Last week I did an interview with Phoebe Darqueling. I just wanted to pass along an update from Phoebe:
Phoebe on social media:
The original interview here:
Over a year ago I met my online editor for Steampunk Journal. After some fast and fun messaging and emails, I found that Phoebe Darqueling and I had much more in common than just steampunk. Normally my blog is about my art and writing, but today, I wanted to share a little interview with Phoebe, to talk about steampunk and her writing. Her latest work, Riftmaker, comes out in about a week.
The Countess: Tell me a little bit about yourself? Family, educational background, places you’ve lived?
Phoebe: I hail from the frigid north (AKA Minnesota) and I stayed there through college at one of the many wonderful, small liberal arts colleges there. My major was Cultural Anthro, which I definitely feel has done a lot to shape my approach to both fiction and life in general. I also have a minor in Art History, and went on to receive an MA in Museum Studies from San Francisco State. Since then, I’ve moved a bunch of times, including just over a year see-sawing between Greece and Bulgaria, and now my current residence in Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany. I’ve got two older brothers, as well as gaining extra siblings through my awesome in-laws, who are some of my closest friends.
TC: How did you become a writer?
P: It’s been a pretty crooked path, and the answer depends on how much you count nonfiction writing as part of the equation. My mom started a creativity competition for kids when I was really little, and around the age of 16 I started to help write challenges for the program. There were some short stories and some wretched poetry in there as well, but what I really liked doing for a long time was writing compelling essays.
I found my way back to fiction mostly as a means of escape. The story of Riftmaker basically poured out of me at a time when my world had gone rather dark. (I wrote a whole article on the experience for people who want the gory details) I knew I had just over a year until The Mister and I were moving to Bulgaria for his PhD research, and I remember thinking at one point, “It’ll be a trudge, but no one can trudge like you.” Which horrified me, because who wants to think of themself that way? So, not long after, I became the primary curriculum writer/blogger for the creativity program, and dove headfirst into writing fiction.
TC: Where does your inspiration for your pieces come from?
P: I really like what I lovingly refer to as “bad science.” These are concepts that make some semblance of sense, but turn out to be false. Or the phenomena are real, but the explanation is just plain wrong. I enjoy taking these concepts and creating stories around them. This can make what I do a little tough to classify sometimes because it is sits right where fantasy and science meet.
I’ve also realized that the idea of worlds that are separate but overlap somehow, be they actual portals you walk through or the ability to see the dead among us, has a real hold on me. That is more like a common theme than inspiration though, because it seems to be where I end up but not necessarily where I start.
TC: Let’s specifically talk about Steampunk. For some artists, musicians, authors, and creative folk, it’s been hard for them to nail down a description of the genre. What is your definition of Steampunk and what elements do you use in your work?
P: I usually say that Steampunk began as a literary genre that was influenced by the real and imagined setting of the Victorian era. This created an aesthetic that has since spread widely to all sorts of mediums. I tend to take the anthropological approach of looking for patterns in what people say fits into the Steampunk genre (descriptive) rather than drawing hard lines between things (proscriptive).
There are definitely some people who would say what I do isn’t in fact Steampunk. I recently had a bit of an altercation with someone who said that if a story takes place in the present or future, it simply can’t be classified as Steampunk. Riftmaker takes place in the present, but in an alternate universe, and by his narrow definition, it wouldn’t count. But the Steampunk aesthetic trappings in the book are undeniable, and as the author who knows that is what influenced me as I wrote it, I can say it is definitely a Steampunk book.
I actually tend to call No Rest for the Wicked Gaslamp fantasy instead, because at least in this first book of the series, there’s no significant tech to speak of and I don’t want people to go in expecting airships and mechanical beasts like I have in Riftmaker. It’s more like historical fiction with a paranormal twist.
In both cases, there is some kind of twist of trope or history, and that is central to what it means to write “punk literature” in general.
TC: Do you do mash ups or blends? Like steampunk and Sci-Fi classics like space opera?
P: Steampunk is one of the most mashupable things out there. Which is why it’s kind of weird that I haven’t done anything like this yet, except that it’s safe to say that Riftmaker is a branch of second world/portal fiction.
In my short stories, I’ve been doing some dabbling in mashing up classic fairy tales with other genres, such as my horror re-telling of Pinocchio in The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales and a noir Cinderella story where she’s a “cleaner” for the mob. So, that is really where my head (and my pen) have been lately in terms of mashups.
TC: Tell us a little bit more about Riftmaker.
P: At its heart, Riftmaker is a twist on classic “a boy and his dog” trope, but uses a fantastical setting to explore the ideas of friendship, prejudice, and identity. The main character is Buddy, a dog who wakes up in a human body in a strange city on the other side of a rift in time and space. You can find out a little more about him as a character and read an excerpt at another stop on my blog tour.
His boy follows him through the portal and undergoes his own transformation, becoming a dog himself. The world they land has magic and monsters, and people who hold a deep-seated prejudice against anything from “the other side.” These things have shaped their society and puts both Buddy and his boy in danger. Though not exactly the danger anyone expects…
TC: Lastly, they always say you’re only as good as your last performance. What do you have up next in your author arsenal?
P: I am in the strange but wonderful position of having had two publishers become interested in my two different books around the same time. So my next release is just around the corner! No Rest for the Wicked is coming your way March 28, just six weeks after Riftmaker drops on Feb 14.
In terms of my writing plans, I have started the sequel to No Rest for the Wicked. I have a five-book arc planned for that series, so that should keep me busy for a while. I do also have another standalone book roughed out, which will take place here in the Black Forest of Germany and involves a horror film crew who accidentally awaken fairy tale creatures that have lain dormant for centuries. This one will be deliciously darker than my first books, and draw from the lesser-known Grimm fairy tales for inspiration. I’ve also got a writer pal named Kathrin Hutson, and we’ve been dying to write a novel together, so hopefully that’ll come together this year as well!
TC: Thank you Phoebe for chatting with The Countess today!
I’ll be reviewing Riftmaker for Steampunk Journal in an upcoming edition. You can check out the review, and steampunk pieces that both Phoebe and I have contributed to the Journal at SteampunkJournal.org
As always, thank you for reading,