Interview (& Giveaway): Dave Freer, author of The Steam Mole

Dave Freer is a fascinating guy. Trust me on this one. Not only is he an author (prolific doesn’t really begin to cover it), he’s an ichthyologist, and I promise if you visit his Flinders Family Freer website, you’ll find yourself mesmerized by his and his family’s unique and fascinating lives (there are wombats!!). He’s funny too. I know, it’s totally not fair, but luckily, in his books, he shares some of this fun with us! To my delight, Dave was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions, so please give him a warm welcome!

Oh hey, did I mention that I have shiny new hardcover copies of Cuttlefish and The Steam Mole that will go to one lucky winner? Be sure you check the details at the bottom of the post!

Dave, your new book, The Steam Mole, is out this month! What can we look forward to from your heroes, Tim and Clara, in this installment?
(Blink) Chaos. Mayhem. Strange inventions, high ideals, adventure, courage. A shred of romance. What else do I ever deliver? In terms of where the story goes, into the red heart of Australia, A hotter-than-now heart, where humans survive as termites do. And coal is still king.

When you started the series, with Cuttlefish, did you already have in mind how many books you’d like to write or did you just plan to see where our characters took you?
Well, I would like to write one more. I had two definite in mind and one possible. The Antarctica book will have to wait for now. Basically they take steam into the environment and each book centers on the inventions that such an environment would need – I’ve done the sea, I’ve done the desert and tropics, and I’d love to do the ice and air. To some extent these are character growth and development stories, so barring new characters, there would be a limit on how fat I’d take Tim and Clara.

Cuttlefish and The Steam Mole have definitely been described as “steampunk”. Why do you think this genre has become so popular in recent years?
Um. Possibly because it has escaped the grey goo, angst and misery that seem to enveloped so much of the writing world? It’s a robust, exciting slightly eccentric and fun subgenre, which takes us down a pathway to a very different society. Steampunk still tends to leave you feeling good at the end of a book. And the inventions and clothing entertain me, and therefore, I hope, a lot of other people.

You’ve published many titles in adult fantasy. What made you decide to write a young adult series?
I think, having done such a lot of practicing, I am a little more skilled, and thus better equipped to write for slightly younger readers. No, I’m not joking. I’m firmly of the belief that if it is not good enough for adult audiences, it’s certainly not good enough for younger readers. Some of the concepts in CUTTLEFISH and STEAM MOLE are very complex. So is the underlying socio-politics and alternate history. I just didn’t have the skill to write that, in a way that was still a fast moving, fun story, full of high drama, back when I started. I like writing for younger audiences. They get excited by new ideas and that fires me up.

Is there one character in this series that you enjoy writing more than others?
Oh tough one. Cookie is probably nearest to my own character, so I have a soft spot for him. He’s the ship’s cook with the attitude that if you have to die, it might as well be well fed. Look, so much YA is just girly romance -which is all very well (I’m very fond of Georgette Heyer myself)but didn’t appeal much to me as a YA reader, and, um, appealed to girls like my now wife even less. Not that we objected to some romance, but we wanted story and action… So I set out to write the sort of hero and heroine that did things. I love the impetuous loyalty of Clara, and her attitude. She’s a heroine boys would like. I gather some females approve too.

You have a very rich and varied background, and I don’t think I’ve ever met an ichthyologist! What have been some of the biggest influences on your writing?
Deadlines. If I didn’t have them… Okay, look I always say I had a formal training in writing Science Fiction, as I made recommendations on how many fish could be caught. That’s fiction. Quite a lot of science is really quite fictional, but it affronts the dignity of people with PhD’s so it is bad manners to mention this. Look, you don’t need to have been swimming with sharks to write about it, but it helps (the writing, not the sharks. The sharks don’t think about books much.). The science background makes me research carefully, and makes me systematic and methodical about getting it all wrong. I have found, actually, that rock-climbing and diving side are both very much about balancing fear and determination. A hero isn’t someone who is not afraid. That’s a fool and not someone that’s easy for us ordinary people to identify with. Courage is taking the risks while knowing the consequences, and I suppose I do know about that balance Clara and Tim are, in very different ways both very determined, and at times, very afraid.

If someone were to visit you for the first time on your remote island home in the middle of the Bass strait, what would you show them first?
Show? Most of the time the poor beggars get off the plane, a little shaken (it’s a small plane and can be an interesting landing) and find themselves whisked off to DO, not to see. Gone to catch squid in the sunset, with the outer islands floating on the horizon like something out of Celtic myth, found themselves thrust into a kayak or shoved into a wetsuit, or walking up the mountain with a rope. Trousers Point reserve, where the mountain runs from granite crags and down to fossil remains of a mangrove forest etched into sea-caves and stone mushrooms, and the sea is either an angry froth or limpid clear turquoise, is where we’ve take the few visitors who thought would need a slightly gentler introduction to the enchanted islands.

When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your time?
When it rains or blows I read. I read fast and omnivorously. Yes, I even read shampoo bottle contents in the shower. I also cook, which I love. We’re self-sufficiency freaks, so we grow, rear or catch almost all our own food (except of course from the two basic food groups coffee and chocolate, which I have yet to succeed at. I have roasted my own beans though.). I love the sea and the cliffs and wild places, so I can often be found in water catching lobster or spearing fish, out among the islands.

What’s next for you?
Well two books going at the moment. CHANGELING’S ISLAND which oddly is about changelings and islands, and the sea, danger and dogs with moustaches, which you might not have guessed by the title. I also am in the throes of the next massive Alternate history/fantasy novel set in 15th century Venice. Lots of interesting food in that, and a few cockatrices.
Keep up with Dave: Author Site | Flinders Family Freer | Twitter

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of CUTTLEFISH and 1 copy of THE STEAM MOLE by Dave Freer to to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 12/20/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of PYR
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Cuttlefish:
The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery, and capture. Under flooded London’s canals, they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty—the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no farther than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

About The Steam Mole:
Steampunk adventure with an environmental point

Tim Barnabas is a submariner from the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine. Clara Calland is the daughter of a scientist who carries a secret formula that threatens British Imperial power. After a daring chase across the globe, they have brought the secret to Westralia. Here, much of Australia is simply too hot to be habitable by day. People are nocturnal, living underground and working outside at night. To cross the deserts they use burrowing machines known as “steam moles.” With the Cuttlefish out of action, her crew take jobs on these submarine-like craft.

Duke Malcolm, of the Imperial Security Service, transports Clara’s rebel father to a prison in Eastern Australia, hoping to bait her into attempting a rescue. Clara looks to Tim for help, only to find he has fled from a racist incident into the desert. She takes a steam mole in search of him. The two head to Eastern Australia, where they discover an invading force with plans to take Westralia. Forced to survive in the desert, they encounter the intolerance meted out to the aboriginal people. Can they save Westralia from falling under British rule? And should they?


  1. I’ll be golden if I can win this for my niece!

  2. Pingback: Competition and interview | Coal-Fired Cuttlefish

  3. I love Dave Freer’s writing. His Bolg the Blue Detective just has me giggling every time I read one of them! Thank you so much for the interview!

  4. I’ve been a Dave Freer fan since The Forlorn! And he’s a thoroughly nice bloke too. 🙂

  5. Loved Cuttlefish in its original incarnation – so glad that it has spawned a sequel and a series!

  6. I’m very much in agreement that quite a bit of YA is angled towards romance, so it’s nice to see stories geared toward adventure and exploration!

    I will most definitely be checking these out! 🙂

  7. Steampunk is one of my all time favorite genres.. I also love the covers on your books. I’d love to win them.

  8. Dave Freer’s novels are always good to read. In fact I already have a copy of Cuttlefish and it’s on the top of my to be read soon stack. I also have all of the novels of his that Baen has published.

  9. thanks for sharing! This sounds fantastic!

  10. Hey, I’d love to win one of Dave’s books! And share it with my children, too – it looks to be just the right stage for them. Glad to hear you’ve been prospering since the move, Dave. 🙂 Wombats and steampunk, oh my.

  11. Sounds like a fun read.

  12. Yay steampunk! *claps hands with glee*

  13. I enjoyed Cuttlefish and am very interested in now reading The Steam Mole. I love how these steamy machines are given animal names, it gives them more character. I found that in Cuttlefish, the Cuttlefish was the most outstanding character. Will the Steam Mole be the same way? I hope so.

  14. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Dave Freer and would love to read these two books.

  15. Very nice interview.

  16. I would love to get these for my daughter. She has never read a steampunk before and this looks like the perfect way to introduce it 🙂 thanks!

  17. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share with us. I saw the title Cuttlefish it made me smile and when I saw the title The Steam Mole it made me grin. I am glad you have ventured into escaping the “grey goo” and am looking forward to joining in on the journey 🙂

  18. These look like great fun! Sign me up!

    -John Leavitt

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