Among the books I had received prior to the big surprise shipment from Edge, I had also received Clockwork Heart, written by an author whose name is even more intimidating to pronounce than mine: Dru Pagliassotti.
There’s something refreshingly joyful in Dru’s responses, which makes me really look forward to reading the rest of her book, and which made this interview a lot of fun to put together.
Clockwork Heart is the first installment in a steampunk trilogy, and is an award-winning reprint.
So, on with the show, this is it!
9 Day Wonder: In our preliminary conversation, I’d mentioned that your cover was to die for. Timothy Lantz is a fantastic artist, having done countless book covers, trading cards and other works. How much involvement did you have with the design of the cover for Clockwork Heart?
Dru Pagliassotti: As a general rule, traditionally published authors don’t get much say in cover art, and I was no exception — so I got incredibly lucky! I love the image that Timothy Lantz created for Clockwork Heart; I’m sure that I have his artwork to thank for a number of my readers. He illustrated the cover to the second book in the series, Iron Wind, too, which thrills me to no end. You can get a sneak preview of it if you look at the “in the works” list on EDGE’s website. Naturally, I’m hoping that Lantz do my third cover, as well, but I haven’t heard anything definitive yet.
(9DW note: click on the “in the works” link, and you may also notice a little thumbnail for some book called Expiration Date. Keep your eye on that one, folks. Just sayin’.)
9DW: I love, love, love collecting full sets, and Clockwork Heart is the (reprinted) first of a trilogy. Do you know the release dates for the next two?
DP: According to my publisher, Iron Wind: Clockwork Lies will come out on March 2014, and Heavy Fire: Clockwork Secrets will be out in September 2014. I’ve already checked the proofs to Iron Wind, but I only recently sent in the final manuscript for Heavy Fire, so I’m still waiting to hear whether I’ll have any editing to do before we get to the proofs stage.
9DW: Clockwork Heart has also been translated into German and French. Being an anglo-Montrealer with many francophone friends, I’ve always been curious about how to get a book translated. What’s the process?
DP: I was lucky enough to have representatives from those publishing houses write me directly to inquire about the rights, and I was able to send them to my agent, Trisha Telep, who handles all that confusing contractual work for me. As an aside, my book was retitled Icarus in France! Trisha has sent Clockwork Heart to other countries, too. I’m hoping for an Italian version! I’m of Italian descent, and I always buy novels while I’m in Italy, even though it takes me forever to work through them with a dictionary by my side. …Trisha is also shopping around a proposal for a manga version of Clockwork Heart illustrated by Sonia Leong. Since I also love reading manga, I’m hoping it’ll get picked up. (I also study yaoi manga, but Clockwork Heart doesn’t fall into that genre…!)
9DW: You’ve also got an audio version available (in English, I presume). So, same question: how does one get a book into audio format?
DP: Yes, in English … again, I was fortunate enough to be approached personally by a representative at Brilliance Audio. That was before I began working with Trisha, so I made arrangements with them myself. Nowadays, she’d do that for me.
9DW: Would you consider yourself a steampunk author, or do you write outside of steampunk as well?
DP: Well, I enjoy reading and writing all sorts of fiction, so I don’t think of myself as just a steampunk author. My other published novel, An Agreement with Hell, was contemporary horror, and most of my older short fiction has been horror or fantasy, although my recent work has been steampunk. My next novel will be a city-based fantasy or something more in the “dying earth” vein, depending on which manuscript I finish first. (Of course, having announced that in public, I’ll undoubtedly end up finishing a murder mystery or horror novel, first…!)
9DW: Lets say one of my readers picks up your book and falls in love with it, but can’t wait for your next two books in the trilogy to come out. What other books would you recommend he or she read, in the meantime?
DP: There are a lot of great steampunk novels out right now, but I’m going to recommend a political fantasy series with a lightly steampunkish atmosphere — Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge series, which meshes strange technologies with magic, monsters, and political intrigue. I was hooked by the first book, The Emperor’s Knife, and picked up the rest as fast as I could. I think that Clockwork Heart fans would find a lot to love about Wiliams’ series — the characters are memorable and the storytelling style is breezy and fun.
9DW: In 2008, Clockwork Heart won a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Small Press Contemporary Paranormal / Futuristic (which is a mouthful of an award, I must say). That said, would you say there’s a strong element of romance driving the plot? Or did character chemistry come together as a result of the plot?
DP: In fact, I did set out to write a steampunk romance. I started writing Clockwork Heart in November 2004; the genre was still dominated by male writers and most of the famous steampunk novels were, um, well … let’s just say that they lacked strong, positive female characters. I wanted to do something a little more appealing with the genre. In 2007, when Clockwork Heart was first picked up, editor Paula Guran asked in her June newsletter, “are we launching a new subgenre?” Maybe we did! Of course, steampunk romance has taken off since then and gone in all sorts of directions since then….
9DW: Having read through some of the reviews, I get the sense that this book is actually one of the yummiest combinations of everything you could hope for: romance, science fiction, fantasy, murder mystery, thriller, steampunk – do you think readers are becoming more and more attracted to such a fusion of genres?
DP: I hope so! I certainly am. I think that in our post-industrial, post-millenial, post-postmodern society, we’ve become so saturated by media and are so familiar with the usual plots and tropes that we appreciate seeing genres bent, broken, and reconstructed. I’d predict that the current fusion — erosion? — of genres will continue, although that’s going to make it tougher on marketers. I imagine it’s more difficult to market a “post-apocalyptic Southeast Asian dieselpunk political fantasy” than just “science fiction.” Or maybe not … I rather like having more descriptors, myself.
(9DW note: I dunno about that. Paolo Bacigalupi not only sold a post-apocalyptic Southeast Asian dieselpunk political fantasy, but he happened to pick up a Hugo and a Nebula for his troubles – and he’s got an even more intimidating last name than either me or Dru. But yeah, he probably sold it as science fiction and let reviewers pigeonhole him from there.)
9DW: Somewhat unrelated, but I have to know: who did those fantastic steampunk portraits of you on your website? The close up with the glasses and the cravat…wow, neat!
DP: Ah yes, “The Evil Doctor” portrait! My good friend and colleague Terry Spehar-Fahey is a watercolor professor at the university where I teach, and I think she enjoys having a model who won’t hesitate to throw on a costume when asked. Terry and I have taught an art/communication travel-study course that takes students to Venice, Italy, twice and we’re currently developing a course on comic books — I’ll cover the history and sociology, and she’ll cover the composition and drawing — for Spring 2015. It should be a lot of fun!
Twitter handle: @drupagliassotti
And for goodness sake, go buy the book(s): http://www.amazon.com/Clockwork-Heart-Dru-Pagliassotti/dp/1770530266