Beth Headrick ventured into the gaslit underground in search of Dru Pagliassotti, and the answer to one burning question: why steampunk?
Why did you choose to set your novel in the steampunk genre and why, in going with a steampunk theme, did you choose to go off-world instead of following the traditional Victorian steampunk?
Ondinium is definitely inspired by London (which the Romans named Londinium). However, I didn’t want to be constrained by historical reality when I wrote Clockwork Heart. I wanted to have the freedom to write without worrying about real-world places, figures, and events. Fantasy allowed me to propose a lighter-than-air metal, develop a caste system in which the aristocracy is much more rules-constrained than the lower class, and present a belief system that includes reincarnation.
Besides, what writer would want to compete with Gibson & Sterling’s award-winning The Difference Engine? :-)
What, if any, books and/or authors have influenced your writing in this regard?
I enjoy steampunk and quasi-steampunk/fantasy-Victorian novels like Volsky’s The Grand Ellipse, Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, Dahlquist’s The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Michael Moorcock’s Bastable and Hawkmoon series, and China Mieville’s Iron Council. However, what really captivates me about steampunk is the imagery in film, anime, comic books, and roleplaying games — The City of Lost Children, Brazil, Howl’s Moving Castle, GURPS Steampunk, Iron Kingdoms, and so forth. Steampunk is visually gorgeous — take a look at Datamancer’s Victorian laptop, for example. Beautiful! I tried to conjure up some of that “look” in Clockwork Heart’s descriptions of flying over Ondinium and around the Great Engine, but it’s hard to do with just words. I’m very grateful to Timothy Lantz for providing my book with such a wonderful cover
Clockwork Heart can truly be called a steampunk romance and seems geared (no pun intended) towards females. Why did you decide to write it like this? Was it a concious decision, given the dearth of steampunk romances available?
I’d love to be able to say that I wrote Clockwork Heart because there’s a shortage of steampunk written by and for women. Unfortunately, I didn’t even think about it until my editor asked me what other books are “like” Clockwork Heart for marketing purposes. At that point I paused and realized I was in trouble — steampunk is still a male-dominated subgenre. Maybe Clockwork Heart will interest more women in writing steampunk. I hope so!
As it happens, Clockwork Heart started out as a few ideas and mental images: I knew I wanted to write a romance, that it would feature a daring heroine who flies with metal wings and a cold guy with glasses, and that there’d be a combat scene set amid a bunch of gigantic floating gears. The fantasy steampunk setting grew naturally from there.
Do you plan to continue writing novels set in the world where Clockwork Heart is based?
I’m really flattered that several people have asked me about sequels. I’m currently working on a blood-drenched political fantasy, but in the back of my mind I’ve been mulling over the technology race between Ondinium and Cabiel, the tension between diplomacy and espionage, and whether the blind could learn to read punch cards like Braille...
In your opinion, is the recent upswing in steampunk material and popularity going to continue and will it keep producing quality work or is there the possiblity that it will become trendy, thus leading to low-quality, mass-produced work?
Wow, that’s a dangerous question. I’m afraid somebody’s going to be reading this and think, “Low-quality, mass-produced work? What do you call steampunk romance?” :-)
No doubt, steampunk will continue to morph. It’s already changed a lot from its purest form — now we have clockpunk, fantasy steampunk, retrofuturism, and, um, steampunk romance. ;-) Will steampunk become trendy? It could. The NeoVictorian design aesthetic combines the elegance of Victorian craftsmanship with the convenience of contemporary technology. There’s a lot to be said for that. Plus, steampunk and NeoVictorianism are pretty popular in Japan — think Steamboy and Lolita fashions for a moment! — and Japan often leads the U.S. when it comes to trends in popular culture. So I won’t dismiss the possibility out of hand.
I’d actually like to see more steampunk on the shelves and in the movies, and I’d love to see more of a steampunk design aesthetic in our technology. Where can I get a brass iPod engraved with my ancestral coat of arms?
Dru Pagliassotti teaches at California Lutheran University and has been running her webzine, The Harrow, for over ten years. Some of her favorite things are hardboiled fiction, weird fantasy, costume parties, horror, Raymond Chandler, power metal, Mac computers, manga, anime, tabletop RPGs, simple living, and tall ships. She enjoys traveling, adores iguanas, and canpit fix any of her four broken pocket watches. Visit her at drupagliassotti.com.