Publication Date:July 14th 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
1) Did writing this novel require you to undertake a lot of research on U.S/British history?
Yes, I did a ton of research. I think I read close to 60 books in preparing to write this novel. I researched aspects of 1880s life -- clothing, homes, manners, technology, society, culture, etc. I researched the actual American Revolution to see what the chain of events was and how it might translate to a different setting and time period. I read about other revolutions to see what common threads there were. I read about airships and steam engines. I read a number of novels written during the time period in order to get a sense of the language. Fortunately, I love reading and I love history, so this hardly felt like “work.”
2) Which character did you enjoy creating the most in this novel?
Probably Henry, since he has so many different facets, with a public face and a private face, and he has so many roles to play in life. He’s a very young person who’s been thrust into a very adult role that he’s still figuring out. And I’m seeing all of this through someone else’s perspective, so I have to get clever to find ways of conveying it.
3) Was it difficult to conjure up this vast and complex world of rewired history, power struggle and magic?
I don’t know if I’d say it was difficult. It was like a game and a lot of fun to play with all these elements, to start with reality and get to add to it.
4) In what ways do you consider yourself to be similar to our protagonist Verity?
Verity may be more like me than any other character I’ve written. I gave her my hair (long, brown and curly). She’s a big reader, as I am, with a mix of serious, more scholarly work and pulp fiction, which is the way I tend to read. I identify a lot with her feeling of being caught between worlds, not really fitting entirely in one place or the other. I’ve so often felt like I’m an outsider wherever I go because I don’t fit neatly into categories.
5) Why create an alternate historical timeline? What sparked the idea for this story?
When you add magic to the mix, you expect it to change the way the world works, which is going to change history. That’s part of what triggered the story -- what if the ruling class really was different in some significant way? How would that affect society? How would that have changed history? If the rulers were magical, they’d be hard to fight against unless you had a different source of power that was equally strong. Plus, playing with the steampunk aesthetic means technology will be a little different. That gives me a world to work with that’s similar to ours but different enough that I can be creative and have fun things like magical carriages, airships, and secret subways.
6) Who would you consider to be your greatest influence as a writer?
I don’t know that there’s been any one influence. I read a lot and always have, and every book I read seems to inspire me in some way, whether it’s a case of “I want to do something like this that makes people feel this way” or “I could do it better.” All of those things add up to make me the writer I am now.
7) What is your favourite book and how many times have you read it?
It’s hard to pick just one! I have a few bookcases full of very battered books. Perhaps my all-time favorite would be To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. It’s this delightful Victorian spoof time travel adventure story that’s laugh-out-loud funny, thoughtful, and romantic. It’s also set in Oxford, England, where I took one of my favorite vacations ever, and where I was able to find my way around based on descriptions in the book. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read it, but it’s one of those books I want to crawl inside and live in. This is kind of where I got the idea for Verity’s name in my book. There’s a character with that name in this book, which made me aware of the name, and then the meaning of the name perfectly fit the character I was creating.
8) There is a budding romance in this novel. Is it very central to the happenings of the book and in what ways does it help our main character to grow?
I suppose it depends on which budding romance you mean. There are a couple of relationships in the book, though there’s one that seems more likely as the book ends (keeping it vague to avoid spoilers). The first one is actually part of the plot. The second one is more the result of the plot and a sign that the main character is growing and getting her eyes opened. She’s started to make her own decisions rather than relying on what others tell her, and she’s started to find her own place in the world, and that makes her consider the possibility of that relationship. That relationship may become more important to the plot going forward if I write more books in this series.
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