Bestselling writer Emilie P. Bush is the Publisher of Coal City Steam Blog, and CoalCitySteam.com, as well as other fine blogs. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Steampunk Chronicle. A former Senior Staff Reporter and host of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Georgia Gazette, Emilie is the author of the novel Chenda and the Airship Brofman (2009). Her second novel, The Gospel According to Verdu (2011) picks up where Chenda left off – high in the skies and full of adventure. Emilie’s first children’s book, Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk bedtime story (illustrated by William Kevin Petty) hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in the Science Fiction genre. Her second children’s book, Steamduck Learns to FLY!, launched in late 2012. Emilie is an ABNA Quarterfinalist (2013) and Semifinalist (2010.) She is a calendar girl – Ms. December 2014 – for the Girls of the Con Calendar. Additionally, Emilie does book interior layout and design for other indy authors.Check out Emilie’s website: www.coalcitysteam.comFollow her on Twitter: @CoalCitySteam
KH: Atlanta Magazine recently noted that Atlanta ranks #1 for Steampunk. Perfect coincidence: you live there. You KNOW this genre inside out. You write it; you speak on it, you breathe it at cons. Take us back. Where did Steampunk, as a genre, begin?
EB: Interesting that. Seattle Steampunks will tell you they are, Chicago-punks, too. Clearly they have been flying at too great an altitude. Steampunk began as a Literary Movement – a direct response to the Cyperpunk genre. In fact, the early writers (Jeeter, Powers, Blaylock) WERE Cyberpunk writers. Early Steampunk was equally dark and dystopian. Over the years, it has evolved into it’s own: more adventure, stripes of romance and horror and comedy and even children’s books. I’ve interview most of the founding fathers (and the presiding mother – Cheri Priest) and the fellows all scratch their heads at what the genre has become. They don’t feel they own it at all (see my interview with Tim Powers http://youtu.be/B5CLnMJPPcg) — it’s grown into a huge movement.
KH: Fast forward: The Steampunk literary genre has grown tremendously, yet there’s confusion over how to describe it. How would you define Steampunk today?
EB: High adventure in low technology.
KH: Pull out your crystal ball. Any prediction for where the genre is going? Are there any boundaries yet to be pushed?
EB: Oh that is the big question, isn’t it. There is a bit of a battle going on right now to define Steampunk. It is a difficult thing to put in a package when MOST of it is do it yourself. The elements of recycling, upcycling and inventing, of self reliance, make it a hard demographic to market to. At this moment, a tv series called Bruce Boxleitner’s Lantern City is looking for a home. FABU concept, great actors signed on, complicated world building, and a huge buy in from out community already, so why hasn’t it found a network? It’s so up for grabs – this product called Steampunk. Beyond that, it doesn’t lend itself well to product placement. But some may not agree with Boxleitner on HIS definition of steampunk – which is somewhat dark and violent. Others want to define it there way, and that’s OKAY! It is not like the Marvel Comics cannon where each character is trademarked and image branded. The future of Steampunk is going to be decided by the people who brand it. And when there are rules to this game, a lot of early adopters will take their goggles and go home.
LET’S TALK WRITING…
EB: I was a long time writer of NON-fiction. I sold my first news story to NPR when I was 19-years old, and have been a professional writer since. When I “retired” from journalism (and I neither retired or actually stopped writing, it seems) I got the yen to create when I was TOTALLY plowed under as a new mother. I needed something for me – that didn’t include washing cloth diapers and making baby food. And a character study a friend of mine, Trish Nolde, wrote plagued me for a very long time. I like two elements of her character – the shady airship captain and the scholar explorer. I talked to her about taking those elements and making a new story – which became Chenda and the Airship Brofman. Trish has been one hell of a muse for years.
KH: You’ve written several acclaimed Steampunk titles for children. Talk about the nuances of writing for younger readers.
EB: I was TERRIFIED to write children’s books. ( Keep in mind I have interviewed more than one US president.) Kids are TOUGH and the couch NOTHING in kindness. I realize, after three children’s books, that the role of the author in children’s books is… small. The pictures are key, and William Kevin Petty is really good at knowing what appeals to a child’s eye. As for the writing, verse is TOUGH. Short stories are harder than novels. But – it’s SO much fun…
KH: Can you give a few tips for writing great Steampunk?
EB: (1.) Know what Steampunk IS to you. Make your world and live in it. (2) Know that the difference between Steampunk and another genre with gears glued on – is SUBVERSION. Play with cast systems, play with putting historically appropriate morals and customs on their ear. (3) Don’t get lost in the gadgets and moustaches. I’ve seen many a good story come to a screeching halt to describe some brass or handlebars. Focus on the story. The ADVENTURE.
LET’S TALK EMILIE…
KH: Are you a disciplined writer with a set routine? Or total Bohemian? (please tell us about your writing process)
EB: I don’t force the muse. You force it you get rotten muse. SO, I write in spurts. I try to set goals but that is futile. Deadlines are better.
KH: Any new projects to share?
EB: Coal City Stories should have a coloring and activity book out by Christmas and two books out in the first half of 2014. AND at some point I will finish book 3 of the Brofman Series (sorry fans – it will be worth the wait) and I’m exploring some contracts for an urban fantasy I wrote last year – THAT, I think, is the best thing I have ever written.
LET’S TALK CROSSROADS…
KH: You attend and speak at a lot of writer conferences – DragonCon, JordanCon, Deep South Con, to name a few. And you’re a repeat presenter at the Crossroads Writer’s Conference. What’s a highlight from last year’s Crossroads Conference?
EB: Can I say the Karaoke? No wait – the NaNoWriMo GOD keynote lunch – I mean, I TOTALLY drank the kool aid. The joy of sitting with FANTASTIC authors.
KH: What can 2013 Crossroad Conference attendees look forward to?
EB: You miss half the conference if you don’t turn up at the bar, or at breakfast. I’ve never know a more approachable crowd of writers than the ones at CWC. It’s kinda set up that way. Chris Horne has magic in a bottle with this gem – it’s the best conference I do ALL YEAR.