with Susan Kaye Quinn and Kim Batchelor
Sue: I love the forbidden science! Nice.
Kim: How do your characters combine the two?
The Island of Lost Children
Sue: I love the forbidden science! Nice.
Kim: How do your characters combine the two?
The Island of Lost Children
Heather Killough-Walden counts 6 series and trilogies and multiple books within each of these in her body of work as an independent author. I got to know her first Neverland book while researching the market for my own book, The Island of Lost Children , based on the Peter and Wendy story. Heather’s Forever Neverland is for young adults (YA) while I intended my book for middle grade readers. I enjoyed reading her modern take on the story, with Peter on a motorcycle and Wendy and her brothers dealing with the aftermath of their time with him.
Heather and I are visiting in a virtual Victorian parlor something like this one drinking hot Irish Breakfast tea (Heather’s with soy milk) and nibbling on sugar-free dark chocolate bars. Come and sit down, have a cup, and listen in on the conversation.
Heather’s latest book in the series, Beyond Neverland, is available on Amazon.
KB: You have an impressive body of work—series on werewolves and warlocks and other beings that lurk in the night. I understand that you started with a vampire series and your writing career took off from there. Where did your original vampire(s) come from?
HKW: I fell in love with The Count from Sesame Street when I was very little. My fascination with the night-dwelling be-fanged just grew from there.
KB: What I like to focus on in my blog conversations is exploring what inspires us and where our imaginations take us. What would be the most interesting inspiration you can describe for any of your numerous books/characters/settings?
HKW: Well… I’ve been all over the world, but I guess there’s no place truly as interesting as a person’s imagination. My dreams give me a lot of ideas for characters. Sometimes inspiration just strikes out of the blue, with no provocation. Music can also trigger images, as I like to create music videos in my head when I listen to songs. I was listening to Mitternacht when I saw Roman D’Angelo for the first time – gracefully hacking and slashing his magnificent vampire way through his enemies to reach the throne he occupies now.
KB: I’m interested most of all in your two Neverland books: Forever Neverland and Beyond Neverland, which you recently released. What sparked your interest in re-imagining that story?
HKW: I’ve always felt unsatisfied with the book. I felt as if it opened a door and then wouldn’t let anyone through. It was full of possibilities left unexplored, and fantastic things undiscovered. Especially when it came to Hook. I had never in my life read a more two-dimensional character. I very much felt there was so much more to him than, sadly, because of the way the book was written, anyone even cared to learn. And then I saw the 2003 production of Peter Pan with Jason Isaacs, and that sealed it. It was time for me to tell Neverland’s real story.
KB: How did you decide to age and “modernize” those characters?
HKW: You write what you know. I didn’t live in Victorian times and I had no desire to reawaken the overly romanticized version of them – they were anything but romantic, after all. They were misogynistic, ignorant, disease-ridden, and backwards. So I brought the characters into a time where they could fully develop and then I sat them down and said, “Okay. Tell me your stories.” And so they did. Hook’s was especially gratifying.
KB: One of the most compelling aspects of your book—and this is something that struck me after I finished reading it—is how Wendy’s storytelling is being stripped away from her. I find that aspect of the story powerful and incredibly tragic. So Wendy’s “story inspirations” (Peter, Hook, etc.) rescued her. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that aspect.
HKW: It’s exactly what you said. Society attempts to strip away the magic from us, the imagination. The result is a kind of death. This happens to millions of people every day and no one gives a thought to how tragic it truly is. I wanted people to see it – and understand it. Fortunately for Wendy, her imagination was strong enough to step in and save her.
KB: I realize after reading your work how Wendy’s storytelling ability has mostly “flown” under the radar.
HKW: There are so many talented people out there whose stories will never be read due to the circumstances of how our literary society is set up. Traditional print publishing made it next to impossible. EBook reading devices made it a little easier, but now that market is so flooded, all of those truly talented people are drowning in a sea of people who think they are talented but perhaps are not so much. So the result is the same. Thousands, if not millions, of magical imaginations go unnoticed. I just wanted to shed light on one – just one – and hopefully help some readers to comprehend that if Wendy’s stories are never heard by society, then maybe there are others who aren’t being heard? Perhaps we should attempt to listen a little harder?
KB: Given that Kathy Rigby is still touring in Peter Pan, what do you think makes this story so compelling?
HKW: Well, to be honest, I can’t see the appeal in a woman playing Peter Pan. At all. However, I think just about everyone sitting in the audience has experienced the desire to fly. All it takes is faith, trust, and pixie dust, right? Who wouldn’t get on board with that?
KB: What would your Neverland look like?
HKW: If you’ve read the book, then you know. (smiles) But if you’re asking me what my own fantasy world would look like… wow. I’m afraid even I am not a good enough storyteller to convey such wonder.
Cindy: This is the big one—the one we hear ALL the time. My answers range from snarky (Jules Verne on crack) to oversimplified (science fiction set in Victorian times). For folks my age and over, I sometimes reference the old Wild, Wild West TV show. The long answer, which I never say, is that steampunk is a blend of historical feel and advanced technology. It’s not just a fiction genre, although it certainly is that, but it’s also a mood, a feel, and a thriving social phenomenon. It embodies futuristic technology, sometimes fantasy elements, and a rebellious attitude, along with a return to pride in manufacturing and craftsmanship. Most of all? It’s a whole hell of a lot of fun.
Rie: I usually say science fiction/fantasy set in a Victorian time frame. What might have happened if Steam technology had been developed along the times that Verne and Wells postulated? Emphasis is often on adventure and romance, as those are very Victorian tropes.
Cindy: Again, because it’s fun. I like writing books that I’d like to read. I love mixing history, SF, fantasy and romance. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s what I enjoy.
Rie: I started off writing Steampunk as a challenge from my writing partner, but I really enjoy it. I’ve always been an Anglophile, and the Victorian era is so rich in detail and history. Is there any period as romantic in retrospect? The clothing, the manners… Mixing in the concepts Cindy mentioned is very accurate to the period, and adds spice to the writing. It makes for a very fun, open, and exciting genre to explore.
Cindy: Gee, I’ve had cybermen and networked computers in Victorian London. Typewriter, telephone, germ theory and dirigible are all there ahead of their real time. Rings that eject poison darts and clockwork powered artificial limbs. Beyond all of that, however, the coolest creation in the Gaslight Chronicles world is George, the mechanical dog. George is kind of like Mr. Data on Star Trek. He’s exceeded his components and programming to the point where he’s really more or less a living creature.
Rie: My biggest and best invention is Phaeton, the Marvelous Mechanical Man. He is a nine foot tall automaton with self-awareness and superior strength and reflexes. I also have an airship, a Steamcar, and a “Mechano-Velocipede” which are integral to the plot.
Since I am only on book one of the series, I haven’t been as creative as Cindy.
Cindy: Short answer: Quite a bit. Long answer: I do a surprisingly heavy amount of research for my steampunk stories. I very carefully take the key incidents that changed my world from the one we live in, then I follow those changes and decide how they would have effected everything else in the world where the characters live. In my case, the tipping point is twofold: 1) Magic has always existed and been acknowledged, and werewolves, vampyres, etc. DO exist. Therefore the Order of the Round Table was never disbanded in England and still exists, Knights with extraordinary powers who protect England from supernatural threats. 2) The computer was invented in the 1840s, by a man called Babbage, and is called an analytical engine. (There’s history behind this. Babbage in fact, did design this machine, but it was never built in our world.) Since a woman wrote the code for this machine, women in the sciences were catapulted ahead of where they were in our world. I also do a lot of research on clothing, settings, historical events and figures. In Cards and Caravans, I had to tweak the Scottish legal system, since they weren’t really burning witches in the 1850s. But that means I had to know it before I could tweak it. And maybe, in a world where magic was a known reality, those laws might have been a little different.
Rie: Yes, I do. I research the technology to the point where I can make sure it is logical and not impossible. I check dates and events to make sure that I don’t put something in that hasn’t happened yet for no good reason. I research clothing, architecture, foods, etc.
Since I am set in New York City instead of the UK, it is a bit easier to find out some things.
Cindy: Answer: yes, no, maybe. Much steampunk is YA, and I don’t read a lot of that. I also don’t read a lot of hard SF, where it’s all about the technology and the world. I like my character-driven stories and my romance, so that’s most of what I read. I have read William Gibson’s The Difference Engine, which is one of the seminal works of SF. Also, since steampunk is so maker-driven, there is a lot of self-published and web-original work out there. I read some, but may not have had time to read all of it.
Rie: I have read most of Gail Carriger’s work (all of the Parasol Protectorate, but haven’t started Finishing School yet.) Gale Dayton’s Blood books were wonderful. I am way behind, but I will be reading a lot more!
Cindy: LOL, besides myself? Snark. I love MelJean Brooks, Gail Carriger (except for the book where the main couple breaks up at the end—HATED that one) Kate Cross and Seleste Delaney. There are so many more I need to read, but haven’t yet.
Rie: Mostly the two mentioned above, Tee Morris and Phillipa Ballentine, but I haven’t read any of the Ministry novels, just the short story collection.
Cindy: My steampunk series, so far, is only in e-book. That’s kind of awkward in a community that wants everything to look like it’s 1885. So yes, you can get them at Amazon, or B&N, or the Carina Press website. No, you can’t get them at the grocery store. Sorry. I wish that wasn’t the case, believe me.
Rie: My book is available in paperback, but you have to special order it to get it in a brick and mortar store. It is available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or through Zumaya Publications. It is also an ebook, and I believe can be gotten at Smashwords and Kobo as well.
Cindy: Truthfully? I don’t know. It depends on a lot. Mainly, sales. That’s the hard reality of the fiction business. The more they sell, the more there will be. A girl’s gotta eat, you know? There are two more on the table with my publisher. That’s all I know at the moment. The characters? Well, that’s up to the publisher, too. Let’s just say there’s one more MacKay sibling and a whole bunch of Hadrians who still need happy endings.
Rie: I hope I am just getting started. I am currently working on Book Two of the series, but it is proving a bigger challenge than I thought! It’s my first sequel. Theoretically, it will be out this year…but it has to be written first. All the main characters should be back. I love my characters, particularly my heroine, Josephine Mann.
Cindy: Thrift shops. (I’m short, so a lot of skirts are floor-length on me, so I cheat there.) Renaissance festivals. The vendors there tend to be awesome, but pricey, so build your wardrobe a few pieces at a time. Catalogs and online companies like Victorian Trading Co., Pyramid Company, Corset-Story and Holy Clothing. Finally, there’s the custom vendors. That’s where things get really pricey, but really, really, cool. I’m not very crafty, but honestly, if you can sew, you have it made.
Rie: Most of my wardrobe is thrift store as well, with certain key pieces being bought at conventions. My main vice is hats. I have way more hats than logical…
Cindy: Usual answer: No idea. I just have a wild imagination. Snarky answer #1: I’m just twisted like that. Snarkier answer: The idea fairy leaves them in my shower and under my pillow, so I find them when it’s least convenient.
Rie: Everywhere. A chance comment can lead to a bit of an idea. One thing follows on another. I might read something and file it away for later. Dreams sometimes. Ideas come from everywhere. You just have to collect them.
“To me, Steampunk is an alternate look at a period of history that fascinates almost everyone. What would have been different if technology had taken a slightly different direction? And it is fun to play with the gadgets.”
Rie Sheridan Rose’s short stories currently appear in numerous anthologies. She has authored five poetry chapbooks, and collaborated with Marc Gunn on lyrics for his “Don’t Go Drinking With Hobbits” CD. Yard Dog Press is home to humorous horror chapbooks Tales from the Home for Wayward Spirits and Bar-B-Que Grill and Bruce and Roxanne Save the World…Again. Mocha Memoirs published the individual short stories “Drink My Soul…Please,” and “Bloody Rain” as e-downloads. Melange Books carries her romantic fantasy Sidhe Moved Through the Faire. Zumaya Books is home to The Luckless Prince as well as her newest novel, The Marvelous Mechanical Man. You can find her at her website.
“Steampunk is being able to mix together all the things you love from the Victorian, modern and all eras in between, along with the addition of future tech and fantasy.”
Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 18 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book. You can find her on her website.
Jay Noel: After doing some freelance writing and editing for more than a dozen years, Jay decided to stop procrastinating and pursue his dream of being a novelist. He’s been blogging since 2005. Jay spends his days working in medical sales, but he can be found toiling over his laptop late at night when all is quiet. He draws inspiration from all over: H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, and Isaac Asimov. You can find Jay at his website.
SM Blooding lives in Colorado with her pet rock, Rockie, and Ms. Bird who is really a bird. The guitar and piano have temporarily been set aside. She’s learning to play the harmonica. The bird is less than thrilled. Her real name is Stephanie Marie (aka SM), but only family and coworkers call her that, usually when they’re screaming at her. Friends call her Frankie. You can find out more about her and her writing at her website.
**see bottom of post for steampunk giveaways**
**see Steampunk With Heart Page for Facebook Party schedule**
Susan Kaye Quinn: As I was writing my steampunk romance (ThirdDaughter, The Dharian Affairs #1), it struck me that the term “Steampunk Romance” is just a bit redundant. Yes, some steampunk stories have romance as the main driver of their plot, but to me, the entire genre is inherently romantic. These stories take place in a bygone era (or entirely fictional analogue of one), alleviating some of the oppressive ideas of the past while keeping the lush aesthetics and romantic ideas about relationships and love. How could that be termed anything other than Romantic?
Scott E. Tarbet: Steampunk is all about goggles, right? We use them as a convenient symbol of the entire genre. Through our steampunk goggles we look at the world in a different way, a more romantic way. We get to reimagine reality (sometimes the Victorian past, sometimes alternative futures) without the fettering realities of modern technology and recent history. We get an imagined do-over.
Scott E. Tarbet: Susan, you’re 100% right! A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk (AMNS) is just what you would expect from the title: a resetting of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy/romance into the Victorian Era. Let me do a little stage-setting:
If you ask any three Steampunks for a definition of what Steampunk is, you’ll get at least five different answers involving the clothing, the weaponry, and the literature. But common to every definition I’ve seen is the gender politics. Did the genders have equal rights and influence in the real life version of the Victorian Era? Not even close. Would the 20th Century have been very different if they had been? Ooooh yeah!
One of my favorite academic writers, who takes on Steampunk as a field of study, Dr. Mike Perschon, puts it this way: “[W]e make the past in our image, as we do whenever a nineteenth century woman isn’t slowly going crazy in a room with psychedelic wallpaper.”
Writing AMNS I had great fun projecting how history would have been different if Vicky, the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who happened to be the eldest daughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, had been able to take that brat over her knee and straighten him out. There would have been no World War I, no Russian Revolution, no World War II, no Holocaust, no Cold War. Millions around the world would have lived out very different lives. The world we live in today would be a very different place.
Would the two young girls in Shakespeare’s romance also have been different people? Yes, in fundamental ways. As a result many of the elements of their respective romances would have been different in interesting ways. My heroine, Pauline, is a Sorbonne-educated engineer, the epitome of the strong, educated woman.
So AMNS gave me the opportunity to play with this romantic concept, and bring these three strong women (and several others) to the center of the stage of world politics. It was a lot of fun.
My turn to ask you, Susan: the world you create in Third Daughter also has gender politics flipped on their ear, making strong female characters possible—even necessary. How did that feel for you as a woman, and as a writer?
Scott Tarbet: I do! Her name is Lakshmi, and she is the Steampunk analogue of the character ‘Titania’ in Shakespeare’s play. In the play, Titania and Oberon are the fairy queen and king. In my adaptation they are genius inventors.Lakshmi is the daughter of the sultan of Golkondah, a physician, engineer, inventor, and philanthropist. Truth be told, not only is she my ideal woman, but she is everything I myself would like to be—my idealized feminine side. To me she embodies all aspects of love: romantic, filial, and godly. She is a profoundly romantic figure, in the best possible sense.
Scott Tarbet is the author of A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk from Xchyler Publishing, Tombstone, in the paranormal anthology Shades & Shadows, and the forthcoming Lakshmi, Dragon Moon, and Nautilus Redux. He writes enthusiastically in several genres, sings opera, was married in full Elizabethan regalia, loves steampunk waltzes, and slow-smokes thousands of pounds of Texas-style barbeque. An avid skier, hiker, golfer, and tandem kayaker, he makes his home in the mountains of Utah. Follow Scott E. Tarbet online at his website or on Twitter.
I write for children. I write for adults. I write fiction short and long, real and fantastical, foreign and domestic.
Here you'll find my stories and links to my novels.
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