I’m thrilled to have Steven Harper, author of The Doomsday Vault and The Impossible Cube (and much more) back on the blog! He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and I’ve got a brand new copy of The Impossible Cube up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Please welcome Steven to the blog!
Steven, your brand new book (and 2nd in a series), The Impossible Cube, just came out! Can you give us a bit of a teaser?
In The Doomsday Vault, Alice and Gavin manage to sort-of destroy the British empire, which alarms a number of important people. In The Impossible Cube they’re fleeing across Europe to China with a number of these important people hot on their heels. With them are Click the clockwork cat and Dr. Clef, a mad scientist who is desperate to recreate his impossible cube, a device of nearly infinite power which Gavin destroyed back in England. If Dr. Clef succeeds, he’ll have power over time itself. And Dr. Clef is thoroughly insane. Gavin, meanwhile, has contracted clockwork plague, and if he doesn’t reach China in time to find a cure, he’ll go mad and die. Even now he’s losing his grip on reality, much to Alice’s dismay.
I loved The Doomsday Vault (Book 1), and The Impossible Cube was just as good! Do you have specific plans for a certain amount of books in the series, or will you just see where it takes you?
Thanks! My editor actually just finished reading The Dragon Men, which is Book 3, and she surprised me by immediately asking for a fourth book. I was caught off-guard—in my mind the series was finished and I hadn’t even thought about more novels set in the Clockwork Empire. But my editor said another book wouldn’t have to be about Gavin and Alice necessarily. I started thinking, and it occurred to me that I haven’t really explored a clockwork Russia. So that’s what I’m doing. Book 4 is called The Havoc Machine, and it’ll have some overlap with supporting characters from The Impossible Cube. I’m writing Havoc to stand alone, but leaving enough ideas open so there could be a Boook 5 and 6, if readers demand them.
Why do you think Steampunk is so popular right now?
Our machines are getting away from us. They’re small and sleek and we can’t see how they work. Even our cars have microchips in them. Steampunk lets us operate in a world with advanced technology that we can see and understand, with gears and pistons and steam and smoke. And the clothes are cool.
What do you love most about writing Steampunk/Fantasy?
It lets me be big and bold. Where else could I use grand titles like The Doomsday Vault or The Impossible Cube and get away with it? I also don’t have to make up excuses for grand adventure and brave people involved in world-shaking events—it’s all expected! What’s not to love?
What are some of your favorite fantasy novels or writers?
My favorite writer is Octavia E. Butler, who wrote mostly science fiction but did a chunk of fantasy. Go out and get her Wild Seed right now! Terry Pratchett is another author whose books I always get right when they come out, and Esther Friesner does delightful YA fantasy and historical. Sarah Zettel is doing some very funny urban fantasy mysteries in her Vampire Chef series, too.
Are there any particular writers that have had influenced your work?
The single writer who influenced my work the most is Marion Zimmer Bradley, though she influenced it more as an editor than a writer. Back when she was editing Sword and Sorceress and her fantasy magazine, she was very clear in her editorials and introductions on how a writer should think and behave and about what makes a good story. She bought a number of my stories, rejected a whole lot more of them, and taught me a hell of a lot about being a writer. One of the bigger regrets in my life is that I never met in her in person (though I talked to her on the phone a few times) or got her signature on any of her books before she died. On the other hand, I’m sure she’d be quick to point out that I have her signature in the most important place a writer can have it: at the bottom of a contract.
How do you manage such a busy writing schedule while raising three sons?
You know, I really don’t know at this point. I write quite a lot, and it always seems to me it’s never enough, and then one day I have 90,000 words. A big part of it is that I don’t watch much television, and I schedule time slots for nearly everything: family time, homework time, housecleaning time, and so on. The boys know the routine and have learned over the years to keep the bothering to a minimum when I’m writing. Thank heavens I don’t have to change diapers anymore!
You’ve also published a book called “Writing the Paranormal Novel”. What’s one bit of advice that you would give to struggling writers?
I’ll give two that I think are equally important. The first is, always remember that the money flows toward the writer. That will keep you out of 99% of all publishing scams. The second is, don’t quit. You can’t get better if you quit.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I recently sold a steampunk novella to an upcoming anthology of re-imagined fairy tales called Clockwork Fables. Roc is the publisher. My story is about a young tinkerer who encounters Baba Yaga in nineteenth century Kiev. I don’t know when it’s coming out, but I’ll shout about it!
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