Today marks the release of the fourth book in the ‘Clockwork Century’ series of steampunk novels from author Cherie Priest. For the uninitiated, ‘Clockwork Century’ is an alternate history series in which the American Civil War is still being waged in the late 19th century. In this version of history, technology has developed along different lines and the world is now home to airship travel, giant clanking war machines, and in at least one city… zombies!
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview the author about the ‘Clockwork Century’ series and her new novel. Want to know what to expect from ‘Ganymede’ or what the future holds for the characters of the ‘Clockwork Century’, read on!
Scott: You began your writing career as a writer of “southern gothic” and even horror stories. What prompted the switch to steampunk and, more recently, urban fantasy (with the ‘Cheshire Red’ series)?
Cherie: Frankly, the southern gothic and horror stories weren’t selling very well, so I started trying new things. I still love those books and those genres, don’t get me wrong – and someday, I hope to return to them. But my career path needed a new fork or two, so I branched out. And I’m very happy I did so! Both steampunk and urban fantasy have been oodles of fun – and very kind to me.
Scott: All of the ‘Clockwork Century’ novels are set in an alternate version of history in which the civil war has gone on for an extra fifteen or so years and technology has evolved along very different lines. How much historical research do you do for your novels? How do you find the balance between real history and the fantastic?
Cherie: That’s a hard question to answer, because I’m a big dork for history – local history in particular, as it’s always the weirdest. So most of my research comes in the form of quasi-leisure reading, and general nerdery. And when it comes to the Civil War stuff, I was born and mostly raised in the southeast. You osmose quite a lot being there where people still live in the shadow of the war and its outcome.
Scott: Since Andan Cly (the main character of ‘Ganymede’) is working for the Seattle Underground, will we see any returning or cameo spots from past characters as we did in ‘Dreadnought’ and ‘Clementine’?
Cherie: The next book, Ganymede, actually opens in Seattle – and spends a healthy chunk of time there. You’ll be seeing everyone again, I promise.
Scott: Keeping with that theme… Thus far, the ‘Clockwork Century’ novels have had distinct stories all set within a common universe. Do you have any plans or ideas for any epic cross-pollinating adventures that include these characters meeting up?
Cherie: Of course I do – but it’d be spoilery to start talking about them now … and also an err on the side of “counting chickens before they’ve hatched.” So I’ll just resist the urge to spill about what I’m working on next. But as soon as it’s public knowledge, I’ll blab away – rest assured!
Scott: The past three ‘Clockwork Century’ novels have centered around some very strong female protagonists. Now, according to the synopsis for ‘Ganymede’, you’re centering the tale around Adan Cly, a male airship pilot. Was there a conscious effort to switch things up?
Cherie: Cly shares the spotlight with his old girlfriend, Josephine Early. Ultimately it’s hard to say who “owns” the story more; it’s right down the middle. But I liked Cly a lot, and I saw a lot of potential for him and his crew outside the city of Seattle … I just thought it’d be fun to drag him down to the Big Easy.
Scott: How do you come up with the titles for your books? The first two titles tied directly to the massive machines at the center of their respective tales. ‘Boneshaker’ shook the ground and ‘Dreadnought’, although it was a train, was still essentially a rolling battleship. The synopsis for this book tells us that ‘Ganymede’ is a type of submarine(?). Can you tell us how it got its name or is that something that will be revealed in the novel?
Cherie: I don’t know. I hear a word, and I like it – and sometimes a story gels around it. Or sometimes I have a story, and I like it, and eventually it finds a title. There’s no magic to it. It’s kind of arbitrary, really.
Scott: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Cherie. Are there any closing words you’d like to say to fans of your books or steampunk fiction in general?
Cherie: Mostly all I can say is “thanks” – because I am impossibly grateful for the chance to write these books, and for the people who read them.
While you’re at it, check out the other books in the ‘Clockwork Century’ series:
Boneshaker: paperback / Kindle
Clementine: Kindle only
Dreadnought: paperback / Kindle
Tanglefoot (short story): read online
Be sure to visit the official ‘Clockwork Century’ website for more information.
(Photos courtesy of Caitlin Kittredge.)