Behind the Scenes

How I Wrote A Most Improper Magick

I was chopping onions and thinking about lunch when the first two lines of Kat, Incorrigible (a.k.a., A Most Improper Magick) slipped right into my head:

I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from impending ruin.

I made it almost to the end of my front garden...

I was already in the middle of writing another book (a dark, angsty novel for adults), but I couldn't help myself - when I heard Kat speaking those lines to me (and I really did hear them spoken in her voice), I started laughing out loud.

I wrote them down, "just to save them for later"...but then I wrote a little more, just to find out what happened next. And I ended up writing the whole novel, having more fun than I'd ever had in my whole life. Kat and her sisters became real people to me. I just couldn't stop wondering what adventures they'd end up on next. So I tossed aside the other novel I'd been working on and let myself fall in love with Kat and her world.


Early in the process, I sat down to make a collage to help myself figure out what was going on: what really mattered in the book, how people's stories and character arcs interacted with each other, and so on. Here's the collage that I made that day:

People who've read the book have sometimes been surprised when they've seen the collage, because they can't find direct links between the plot and the pictures. But for me, the collage captures a lot of what's most important to me in Kat, Incorrigible: the three sisters, their personalities and relationships to each other, and, most of all, the sense of pure fun that made me love writing the book so much. I kept that collage propped over my writing desk for inspiration the whole time I was writing Kat, Incorrigible.

Jane Austen

I also developed some other writing rituals. I wore the tiara from my wedding ceremony to help myself stay confident and brave, and I began every morning's writing sessions by reading a few of Jane Austen's letters (some of which are available to read online). They helped me keep in touch with the style of the period, and they inspired me with their sly wit.

Jane Austen is my favorite writer, and I created a lot of Kat's details in homage to her. For instance, Jane Austen's father, like Kat's father, was a clergyman, and he often took in students who lived in the Austens' house when Jane was a kid - a situation that also comes up in Kat, Incorrigible. I also kept a Jane Austen action figure on my desk as a fun focus of inspiration!

When I got the first ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of Kat, Incorrigible (which was still called A Most Improper Magick in America, too, at that point), the first thing I did was take a photo of them with my writing tiara and Jane Austen action figure:

And every single day, at the beginning of my writing session, I listened to Adam and the Ants' song "Stand and Deliver", which felt like Kat's theme song - not because of the words themselves, but because of the joyful high spirits of the music and the fabulous video, which I adore. I hope you enjoy it, too!

The Real Grantham Abbey

If you want to see the beautiful real medieval abbey (with an attached manor house) in Yorkshire that was my inspiration for Kat's "Grantham Abbey" in Kat, Incorrigible, just check out my flickr set of photos of Bolton Abbey.