Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to steampunk fantasy author Dan Van Werkhoven. His debut novel is Sentinel: The Dragon Striker Chronicles Book 1. You can contact Dan through his website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing on and off for twelve years now. I kind of had two starts, my first was as a teen. I always loved the idea of telling stories, but writing? Yeah, no. I was a strict two-finger typist. Do you know how long it’d take to write an entire novel with just two fingers?

You don’t? Well, I didn’t either—still don’t—and I wasn’t about to try and find out.

Then I found out about NaNoWriMo from a friend. “Write a novel in a month!” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.

So this two-finger typist decided to give it a whack.

Let me tell you, if you want to learn how to touch type, writing a 50k novel in one month is a good way to learn. I didn’t stay a two-finger typist for long!

I got the novel done (it was terrible, but it was a start) and over the next few years I wrote several more novels and a handful of short stories.

Then I stopped.

In 2015 I moved to another country and couldn’t legally work while I waited for visa stuff to process. So once again I took up the proverbial pen and got to it!

Three years later, I have a novel and a prequel novella out. The second novel will be released later in 2018, with the third in the series scheduled for early-mid 2019.

 What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best: Being able to take readers on a thrill ride to strange and wonderful worlds. Coming up with those worlds is so much fun. Not much brings a bigger smile to my face than hearing from a reader how much they loved one of my stories. That’s why I write, to entertain.

The worst: The majority of my creative career has been in music and film. Both of those are VERY collaborative industries. Writing? Not so much. I’m pretty introverted, but when it comes to creating, I love working with people.

Thus far in my writing career, it’s been a solitary journey, and it’s seriously hard for me. I thrive off input and collaboration. Fortunately though, I have plenty of voices in my head to collaborate with.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

Oh, that’s a tricky one. See, I love me some good old-fashioned medieval fantasy, but I’m a machinist by trade (well, one trade, anyway). So while I like to read medieval fantasy, I prefer to write 1800s-1900s style time periods in fantasy settings with magic and steam-powered contraptions. That gives me heaps of room to go crazy inventing cool tech. Plus it lets me play with magic systems and a little bit of sword fighting.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Oh goodness. Probably the weirdest was for a story I wrote when I was younger—back before I switched to writing clean fiction. I wrote a story about a taxidermist who accidentally killed an extremely irritating customer, and, well, hid the evidence in plain sight using his skills as a taxidermist. So yeah, I did a fair bit of research into taxidermy.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Definitely Jesus’ day so I could see and hear him teach for myself. Might need to learn a new language for that one though, unless they’ve got universal translators by the time they get the time machines up and running.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Three places:

One, collaborating with Ancel Haegler, whose name you see on the cover of Sentinel Code. He and I came up with the world for The Dragon Striker Chronicles.

Two, when I’m slogging away at a story refusing to let “writers block” beat me—this is when I get my best ideas. Usually for a completely unrelated story…

Three, in the shower.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Hmmm. Good question. Because I write in a secondary world, I generally only check history to see if certain technology styles were invented in the time period I’m working with. As far as culture goes, I base a lot of it off current times and deal with issues prevalent in the world today. I want to connect with pronlems my readers are currently face, not so much ones the world has faced in the past.

That being said, I do need to dig into some resources for historical battles, because the next book I’m writing has a huge battle. As every battle has already been fought, just with different weapons, I want to do some reading. If anyone has recommendations, please do leave a comment! I’d love to check them out.

Finally, I also have a bunch of stories I’d like to write based upon situations various people went through in the Bible. I think they’d make for some fascinating fantasy tales.

The best place in the world to write is…

As I’ve recently taken up dictation to save my poor wrists… right now I love wandering around outside. I live on a tropical island and my backyard is a jungle with ruins in it. It’s hot and humid and there are bugs, but it’s such a neat place to write.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

Preachin’. As of writing this post, I’m the interim pastor at my church, so that takes up a large chunk of my week. Which is still a lot of writing, it’s just non-fiction instead of fantasy.

Other than that, I’m spending time with my wife, watching movies, and playing games and being a nerd with my friends.

What are you currently working on?

Hard at work on The Dragon Striker Chronicles Book Two, the sequel to Sentinel Code. I also have a couple of smaller projects in the works: a sci-fi short, and a swashbuckling steampunk fantasy novella I’m co-writing with my younger brother.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is Shauna E. Black. Shauna writes historical fantasy (Western), epic fantasy and dystopian.  Her most recent book is Rebel Bound, and she’s working on a new edition of her first novel, Fury of the Storm Wizard, which will be re-released under the new title Thunderstruck. You can find her through her website or Facebook page, and she also occasionally hangs out on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Shauna is also offering a special free short story to blog readers, which you can read more about below, and download here.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I’ve always loved books and reading, so I guess it was natural to start creating my own stories. I used to inhale Nancy Drew, and some of my earliest manuscripts were imitations of those books. I called my teen sleuth Julie Jones, and she had two best friends that were twins. I still have one of my original manuscripts, written in pencil on half-sheets of paper. I even drew the illustrations!

Probably the best thing that happened to me when I was young was my seventh-grade English teacher. She announced in class that she’d give extra credit for anyone who turned in original short stories. I went hog-wild and started handing her story after story. Never mind that I already had an A in her class. Ha ha! But she was very patient with me and diligently read each one. She gently corrected my errors and wrote encouraging things in the margins. One thing she said that’s stuck with me all these years was: “You are a writer!” I was over the moon when she told me that! The first book in my Soul in Ashes series is dedicated to her.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

I like to end on upbeat notes, so let’s start with the worst things:

Marketing. (Ugh!) That’s it in a nutshell, for me. Actually, I do enjoy creating marketing materials, like newsletters and graphics for ads and so forth. I just struggle with the delivery part. Like a lot of authors, I’m a hopelessly-incurable introvert, but I like connecting one-on-one with folks once I get over that shyness hurdle. Then there’s the whole issue of drowning in an ocean of books and making my books visible to more than a handful of people. That’s been incredibly hard.

The best thing about writing is getting to make up stories in my head that make my heart sing. I love to exercise my creativity and dream up magic systems, twists on the world we know, and interesting characters that struggle and overcome big problems. It’s icing on the cake when I get positive feedback from readers who actually seem to enjoy my little imagination as much as I do.

I also like the entire process of publishing, which was a surprise for me when I first became an indie author. (Well, I love everything but formatting. Formatting should go in the paragraph with marketing. Ugh.)

I worked for years as a graphics designer in television and on the web, so I really love designing covers too, though I consider myself still a newbie in this arena, trying to learn what makes a good book cover.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I think it would be the Victorian era, encompassing Westerns. That’s where my first published book ended up, and I had a lot of fun researching the era. I set the novel in the town where my ancestors mined the Colorado Rockies, and I learned a lot about the mining industry. But my favorite aspect of it was learning about what a school day was like, and the games kids played—especially marbles.

The other reason I like Victorian is because I have a steampunk that’s been kicking around in my head for awhile, full of airships and piracy. One of these days, I’ll get around to finishing that one. 😉

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Hair jewelry. It’s just so deliciously enchanting and creepy at the same time. Ha ha! That’s another reason to love Victorian! A few years ago, I was visiting my brother in Indiana and went into a little antique jewelry shop. The owner was really knowledgeable and had some hair jewelry pieces on display. She told me a little about them, and I became fascinated. I started developing an idea for either a fantasy or a ghost story that hinged on hair jewelry. (That’s another one I need to finish. So many ideas, so little time!)

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

That’s a tough question—not because I can’t think of anything, but because I can think of too many things! I love to travel, anyway, and to be able to add time to that would just be incredible!

Well, if it’s anywhere, then that includes fictional settings in books, right? I’ve always wanted to visit The Citadel of Wizards in Barbara Hambly’s book Dog Wizard. It sits on a hill overrun with plants and has all sorts of secret passages and lovely little nooks and crannies.

But if I must be grounded in reality, then I’d love to visit the British Isles during the dark ages— visit being the keyword, since I wouldn’t actually want to live during that time without indoor plumbing. 😉

Where do you find creative inspiration?

A lot of my inspiration comes from the area where I live. I’m in the US Southwest, and there are Ancient Puebloan ruins everywhere. In the spring is the best time to visit them, since it isn’t too hot then. Most of the ruins are a little hard to reach, with moderate to difficult hiking. I’ve been visiting these ruins since I was a kid, and I’ve always found it fascinating to imagine what life was like for the people that lived back then. I guess that’s the most interesting facet of history for me: making up stories about the real people that came before—what they were like, the challenges they faced, what they did every day, etc. My Soul in Ashes setting borrowed a lot from the southwest (Aztec and Ancient Puebloan) mixed in with the Celts. Kind of an odd combination, I know, but I had a lot of fun juxtaposing those cultures against each other.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

I don’t know that I have any one main source for my research. I do a lot on the Internet, just word searches in Google. I remember the days before Internet was a thing (I’m dating myself here). Research was a lot harder. I would go to the library and drag home whatever books they had on the subject, but it was severely limited compared to what I can find out now. The whole world really is at our fingertips, and the hardest part nowadays is picking and choosing from the incredible amount of information out there. But, writing in the fantasy subgenre helps because I can bend the truth to suit the story, so the source doesn’t have to necessarily be accurate. Ha ha!

The best place in the world to write is…

At home by myself. To really write well, I’ve found I need a certain level of concentration that I simply don’t get when other people are in the house.  So, I like to do my writing while my four kids are at school and my husband is at work. After they get home, it’s all over as far as writing goes.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom by myself, reading or writing or drawing. I overheard my parents talking once about it. My mom was concerned because she didn’t think it was normal for a kid to be so solitary. My dad said, that’s just how writers are!

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

My husband is a CPA, so during the US tax season I’m his secretary. That means I don’t get much writing done in the spring, but I think it’s important to support him just as he supports me in my endeavors.

Other than that, I keep busy being a mom to four beautiful girls between the ages of seventeen and nine. There’s always something they need, whether it’s rides to piano lessons or play practices, help with homework, or dinner. (Oh yeah. Guess I have too cook every so often, too.)

What are you currently working on?

I’m in between projects at the moment. I just finished a YA dystopian, which was a complete about-face for me, as far as genre is concerned. But I really enjoyed writing it, and I have fans clamoring for a second instalment, so I’m planning to get going on that as soon as tax season eases up enough to give me some wiggle room.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog! I’ve really enjoyed chatting about writing! I would like to offer your readers a fun little story for free, as a thank you. It’s called A Mess of Magic and is a spin-off from my Thunderstruck novel. They can download it here.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is fantasy and steampunk writer M.K. Wiseman. She’s about to release Kithseeker, the second book in her Bookminder trilogy. You can find her through her website, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, where she goes by the handle @FaublesFables.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

My writing journey started in earnest in the [northern] summer of 2004. I was recovering from a rather serious surgery and had a lot of time of my hands plus some very vivid post-hospital dreams. One, in particular, stuck with me for reasons unknown. I spent the rest of my summer break figuring out the story behind it. That became the crux of my first novel, The Bookminder. However, the manuscript sat in a drawer, only partially finished, until a number of years later when I knocked together a short story for fun, simply because I had heard about a publisher accepting submissions for an anthology. Three short stories in, three anthologies later, I’d unearthed my old half-cooked novel and started to write full-time.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The misery of it all. (Mostly kidding there. Mostly.) Truthfully, writing is a rather solitary pursuit. Or, really, it’s a very private pursuit. I run, leap, shout, scream, do magic spells, and go travelling for hours a day—and all inside my head. It’s exhausting. And then I emerge from this imaginary space and try to cook dinner or iron a few shirts. It’s a little like wilfully choosing to be a bit mad.

*Note, I did answer the question . . . The best and the worst, for me, are all rolled up into this same, ever-curious experience of truly believing your imaginary friends are real, and then making them so, and then going out amongst people at the grocery store and pretending you’re absolutely normal on the inside and that you did not just murder a man in the Old West a half an hour ago.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

Late 1800s. For the simple reason that there is ever so much more information available on that time period than, say, the 1600s. (Information of the flavor I use, that is. For example, I adore historical map overlays. Also, I love the idea that a building I am writing about is still standing and might be visited by the intrepid.) Additionally, English is much closer to our modern use when you hit the end of the 19th century. e.g. If I want a character to simply say “Hello” I can, actually, do so.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

I once had to determine whether there was a train route in Nebraska, in 1890, that crossed over a trestle at the exact point of a ley line.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

This is a terrible thing to ask a Whovian! 😉 😉

Though the thought terrifies me, I think I should like to go somewhere into the far future and see how far we all travelled out into the stars, if world peace was ever found . . . and, essentially, whether we humans “make it” or not in the end.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I think the heart of everything I write stems from “things I love.” I don’t sit on a bench and people-watch, or collect interesting dialogue overheard at a coffee shop. I don’t put enemies into my books and give them gruesome deaths, as the old threat goes.

Each story is a love letter of sorts, me “geeking out” and sharing a place, a concept, an interest that I hold dear . . . and then taking it out of the personal so that I can deny up, down, left, right that my characters have any of me in them. 😉

What’s your favourite historical resource?

I absolutely adore the National Library of Scotland’s map overlays. I love, love, love this resource and am dropping a link here so that folks can go explore it. Historical maps + Bing overlay for easy modern reference? Amazing. Thank you, National Library of Scotland. Thank you.

The best place in the world to write is…

I think my favorite spot for writing is the Memorial Union Terrace at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Good light, good movement and sound—a perfect hum of distant distraction and productivity. A lake to look at when my eyes need a break. Access to good foods and drinks.  . . . And there’s always a chance I might run across an old sailing buddy who needs an extra hand on a keelboat for the afternoon. Being on a campus, the place is simply steeped in ambition, the air heavy with endless, lovely potential.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

Reading, of course. But I also play with a Croatian folk orchestra (I play brač) and so have to keep those skills sharp. I juggle a bit; unicycle for fun; am trying to learn a couple languages via phone apps (I figure that with such a marvelous technology, I ought use it to better myself); I am a big fan of anime; I have a love/hate relationship with running; and, this year, am learning to play my dad’s accordion. You know, hobbies. 😉

What are you currently working on?

Looking to finish the Bookminder trilogy. Which is a huge project, really, and ought to be filling my time. But I also have several back-burner projects, one of which I am actively shopping, one which I pick at/edit from time to time, and a third—my current favorite—which will require endless research and, potentially, a trip to finish.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is Nix Whittaker. Nix writes steampunk/alternative history, sci-fi romance, and is working on her first mystery. Her most recent novel is The Jade Dragon, the third instalment of her Wyvern Chronicles trilogy, and she has also just released a Christmas novella, Ruby Beyond Compare. You can get in touch with her via her website or Facebook page.

How long have you been writing, and what got you started?

I started writing when I was a little girl as I ran out of books to read. I’m dyslexic and my teacher recommended that I read more books, but at that stage I was reading about 100 books a year, and I quickly read out my library. So I started writing my own. It took a really long time to actually finish any of my stories. Once I decided I’d publish, I finished a book in a month. That was three years ago, though some days feels like a lifetime.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best – well, that is being able to live in different worlds in your head. I love being able to create new friends for myself. The worst is the imposter syndrome. Always thinking that no matter how many books you have that you are never good enough to be classed as an author.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

At the moment I’m enjoying the 1830s as there was so little technology back then that you have to double-check everything. Little things like photos in newspapers. I like the challenge.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

The question should be where don’t I find inspiration. I can get inspiration from a throwaway comment from friends. A character from a movie or a documentary. Inspiration is everywhere.

The best place in the world to write is…

Last year I had writer’s block, so to get over it I headed to the mountains. Took the ski lift right up to the top of the mountain and watched ski bunnies go down the slopes while I sat in the nice cosy restaurant and wrote. The glistening white snow and the view down the slopes was great inspiration. I would recommend cold to write as it’s much easier to see the screen. I find summer terrible for glare off your screen if you try to write outside.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I’m a cliché when it comes to being an author. I’m an English teacher with cats. So when I’m not writing I’m teaching English, fostering kittens for the SPCA and reading. I read a lot. Though this year I didn’t reach my reading goal on Goodreads. Very disappointing. This year I’m being more conservative and I’ll only read 150 books.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on my first mystery. All my other books are epic in scope as they deal with civil war and empires. This time I’m going small to a single murder and the only thing really at risk is my character’s career and possibly life. I’m enjoying the red herrings though. You don’t have many of those when you are dealing with a moustache-twirling villain. Ironically I got the idea for this story from a book cover I was making for my other side job. It was too good to put in as just a pre-made, so I decided to keep it except I didn’t have a story to go with it. That was when my Lady Golden Hand was born.

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is Guy Worthey. Guy writes young adult adventure, specifically 1920s noir with steampunk elements. His most recent book is Ace Carroway and the Great War. You can get in touch with him via his website or Facebook page, or on Twitter (@guyworthey).

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve only been seriously writing fiction-for-publication for a couple of years. However, my first publication was in second grade, when the teacher collected poems from the class. She retyped them, mimeographed them (yep, before photocopiers!), and made books held together with brass brads. Each kid made their own covers by gluing the letters P-O-E-T-R-Y onto construction paper. I was enthralled by the experience. The poem was, in its entirety, “Once, when flowers popped, they exploded.”

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

Best: writing.

Worst: editing.

I bet all the authors say that.

On the interface with the outside world, however, I’m really torn by the childish need to seek approval and the introvert’s instinct to just hide. So, on that axis, the best thing is the good review and the worst thing is the bad review.

Finally, on the axis of coffee:

Best: coffee.

Worst: coffee runs out.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I can’t pick just one! I love the noir period, of course. I really want to write a steampunk story some time. I grew up on a steady diet of medieval fantasy, so I’m always drawn to a swords-and-sorcery yarn. Personally, I avoid contemporary, post-apocalyptic, and anything where people have elongated canines.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Underwear, maybe. Specifically, the problem of having a 1920s woman who does athletic things.

The thermodynamics of jet engines, maybe. Or, how the Hindenburg’s crew actually handled that huge thing.

Then there is the tool called a breast drill. I euphemistically called it a chest drill to avoid teens snickering about it. It’s a heavy-duty drill that you lean into to apply pressure, and that’s how it gets its name. It’s got a long handle for extra leverage that the operator spins with their right hand while guiding their aim with their left hand.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Definitely the future. As much as I love various past times and places, I really really really want to jump a couple hundred years forward and see how the moon base is coming along and check on the Mars colony and see if we have found life around some other star.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I get inspiration from almost everything. Music, chance remarks overheard, reading, dreaming, or simply listening to other people talk about what is important to them.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

A good, dusty, overstuffed secondhand bookstore! Digging around in such a place is where I have found some of my best references. You find crazy, quirky stuff lurking in the corners of such shops. My most fervent hope is that internet doesn’t kill off these shops.

The best place in the world to write is…

By a window overlooking the storm-lashed Scottish seaside cliffs.

I imagine. Never done that, actually. I do have a window, though, and I try to sit by it. I actually enjoy typing on a keyboard to write, though I prefer to read in the traditional manner of ink on paper pages.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I have a day job, but also plenty of hobbies. Foremost among them is probably jazz bass. I never get tired of playing in a hot combo. In general, I allow myself to get distracted. The occasional wild goose chase is good for a body.

What are you currently working on?

I’m finishing #2 in my Ace Carroway series, called Ace Carroway Around the World. This means I’m editing. Sigh. As I edit, I try to not get seduced by the dark side, such as writing a spinoff or going back to my half-drafted fantasy trilogy. Anyway, Ace #2 should be ready for release by March or April.