We write steampunk books.
However, that’s not the only type of books we write, but we don’t write multiple styles of book under different names. We write two different series: Vampire Empire (PYR Books) and Crown & Key (Del Rey/Spectra). They are both steampunk.
They are also both urban fantasy. And paranormal romance. And historical fantasy. And pulp adventure.
If someone says that we are steampunk writers, we don’t say no. Yes, we are. We’re steampunk writers, in the same sense that an author of cat mysteries is an animal writer. They are, and they take pride in it, but they don’t limit themselves to that label. That’s the cool thing about being a “steampunk writer.”
To us, steampunk isn’t so much a genre as it is an element in our approach to the adventure fantasy genre. For example, when we were writing The Greyfriar, the first book in the Vampire Empire series, we never thought of it as steampunk. At the time, we used the terms “Victorian fantasy” or “gaslamp fantasy” to describe it. We didn’t have anything against steampunk, it just wasn’t a term we had grown up with, and it wasn’t in our common frame of reference. But one day our agent called us and asked “Would you consider this book steampunk?” We said yes, so she labeled it as such, and it sold.
Clearly our writing uses a lot of the elements of steampunk. Our two series are set in Victorian or alternate history neo-Victorian timelines. The manners and dress and styles are from the 19th century. We create off-shoots of Victorian tech that fit with the steampunk love of gadgetry. However, we also tend to rely a bit more on “magic” than traditional steampunk does, and we incorporate a hearty dose of monsters (some supernatural, some not).
The premise of our books isn’t built around a change to technological history (e.g. the discover of “super-charged” coal or the failure to develop petroleum fuels) designed with the express purpose of creating a steampunk setting. Our steampunk elements don’t define the world, except in the sense that technology defines any world (real or fantasy).
For example, in the Crown & Key trilogy steampunk is a secondary element. We wanted to write an urban fantasy based in the real historical world around 1830, but with hidden forces lurking in the shadows (a secret history rather than alternate history). The books are driven more by magic and monsters than clockwork technology. While there are plenty of unique inventions, gadgets, and monstrous Frankensteinian creations, in the Crown & Key world they are limited to the possession and use of only a few genius engineers who have the knowledge and resources to build such wonders. To add to the special character of the steampunk in this historical period, both of our main engineering characters happen to be women, the spunky heroine Penny Carter and the mechanically self-mutilating Baroness Conrad. The Crown & Key trilogy consists of The Shadow Revolution, The Undying Legion, and The Conquering Dark (just published July 28).
Vampire Empire, on the other hand, is alternate history. It is set in a world where vampires destroy the industrial world of the northern hemisphere during the Victorian Era, and force those humans who can escape the carnage to flee to the tropical regions where vampires cannot live. In the ensuing century, refugees blend their science and technology with indigenous societies. These new states built around “neo-Victorian” culture with modified 19th century technologies are prepared to launch a war against the vampire clans of the north. In Vampire Empire, we create a fair amount of fanciful high tech such as airships and fantastic weaponry, although much of the world’s technology is powered by chemical or wind/water sources rather than typical coal-fired steam that is the heart of traditional steampunk. The coal is inaccessible deep in the heart of vampire territory, so new means of power had to be utilized. But even with all the steampunk, technologies are firmly in the background; they are not the point of the narrative. The Vampire Empire series is made up of the original trilogy of The Greyfriar, The Rift Walker, and The Kingmakers. A new on-going series in the Vampire Empire setting launches this November with The Geomancer: A Gareth and Adele Novel.
So, in fact, we do write steampunk. We love the elements it brings to fantasy, and we intend to keep mining it for new ideas. But it is just one element of many that define our novels. This way we still write steampunk. And fantasy. And romance. And adventure…etc…etc…etc…
About the authors
Clay and Susan Griffith met at a bookstore thanks to Uncanny X-Men #201. They got married because of a love of adventure stories about heroes who both save the day and fall in love. Soon they were writing stories together. After years co-writing television, comics, short stories, and novels, they remain happily married. When not writing or talking about writing, Clay and Susan are watching classic movies, playing Warcraft, and struggling to entertain a cat.
They still have that copy of Uncanny X-Men #201.