seeing the video, the Constable has just vomited into his helmet.”

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  11. July 9, 2012 @ 3:00 pm


    Ah, got it! Thanks!

    Posted by Rolf
  12. July 9, 2012 @ 3:00 pm


    Whoops. Yes, that should be 4:42 and Howard is correct.

  13. July 9, 2012 @ 5:49 pm


    Can the volume between the writers be a bit more equalized? Mary talks I want to turn up my volume then the guys talk and blast me out.

    Posted by Vorlonagent
  14. July 10, 2012 @ 6:40 am


    Hi Mary,

    I actually have a question about something you said in the time travel podcast. Specifically, can you tell me the name of the story where an agency puts all of the major historical figures back in the past? Here’s the quote where you mention it, courtesy of Mike’s transcript:

    [Mary] Going back to kill Hitler. Saving Lincoln.
    [Brandon] You becoming a specific historical figure. Which is still fine, but realize it’s a cliche. That you were Abraham Lincoln all along!
    [Mary] There is actually a really interesting science fiction story that does that, where they… But they looked in the past, and none of the major historical figures were there. So there’s an agency in the future that just goes back and populates the empty roles.

    Posted by Katya
  15. July 10, 2012 @ 11:23 am


    Thanks – I really love these process ‘casts.

    (And I think the Charlottian Era idea is awsome! Though, frankly, it could wind up being quite similar to the Victorian Era, if she were the one married to Albert and he had the same influence over her that he did with Victoria. Victoria was apparently a pretty spirited girl until she got married and Albert toned her down.)

    Posted by Laurie
  16. July 10, 2012 @ 1:40 pm


    RE: Video feeds and monty python

    The first time I noticed that gag pulled in WE (could have been used earlier, but the first time I noticed it) was within weeks of a video of a podcast (Wolverton/Farland was in it) being put up on youtube. I therefore assumed that there existed video feeds of every podcast.

    Posted by Duke
  17. July 10, 2012 @ 3:20 pm


    I really loved Glamour in Glass and was looking forward to this podcast. It was very good, but I felt like a lot of the info wasn’t new (being a fan, I had heard most of these stories, lessons learned, etc before). Perhaps the interview would have been more in-depth if at least ONE of the Writing Excuses guys had actually read the book! :) But, despite that, I love hearing more from Mary’s mind. Her love for her genre is exciting and contagious, and her knowledge of the era is impressive and interesting. I must add to my 5 star Goodreads review to say that, yes Mary, you made me cry. In that most wonderful, heart-wrenching way. That shocking scene for Jane at the end made me gasp alound and immediately tear-up THAT’s how invested I was. Not only in Jane, but in the very real conflicts with which she struggled–conflicts that many contemporary women deal with today. For this reason, I feel that Glamour in Glass is an excellent, extremely successful story. I look forward to more!

    Posted by Cfornia
  18. July 10, 2012 @ 5:49 pm


    RE: people not reading mary’s books

    I’ve only read one of Mary’s stories – a short in Asimov’s called “Kiss Me Twice.” At the same time I was working on a project whose working title was “Robot Sex Whores From Space.” Obviously the stories were completely different, but my alien robots were so similar to her AIs (or whatever she called them) in both voice and appearance (I had an Audrey Hepburn in mine, and she had Mae West), that I’m afraid to read her alternate histories, as I’m currently working on one of those.

    Sure I won’t have magic in my steam/gear/pendulumpunk, but if my major characters read like hers one more time I think I’ll have an aneurism. It makes one feel much less original when they see someone else following some of the same lines and even crafting similar characters.

    Posted by Duke
  19. July 10, 2012 @ 8:50 pm


    And, for as long as the Glamour holds, we have right over here behind this facade…

    A transcript!

    http://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/61320.html

    Posted by Mike Barker
  20. July 11, 2012 @ 8:00 pm


    @Katya

    The time travel story was Chorale by Barry Malzberg. Thanks for asking. I’d forgotten the name, but the question made me track it down.

  21. July 12, 2012 @ 6:46 am


    Thanks!

    Posted by Katya
  22. July 12, 2012 @ 8:29 am


    When is the audiobook for the hollow city going to be out? Could one of you author types please tweet this information? Thank you.

    Posted by Jonathan
  23. July 12, 2012 @ 11:58 am


    WE Gang –

    Thanks for the great cast! :)

    Posted by Levi
  24. July 13, 2012 @ 8:49 pm


    I love these in-depth casts. Have you thought about bringing in other authors for more?

    I do have one minor complaint, mirrored by Vorlonagent. I listen to these on my commute and I always have to crank it to max volume, and even then I sometimes can’t hear, like Mary in this cast. Is there a way to increase the base volume?

    @Duke.
    I’ve had the same problem, re: afraid of seeing my ideas already done by someone else, but if I ‘ve learned one thing listening to this cast, it’s that execution trumps ideas. Sure, you might have to make a minor tweak so it’s not exactly the same, but you shouldn’t have to change everything around, and sometimes this even results in something better.

    Posted by Jeff Whitaker
  25. July 14, 2012 @ 7:48 am


    Just downloaded the podcast, got a three, maybe five second sound clip with the picture of a koala or something in it. I tried listening to the podcast without downloading it, but I got the same audio file.

    Posted by mo
  26. July 15, 2012 @ 7:56 am


    I think this podcast just reaffirms the respect I have for Mary, and anyone else who writes alternate history of any kind. I could never do it. Knowing what to look for and what works for the story is one thing, but knowing when to STOP is another matter entirely.

    Like the time I considered researching how climate affects skin colour, so that I could place different ethnic groups more accurately in my fantasy world… and found myself wondering just what combination of climate and latitude and height above sea level would produce… yeah…

    Likewise, the Charlottian Era idea. Absolutely brilliant concept, but there’s so many strands… what would change in our modern day? What do we have that came about because of the Victorian era? What would have happened anyways because the groundwork, the buildup, was already in place?

    And so on, and so forth.

    So. Mad props to all y’all that can get your heads around it.

    Posted by Jonathon Side (Jace)
  27. July 21, 2012 @ 1:53 pm


    Fantastic podcast – curious about something though. Been listening for a while now and every so often it is mentioned about the video feed. Am I missing something? Where is the video feed of this and the others?

  28. July 22, 2012 @ 9:25 pm


    Mark: The video feed is just us being silly. There is no such thing.