Giveaway & Interview with John Kessel, Author of Pride and Prometheus

It has been quite some time since I’ve conducted an interview with an author, but today, John Kessel, author of Pride and Prometheus, will answer a few questions. And there is a giveaway to be had.

First, a bit about the book:

Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature in this clever fusion of two popular classics.

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Pride and Prometheus fuses the gothic horror of Mary Shelley with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

Now, for the interview; give John a warm welcome:

1. When did you start writing and what was the first story or poem you wrote?

I was writing stories as early as grade school and sent my first submission to a magazine when I was in seventh grade. It was a terrible little one-page science fiction story that ended with a pun. I sent it to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and it was rejected, but I was very excited to have the form rejection slip, which meant that some editor had read my story. I was not discouraged.

I did not send another story out until I was in college, and did not sell a story that actually appeared until I was in my late 20s. Ironically, my first sale that eventually got published was to the same magazine, Fantasy and Science Fiction, where I have since sold eighteen stories.

2. Why Jane Austen as a basis for a novel?

I love Austen’s novels but I would not have considered writing a novel based on Pride and Prejudice if I had not seen the opportunity to fuse Austen's characters with the characters and plot of Frankenstein. I became intrigued as much by the differences between Jane Austen’s and Mary Shelley’s writing as by the similarities, and in writing the book thought a lot about the differences between the novel of manners and the gothic, and the odd ways in which they might speak to one another. Also, it was fun, a kind of challenging puzzle, to make them come together in a satisfying way without disrespecting either writer or her work.

3. What character surprised you the most when writing Pride & Prometheus?

Mary Bennet surprised me the most. The Mary portrayed in Pride and Prejudice is a minor character, the most socially maladroit of the Bennet sisters, the only one who is not pretty. She’s the bookish one who quotes morality at her sisters and who cannot see how odious Mr. Collins is. Every time she appears in the book she says something pompous or clueless and everyone ignores her.

But I picked her to be my heroine, so I had to try to understand her and imagine how she might have an interior life that would not make her obnoxious or tedious even though others might see her that way. I had to grow her up—my story happens 13 years after Austen’s, so Mary has had a chance to evolve and mature. She became a stronger and more admirable character the farther the story went, and I liked her more and more. She
struggled to make things better in situations where others would give up, and she said and did a few things that surprised even me.

4. What was left on the cutting room floor during the editing process that you love most?

I don’t remember having to cut anything very substantial that I regretted losing. Mostly the story grew with successive drafts. There were some options I considered early on—notably a number of different endings—that I let go of as I worked through the story, but I think the ending I came to is the right one for this book.

5. What is next on the writing horizon? Future book?

I have been working on a story about the assassination of President William McKinley by the anarchist wannabe Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Exposition, a world’s fair, in Buffalo, New York in 1901. I grew up in Buffalo. Czolgosz was the son of Polish immigrants; my father was a Polish immigrant. The turn of the 20th century was a time of great wealth and poverty, political, and social change—like our own time. The fair was designed to promote electrification and the wonders of the future, a subject of interest to a person as obsessed with science fiction as I was as a young man.

There was an attraction at the fair called “A Trip to the Moon,” the first “dark ride” ever designed, like the ones at Disneyworld or Universal. One could take this ride to the moon and meet the underground Selenites, modeled after H.G. Wells’s novel First Men in the Moon. I think maybe Leon Czolgosz went to the moon before he shot the president. I think there’s a story in this, an opportunity for comedy and tragedy and social comment, though I am not sure exactly how it will work out. My tentative title is The Dark Ride.

Thanks, John, for taking the time to share with us your latest work and how Mary Bennet surprised you.

ENTER the U.S. giveaway below:

1. Leave a comment on the post with an email
2. Share on social media #giveaway #Pride&Prometheus @SavvyVerseWit #JohnKessel for another entry

Deadline to enter is March 14, 2018, 11:59 PM EST

Photo Credit: John Pagliuca

About the Author:

Born in Buffalo, New York, John Kessel’s most recent book is the new novel Pride and Prometheus. He is the author of the earlier novels The Moon and the Other, Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting in Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence.

Kessel’s stories have twice received the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in addition to the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Poll, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. His play “Faustfeathers’” won the Paul Green Playwright’s Prize, and his story “A Clean Escape” was adapted as an episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction. In 2009 his story “Pride and Prometheus” received both the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. With Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short sf, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology.

Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He and his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler, live and work in Raleigh, N.C.