— With corrections! I had originally written the name as C.J. Lang. It’s C.A. Lang, and I’m a goof. —
A few weeks back, I happened to check on my business email address, and I jumped out of my skin. It was an email from Margaret Curelas of Tyche Books (rhymes with ‘Psyche Looks’ – I know, ’cause I asked), and she’d sent me the email a couple of weeks earlier. I kicked myself for not having checked my emails earlier. I felt horrible for not having seen that she’d sent me an email.
I replied right away, because she had asked me if I would be interested in interviewing three of her authors. Naturally I jumped on the chance, and she kindly forgave me for having not replied.
And now, here’s the first of such interviews. Here’s to a long and happy stretch of interviews lined up between Nine Day Wonder and Tyche Books.
PF: First of all, congratulations on your launch of Blightcross! I know for most folks, this is the accomplishment of a life’s dream, and it can take several years of hard work before the work finally makes it to stores. Tell us a little bit about the making of Blightcross.
CAL: Thank you! It’s been about five years since I started it. As always, I started with filling a notebook with worldbuilding, character sketches, and a detailed plot outline. For me, a story is like a machine or program–plot coupons and character motivation function like gears driven by an engine that is the premise. I even set a word-count goal so I can control pacing properly. One of my biggest problems with fantasy is that the books are often too long, and I’m a slow reader. I don’t want to be stuck with a book for six months unless it’s a masterpiece like Ulysses. Once I’ve figured out the story’s architecture, I cranked out a good first draft in 3 months, let it sit for 3 weeks, and edited. Then nobody wanted it, and my life took another course that led me away from writing for two years, and now, suddenly, it’s been published.
PF: And while you’re at it: tell us a bit more about C.A. Lang! I understand you’re hosting a writing camp for some pre-teens?
CAL: I’m just a nervous person with my fingers in too many pies. I’m in the health and fitness industry, am a musician who plays seemingly disparate things like jazz and death metal, and am of course a writer as well. I’m not a health nut despite being an avid runner and former personal trainer–I’m prone to transgressions, and like to cook food that would make other personal trainers cringe.
The B.C. Youth Write Camp was an event to which I was invited by the organizer. It was a week of presenting a worldbuilding workshop to groups in a wide range of ages. The learning curve was gigantic, especially since I know nothing about workshops, am generally poor at public speaking, and quite anxious. In the end, it was a thrilling experience, even though I think I bombed. However, it wasn’t about me, but these young writers, and regardless of my own ego it was a privilege to be part of this year’s camp. It’s an amazing thing for these kids, who all really like to write and are serious about doing the work, and I never had anything like that around me growing up. I never had anyone telling me to write, or telling me how, or telling me that it was a good thing to do. So it’s an incredible opportunity for them.
PF: I’ve begun reading your book already, and I’ve checked out some of the reviews. One term that keeps coming up is ‘Dieselpunk‘. I’m only vaguely familiar with Steampunk, so I wanted to know right off the bat: why do you think readers are drawn toward Steampunk and Dieselpunk?
CAL: I think it could be that on one hand, people who are used to traditional fantasy might be hungry for a twist, at last. On the other, steampunk could be more accessible since a lot of it is centred around our own world. On a deeper level, readers might be getting more sophisticated and craving something more than traditional fantasy usually offers. But I can speculate and complicate all I want. Maybe it’s just that until now there haven’t been as many writers of those genres, and that now there are enough cultural products from that area that it has a wider audience. It’s just plain cool and people like cool stuff. That’s the most likely reason behind it.
PF: And of course, the inevitable question: what’s the difference between Steampunk and Dieselpunk?
CAL: It depends on who you ask. In general, steampunk loses its steam but not its punkness around 1920. Then it assimilates the trauma of global war brought by mechanization. Dieselpunk turns the novelty of steampunk gadgetry into more sophistication and industrial prowess. The social attitudes are a little less backward and there’s a certain sense of monumentalism. That was a big part of my novel–I wanted stuff to be big.
If that all sounds too esoteric, think of steampunk as Jules Verne and Dieselpunk as Indiana Jones. The latter is pretty late for dieselpunk in my view, but then again I’m partial to the art nouveau period. I would use the catchphrase “high modernist genre fiction” to describe dieselpunk.
PF: What have been some of your biggest influences in creating this book?
CAL: On one hand, James Joyce and other modern writers are a huge influence on me in general. Michael Moorcock’s approach to writing had the biggest impact though. In many ways, the fast-paced serials he wrote are very dieselpunk. I always loved how he’s able to pack so much epic fantasy into easy-to-read serials that were never bogged down in pages and pages of indulgence. Yet at the same time, the man can write beautifully and takes the genre into completely different territory. China Miéville also came into it. I think it was Perdido Street Station that I had read around that time.
PF: It’s a quiet afternoon, and you’re stuck waiting for an appointment. What’s the book you’ve brought with you to read?
CAL: Like literally? Right now, Airman by Eoin Colfer.
PF: I can buy two other books, besides Blightcross. What do you recommend?
CAL: Upcoming Kevin J. Anderson novel Clockwork Angels and Michael Moorcock’s Von Bek sequence.
PF: As a relatively new and emerging author, what have been some of the biggest surprises you’ve had?
CAL: First, getting published in the first place. Then the sheer terror of doing a reading. Then the fact that the worrying you thought would be over after someone agrees that they like your book enough to publish it actually never ends. On a more positive note, the way some of the people around me who would never have read a novel like mine find that they’re able to get into it, since they were initially only interested because they knew me. I wrote this novel to be of interest to anyone and it’s good to have that feedback, since it’s an obscure genre at the moment and a hard sell on the casual reader.
PF: And, as a new and emerging author, what have you done to start really marketing your work and yourself as an author? Doing any tours, any launches, any signings?
CAL: I’m doing local signings, and am hoping to be able to take it a little further. Also I’ve done a lot of guest blog posts, and of course do my own regular ramblings. I’ll take any chance I can get to leave town and promote this book, which is really hard when you have day job commitments and other stuff going on.
PF: What’s the next big thing for C.A. Lang?
CAL: I’m working on a sequel. Regardless of whether or not it sees the light of day, it’ll be really exciting to write. The story is expanding in ways I never predicted, despite that I’m a militant outliner.
shows. Growing up around Victorian architecture likely had something to do with
his appreciation of steampunk, although we’re not quite sure why he felt the
need to ditch the steam engines and go all internal-combustion on the genre. He
has settled in Kelowna, B.C., where sometimes he can be found abusing a
gigantic jazz guitar in public, hanging around certain wineries, and running
obscene distances. (http://petropunk.wordpress.com)