Aaaand…. *drumroll*: I can finally announce some news that I have been bursting to share!
This is the announcement that ran in Publishers’ Marketplace today:
Author of Masks and Shadows Stephanie Burgis’s CONGRESS OF SECRETS, in which a lady arrives at the 1814 Congress of Vienna with a supernatural secret and finds dark alchemy, old enemies, and an unexpected chance at love awaiting her, to Rene Sears at Pyr, for publication in fall 2016, by Molly Ker Hawn at the Bent Agency.
Woooooot! Congress of Secrets is my second adult historical fantasy, and it’s coming out later this year!!! After two years without any new novels being published, I have two coming out this year (and more MG novels next year, of course – dragons!), and I could not be happier about that.
Congress of Secrets is my love letter to Vienna, my favorite city in the world, where I lived for two years in my twenties (and which was my Croatian great-grandfather’s favorite city, too – he told stories all his life about the wonderful years he spent there as a tailor’s apprentice). It’s also my own dark fantasy take on Regency romance. This is, in fact, the darkest book I’ve ever written – it’s about survival and redemption and more – but it’s also the most romantic book I’ve ever written.
Here’s the full pitch that I sent my agent:
The year is 1814, and the Congress of Vienna has just begun. Diplomats gather to draw a new map of Europe, and aristocrats and royals arrive to celebrate the downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Among them is Lady Caroline Wyndham, one of the wealthiest widows in England. But, like so many others at the Congress, Caroline has a dark secret.
Caroline was born Karolina Vogl, the daughter of a radical Viennese printer. When her father was arrested by the secret police, Karolina’s childhood was stolen from her, lost in a pit of dark alchemy and despair. Now, under the protection of a new name and a new nationality, she has returned to Vienna to save her father at last. When she comes face-to-face with Michael Steinhüller, her father’s old apprentice, now a charming conman and professional survivor, they are both granted an unexpected chance at love…but the supernatural forces that shattered Caroline’s childhood still rule Vienna behind its glittering façade of balls and salons, and her disguise is more fragile than she realizes.
I can’t wait to share it with you guys.
And…can I admit here, in public, just how happy I am to have sold a second adult book? It’s the same feeling I had when I sold a second series in MG: Oh, thank goodness. The first sale wasn’t just a fluke! Where does that imposter-syndrome panic come from? I don’t know, but it’s strong – and I love feeling it finally start to subside.
Also…oh, do I have intense feelings around this particular book, because here’s a secret: this is the book that I was working on, several years ago, when I first got sick with M.E./CFS. I loved first-drafting it, pre-M.E….but I had to abandon it in the middle of revisions, because I could NOT take any more darkness in my work. Not then.
This is hardly a grim-dark book – remember, it’s my take on a Regency romance! There is banter, there are glittering balls, there are sinister bad guys (taken from history, with some alchemical twists), and there’s true romance (and hot chemistry!) between two sizzlingly smart, super-competent survivors who turn out to be perfect for each other. But Caroline/Karolina, for all her courage and ruthless intelligence, really is dark and damaged, and at that point in my life, I couldn’t bear to work through that darkness in the way that she deserved.
There was too much darkness in my life at that point – too much despair, to be brutally honest. I didn’t know how to write about other people learning to survive their own pain and get through it. I was too scared about how I could survive, myself. So I had to set that book aside, switch genres and switch topics and write something lighthearted and frothy, with a heroine who was bright and joyful and made me laugh, to pull me out of my own despair. Oh, I love Kat, and writing her books really saved me.
But I love Caroline/Karolina, too. And she kept on tugging at me, all this time. She deserved her romance. She deserved her triumph. She deserved to be heard.
Still, it felt so scary to finally summon up my nerve to come back to her, to this cynical, damaged heroine whom I’d abandoned because I’d identified too much with her pain – but when I finally let myself look back at that early draft, last year, I realized: Oh. I can actually do this now! So many years after I’d written those early drafts, I could finally tackle Caroline’s darkness – and my own – without falling into it and being lost in it anymore. I could see through it to the real redemption that she deserved. And I knew SO MUCH more about survival than I used to!
This is so much more personal a book now than it was in its first draft, pre-M.E. – so it feels both really scary and deeply validating to have it finally coming out now. Look: I did survive that darkness after all! And here I am, after all, stronger than I was before.
And Caroline and I both get happy endings.