Buy F&SF • Read F&SF • Contact F&SF • Advertise In F&SF • Blog • Forum • RSS

Interview: Mary Robinette Kowal on “A Feather in Her Cap”

Mary Robinette KowalWhat was the inspiration for “A Feather in Her Cap,” or what prompted you to write it?

I’m the host on the podcast Writing Excuses and we often do exercises on the show, to demonstrate how things work. This came out of episode 10.2: “I Have an Idea; What Do I Do Now?” You can actually hear me get the idea in the middle of the show as I was demonstrating how sometimes you combine two ideas into a single thing.


Was this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Well, it might have the longest development time of any short story I’ve written. I wound up using it all season as my demonstration idea, and kept joking that I would write it, but didn’t. It kept popping up though. And then I was teaching a short story class and usually demonstrate how to go from a story seed to a story. On a whim, I used “milliner assassin” as the story seed. When I told the Writing Excuses guys that I’d finally written it, it was as if they had all had a hand in creating it.


Was there any aspect of “A Feather in Her Cap” that you found difficult or especially easy to write?

I loved all the millinery details. I have a deep fondness for hats and used to travel with a hatbox. I’ve made a grand total of three hats. Two bonnets and a beret to go with my regency cosplay. So having an excuse to look at reference materials on hats was far too much fun.


What are you working on now?

In fact… it’s another story for F&SF. It’s a science-fiction short set in my “Lady Astronaut” universe and involves a mission to Phobos, the larger of Mars’s two moons.


“A Feather in Her Cap” appears in the January/February 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here:

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

Clicking on Ms. Kowal’s photo will take you to her website:


Leave a Reply

If this is your first time leaving a comment, your comment may enter the moderation queue. If it doesn't appear right away, don't panic; it should show up once site administrators verify you're not a spambot. After you successfully post a comment, future comments will no longer be moderated.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Copyright © 2006–2020 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction • All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Powered by WordPress • Theme based on Whitespace theme by Brian Gardner
If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to

Designed by Rodger Turner and Hosted by:
SF Site spot art