Welcome back for the conclusion of our interview with Tiffany Trent, author of the new steampunk novel, THE UNNATURALISTS.
Part One can be read here.
Part Two can be read here.
AA: Welcome back, Tiffany. Last time we were talking about your process of writing THE UNNATURALISTS. While you were writing, did you feel the characters or situations pulled your thoughts off in unexpected directions?
TT: I’m always going in unexpected directions, so yes, definitely. Vespa was forever doing things that I didn’t expect her to do, and then I would have to figure out how to deal with it.
AA: Are there passages that were cut from the final edit? Any that were rewritten a few times, or morphed into something completely different?
TT: I did a very heavy re-write after the first round of submissions, so I basically jettisoned 90% of the original manuscript and re-tooled it from the ground up. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and perhaps why I really was so very pleased when the book found a home. There are still many deleted scenes that I hope to use in sequels—it’s a very rich world with lots of strange history that’s virtually unexplored in the first book. There was one particular scene where Vespa was trapped by a Lamia that I dearly loved and hated to cut, but I suppose darlings were meant to be killed.
AA: Did you have to go back and forth much between chapters and scenes to make sure that everything the characters needed to resolve a situation were not only present, but presented in earlier passages?
TT: With so much rewriting, yes. Ultimately, I made a table that explains what happens in every chapter, what’s at stake, how it moves the plot forward, etc., etc., to keep track of things.
AA: That’s a great writing tip that I’ll have to use for my stories! What kind of back-story or other ideas are there which aren’t in the book but helped give it structure and form?
TT: Lots of history and historical figures influenced the book—Emperor Rudolf and his obsession with clocks, for example. Marie Antoinette’s love of couture. The Victorian obsession with collections and collecting. German Wunderkammers (cabinets of curiosities). Experiments gone awry in cities long dead. The notion of science *as* religion (rather than science vs. religion). There’s an entire history of the Tinkers and Cityfolk that hasn’t really been explored in the novel, but I know it’s there in the background. There’s also the romantic history of Vespa’s parents, which I hope to explore in CORSETS & CLOCKWORK.
AA: What is the initial feedback like?
TT: Initial feedback has been very excited. I’ve been talking about this book for so long; people are ready to see it!
AA: This sounds like a great book to send to my nieces and nephews. When is the release date and where will it be available?
TT: I don’t have a release date yet, but I’m guessing either Fall 2011 or Spring 2012. It will be sold wherever books are sold, online and in brick-and-mortar stores. I’ve no idea yet whether there will be a Kindle edition or audiobook.
AA: What happens next for you? Advance copies, pre-release reviews, book tours, marketing, etc.?
TT: Currently, I’m gearing up for FaerieCon in November, at which I’ll be a featured guest. I’ll have some fun swag to hand out for THE UNNATURALISTS, so I am hoping folks will come say hello! Watch my blog for contests and more info on appearances and promotion!
AA: Are there any plans for sequels, spinoffs or other stories set in the same world?
TT: The story in CORSETS & CLOCKWORK will be a spinoff from the same world. I’m definitely hopeful there will be a sequel to THE UNNATURALISTS, but it’s too early to know. I do have ideas about what I would do, and I’d love to work more in that world. It’s been a great deal of fun.
AA: Aside from writing your new book, what other steampunk things are you involved with?
TT: I would like to be more involved in steampunk events. I really enjoyed being hosted by the steampunk folks at DragonCon last year and am very sorry I can’t attend this year. Would love to get involved with the costuming end of things—I love seeing all the photographic posts on the steamfashion community on LiveJournal.
AA: What are your interests outside of steampunk?
TT: Probably the better question would be—what am I *not* interested in? I’m fascinated by the natural world and the history of human interaction with that world (hence my interest in Victorian naturalists). I love excellent martial arts flicks and really well-done anime, though I seldom get time to watch them. I’m obsessed with mixed media arts and collage—handmade journals, papers, etc. I’ve just recently learned to knit and am developing a solid yarn addiction.
AA: Do you find any overlap or influence of those interests with steampunk?
TT: I think my study of Victorian naturalists overlaps very well with steampunk; as I said, it’s really that history that served as part of the inspiration for THE UNNATURALISTS. I think it’s also a side of steampunk we tend not to see—we focus on steam-powered things and dirigibles, but there was much more to it than that.
AA: As your wish list question, if you had unlimited access, time and budget, what is one item you’d leap at to do?
TT: First, I’d like to travel the world collecting techniques from various cultures willing to share them about how they live sustainably. Then I’d like to buy land and put those ideas into practice, seeing how close to truly sustainable we could get while still living a good quality of life and maintaining creativity. I’m very interested in processes like those outlined in a book called CRADLE TO CRADLE, which is probably part of why steampunk fascinates me so much. I love the DIY aspect of it.
AA: Your books feature strong female characters, which I think is great, not only to show as potential role models for my nieces, but also to balance out the many male protagonists in literature in general. How do you portray those characters?
TT: I’m very much in favor of strong female characters, but I always point to the fact that there are many different kinds of strength and we shouldn’t be afraid to explore the spectrum. Where one girl may be bold and sassy, another might be meek but very intellectual. That should be OK. We need role models for all kinds of people and behaviors.
AA: I read in one of your previous interviews that you’ve enjoyed Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. It’s one of those few books that I have savored not only the story but how it’s written and the messages it conveys. How has it influenced you?
TT: Gormenghast has been very influential to me, simply for the reason that I think it demonstrates the wide range of possibilities available to the fantasy writer. I’ve always been told that my work is too literary for genre fiction, but Gormenghast is proof that literary and genre can be combined in wonderful, odd ways. Gormenghast itself is definitely a model for the Tower of New London in THE UNNATURALISTS.
AA: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
TT: I’m so excited to share this new world with readers; I think lovers of faerie and steampunk will have a blast with it. Thanks so much for having me as a guest. As I said, stay tuned to my blog for updates and contests.
Thank you, Tiffany, for sharing so much with us in this extended interview. It’s been a real pleasure to get to know you and hear about your work.