Sunday, September 19, 2010

Steampunk Author Interview: Arthur Slade

Arthur Slade, author of the YA steampunk novels The Hunchback Assignments and The Dark Deeps: The Hunchback Assignments Book 2, was kind enough to stop by to answer a few questions during his whirlwind blog tour to promote the second book. The Dark Deeps hit U.S. shelves this past Tuesday, September 14 (Wendy Lamb Books, $16.99). But that's enough from me, as I'm sure you're more interested to hear from Arthur. Without further ado, let me proudly present Mr. Arthur Slade!

Arthur Slade

What drew you to Steampunk?

I’ve been a sci-fi fan since I began reading novels (thanks to Heinlein and Bradbury) and I followed the rise of steampunk in the ‘80s with interest, so steampunk seemed like a natural “literary” choice for me. This series first started with the idea of writing books inspired by Victorian-era novels so it felt natural (and more fun) to push it in the direction of steampunk. It really combines sci-fi, fantasy, and horror--my three favorite flavors of fiction.

The Hunchback Assignments Book I and The Dark Deeps Book 2 are strong case-file adventures that begin the Hunchback series. Are there more plans for a multi-book storyline?

Yes. My intention is to write six or seven episodic novels. Each tells its own story, but the long “arc” will bring an answer to what happens between the conflict of The Permanent Association and The Clockwork Guild and how Modo adjusts to his role in society and his appearance.

What was the hardest part about writing The Dark Deeps?

The research. I want these books to be as believable as possible so I try to add as much historical detail and accuracy as I can. Researching submarine knowledge in the 1900’s was extremely interesting, but also a great big pile of reading. Plus, like every author, I get addicted to the research and forget that I’m actually supposed to be writing the book.  

Modo is an interesting choice as a main character. What drove you to choose a hunchbacked character as the hero?

There were several reasons. One was that I had recently reread The Hunchback of Notre Dame and was so moved by the book that I wanted to do an “ode” to it. The Hunchback Assignments grew from a publisher pitching me on writing a Sherlock Holmes type novel. I didn’t want it to just be Sherlock, so I substituted Quasimodo instead then changed it to a secret agent instead of a detective. That’s the literary influence. On a more personal level my daughter Tori was born with Down Syndrome (she died in 2008 due to complications from treatment for leukemia). In her short life she taught me how little I knew about people with handicaps and also how society often treats them as the “other.” Not one of us. So I was taken by the idea of having a hero with a handicap.

Doctor Cornelius Hyde, Griff, Modo, and Captain Monturiol all have their roots in classic novels of the Victorian Era. What other characters or concepts have you borrowed from that period for The Dark Deeps?

Captain Monturiol actually has a double inspiration. She is obviously inspired by Captain Nemo, but I also drew my inspiration for her from a real life 19th century submarine designer named Narcis Monturiol. He was a brilliant man and did invent a perfectly workable (and safe) submarine years before anyone else and nearly went mad trying to get his creation out to the public (he believed it would end war because it could sink all warships).

The socialist concepts of Monturiol’s Icaria are all influenced by Monturiol and his fellow socialists of the time. A group of socialists from Europe actually tried to create their own utopian country (called Icaria) in Texas. The project failed miserably. I just tried to imagine how different it would have been if they’d tried to build their country under the water.

Obviously this book is influenced by Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. He was such an intelligent and detailed writer that it helped me understand how much people in the Victorian age knew about science and nature and, of course, submarines.  

Both The Dark Deeps and The Hunchback Assignments have their basis in classic novels. Did you always intend to use classic stories as the basis for Modo’s adventures?

Yes, at some level. I don’t want to be limited by having to choose a novel or story to base the books on, but I do find so much inspiration from those books. After all you can draw a direct line back from the Sci-fi/fantasy/horror of today to the novels published in Victorian times.

Which character would you say is most like you?

Modo. Not that I have any shapeshifting abilities, but that he’s a reader and I’m a reader. Although maybe I need a bit of Miss Hakkandottir as part of my personality when it comes time to negotiate the next contract. 

In all the research you did to write The Dark Deeps and The Hunchback Assignments, what was the most interesting thing you discovered?

That would be hard to pin down. I actually kept finding so many interesting things that I created an Odd Victorian Factoids piece for my website ( I’d have to say the oddest and most interesting thing is that the flush toilet was made popular in Victorian times by a man named Thomas Crapper. Yes, crap meant the same thing then that it does now. So did he choose to become a plumber because of his name? Fate? Destiny? Fact is so much stranger than fiction.

What’s next for Modo and Octavia? For the Clockwork Guild?

The third novel is titled Empire of Ruins. It’s about Modo’s investigation of a rumored Egyptian temple in the Australian Rainforest that holds a powerful item called The God Face (this item will drive whoever sees it insane). Both the Permanent Association and The Clockwork Guild want it.  The novel finds its roots in “adventure” novels from the period (Allan Quartermain novels being one example). And it’s also inspired by the whole race for Africa and colonization of the rest of the “uncivilized” world.

What are you working on now?
Next will be the fourth book in the series, The Shadow of Notre Dame. Where Modo will return to Paris to discover more about his roots. I think he’ll be mightily surprised when he finds out that he’s actually French (having spent his whole life raised as an English gentleman).

Thank you once again to Arthur for stopping here along his blog tour promoting The Dark Deeps. If you want to follow Arthur on his blog tour, make sure to check out these blogs:

Previous stops on The Dark Deeps blog tour:
Friday, September 17 -
Saturday September 18 - Cynsations

Upcoming stops on The Dark Deeps blog tour:
Monday, September 20 - STEAMED!
Tuesday, September 21 - Steampunk Tribune
Wednesday, September 22 - Suvudu
Thursday, September 23 - Steampunk Scholar
Friday, September 24 - Through the Looking Glass

And I also have a surprise for you all: I have two ARCs of Arthur Slade's The Dark Deeps to give away to two lucky readers of Free the Princess. So here's what I propose: Come with the most inventive Steampunk twist on a character from a classic novel. The two most creative offerings will each win an ARC.

The Rules are thus: Put your entry in the comments of this post by week's end -- Friday, September 24 -- and I will announce the winners on Monday, September 26.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating. As someone researching their first steampunk-ish novel, I share many of the sentiments (but not necessarily the same inspirations) in respect of AS's research.

Mia Hayson said...

Um, is this open internationally? I mean. I don't mind if it's not because postage might be OMGWHAT EXPENSIVE.

But, uhm, then again if it is, count me in....

I choose Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and specfically Mrs DeWinters (deceased) whom will be called Molly Greensmith for the purposes of this thingy.

A young idealistic revolutionary meets a crazy young man in the gutters with a passion for metaphysics. She is thrown into the middle of a war when it becomes apparent that both the young man and his wacky pet are on the run from the deceased government official's (Chief Genral Officer Molly Greensmith) people.

Molly Green is physically dead but she continues to haunt the hearts and minds of those around as they struggle for their lives.

Uhhhmm, is that any good? I don't know. I tried. I like steampunk.


K. Marie Criddle said...

Black Beauty is a roguely, darish animal that won't sit kindly by and be traded around like a common gooseberry, if one catches one's drift. He wears a saddle of fine oiled leather and brass buckles from the finest of purveyors that purvey that type of stuff. His hooves have been modified with clanking, steam powered pistons that build and store energy for those much needed dashes through the bustling streets of London. Step gingerly, or your legs might not be too merry, Brass Beauty! The end. I'm too tired to think of more.

P.S. I loved the Hunchback Assignments. Yay book two!

Paul said...

I have always thought that it would be interesting to use the story of Shakespeare's "Tempest" in a steampunk setting. The ship would not have been sailing the ocean, but the skies, and it would have crashed on a hidden island in the clouds. Caliban, instead of being the son of Sycorax, would be the mechanical golem created by her and then stolen and reprogrammed by Prospero. I can see it now, Propero wearing the rags of a once proud Victorian king, the characters in waterlogged top hats and tail coats. Ariel a flying clockwork doll. And most of all, the bottles of Absinthe being enjoyed by Adrian and Ferdinand! It would be glorious.

Anonymous said...

After an evening of pipe-smoking and clever deductions peppered by witty remarks, nothing delighted Dr Watson more than sitting at his desk to record Holmes’ effortless fits of brain power for posterity. Or so dear gyroscopic Sherlock believed.
The truth was quite other, hidden in the basement of a little-known Gentlemen’s club ,The Smoke. Here, after limping down treacherous damp stairs, the good doctor smiled at the innumerable little eyes and hands and hearts(yes, hearts) awaiting his ministrations .Here ,in his cozy workshop by the rumbling steam engine that powered other gentlemen’s unavowable endeavours, De Watson’s delicate surgeon fingers fit together cogs and wheels, wound with copper wire, tensed with springs. Here, Sherlock Holmes’ gentle shadow built his army of clockwork toys, and gave them life. Every tiny copper heart beat for him.