I am fascinated by the steampunk movement. Not only do I love the literary genre—evidenced by the fact that I can’t seem to get enough of Cherry St. Croix’s adventures—but I’m completely head over heels with the concept of the community, as well. Imagine it: a vast and varied group of do-it-yourself creators, producers, makers and more, each with their own slant on what it is to be steampunk and how to take it even farther.
One of my favorite aspects of the steampunk world is the ability to dress up. There’s so much diversity in what fashions to choose from that every steampunk could come up with something unique and incredible. Whether you’re a fan of the elegance of the era we borrow from, the industry that so marked the era, or a wholly fantastical view of airship pirates and the kind of clothing such a life may demand, there’s room for you.
I tend to fall into what I tongue-in-cheek call “steampunk glam”. I enjoy dressing to the nines, putting an elegant slant on even my “functional” steampunk outfits, until I don’t resemble working class airship crew so much as give the appearance of a fashionista making a statement.
I’m also known to shake it up at the drop of a hat. I’ll punk up my ball gown or Victorian out my leather chaps; I’ll wear stiletto boots with chains on and I’m utterly shameless about it.
And I think this is the way everyone should be about the way they dress, all the time!
It’s a Steampunk Life
What does Steampunk mean to you?
Steampunk isn’t just a genre. While the literary steampunk is a set of concepts built to a certain literary rulebook—a flexible one, but as I mention here, a rulebook nonetheless—the community is what really makes steampunk for me. We’re a group of DIY-ers (and supporters) who embrace the concepts of a previous time and romanticize it into something beyond the normal. Steampunk isn’t just about fashion or stories. It’s also about courtesy for the sake of courtesy, about inclusion—which is hilarious because the Victorian Era was as much about segregation as appearances. Steampunks are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and while there’s always a few rotten apples in the barrel, the steampunk community is really what makes “steampunk” for me.
What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk?
I’m not sure I can pick just one thing. Aside from the above, I think it really has to be the creative brilliance of it. I’ve seen working arm gauntlets that have a typewriter set in it to interface with your iPhone, I’ve seen steampunked flats, and brilliant corsets and hats designed all by hand. I think it’s a wonderfully inventive genre, and I dig that.
What is your favorite steampunk accessory?
A bindi! It seems like such a small thing, but as a writer—and as part of my steampunk persona—I’m well-traveled and love incorporating different cultural elements into my outfits. A bindi has become sort of a hallmark accessory for me, and I’m only rarely without one.
What turned you on to steampunk?
At first, it was the fashion. I love to play dress-up. Later, as I got to know more and more steampunks, it really became the people. I love the variety of this culture, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?
Maaaaaybe. I can tell you that I’ve got an announcement about this very thing very soon, so keep an eye on my website (or all the various social media links on there) for an update. It’s going to be awesome.
Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?
I have to admit that I’m super partial to Cherry St. Croix, who is the lead in my St. Croix Chronicles series. Not only is she a woman struggling against the status quo—there’s the punk!—but she’s also struggling against her own demons, and still so very strong in so many ways.
Aside from the lead, though, I also have to admit that I’m totally in love with one of my supporting cast. We only see him briefly in Tarnished—though that’s not the last you’ll see!—but the man has wiggled his way into my heart. Ishmael Communion is a man who lives below the drift, the son of a watchmaker and currently one of the largest and most fearsome looking of the Brick Street Bakers. As a member of the gang that occupies territory near Limehouse, he’s served as Cherry’s backup a few times in her collection career, and has never had any interest in prying into her secrets. He’s a well-spoken giant of a man, and I can’t help but feel like he’s got a few more stories to tell, himself.
What’s the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?
Keeping the rules straight. Every world needs rules, else you’ll have super-creatures walking like gods around the place, and keeping track of what they are can be almost worse than a paranormal world with witches, vampires and the like. In a steampunk world, a lot of it is based on gadgets or alchemy, and that means a lot of room to make things up. Almost too much room, really. It can be quite overwhelming!
What’s the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?
For me? The fashion choices. What can I say? I have a reason for all my fashion choices in the series, and I love the reasoning—even if CHerry herself doesn’t take any notice at all.
What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?
Nothing. I can do almost anything in any genre—any writer can. For me, writing steampunk is a deliberate genre choice because of the aesthetics, the feel, the choice of characters and setting. Steampunk allows me to write steampunk, which is all the reason I need.
How much research does it take and how much imagination?
I based The St. Croix Chronicles on an alternate version of Victorian London, which means that a lot of my setting still reflects a great deal of historical accuracy. The racial and class divide, the societal customs, even a lot of the setting places are still around, which also means that I do a lot of research. I have a bookmarks folder that is so big, the list doesn’t all fit on one page. People, events, these things are all referenced, if you look carefully.
That said, a good portion of the setting is also made up, from the aether engines to the hydraulic lifts raising London proper above the fog. I make up people who didn’t exist and have a lot of fun naming them—Sweet Tom Billings is one of my favorites. I’m looking at about fifty/fifty, with a lot of research tweaked by a lot of imagination.
Gilded: the St. Croix Chronicles
Though Society demands that I make a good marriage, I, Cherry St. Croix, have neither the time nor the interest. I am on the trail of a murder with no victim, a mystery with no motive, and the key to an alchemical formula that could be my family’s legacy. Yet the world is not so kind as to let me pursue simple murder and uncomplicated bounties. Above the foggy drift, an earl insists on my attention, while my friends watch my increasingly desperate attempts to remain my own woman. From the silken demands of the Midnight Menagerie—to whose dangerously seductive ringmaster I owe a debt—to the rigorous pressures of the peerage, all are conspiring to place before me a choice that will forever change my life.
About the Author
After writing happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (sort of), went to work in the real world (kind of), where she decided that making stuff up was way more fun (true!). She is the author of dark and sexy paranormal romance, steampunk urban fantasy, and writes across multiple genres with mad glee. One part glamour, one part dork and all imagination, Karina is also a gamer, an airship captain’s wife, and a steampunk fashionista. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a husband, a menagerie, a severe coffee habit, and a passel of adopted gamer geeks. Visit her at www.karinacooper.com, because she says so.