Hi all! Thanks to Coffee Time Romance for including me in the Steampunk kickoff month! I’m excited to get to ramble on about steampunk in general, and my two novels in particular—IRONSKIN (Tor, 2012), and the forthcoming COPPERHEAD!
It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin. When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a “delicate situation”—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.
Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her scars and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio…and come out as beautiful as the fey.
Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things are true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of a new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.
What does Steampunk mean to you?
What I love about Steampunk is how it gets used as an imaginative and very crafty side of alternate history. There are so many cool people on the crafting side of it coming up with all sorts of nifty costumes and accessories. I could spend hours wandering around the steampunk booths at a convention.
What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk?
I think the DIY movement is incredibly neat. I love seeing things like the computers remade to look like victorian mechanical devices and so on. It tends to be a very playful genre to write in.
What is your favorite steampunk accessory?
I went to GearCon in August and ended up with a plastic watergun remade into a steampunky derringer minigun. I LOVE it. I wanted to take it to World Fantasy in Toronto but I thought taking a gun-shaped object in my suitcase across the border might result in luggage trouble. <g> I also have a necklace that I wore to GearCon that’s maybe not precisely steampunk, but it seemed to fit the outfit really well—its a necklace made from a large oval piece of old china, in a metal setting.
What turned you on to steampunk?
It’s a fun arch milieu to write in—very playful. And of course the costumes! I went to GearCon here in Portland in August and I didn’t think I had anything to wear, but then my talented writer buddy Camille Alexa came over and pulled things from my closet and piled them all on me until I suddenly had something. It involved a lot of belts. Sadly, my best picture from GearCon is a bit blurry, but I’m including it anyway. You can see the china necklace in the picture—and one belt around the waist, and another around the arm.
Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?
My book IRONSKIN that came out in Oct 2012 from Tor has been sometimes classified as steampunk! My heroine, Jane, wears an iron mask to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. There’s a longer description here on my website: http://tinaconnolly.com/novels.html, along with a trailer for it.
IRONSKIN is set in an alternate world, but I did some research into post-WWI Europe when I was writing it to give it a sense of place. I think what feels steampunky about it is what I’ve done with the tech. In my world, humans have been trading for cheap clean tech from the fey for years and years. But five years ago there was a devastating Great War between the humans and the fey, and so trade stopped. So humans are both ahead and behind technology wise of where they might have been in our world around the same time, as they scramble to reinvent things. I think that is one thing people enjoy about steampunk, is that the tech is at a different place than it was in our world, and so that’s similar here.
The sequel, COPPERHEAD, is forthcoming from Tor in Fall 2013. It’s set six months after the end of IRONSKIN, and features Jane’s sister Helen.
Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?
I’m really enjoying a supporting character in COPPERHEAD who’s a flamboyant theatre actress named Frye. She walked in and was supposed to have a small part but then she just took over. I have a theatre background myself, so theatre people have a way of popping up in my stories, even when I try to repress them (irrepressible, those theatre folk.) Whereas IRONSKIN was set largely in the countryside, COPPERHEAD is set firmly in the big city. Frye and her freewheeling theatre friends turned out to be a good contrast to the high society life that Helen has married into.
What’s the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?
Well, of course it has many of the same pitfalls as any worldbuilding, which is that you try to think through all the rules and changes you’ve laid out and keep things consistent. And since you’re mashing things up, sometimes you have to lay clues for the fact that you’re making some changes. IRONSKIN roughly follows the Jane Eyre story, but it’s not set in 1847, not even an alternate one. I tried to drop in hints from the beginning that we’re in a different time period than expected, by including elements we think of as more modern, like cinemas and twentieth century fashion.
What’s the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?
That it’s a fun subgenre, and so you can be playful. There’s a lot of scope for creating a fantastical mishmash of sfnal conceits and fantastical ones. Other than the IRONSKIN series, I have a short play that’s very definitely steampunk, about 5 women who have a covert quasi-superhero group. It’s called “How Frederika Cassowary-Jones Joined the Ladies’ Society of Benevolent Goings-On”, and it’s in the Gears and Levers 2 anthology I mentioned above. The characters include a repressed french automaton, a goggles-wearing kinesthetic art student, a brash Texan, etc, etc, and they were awful fun to write. I might expand them into something longer sometime.
What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?
One of the things I really enjoyed about creating the tech for my world is thinking through the problems about how tech would be both in advance and behind of where one might expect. Although my book is really more of an alternate world, I did get to play with reader expectations of technology and historical events.
What are the challenges and advantages to writing a steampunk story?
The advantage can be that you’re starting in such a fun world to begin with, so you can have serious themes come out in subtle ways. I think a challenge with steampunk is sometimes you have to stop and interrogate the fun aspects of it and try not to perpetuate problematic situations in history. Some of the most interesting steampunk I’ve enjoyed seeing includes some from non-Victorian cultures – stretching to what folks are doing in parts of the world other than England. I think we’ll continue to see more of this.
How much research does it take and how much imagination.
It depends how loose the definition is. Very strict steampunk would require a fair amount of knowledge of the history that you’re going to change, I think. But most steampunk I see is more fanciful and loose. Of course, like all worldbuilding, it helps to research a wide variety of things in general! It’s not necessarily a steampunk thing to say that it helps to do a lot of thinking about how governments work, and how the crops get grown and transported, and what it means that that dress is made of silk. This is why worldbuilding is one of those iceberg metaphors! You see 10% of the world, but you’ve had to stop and think seriously about the 90% that never made it into text. Sadly, this is why there are some days where I stare out the window for ten minutes and then type one sentence (or worse, delete one!) Lather, rinse, repeat.
Thanks so much for including me in the Steampunk month! I’m including a hardcover copy of IRONSKIN to give away to one commenter!
About the Author:
Tina Connolly lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others. Her debut fantasy novel IRONSKIN released from Tor Books in Fall 2012, with the sequel, COPPERHEAD, forthcoming in Fall 2013. She is a frequent reader for Podcastle, and narrates the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. In the summer she works as a face painter, which means a glitter-filled house is an occupational hazard. Her website is tinaconnolly.com.
PRIZE ALERT: Tina is giving away a copy of Ironskin to one lucky commenter (US residents only please) Trust me, you guys are going to adore this book. So get busy posting!