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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wednesday's Writer - Gloria Harchar talks about Steampunk

I'm wildly excited about today's guest being on my blog because she's the first writer of Steampunk I've come across and I think this is quite an exciting genre.  She is the hugely talented Gloria Harchar, whom I just had to get to know after seeing her wonderful book covers!  Who couldn't be impressed by these?  

Gloria is an author who gets ideas by exploring historical places, reading old documents/records, (such as letters, newspapers, marriage certificates, diaries, journals, documentaries—well, you get the idea), visiting cemeteries and historical buildings, finding unique antique gadgets that never gained popularity with the public. In Gloria's opinion, there's no better way to explore a countryside, village or city than while gripping the handlebars of a bicycle.

She has two Bachelor's degrees: One in Education with a concentration in English and the other in Accounting. Too, she has a Master's of Science degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

Her love is writing romance novels and young adult science fiction, and being able to write stories that are begging to be told! Her series, called The Lumière Romances, is in an alternate Steampunk World. To find out more, please visit her at her official website at  Be sure to subscribe to her newsletter to discover when the next book is released, to participate in contests and blog hops, and to win prizes

Anyway she's here today to tell us all about Steampunk, so let's see how many questions we can cram in while we have her on the blog.

Welcome, Gloria.  First off, what exactly is Steampunk?

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy. It's the Enlightenment Period. It's Industrial
Revolution. It's an attitude of brainstorming inventions in societies, and any idea deserves deep thought and consideration. Per Gail Carriger, there are two types of steampunk: 
i. The first, traditional steampunk, envisions a future as the Victorians imagined it. The writings of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are good examples. 
ii. The second, industrial steampunk, sees a far future world that harkens back to Victorian culture, for example a bustle dress made of kevlar. There are also other temporal options like clockpunk (c. 1500s) and dieselpunk (WWII).
b. Both of my series fall into the traditional steampunk with minor tweaks. The Lumière Romances have fantasy creatures in them--pixies, faeries, elves, werewolves, vampires, immortals, etc. Miss Marquet's School of Inquiry is straight traditional steampunk in that there are no fantasy creatures. Both are written for YA and YA Crossovers. 

Fascinating.  What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk?

I've always adored creating alternative history. I love world-building. I imagine myself in a steampunk world where you can see steampunk technology nearly everywhere you look, mixed in with Victorian clothing fashions--slightly altered--and historical architecture. I love carriages--phaetons, (in fact, my pixies in Lies & Crinoline made a photon phaeton), Town coaches, brougham, barouches, landaus--and "steampunking" them up. 

What is your favorite steampunk accessory

My steampunk clock. I love it!

What turned you on to steampunk? 
My father was an aerospace engineer. I always wondered how different our world would be if we would have chosen to develop different types of hydrogen-propelled airships instead of the jet-fueled airplanes of today. What if we had stuck to steam-powered appliances instead of electricity? Or used electricity instead of gunpowder for guns? Or had walking legs in addition to wheels on cars? Before actually writing steampunk, I've always tried to include inventions in my stories, even in my straight historical romances.

Cars with legs - imagine that!  My brain is doing summersaults.  Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?

Mudlark Girl is book 1 in my new series, Miss Marquet's School of Inquiry. Lulu Jardine is a girl who lives by the River Thames. A washed out poet, down on his luck, found her clinging onto a piece of a steamboat. The poet raises her, and together they dredge the river in search of her identity. One gift the poet has given her is a thirst for knowledge. She likes solving problems, making life easier, and has made a metal radar to aid her search. A girl from Polite Society asks her to participate in a study of environment versus bloodlines—she wants to see if she can make a lady out of Lulu. Lulu refuses. But when Lulu witnesses a famous scientist who commits murder, and overhears part of a plan to attack Queen Victoria, it's a mudlark girl's word against a lady of the haute ton. Lulu becomes a fugitive on the run. The only way to escape is to hide in plain sight by becoming a test specimen. 

What an intriguing plot.  It sounds like a combination of Dickens and Dr Who but with your own unique twist.  I love it.  Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?

Botheration, that is a difficult question to answer because the character I love the most is the one about whom I'm telling the story. So, as of the present, I am enjoying tremendously the spunkiness that is Lulu Jardine. She is creative, intelligent and frightfully spunky--she just doesn't know it.  

I love self-effacing characters who are sublimely ignorant of their own charisma.  Lulu sounds great!  What's the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

Research because I love science and I can spend hours thinking about crazy inventions. In writing courses I've been taught not to show my research. However, lovers of steampunk want to learn/understand a little bit of how things work in my world since this is what steampunk is all about. I have to rely on my beta readers to tell me what to cut and by how much.

Well I suppose readers could do their own research but personally I like to have as much information as I can get in the actual book.  That way I feel I'm being educated as well as entertained.  What's the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

Allowing my imagination to take over. I particularly enjoy action scenes and using bizarre devices or vehicles in the chase scenes. 

That sounds highly visual and very exciting.  What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?

I can create an atmosphere that is totally my own. Although I've studied British history and know it quite well, I can tweak that history; I don't have to be historically correct. I love having smart characters who know how to put together a bilocycle, an airship, or a photon phaeton.The otherworldly atmosphere of seeing something strangely brilliant--like a blimp with wings and a boat hull, or a barouche with mechanical legs and feet. Thinking up new ways to do mundane chores such as washing clothes. I can't do all this in any other genre!

I'm quite sure your own clear enjoyment enhances your stories for your readers.  What are the challenges and advantages to writing a steampunk story?

One of the challenges I have is making up names for gadgets. But I have a lot of fun with the task. And I have to remember the name of the object. I've started a spreadsheet to keep track. I would love to have drawings of them someday and post them on my site. But for now I need to have a list of devices that are in my stories and upload that.

Oh yes - do try to make sketches for posterity - like Leonardo da Vinci.  And what fun thinking up new names for gadgets/inventions - I'd love to try to help with that.  Maybe you should set that as a quiz question somewhere?  You give the basic information of what the machine does and ask readers to come up with the best name?  (Just a thought).  How much research does it take and how much imagination?

As I stated above, it sometimes take a lot of research. Sometimes I research as I write; sometimes I make a note to research and keep going with my story. Imagination? I have an abundance of it. Hey, you're looking at a woman who, as a girl of seven years old, coerced her little sister of four to ride in the mechanical dumb waiter so that she could describe all the worlds and denizens that existed between the walls, (to my extreme disappointment, all she could tell me is, "It was dark and scary!"). Needless to say, to write steampunk, an author has to have a lot of imagination. Mix imagination with scientific findings and principals, tweak those, add plot plus characterization as major elements and you've got yourself a steampunk story! 

It's been wonderful talking to you Gloria - I could go on and on as every fascinating answer seems to generate more questions.  I hope you've enjoyed yourself - I know I have.

Now Gloria wants to turn the tables and ask YOU a question - and it's one I love asking readers as well: What do YOU like to read?

You can buy Lies and Crinoline on Kobo or by clicking on the cover 
and discover more about Gloria by clicking on any of the following links:

I really recommend you do - she's amazing!  Thanks, Gloria.


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Tacie Graves said...

I love steampunk worlds and Regency romance novels--it sounds like Miss Marquet's is made for me! It's so nice to see how other writers world build. I've never been brave enough to create such a different setting--you may have just inspired me to try! Thanks Gloria and Lynette. :)

Anonymous said...

Waving a big hello to two friends! Yes, Lynette, I agree. Gloria has the best covers! Gloria, you need to get your artist to draw those machines for you. What fun!

Ah, yes, if things had worked differently. Where I live, I'm surrounded with real history. The battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack. The Wright Brothers first flight. NASA. There's so much here, and it's a great place to feed the imagination.

You talked about cars with legs. It made me think. I believe it's a coal(?) mining machine and it doesn't have wheels - it has legs. So who sat at a desk and decided to build some super machine and give it legs instead of wheels? Did that person's boss look at that design and laugh? Or did the boss say that wheels won't work under these conditions so find another way to move this big monster piece of equipment.

My favorite reading? A little whodunit. Nothing gory or edge of my seat, just a pleasant read, maybe with a laughter thrown into it. And naturally something with a wonderful hero who makes you want to curl up in his arms. But I will admit I'd rather read about the dishwasher in the castle then I would about prissy-missy who is expected to marry the prince.

I can't wait to read MUDLARK GIRL. I think it has plenty of the right elements for me.
E. Ayers

Gloria Harchar said...

First to Lyn--Thanks so much for having me here! You are marvelous!!

Tacie--thanks bunches for dropping by. I wager you could write steampunk, if that is what tickles your fancy! I have a blast with designing crazy worlds, researching and then tweaking what I learn to make it steampunk fantasy.

E. Ayers--Hi!!! Interesting about coal mining machines with legs. Yes, the boss probably did laugh! And great idea--I will talk to my artist about drawing my devices. ;) Big hugs and thanks for stopping by!!

Anonymous said...

I love to read steampunk but know it's one genre I can't write. So glad there's other talented authors I get to read.

Sherry Ellis said...

Steampunk is certainly gaining popularity. I've heard a lot of good things about Clockwork Blue. Nice interview!

Jay Noel said...

Big steampunk fan here too. I loved it before I even knew it had a name. The very first novel I ever read was H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.

My own book is coming out, and it's Asian Steampunk. It's so much fun to play with alternative history.

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