In your story, “A Princess of Spain,” you set a supernatural story in the court of Henry VII in the early 16th century, and the story almost becomes alternate history. What was the impetus for this story?
I was invited to submit a story to an anthology edited by Darrell Schweitzer, called The Secret History of Vampires. The idea was to have secret histories rather than alternate histories—in the history books, the events look exactly the same, but the reasons behind the events are maybe different than we thought. Conspiracy theories abound. Just about my favorite turning point in history regards Henry VII and his sons, and the fact that the one who would become Henry VIII was the second son, and not originally meant to become king. How different would it all have turned out, with King Arthur instead of King Henry VIII? The English Reformation would have been delayed at the very least, there’d be no Queen Elizabeth, and so on. It’s a huge moment, but at the same time very quiet. Of course I wanted to write about it, and the best way to do that was through the eyes of the woman who was married to both Arthur and Henry: Catherine of Aragon.
Is history an abiding interest of yours? Any more historical fantasy or alternate history in the works?
I love history, mostly because of the stories revealed by history. For example, I’m more interested in the personalities involved in a war than I am in the tactical details of battle. I love writing about history, and I have a ton of historical short stories out, and more on the way. World War II is a recurrent interest, as is Tudor England, and just about everything in between and beyond. I’ve written stories set in ancient Babylon and colonial Mexico. I’m embarking on a series of steampunk stories, set in an alternate 1890s. Historical writing requires many of the same worldbuilding and writing skills that writing fantasy and science fiction do, with the added bonus that it’s based on events and settings that are real. It’s harder because I have to at least attempt to be accurate, but it’s also very satisfying because I feel like I can reveal a time and place to readers that they maybe didn’t know much about.
You are a bestselling author of contemporary urban fantasy, but still write a great deal of short stories. How do you balance the two? What draws you to the short form?
I started out writing short stories, published short stories for about five years before finally selling a novel, and I continue to enjoy writing short work. Some ideas just aren’t meant for novel-length treatments, and I find short stories are a great way to experiment and try new writing skills. I’ve also used short stories to fill in gaps in my urban fantasy universe, tell the backstories of other characters, and so on. In addition to all that, being able to set my novels aside and work on something else, like short stories, when I get stuck has kept me sane. I need to have more than one project going at a time, and short stories are a great way to satisfy that impulse. I always feel like I’m getting something done.
What else do you have coming down the pipeline?
So much! The next Kitty novel, Kitty Rocks the House, will be out this spring. I’m currently writing the sequel to my superhero novel, After the Golden Age. I have another historical short, about Soviet women fighter pilots in World War II, coming out in an anthology called Dangerous Women, edited by Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin, sometime next year. I’m always working on something interesting!