Earth, Sea, and Air: Steampunk with Robert Appleton

Hi, and welcome! I’d first like to thank the Coffee Time Romance team for inviting me to be a part of their Steampunk celebration. This is a teriffic gathering of books and authors in my favourite genre.

The Mysterious Lady Law

The Mysterious Lady Law

My first two Steampunk books, The Mysterious Lady Law and Prehistoric Clock (The Steam Clock Legacy #1), are both published by Carina Press. Four more books are on the way. Prehistoric Clock is currently a finalist in the EPIC Awards 2013 for Best Science Fiction.

So let’s geek out a little, shall we?

1. What does Steampunk mean to you?

It’s an absolute dream come true for me: Victorian science fiction with an attitude. My two great passions as a reader are Victorian/Edwardian adventure novels and science fiction, so there was never any stopping me from strapping on the goggles. From airships to diving bells, I feel like I can go anywhere with this genre—earth, sea, and air. It’s incredibly liberating.

2. What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk?

The heroines. Victorian women were almost never allowed to save the day in the literature of their time. This is their chance, their revenge. And in those costumes, who’s going to argue with them?

3. What is your favorite steampunk accessory?

That would be the morning paper and the incredible headlines within. World-building is so much more than gadgets and apparel; (fictional) current affairs is a great way to bring a steampunk society to life.

4. What turned you on to steampunk?

I think it was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is sort of like The Avengers of Victorian/Edwardian literature. Mina Harker, Quatermain and Captain Nemo on the same team? I flipped for that idea. And I always include nods to classic fictional characters in my steampunk. That’s the spirit of the genre for me—reinvention, and geeky fun.

5. Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?

I recently completed Imperial Clock, Book 2 of The Steam Clock Legacy series. Whereas Book 1, Prehistoric Clock, was more of an adventure in the vein of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (dinosaurs) and Wells’s The Time Machine, this one is my Jane Austen steampunk epic. Here’s a quick look:

Facing a time of great turmoil across the empire, Meredith and Sonja McEwan are the teenaged daughters of a disgraced scientist, and live in Southsea, England. They’ve grown so close, so insular over the years, despising the world that despises them is all they know. But things are changing: Sonja’s caught the eye of a dashing young teacher, and is falling in love, while Meredith, jealous, throws herself into solving the mystery of an esoteric society in London, with devastating consequences.

Tidal waves, assassins, mind-boggling steam power, and women’s denim trousers are about to arrive, big time. Meanwhile, the legacy of the time jump continues to throw up surprises in an age where nothing is certain. And no one is who they seem to be.

I also have a special novella waiting in the wings for this series. It’s been signed up by Carina Press, but we’ve decided to wait until Books 2 & 3 are published first, to give its story the full impact.

Deborah Kerr in King Solomon's Mines (1950)

Deborah Kerr in King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

6. Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?

Verity Champlain from Prehistoric Clock is my favourite. She’s a strong-willed English airship officer stationed in west and central Africa, and is adored by her African crew. They’ve given her the nickname “Eembu”, which pertains to her…non-traditional dress sense. I imagined her as a fighting version of Deborah Kerr from King Solomon’s Mines. She’s also a qualified deep sea diver. But Verity has suffered terrible losses in her life, and it’s made her difficult to get close to. And reluctant to share command. Plus, I have a thing for redheads.

7. What’s the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

Knowing where to draw the line with the research. It’s tempting to treat it as you would a historical project, fretting over every little detail and anachronism. But steampunk is not history, it’s jazz-history filtered through sci-fi/fantasy, and the author’s own personal vision is, I feel, more important than any devotion to historical accuracy. A good way to look at it is to first learn the rules, then break the rules. Do your research first, then riff on it.

8. What’s the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

It’s playtime. Thinking up crazy gadgets, vehicles, political climates, larger-than-life characters in fancy dress: it’s easy because it’s fun, it’s why we’re here. So strap yourself to your imagination and let it buckaroo.

9. What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?

It allows me to combine my love of Victorian speculative fiction with slightly more modern sensibilities. It’s a kind of retro science fiction. But I have to admit, I don’t like steampunk to feel too modern. It should have that period flavour for me, both in the characters’ manners and in the prose itself. The attitude is where it should be more modern.

10. What are the challenges and advantages to writing a steampunk story?

Finding that happy medium in the prose, and especially in the dialogue, between too contemporary and too old-fashioned, is tricky at first. But once I’m in the flow, it’s a natural voice. The biggest advantage is the freedom it affords me to reinvent history. Nothing is set in stone.

Prehistoric Clock

Prehistoric Clock

11. How much research does it take and how much imagination?

As much research as you like. It helps to have a passion for all things Victoriana, but steampunk isn’t bound to one time period or one country. I’d say the depth of world-building has more to do with imagination than research, because you’re not recreating the past, you’re reimagining it.

In closing, here are my top 5 classic adventure novels I read whenever I’m writing steampunk. See how many you’ve read…

1. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

2. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series

3. King Solomon’s Mines/ She by H. Rider Haggard

4. Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

5. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

CONTEST: For eager adventurers, I’m giving away TWO ebook copies of Prehistoric Clock. Simply answer the following question in the comments section and I’ll enter you into the draw. Thanks for reading, and good luck!

What is your favourite dinosaur?

Robert Appleton is an award-winning author of science fiction, steampunk, and historical fiction. He also writes for the science fiction blog, Contact: Infinite Futures. He currently lives in Bolton, England.

  1. Liz S January 15, 2013

    Enjoyed your post very much. I enjoyed your book The Mysterious Lady Law a lot. My favorite dinosaur is the Maiasaurus. My son was soooo into dinosaurs when he was small. I think we have every children’s book ever written about the subject! Thanks for the contest.

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    • Robert January 15, 2013

      Good one, Liz. I had to look that one up–fascinating dinosaur! Glad you enjoyed Lady Law. Prehistoric Clock is set in the same steampunk universe.

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  2. Jim January 15, 2013

    Hi Robert. Fabulous post. I find the Steampunk universe fascinating and your explantion of very informative. The Time Machine may be my favorite sci-fi novel of all time. If I had to choose a dinosaur, I’d go with the Triceratops. There’s no doubt about those three horns and the “don’t mess with me” attitude they evoke.

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    • Robert January 15, 2013

      Hi Jim. Thanks for stopping by. Triceratops was always my fave when I was at school. But he nearly always lost to T-Rex in those old stop-motion movies. Good call on Wells; I still haven’t read a better time travel novel than his.

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  3. Sapphyria January 15, 2013

    I’m a huge fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, too!

    I’m a big fan of the T-Rex.

    Thanks for the chance.

    Saph
    saphsbookblog at gmail dot com

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    • Robert January 15, 2013

      Can’t argue with that one, Saph! Thanks for entering.

      0 Likes

  4. Vikki January 15, 2013

    Hi Robert, Great discussion on Steam Punk! I really enjoyed the post.

    My new fav is a newly discovered (though long suspected and debated) species of raptor dinosaur discovered in southern Utah named Talos sampsoni. This ancient beast that has caught my fancy is a member of a rare group of feathered, bird-like theropod dinosaurs (the same family as a T-Rex).

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    • Robert January 16, 2013

      What an awesome name for a dinosaur with feathers–Talos sampsoni! Love the mythological references in that. Thanks, Vikki.

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  5. Denise Z January 15, 2013

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to share with us. I am really excited to be learning so much about this genre and I think your work sounds really tasty. I have decided that I really love the Velaciraptor; lets face it, this dino is just plain cute. I am sure it can be a mean critter, but when I look at it I see play time – hopping, running, dodging, and popping up right in the middle of the action, and yes I know it sounds a little off, but if I concentrate I can even start to hear and dance to the beat of the velaciraptor rap ;=D
    dz59001[at]gmail[dot]com

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    • Robert January 16, 2013

      ROFL Denise! Great image. Now i won’t be able to watch Jurassic Park with a straight face ever again. Thanks for the laugh.

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  6. Carol January 15, 2013

    Hi Robert,
    Love your reading list. Reminds me that I’ve been meaning to read King Solomon’s Mines this year. I don’t really have a favorite dinosaur. I figure any dinosaur that wouldn’t try to eat me if I did the time machine thing would be my favorite – maybe a stegosaurus.

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    • Robert January 16, 2013

      Hi Carol. I like your thinking. Veggiesauruses for the win.

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  7. RaonaidLuckwell January 15, 2013

    Think that is my favorite thing about steampunk.. the gadgets, the way they dress… I have the Steampunk Bible, bought it for my birthday in September. It was quite fun and interesting.

    Raonaid at gmail dot com

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    • Robert January 16, 2013

      Pleased to meet a fellow enthusiast, Raonaid. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. bn100 January 15, 2013

    I like t-rex.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  9. DebraG January 16, 2013

    Great post. I like the triceratops and the pterosaurs. Steampunk is so wonderful to read. I am dding yours to my list.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

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    • Robert January 18, 2013

      Nice one, Debra. Glad we have one for the pterosaurs. I agree, steampunk is so fun to read, addictive even.

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  10. Elise VanCise January 17, 2013

    My favorite dinosaur is the Sarcosuchus imperator (super crock 🙂 The Aubrey /Marturin series has long been a favorite of mine 🙂 I’ll be adding The Mysterious Lady Law to my book list 🙂
    fictionrulz at live.com

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    • Robert January 18, 2013

      Bravo, Elise! I just looked that one up and it scared the *bleep* out of me. Pleased to meet another O’Brian fan. I wonder what HIS version of steampunk would’ve been like?

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  11. Robert January 23, 2013

    So the week’s over, and the winners are…

    DENISE Z
    VIKKI

    Vikki, please email me at sevenmercury7[at]aol[dot]com with your choice of EPUB or PDF format, and I’ll send you your copy of Prehistoric Clock asap.

    Thank you to everyone who entered. Happy reading!

    Robert

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  1. Robert January 23, 2013

    So the week’s over, and the winners are…

    DENISE Z
    VIKKI

    Vikki, please email me at sevenmercury7[at]aol[dot]com with your choice of EPUB or PDF format, and I’ll send you your copy of Prehistoric Clock asap.

    Thank you to everyone who entered. Happy reading!

    Robert

    0 Likes

  2. Robert January 16, 2013

    Pleased to meet a fellow enthusiast, Raonaid. Thanks for stopping by.

    0 Likes

  3. Robert January 16, 2013

    ROFL Denise! Great image. Now i won’t be able to watch Jurassic Park with a straight face ever again. Thanks for the laugh.

    0 Likes

  4. Robert January 16, 2013

    Hi Carol. I like your thinking. Veggiesauruses for the win.

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  5. Robert January 16, 2013

    What an awesome name for a dinosaur with feathers–Talos sampsoni! Love the mythological references in that. Thanks, Vikki.

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  6. DebraG January 16, 2013

    Great post. I like the triceratops and the pterosaurs. Steampunk is so wonderful to read. I am dding yours to my list.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

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  7. Elise VanCise January 17, 2013

    My favorite dinosaur is the Sarcosuchus imperator (super crock 🙂 The Aubrey /Marturin series has long been a favorite of mine 🙂 I’ll be adding The Mysterious Lady Law to my book list 🙂
    fictionrulz at live.com

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  8. Robert January 18, 2013

    Sauce with that? *grins*

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  9. Robert January 18, 2013

    Bravo, Elise! I just looked that one up and it scared the *bleep* out of me. Pleased to meet another O’Brian fan. I wonder what HIS version of steampunk would’ve been like?

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  10. Robert January 18, 2013

    Nice one, Debra. Glad we have one for the pterosaurs. I agree, steampunk is so fun to read, addictive even.

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  11. Liz S January 15, 2013

    Enjoyed your post very much. I enjoyed your book The Mysterious Lady Law a lot. My favorite dinosaur is the Maiasaurus. My son was soooo into dinosaurs when he was small. I think we have every children’s book ever written about the subject! Thanks for the contest.

    0 Likes

  12. Jim January 15, 2013

    Hi Robert. Fabulous post. I find the Steampunk universe fascinating and your explantion of very informative. The Time Machine may be my favorite sci-fi novel of all time. If I had to choose a dinosaur, I’d go with the Triceratops. There’s no doubt about those three horns and the “don’t mess with me” attitude they evoke.

    0 Likes

  13. Robert January 15, 2013

    Good one, Liz. I had to look that one up–fascinating dinosaur! Glad you enjoyed Lady Law. Prehistoric Clock is set in the same steampunk universe.

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  14. Sapphyria January 15, 2013

    I’m a huge fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, too!

    I’m a big fan of the T-Rex.

    Thanks for the chance.

    Saph
    saphsbookblog at gmail dot com

    0 Likes

  15. Robert January 15, 2013

    Hi Jim. Thanks for stopping by. Triceratops was always my fave when I was at school. But he nearly always lost to T-Rex in those old stop-motion movies. Good call on Wells; I still haven’t read a better time travel novel than his.

    0 Likes

  16. Robert January 15, 2013

    Can’t argue with that one, Saph! Thanks for entering.

    0 Likes

  17. Vikki January 15, 2013

    Hi Robert, Great discussion on Steam Punk! I really enjoyed the post.

    My new fav is a newly discovered (though long suspected and debated) species of raptor dinosaur discovered in southern Utah named Talos sampsoni. This ancient beast that has caught my fancy is a member of a rare group of feathered, bird-like theropod dinosaurs (the same family as a T-Rex).

    0 Likes

  18. Denise Z January 15, 2013

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to share with us. I am really excited to be learning so much about this genre and I think your work sounds really tasty. I have decided that I really love the Velaciraptor; lets face it, this dino is just plain cute. I am sure it can be a mean critter, but when I look at it I see play time – hopping, running, dodging, and popping up right in the middle of the action, and yes I know it sounds a little off, but if I concentrate I can even start to hear and dance to the beat of the velaciraptor rap ;=D
    dz59001[at]gmail[dot]com

    0 Likes

  19. Carol January 15, 2013

    Hi Robert,
    Love your reading list. Reminds me that I’ve been meaning to read King Solomon’s Mines this year. I don’t really have a favorite dinosaur. I figure any dinosaur that wouldn’t try to eat me if I did the time machine thing would be my favorite – maybe a stegosaurus.

    0 Likes

  20. RaonaidLuckwell January 15, 2013

    Think that is my favorite thing about steampunk.. the gadgets, the way they dress… I have the Steampunk Bible, bought it for my birthday in September. It was quite fun and interesting.

    Raonaid at gmail dot com

    0 Likes

  21. bn100 January 15, 2013

    I like t-rex.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

    0 Likes

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