I’m here with author of steampunk, paranormal, historical and romance, Cindy Spencer Pape. I put to her some questions about her steampunk series The Gaslight Chronicles, the first of which is Steam & Sorcery, and about her writing processes. Enjoy!
What inspired you to start writing Steampunk novels and novellas?
Quite simply, I just loved the concept. I’ve always been something of a historical junkie as well as loving paranormal romance. Steampunk gives me the chance to mash it all together into one story that has limitless possibilities.
Does your writing process differ between writing Steampunk romance and contemporary romance?
Well, there’s often a little more research involved. My contemporary stuff is often based on things I already know. I don’t have to stop writing and figure out WHERE in India the magical artifact would be hidden, then what the climate, terrain, and political situations were there on a given date. My process, though is pretty much the same. Start with the characters and a light outline, then just let it go.
Alt-history fantasy has expanded into a whole umbrella of genres, including Dieselpunk and Atompunk. What, in your opinion, is a vital attribute of a Steampunk setting or novel?
I’m totally flexible about the notion—that freedom is one of the things that appeals to me, so if you think it’s steampunk, go ahead and call it that. Basically, though the important part is that the setting have steam-powered technology that wasn’t available in the real Victorian era. It also helps if the society has a tight, Victorian social code, and the punk part comes in when your characters are bucking against that code. In my books, although they’re very light steampunk, there are still threads of egalitarianism, feminism, and gay rights. So there’s a little bit of punk there.
How did you go about building your Steampunk world? Were any aspects stronger/more well formed than others when you started writing?
I started with the notions that Charles Babbage invented the computer in the 1840s and that magic(k) has always existed. Those are the two stepping-off points for my historical timeline that make it alternate. I wanted a group that protects England from magickal beings like vampyres and rogue werewolves. I also knew right off that my upper-crust vampyre hunter was going to get tangled up with a group of street kids, some of whom had powers of their own. They’d need a governess, one who wasn’t a wimp, so there was my love interest. I was calling the story “Van Helsing meets Mary Poppins” until I got going.
It was my husband who came up with the idea that the group of enforcers were actually the descendants of the Knights of the Round Table. It fit perfectly, and the rest of the first story flowed from there. I do try to make sure that every story has elements of both paranormal and advanced technology, although some lean more toward one than the other.
Do you participate in other parts of the Steampunk genre/lifestyle or only the writing side of Steampunk?
As to the lifestyle, I didn’t even know it existed until well after I started writing steampunk. Now, though, I love playing dress up and going to local steampunk conventions and other events. Apparently I was always a little steampunk, because now I finally have a use for all the vintage jewelry, lace hankies and other tidbits I’d been collecting my whole life!
Any advice to readers and/or writers just getting into the Steampunk genre?
Steampunk literature isn’t selling nearly as well as we’d hoped, so it can be tough to find a publisher. In fact, I’ll probably be switching to straight historical or modern urban fantasy for my next series. As for readers, there’s some great stuff out there. Look for MelJean Brooks, Gail Carriger, Cherie Priest, Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris, and so many more.
Tell us a little about your journey to getting an agent.
Finding an agent can be one of the hardest things an author ever has to do. In my case, I did the submission/rejection thing dozens of times, with a couple of different manuscripts over several years. No takers whatsoever. Then one of my critique partners told me her former editor had just switched over to being an agent and was looking to build her stable. I submitted and became the second client she signed, thanks in no small amount to the recommendation of my friend. HOWEVER the story doesn’t end there. My agent became ill, and her clients ended up in sort of a pool at the agency, without any connection to a specific agent. Several were actually let go. I was lucky and was kept by Evan Gregory, who was just making the switch from assistant to agent. But it was definitely a rocky road. And even having an agent doesn’t guarantee sales. Evan is still working hard to get me to the next level of publishing.
Steam & Sorcery is now out in print, woop! Tell us something interesting about the novel.
I am so utterly thrilled to have it in print now, especially for conventions and signings. The SF&F world, isn’t nearly as welcoming to the idea of e-books as the romance community is, so at a lot of events I’ve been given a bit of a cold shoulder for not having my steampunk in print. As for trivia about the book, aside from the Van Helsing/Mary Poppins thing, there’s something about the names. Both my husband and I have some very British ancestry, so most of the names in the book are from one or the other of our families, except for Merrick, which I just pulled out of the blue and wouldn’t budge on. Even the nickname Wink for Winifred was from one of my husband’s great-aunts.
Great! Thanks for answering my questions, Cindy!
About the author:
Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of the best-selling Gaslight Chronicles, she has released 16 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.
Cindy is represented by Evan Gregory of the Ethan Ellenberg Agency.
I’d love to make this a segment. Any other Steampunk/alt-history authors who’d like to be interviewed, please comment or message me.