Interview with Teresa Edgerton

(For posterity, I thought I’d post the interview I did with one of my favorite authors for the first issue of Tower of Light Fantasy.  I think it is very informative and illustrates how tough it can be in the publishing world even for some established writers. Since publishing the first issue, I have read A Dark Sacrifice and The Queen’s Necklace, and I still eagerly await book three of The Rune of Unmaking.)


Teresa Edgerton is an author with a variety of fantasy novels and short stories. According to Wikipedia, she enjoyed reading historical novels during her high school years, until she discovered the works of authors like J. R. R. Tolkien, T. H. White, and C. S. Lewis. These and other authors became the inspiration for her work later in life. Since then she has published ten novels and eight short stories.

Karri Watson for Curled up with a Good Book had this to say about Teresa Edgerton’s work:

“[Edgerton’s] descriptions of people, places and things . . . is so convincing that it will be easy for readers to envision each scene unfolding before their eyes. The pacing is near perfect, just quick enough to hold reader interest and yet slow enough to absorb the skillful details of each scene. The dialogue is masterfully handled, so that it seems as if the conversations are being eavesdropped upon. Character definition is sharply drawn; we hate whom we should hate and root for whom we should root for.”

HarperCollins published her most recent novel, The Hidden Stars, in 2004 under the name Madeline Howard. After a war between wizards and mages leaves the world in ruin, an evil Empress proclaims herself a goddess and embarks on a campaign of conquest. Now the Wizard Faolein, his daughter Sinderian, and their heroic companions must search for a talented princess who may be the only one who can save them all from Empress Ouriana.

In this first interview for Tower of Light, I asked Teresa Edgerton to tell us a bit about herself and her work.


TOL: How long have you been writing?

TERESA: I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember—probably even before I learned to put words on paper. The first story I remember writing down was when I was about seven or eight years old, which (and this is a daunting thought) means that I’ve been writing for approximately half a century.

But I first became really serious about my writing twenty-seven years ago. I can pinpoint it because of other things that were going on in my life at the time. That was when I decided that I would really buckle down and make every effort to write something that was worthy of being published. Between that time and the time Child of Saturn was published was almost ten years.

TOL: Is fantasy your favorite genre?

TERESA: Over the years it’s been creeping up on me and now I would have to say yes. I still enjoy the occasional historical novel or mystery, a little science fiction (it used to be a lot more), and there are a number of Victorian or early twenthieth-century authors that I love, like Charles Dickens or Rafael Sabatini. But probably ninety percent of the fiction I read is fantasy. That’s divided between books for adults and Young Adult and children’s books.

TOL: Do you have any ideas for works that are not fantasy?

TERESA: Not lately. I used to have a lot of ideas along those lines, but not so much any more. If I were to write something else, it would probably be a Young Adult historical, something along the lines of Leon Garfield or Joan Aiken. I’ve been working on some poetry, but that’s all in the nature of dark little fairy tales, which would still qualify as fantasy. One of my short stories is a murder mystery, but there are also ghosts and magic. I can see myself writing stories involving characters from my books at times in their lives when there are no fantastical elements in play. In fact, I’ve already done that once with a short story and a minor character.

TOL: What is your favorite book?

TERESA: My favorite book? I have too many favorites to list them here, and I would be hard put to come up with even a top ten list, because I’ll reread old books and discover (or rediscover) great things about them, and they’ll rise accordingly in my estimation. I love books with beautiful prose, writers who can create vivid portraits of imaginary world and convince me on a deep emotional level, if not a rational level, that those worlds exist. I’ve been rereading a lot of Tanith Lee’s books lately, so they’re up near the top of my (extremely nebulous) list at the moment, but a while back I was rereading Patricia McKillip and reminding myself of how wonderful her books are. I used to want characters that I could identify with in some way, but that’s hardly important now. I need to believe in the characters and I need to care what happens to them, but I’m able to take an interest in characters that I would never want to meet in real life.

TOL: The Hidden Stars—book one of The Rune of Unmaking—is so far the only book by you that I’ve read, and I enjoyed that very much. What other books have you published?

TERESA: Two trilogies loosely based on Celtic mythology. A new book series and one completely unrelated that are vaguely steampunkish.

(See the bibliography below.)

TOL: The Hidden Stars was published under the name “Madeline Howard.” Was there a particular reason for the name change?

TERESA: Sometimes the people in the sales and marketing department decide they would rather devote their efforts to promoting somebody as a fresh new talent rather than stick with a writer whose last book had less than stellar sales figures. It doesn’t matter how well your other books did, the last one is what counts, and more and more often they are letting midlist authors go. That was what happened to me. My editor at HarperCollins wanted to publish The Hidden Stars, but the people in sales and marketing wouldn’t even look at the proposal. My agent suggested a pen name, and within about a week and a half I was offered a contract. The sample chapters won them over very quickly, but first they had to be willing to read them.

TOL: In The Hidden Stars, many of the characters’ names are difficult to pronounce. Have you developed a pronunciation guide and, if so, where is it available (if at all)?

TERESA: You can find that at my website:

I also included a glossary which included a guide to pronunciation with the manuscript for the next book, and I trust that will be included.

TOL: Is there a release date for book two of The Rune of Unmaking?

TERESA: The Rune of Unmaking: A Dark Sacrifice, is scheduled to come out in December of this year.

TOL: You’ve described some of your books as “vaguely steampunkish,” and Wikipedia describes Goblin Moon and The Gnome’s Engine as a “steampunkish fantasy of manners.” What do you mean, and what do you think Wikipedia means, by that?

TERESA: “Steampunk” and “Fantasy of Manners” are both terms that some people use very loosely and inclusively, while others have such precise definitions they limit these sub-genres to a handful of authors each. I guess my definitions come somewhere in between.

To me, “Fantasy of Manners” refers to stories that (along with the fantasy elements) owe much of the plot to the protagonist’s relationship with his or her society—usually this comes in the form of a struggle against a social structure that is very rigid and/or decadent. A setting in which the class or rank a person is born into largely determines his or her destiny is a good one for a Fantasy of Manners. A society where a lapse in status can throw an individual or a family into abject poverty and social isolation with practically no means of recovery also lends itself to Fantasy of Manners. These things up the stakes, heighten the dangers, add another level of tension, because along with any physical or magical perils the characters face, there are also the social dangers—which can have very real and very drastic consequences.

But Fantasy of Manners also lends itself to characters who have a lot of style and wit and invention, which allow them to move around and through the social barriers—occasionally even defy them—and still survive.

Steampunk can either be science-fiction or fantasy. If SF, the science is based on the technological capabilities of an earlier era—usually, the nineteenth century, although it can be earlier, and or it can be an imaginary present or future where scientific progress has taken a completely different course from the one we know. The scientific principles aren’t changed, but the technology of the past is stretched to its uttermost limit, so that you may have Victorian airships or even rocket ships—basically things that could have been, but weren’t. The result is fantastical, but the science is usually more or less good. But then there is Steampunk which is clearly fantasy, and this is where my books come in. The science (or the magic) is based on some version of historical pseudo-sciences, or on some imaginary fusion of magic and science. This isn’t as contradictory as it might appear on the surface, because for most of history things that we think of now as utterly separate—science, magic, and philosophy—were inextricably linked. As late as the mid-nineteenth century, many intelligent and educated people regarded scientists as the new magicians, capable of doing mysterious and wondrous things.

In both the SF and fantasy versions, with the quasi-Victorian (or in my case, Baroque) setting you also get a mannered society, and so the Fantasy of Manners element often sneaks in—probably stronger with the fantasy, because in SF there is more interest in the gadgets, while fantasy deals more with emotions and aspirations.

TOL: This is an interesting mix of sub-genres (steampunk fantasy). What were your major influences for these books?

TERESA: Oh goodness … so many influences. Dickens, Dumas, Sabatini—a lot of the historical adventure novels I read in my teens. I love swashbuckling adventure, but I also love settings where you can step right in and be completely enveloped by another reality. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote some wonderful science/fantasy hybrids, and I love those. Thackery, Austen, the Brontës. I love Victorian ghost stories and gothics, so they’ve undoubtedly influenced me.


Books by Madeline Howard

· The Hidden Stars, Book One of The Rune of Unmaking (HarperCollins, 2004)
· A Dark Sacrifice, Book Two of The Rune of Unmaking (HarperCollins, December 2007)

Books, Short Fiction, Articles, by Teresa Edgerton


· The Green Lion Trilogy
· Child of Saturn (Ace, 1989)
· The Moon in Hiding (Ace, 1989)
· The Work of the Sun (Ace, 1990)
· Goblin Moon (Ace, 1991)
· The Gnome’s Engine (Ace, 1991)
· The Castle of the Silver Wheel (Ace, 1993)
· The Grail and the Ring (Ace, 1994)
· The Moon and the Thorn (Ace, 1995)
· The Queen’s Necklace (HarperCollins, 2001)

Short Fiction

· “The Ghost in the Chimney,” Midnight Zoo March/April 1991
· “TITANIA, or The Celestial Bed,” Weird Tales from Shakespeare, Katharine Kerr and Martin H. Greenberg, editors (DAW, 1994)
· “My Soul into the Boughs”, Enchanted Forests, Katharine Kerr and Martin H. Greenberg, editors (DAW 1995)
· “A Wreath of Pale Flowers for Vitri,” The Shimmering Door, Katharine Kerr, editor (HarperPrism 1996)
· “Tower of Brass,” Tarot Fantastic, Martin H. Greenberg and Lawrence Schimel, editors (DAW, 1997)
· “Rogue’s Moon,” Highwaymen: Robbers & Rogues, Jennifer Roberson, editor (DAW, 1997)
· “Dying by Inches,” Assassin Fantastic, Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter, editors (DAW 2001)
· “Captured in Silver,” Murder by Magic, Rosemary Edghill, editor (Warner Aspect, 2004)


· “In Which the Author Endeavors to Explain Herself”, Midnight Zoo, Volume 1, Number 4 (1991)
· “Book Reviews,” Midnight Zoo, Volume 1, Number 4 (1991)
· “Book Reviews” Midnight Zoo, Volume 1, Number 5 (1991)


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