Hi, and welcome! I’d first like to thank the Coffee Time Romance team for inviting me to be a part of their Steampunk celebration. This is a teriffic gathering of books and authors in my favourite genre.
My first two Steampunk books, The Mysterious Lady Law and Prehistoric Clock (The Steam Clock Legacy #1), are both published by Carina Press. Four more books are on the way. Prehistoric Clock is currently a finalist in the EPIC Awards 2013 for Best Science Fiction.
So let’s geek out a little, shall we?
1. What does Steampunk mean to you?
It’s an absolute dream come true for me: Victorian science fiction with an attitude. My two great passions as a reader are Victorian/Edwardian adventure novels and science fiction, so there was never any stopping me from strapping on the goggles. From airships to diving bells, I feel like I can go anywhere with this genre—earth, sea, and air. It’s incredibly liberating.
2. What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk?
The heroines. Victorian women were almost never allowed to save the day in the literature of their time. This is their chance, their revenge. And in those costumes, who’s going to argue with them?
3. What is your favorite steampunk accessory?
That would be the morning paper and the incredible headlines within. World-building is so much more than gadgets and apparel; (fictional) current affairs is a great way to bring a steampunk society to life.
4. What turned you on to steampunk?
I think it was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is sort of like The Avengers of Victorian/Edwardian literature. Mina Harker, Quatermain and Captain Nemo on the same team? I flipped for that idea. And I always include nods to classic fictional characters in my steampunk. That’s the spirit of the genre for me—reinvention, and geeky fun.
5. Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?
I recently completed Imperial Clock, Book 2 of The Steam Clock Legacy series. Whereas Book 1, Prehistoric Clock, was more of an adventure in the vein of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (dinosaurs) and Wells’s The Time Machine, this one is my Jane Austen steampunk epic. Here’s a quick look:
Facing a time of great turmoil across the empire, Meredith and Sonja McEwan are the teenaged daughters of a disgraced scientist, and live in Southsea, England. They’ve grown so close, so insular over the years, despising the world that despises them is all they know. But things are changing: Sonja’s caught the eye of a dashing young teacher, and is falling in love, while Meredith, jealous, throws herself into solving the mystery of an esoteric society in London, with devastating consequences.
Tidal waves, assassins, mind-boggling steam power, and women’s denim trousers are about to arrive, big time. Meanwhile, the legacy of the time jump continues to throw up surprises in an age where nothing is certain. And no one is who they seem to be.
I also have a special novella waiting in the wings for this series. It’s been signed up by Carina Press, but we’ve decided to wait until Books 2 & 3 are published first, to give its story the full impact.
6. Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?
Verity Champlain from Prehistoric Clock is my favourite. She’s a strong-willed English airship officer stationed in west and central Africa, and is adored by her African crew. They’ve given her the nickname “Eembu”, which pertains to her…non-traditional dress sense. I imagined her as a fighting version of Deborah Kerr from King Solomon’s Mines. She’s also a qualified deep sea diver. But Verity has suffered terrible losses in her life, and it’s made her difficult to get close to. And reluctant to share command. Plus, I have a thing for redheads.
7. What’s the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?
Knowing where to draw the line with the research. It’s tempting to treat it as you would a historical project, fretting over every little detail and anachronism. But steampunk is not history, it’s jazz-history filtered through sci-fi/fantasy, and the author’s own personal vision is, I feel, more important than any devotion to historical accuracy. A good way to look at it is to first learn the rules, then break the rules. Do your research first, then riff on it.
8. What’s the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?
It’s playtime. Thinking up crazy gadgets, vehicles, political climates, larger-than-life characters in fancy dress: it’s easy because it’s fun, it’s why we’re here. So strap yourself to your imagination and let it buckaroo.
9. What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?
It allows me to combine my love of Victorian speculative fiction with slightly more modern sensibilities. It’s a kind of retro science fiction. But I have to admit, I don’t like steampunk to feel too modern. It should have that period flavour for me, both in the characters’ manners and in the prose itself. The attitude is where it should be more modern.
10. What are the challenges and advantages to writing a steampunk story?
Finding that happy medium in the prose, and especially in the dialogue, between too contemporary and too old-fashioned, is tricky at first. But once I’m in the flow, it’s a natural voice. The biggest advantage is the freedom it affords me to reinvent history. Nothing is set in stone.
11. How much research does it take and how much imagination?
As much research as you like. It helps to have a passion for all things Victoriana, but steampunk isn’t bound to one time period or one country. I’d say the depth of world-building has more to do with imagination than research, because you’re not recreating the past, you’re reimagining it.
In closing, here are my top 5 classic adventure novels I read whenever I’m writing steampunk. See how many you’ve read…
1. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series
3. King Solomon’s Mines/ She by H. Rider Haggard
4. Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
5. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
CONTEST: For eager adventurers, I’m giving away TWO ebook copies of Prehistoric Clock. Simply answer the following question in the comments section and I’ll enter you into the draw. Thanks for reading, and good luck!
What is your favourite dinosaur?
Robert Appleton is an award-winning author of science fiction, steampunk, and historical fiction. He also writes for the science fiction blog, Contact: Infinite Futures. He currently lives in Bolton, England.