Steampunk novellas – a new direction
I recently read Cameron Chapman’s newly published novella, Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris, the first of her Steam and Steel Chronicles. It’s an entertaining steampunk read, fast and furious, and easy to read. For those who don’t know,here’s the definition of steampunk from Wikipedia.
“Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.
Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” for such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage’s Analytical engine.”
The whole concept of a series of such books intrigued me so I had a chat with Cameron about what she’s doing. Here’s what she told me.
1. Welcome to my web site, nice to have a fellow writer here. You’ve been writing for some time, I know. Tell us a little about the books you have written?
Thanks for having me, Greta! Boy, where to even start. I’ve written in a number of genres, mostly because I like to read a number of genres. I’ve got a couple of women’s fiction projects just about finished. Other works-in-progress include my steam punk novella series, the first of which is now available as an ebook on Amazon US ( http://www.amazon.com/Aboard-Unstoppable-Aerostat-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B004M18Y9M/ and UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aboard-Unstoppable-Aerostat-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B004M18Y9M/), Barnes & Noble (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Aboard-the-Unstoppable-Aerostat-Fenris/Cameron-Chapman/e/2940012133687), and Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/40432), a couple of soft sci-fi novels, and some other fantasy novels (including both high fantasy and urban fantasy). I have a lot of projects in various stages of development, and one of my resolutions this year is to finish (or trunk) all of the projects I’ve started to date, before I start on any new ones.
2. Your new steampunk novel is a bit different from your previous offerings. What decided you on this path?
I’m fascinated by steampunk. I love both the visual elements of it and the stories, but I’m more interested in the fantasy side of it than the sci-fi side. I’ve always loved fantasy, and it’s still one of the genres I read most. The first novel I wrote was fantasy (though it has yet to see the light of day). These steampunk novellas are actually based a bit on the third novel I wrote, which ended up all over the place in terms of story. It was too scattered to even try to fix (somehow I ended up crossing steampunk and gothic romance, and threw in some vampires and nuns for good measure), but I loved the characters, and I loved the first part (it was a three part novel), so I decided to refocus it and make it more strictly steampunk. I’m considering taking the second and third part of the original novel and turning them into something completely different, too.
3. How many books are you expecting to write and will they all be this novella style?
At this point I think they will all be novella length, most likely in the 20-30,000 word length. I’m a fan of shorter books like that, especially in a series, and I tend to be a pretty concise writer. I don’t do tons of description and tons of exposition, only what’s necessary for the story (and in this case, for future stories). Originally, I was thinking seven books, but now I’m thinking it may end up at five. I have a rough outline for where the series is going, though I’ll admit I’m still not entirely sure of the outcome yet. I know that Isabelle will need to make a choice in the end, and I’m not sure what she’ll choose. I’m not even sure of all the options yet. I’ve also toyed with the idea of throwing in a couple of short stories to fill out some of the stuff that isn’t going to happen in the main novellas. We’ll see as the series progresses.
4. What audience do you have in mind?
The first book is definitely aimed at older YA and adults. It might appeal to younger teenagers, but considering where the story goes in subsequent books, I don’t like to really market to them. The second book starts to get a bit darker, and I have a feeling it’s going to get very, very dark before the end. There are going to be a lot of very tough situations in future books, and a lot of tough choices.
4. I must say I found your description of the airship convincing. How did you do the research to come up with the little details?
That was one of the harder things to come up with. Originally, I was going to leave it fairly vague, but then I came up with a plot twist idea for the second book (that I didn’t end up using in the end), and needed to figure out exactly how these airships worked. I spent a lot of time studying lift gases, which ones are used, how they function, etc., and then came up with the system of using ammonia for both lift gas and ballast. Technical aspects of sci-fi are not my forte, but I felt like it would add a lot to the story if it was included. I’m glad to hear that it worked!
5. ‘The airship is named after a Norse wolf god, ‘Fenrir’ and you make many references to Norse mythology in this first book. Will this be an important feature of the series?
Mythology in general is going to be very significant. Stig’s Norse heritage is an important part of who he is, so that’s woven into the books. There’s a bit of Greek and Roman mythology, too. And starting with the third book, some Native American myths will be woven in. I’ve taken some liberties with the mythology in places, but I try to stay true to the spirit of things, at least.
6. When do you expect the next book to come out and can you give us a taste of what it might contain?
I’m just about finished with the second book, and hope to get it released in either March or April. That’s the beauty of indie publishing! I finish writing something, edit and revise, proofread and copyedit, and then I can have it out a couple of weeks later. As I’ve already mentioned, the second book takes a slightly darker turn, and adds some new complications to the series, building on events in the first book. The plot focuses around an overland-oversea race, and of course the relationship between Stig and Isabelle. One very major obstacle is put in their way, which the rest of the series will revolve around.
Thanks for your time, Cameron, and all the best with your new venture.
Raised in New England and Virginia, Cameron Chapman has been writing off and on since grade school, though she knew at an early age she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. She’s been blogging professionally since 2006, and started writing fiction “seriously” in 2007. She enjoys reading fiction from a wide variety of genres, including women’s fiction, chick lit, fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She writes soft science fiction, fantasy, and women’s fiction, though all of her stories are based on love.
Chapman lives in Northern New England with her husband, two dogs, and a rather ornery cat. When she’s not writing, which is rarely, she enjoys being outdoors (and sometimes she combines the two).
Visit her blog, Cameron Chapman On Writing or follow her on Twitter or Goodreads . In addition to writing, she does occasional design work, and has recently been focusing on book design (both interior and covers).