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Dear Author Intro Interview & Giveaway: M.K. Hobson, Author of...

M.K. Hobson calls it "bustlepunk": a nineteenth century America in which military warlocks serve in President Grant's Secret Service, zombies labor in gold mines, and spells can be mail-ordered from the magical equivalent of Sears & Roebuck.   That mass-produced magic is about to put hometown witch Emily Edwards out of business, however, and a lavender-laced love spell only multiplies the problems she's trying to solve.   Can a bewitched trans-continental adventure in the days of steam trains and pantalettes be totally engaging and eerily relevant? Yup.   Hobson makes it look easy.

A six-word memoir for your protagonist, Emily Edwards:

If only I’d used less lavender!

Native Star by MK HobsonThe original triggers or inspiration points for The Native Star:

My favorite books have always been the ones that make history come to life-‘like “Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton or “The Magnificent Ambersons” or even just the “Little House on the Prairie” books. Before I even had a plot or characters for THE NATIVE STAR, I knew I wanted it to be set in the 19th century. I wanted the reader to be drawn into a different time and place, just as my favorite books had pulled me in.

The book's title comes from a magical stone that becomes embedded in Emily's hand, an injury that has a mythical feel to it.   How did that detail come about?

You know, I can’t remember-‘it’s always been part of the story! From a plot standpoint, Emily and the stone had to be inseparably bound so that she was obligated to pursue her quest. But you’re right, there is a mythic feel to it-‘in cultures around the world, hands often symbolize human action and choice. Given that so much of what happens in the book revolves around making right (and wrong) choices, I guess I was smarter than I even remember!

Your hero, Dreadnought Stanton, appealed to me early on, but it's hard to explain why, especially when one character refers (pretty accurately) to Stanton's "snobbishness, his impatience with human frailty, his rigid worldview."   How did you know he was hero material?

Stanton illustrates a concept I believe to be true: having integrity does not necessarily make you a good person. Like most heroes, Stanton adheres to a powerful ethical code-‘and self-discipline and strength of will are generally very attractive traits. But whether he’s a good person or not … well, that remains to be seen. I think that ambiguity is what makes him so intriguing.

Stanton tells Emily about the three traditions of magic, one of which is credomancy. Can you give readers a quick crash course?

Credomancy is basically faith magic (which, Stanton notes in the book, has been profitably employed by churches for thousands of years) secularized. It involves the literal bending of reality based on what the public can be made to believe is real. In credomancy, power is built by carefully crafting messages-‘usually disguised as entertainment-‘to support whatever beliefs serve the credomancer’s end. I see it as a uniquely American brand of magic. And the latter half of the 19th century in America is a perfect moment in history for credomancy to have flourished. Post Civil War advancements-‘urbanization, industrialization, and   technological advances like the first transcontinental telegraph-‘represented the earliest groundwork for the global mass-media of today.

And of course, Stanton teaches Emily lots of other things too, often more than she has patience for.   What does she teach him?

Stanton’s dignity and sense of self-control are bandages he uses to cover old wounds-‘but he keeps them wrapped too tight. She helps him find balance and perspective-‘and even moreso in the sequel.

One magical power Emily discovers in her adventure involves creating new words, which I think reflects a real joy in language that comes through in your writing.   In your gift of naming, I rank you up there with Charles Dickens and J.K. Rowling.   Cassandras, exunge, squink, sundered-‘is it actually tough to come up with such pitch-perfect, effortless-sounding names for imaginary things?

I’m so glad you find this an admirable talent, since it frequently drives my poor copyeditor insane. Like most writers, I truly love words, especially chewy and obscure ones. They collect in the corners of my brain like little lexical dustbunnies, and so whenever I need to come up with a name for an imaginary thing, I always have a wonderful assortment to choose from.

An unexpected research detour you made while writing The Native Star:

American feminism and labor movements in the 19th century. The character of Penelope Pendennis (who has gotten a great response from many of the early readers) was originally a generic Russian countess. But alas, Madame Gorohovskaya wasn’t pulling her weight, so I fired her and replaced her with Penelope, a dress-reforming women’s rights advocating social crusading witch. I always used to scoff when authors talked about their characters going rogue, taking over a scene or even a whole book-‘I had more control over my characters than that! But Penelope has made a fool out of me. She has very much taken on a life of her own, and is demanding to be put in a lead role in a future book or books.

Number of books you wrote The Native Star sold:

Four, actually! The first was a high-fantasy bookstop I obsessively wrote and rewrote during high school and college. Right after college, I scrapped that to work on a disaffected Gen-X Jay McInerney knockoff. That mercifully aborted attempt was followed by a post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller, which was followed by a quirky secondary world steampunk/time-travel mashup. I’m still trying to rewrite that last one, because I think it has promise. Except I’ve taken the time travel out, thank god!

Your paying job before and after publication:

Communications consultant. I write things and design things and make websites and just generally help my clients communicate more effectively. I don’t expect to be able to quit my day job any time soon-‘but that’s fine, because I really like my clients and since I work for myself I have a lot of freedom in how I structure my day.

Your oddest or most reliable writing ritual or habit:

Carne asada tacos from Rigoberto’s. Rigoberto’s is this 24-hour Mexican drive through a few miles up the road from my house. Not only do they make the best carne asada I’ve ever tasted, their red and green salsas are utterly addictive. I reward myself with a taco run after I’ve completed a particularly difficult task like copyedits or page proofs-‘whether I finish at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m., they’re there waiting for me, all spicy and juicy and delicious.

Three things that feed your creativity:

My dog (and the long walks she takes me on), my daughter (and the sometimes mind-boggling questions she asks) and my book collection (which exists in a continual state of flux.)

Your favorite book when you were 10 years old:

The Little House on the Prairie series, hands down. I especially loved Laura’s voice throughout those books. She was level-headed and down to earth without being passive or drab. She had such spunk and humor and creativity! I would have liked to have Laura Ingalls for a best friend when I was 10 years old. I like to think we would have gotten along famously as long as I didn’t get on her bad side. Because as we all recall from her treatment of Liza Jane, Laura could straight up cut a bitch.

An author or book you recommend again and again:

That one’s easy-‘”Up in the Old Hotel” by Joseph Mitchell. I’ve actually given at least a dozen copies of this book away as a gift over the years. Mitchell was a writer for The New Yorker in the 30s and 40s, and “Up in the Old Hotel” is a collection of his pieces from that time. The writing is lapidary and the window into New York in a different era is uniquely inspiring.

M.K. Hobson is treating a commenter with a copy of The Native Star and a lavender sachet, so chime in below   for a chance to win.   At, you can   find Hobson's blog and a ton of other cool stuff, including podcasts of short fiction.   If you want to contact Alyson H., who does the Intro Interviews, you can write DAintrointerview AT gmail DOT com.

Alison Atlee (also known as "Alyson" here at Dear Author) is fascinated by creative people and how they work, which is why she enjoys contributing author interviews to Dear Author. She likes her romance novels light on the internal monologues, twisty with the conventions, and brimming with voice. Her favorite book at age ten? "An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott.


  1. Linda Henderson
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 04:55:00

    This sounds like a very interesting book, I’d love to read it. I enjoy books with magic in them.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  2. Nadia Lee
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 05:27:22

    I love the cover & the story concept. And your site looks awesome too! :-)

  3. Donna
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 05:31:01

    The book looks fabulous. The notion of credomancy is a bit scary…just a bit too close to

    Please enter me in the contest.

    donnafisk at bellsouth dot net

  4. Estara
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 05:52:45

    Oh nifty! I already added it to my TBB list, because Sherwood Smith highly recommended it on She posted a more in-depth version of that recommendation on her LJ

  5. Isabel C.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 06:22:25

    Oh, I definitely want to read this one!

  6. Susan Laura
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 06:42:38

    Sounds great! And something different, too. I could really use something a little different right now.

  7. Eva_baby
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 06:51:21

    You had me at ’19th century America’ and gold-mining zombies. Sounds very interesting. Would like to read it.

  8. Missy Ann
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 07:03:49

    Yup, want this book. You might as well ignore my comment – if I don’t win I’m buying it.

  9. Teresa Kusant
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 07:14:40

    Mail order spells? Oh yeah, this sounds great! I like the idea of “bustlepunk.” And on your steampunk/timetravel mashup, don’t give up on the idea of timetravel. I love timetravel. But I’m sure anything you do will be great.

  10. Sahara Hoshi
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 07:21:41

    I love the Age of Innocence…also Kate Chopin is amazing with “At the Cadian Ball” I am not so big of a fan as the Awakening though…

  11. HeatherK
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 07:30:04

    This sounds like a really fun book (read). And I LOVE lavender. :)

  12. LisaCharlotte
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 08:04:11

    I’m intrigued. I’ll be on the lookout for sure if I don’t win.

  13. Chris W
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 08:11:13

    Sounds interesting and different… Would love to try it.

  14. DianeN
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 08:11:26

    What’s not to love about bustlepunk? Sounds fabulous!

  15. Susan R
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 08:47:09

    Intrigued. I love the Alexia Tarabotti series, so why not a similar concept set in the US.

  16. Sheryl Nantus
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 08:51:45

    Want! Want! Want!

    Sounds wonderful and fresh and different – and who can’t love the term “bustlepunk”?


  17. hapax
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 09:02:41

    I don’t usually enter these contests, but I am *dying* to read this one.

    And I love lavender.

  18. Joy
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 09:14:17

    Is Bustlepunk–love it!– what happens 9 months later when steampunk and mannerpunk elope for a steamy weekend getaway?

    I want this. Please?

  19. peggy h
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 09:22:40

    Sounds intriguing! I’d love to read this–please count me in!


  20. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 09:25:59

    You had me at “mail-order spells” but sealed the deal with Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    You don’t need to enter my comment ‘cuz I just went and bought it.

  21. Heather
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 09:51:31

    This sounds really original and intriguing. Please enter me.

  22. readerdiane
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 10:01:59

    I have it waiting for me on my kindle as soon as I finish BLAMELESS.

  23. Jessica
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 10:35:48

    This sounds so interesting even if I don’t win I’m going to check it out from the library

  24. Valerie
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 11:04:24

    This sounds like something really different…putting it on my wishlist.

    in Germany

  25. Anna Marie
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 11:08:13

    This sounds quite intriguing. Please enter me.

  26. Julie
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 11:23:19

    Well, this sounds completely different! I’d love to read it.

  27. Lori
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 11:42:07

    Oh this sounds wonderful. And yes, you got me with the zombies and mail order spells.

  28. J
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 12:08:34

    The more I hear about this book, the more interesting it sounds. It’s on the to-read list. :)

  29. Nicole
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 12:33:32

    Sounds fascinating! Love the term “bustlepunk”.

  30. Faye
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 13:17:38

    I’m in love already! I can’t wait to check this out.

  31. Jane
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 13:43:50

    @Nicole I do too. I am so intrigued by this book. Will need to get an e copy of this.

  32. Kimberly B.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 14:28:54

    Wow, this book sounds terrific! I love a good fantasy novel, and I treasure words just like M.K. does! Thanks for the great giveaway!

  33. Estelle
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 14:41:02

    I’ve just finished the book and I absolutely adored it. I can’t wait for the sequel but it seems it’ll be out only in 2011.

    It reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series when it came to worldbuilding and naming. Everything felt real and part of a whole. The book really takes us to a 19th century alternate America.

    Another thing I liked is that there’s no easy way out for anyone and nothing is solved with a pretty pink bow at the end. And I’m particularly interested in Stanton’s character arc. We’ve barely scratched the surface there and the second book promises more revelations.

  34. Little Lamb Lost
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 14:47:05

    The author had my attention at “bustlepunk” and continued to have my interest through the interview. Her book sounds fascinating.

  35. Alyson H.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 15:07:19


    And isn’t it delicious how the love spell makes its reappearance? Love when stories come (just a little off from) full circle

  36. JJ
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 15:07:44

    I’m trying to read outside of my ususal confort zone, Historical Romance. The premis sounds so interesting, I will definently add this to my wish list.

  37. Carin
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 16:26:40

    This sounds really interesting. I’m curious, though – is this a Happily-Ever-After? First in a trilogy with HEA at then end? Or open series with a romantic story line throughout? I enjoy them all, but I like to know what I’m getting into.

  38. Lindsey
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 16:35:11

    I am fascinated. I love the idea of this book, and the cover is gorgeous. even if I don’t win, I think I’ll look this book up.

  39. Sandy D.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 16:35:28

    Sounds like something I’d really enjoy. If I don’t win a copy I’ll have to wait until when?

  40. Barbara Elness
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 16:55:29

    The description of Native Star has got me really intrigued and I’m really looking forward to reading it. I love words, and made up ones are such fun. You got me with “bustlepunk,” what a great descriptive word for your writing.

  41. Emily
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 18:38:31

    Sounds like an interesting book- I’d love to win!

  42. SaraC
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 19:07:48

    I too read The Little House on the Prairie when I was 10 and loved it!

  43. vidhya
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 19:22:37

    Hmm for some weird reason, the cover reminds me to The Hundred Thousand kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin which is one of my top reads for this year. The book sounds very different. Adding it to my TBB list. Great interview BTW!

  44. Alyson H.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 19:34:33

    Carin, I felt satisfied with the way the relationship wound up at the end, though M.K.’s comments in the interview certainly make me wonder what’s ahead. Stanton had some dark, dark issues, I know that.

    And Sandy D, the book is out now.

  45. Tili S.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 19:42:51

    Oh my gosh! that sounds like a super interesting book! If I don’t win it, I’m definitely putting it on hold at the library right away.

  46. bettie
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 20:54:53

    This book sounds fascinating. You had me at “bustlepunk.”

  47. Karen W.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 22:56:31

    Hi, M.K.,

    Your book sounds fascinating, and I love the cover! I definitely put it on my “wish list.”

    I love a mix of sci-fi, romance, and western because it reminds me of the brilliant Joss Whedon series, “Firefly.” :)

    Good luck with the book!

  48. Bella F.
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 23:18:35

    oh man, this is so fascinating with the concept of Credomancy and hands representative of choice, etc. This one is definitely going down on my list of “must-read asap”!

  49. Moridin
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 01:22:02

    I love the title of your book.

  50. Giada M.
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 06:35:48

    Thank you for the interesting interview! Native Star is a book I’m dying to read. The cover is fabulous!
    Thank you for this chance! :D

    Giada M.

    fabgiada (at) gmail (dot) com

  51. Maryam H
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 06:57:59

    This book looks like a really good read; it’s been on my wishlist for a while!
    I absolutely adore the cover too!


  52. Victoria Zumbrum
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 08:17:08

  53. cories
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 16:09:51

    “Bustlepunk”? Sounds fun! Also, I can’t wait to read about the headaches translators will have when this book is sold overseas. They can join the poor copyeditor.

  54. Mariska
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 20:59:00

    Oh, please Enter me in for this great book !

  55. Sue R
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 00:25:21

    Sounds like an intriguing read. Count me for the giveaway. Thanks for the chance to win.

  56. MaryK
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 02:12:57

    This definitely sounds interesting. And I’m another who’s curious to know how much of a romance there is.

    Also, my initials are M.K. and every time I read them in this post and comments I got a weird jolt. :)

  57. JenM
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 14:12:37

    I first started seeing some buzz about this book a few weeks ago and immediately added it to my wishlist. The American West is a great setting for this type of book.

  58. Myranda
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 23:00:09

    This sounds like a great book! I’d love to read it.

  59. dwndrgn
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 19:49:46

    I heard of this book recently and already put it on my huge ‘to read’ list. I love the idea of 19th century, mail order magic and the fight of the mom and pop store (or individual entrepreneur) against the mass merchandisers. I see both sides of that story every day and it would be cool to see it involved with magic. Good stuff. Thanks for the opportunity for a giveaway!

  60. Aaron
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 21:19:29

    I remember listening to Hotel Astarte on Podcastle. Damn, but I loved that story. This novel sounds related (“Bustlepunk”, eh? I thought “retropunk”, but anyway…) and very cool. I’m a sucker for the ‘America twisted to a hard right angle’ setting.

  61. WINNERS of Virginia Kantra & DA Intro Interview Giveaways | Dear Author
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 13:12:42

    […] most recently, lots of hands went up for a copy of M.K. Hobson’s The Native Star.  Susan R, you got […]

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