This week we are talking with Lily Lang, author of BEAUTY AND THE CLOCKWORK BEAST, which is part of A Riveting Affair, published by Entangled Publishing.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Lily, thanks for making the time to join us for this interview.
Lily Lang: Hi! Thanks so much for having me.
AA: Yours is the third story in this anthology. What is BEAUTY about?
LL: It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in an alternate steampunk universe after the American Civil War. Instead of a big, furry beast, my beast is war veteran with a brass leg and a clockwork heart.
AA: Those are certainly good steampunk items to work with. What motivated you to for create BEAUTY?
LL: I wanted to write the kind of story where the steampunk elements weren’t just cool, but also meaningful and significant to the plot. Also, I wanted to write something really romantic, and what is more romantic than crumbling mansions and rose gardens? (Rhetorical question, because tulips, non-crumbling mansions, and breakfast in bed, also very romantic.)
AA: Did real life people or events play into writing BEAUTY?
LL: Years ago I was at the Frick Museum doing research for a paper. It’s this beautiful converted Gilded Age mansion. And at the heart of the house was a garden that took my breath away, and I thought, someday I’m going to write a story set in this house. In addition, when I was writing it, a childhood friend of mine had just come back from Afghanistan and was having a tough time readjusting to civilian life. I thought about him a lot while I writing.
AA: That sounds a bit like “the best of times, the worst of times” as a background theme. What kind of research went into creating the BEAUTY AND THE CLOCKWORK BEAST world?
LL: I wanted the architecture to be real, because Gilded Age New York has a specific feel of opulence and beauty. I had to fudge the timeline a little, because the really great houses weren’t built until the late part of the century, but since I already added airships to the Civil War, bringing Beaux Arts to America thirty years early was a comparatively small change. I did try to keep it accurate by making the Beast’s house more Italianate, which was popular in the mid-century, instead of French-influenced.
AA: Italian style can be really engaging, especially in garden design. What elements did you include in the story so readers could feel the BEAUTY AND THE CLOCKWORK BEAST world?
LL: Both my undergraduate and graduate work is in history, and all my writing has been historical, so “feeling” history is certainly something that occupies my mind a lot. In this story, architecture and clothing were particularly important.
AA: Every writer I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like?
LL: I’ve been lucky in that publishing was always the easy part for me, I attach my finished manuscript to an email and hit send. It’s getting the finished manuscript that I struggle with…
AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?
LL: Your words aren’t sacred. No really, they’re not. Yes, you have to listen to your own instincts, but also, other people will make your writing better, so listen to them, too. Because when your book wanders out to the big, bad world, there will be even more people reading them and criticizing them, so pay attention to the people that are paid to do it.
AA: If you weren’t a writer, what else would you be doing now?
LL: I’m also a graduate student in history and I love it. You get paid to read books and torture undergraduates. No better job in the world except writing.
AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers for support and new ideas?
LL: I’m lucky, I have tons of support. I have a fantastic writing group in the city that meets once a week to write and critique. My best friend is a writer/literary agent, and we talk about writing every day. My partner’s also a visual artist, so sometimes if I have difficulty conceptualizing something, I ask him to draw or paint it for me.
AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?
LL: Being a graduate student really works for me because the time commitment isn’t the same as a full-time job (some people think it is, but I think they’re probably working too hard). In addition, much of the research I do finds its way into my writing one way or another, so they really feed off of each other. On the other hand, I never write fiction at the end of the semester, because I have so much schoolwork to do.
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?
LL: History and cooking.
AA: Do those interests influence your writing?
LL: Someday, I am definitely going to write about a heroine whose superpower is cooking. The possibilities are endless. Everybody loves to eat and she could do some serious damage.
AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers
LL: I’m a huge Arrested Development fan, and this will just be weird to people who aren’t, but I had to struggle against a baser instinct to begin the story with the heroine thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” And whenever the hero angsted about his beastliness, I heard Buster screaming in my head, “I’M A MONSTER.”
Anyway, now that I’ve confused everyone, I’d like to conclude by pointing out that this book has a cat in it, and as everyone on the internet knows, cats make everything awesome, so I’m pretty sure this makes my book awesome by association.
And thank you for joining us today, Lily!
Lily’s story, Beauty and the Clockwork Beast, is part of “A Riveting Affair”. Get your copy today!