Part One can be read here.
AA: People continue to hear about Heart of Iron every day. How are those new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?
ES: I think steampunk websites and word of mouth. But the cover is quite gorgeous, so I suspect in bookstores it catches people’s attention quite well!
AA: What kind of attention has Heart of Iron generated?
ES: It has received a few nice reviews, and made the Locus Recommended Reading list, so I’m quite pleased so far.
AA: Every author I’ve talked with has a unique journey to seeing their works in print. You’ve mentioned before that you accidentally fell into writing. Did you accidentally fall into getting published, too?
ES: Well, to get published you have to send your work out. But I’ve worked with my publisher before, mostly with short stories in their magazines and anthologies, so Prime has certainly been more receptive to my novels than anyone else, and they have been quite supportive of my career.
AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?
ES: Other people’s lessons will likely be largely irrelevant. But read a lot, write, then submit a lot seems to be what does the trick for most people. Also, no one’s too good to be edited, and your agent and your editor are your friends – they too care about your writing, unlike the rest of the indifferent, cold world.
AA: If you weren’t an author, or a professor, what else would you be doing now?
ES: I have no idea. Well, I am also editing! But in all likelihood, I would be working in research, probably neuroscience since it’s been my first scientific interest.
AA: What has it been like being out on book tours and attending steampunk conventions, and what has the fan reaction been?
ES: There are many advantages to being with an independent publisher – I can talk to the person in charge daily, I have input in my cover design, all decisions about my books are made with my participation. The downside is that small publishers usually don’t send writers on tours – and even the large ones do so for their most commercially successful ones. So I only go to cons when time, finances, and day job allow. Cons are really a lot of fun – I enjoy meeting readers and other writers. In fact, this March I’ll be at Anomalycon in Denver – feel free to stop by and say hello! I am very friendly.
AA: What do you do to keep a balance between book, convention, and tour life, and the rest of your life?
ES: Between my job, editing, and writing, I don’t actually have much of a social life. And I don’t sleep a lot. So I guess there really isn’t a balance – I do what I can fit in a day.
ES: Mieville certainly inspires me to write about politics a lot, even though our focus often differs. As for Pelevin – the heretical hussars are the most direct tribute to his philosophy.
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time, from According to Crow to Heart of Iron?
ES: A great deal. All my books are very different, so I don’t even know how to compare them directly. In another interview a while ago, I said that the downside of that is that every book is a first book in my case, so I get amused when reviewers talk about my potential to become as good as Somebody Famous. But really, this is it – there’s no unrealized potential, I’m not building up my skills with every book, since they all are different. There’s no linear progression (or any progression). It’s just a bunch of books.
AA: How is being in New Jersey for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc
ES: Location matters very little these days, I think, as long as there’s an internet hookup. I like this part of New Jersey a lot, so I enjoy living there – very wooded, very green, great for walks and train access. For writing, it doesn’t seem to matter terribly much.
AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. For you, that would be teaching college courses in genetics and plant sciences. How has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?
ES: I don’t consider writing my job, it’s a hobby. I mean, the moment it starts interfering with my job, I’ll drop it. Being a published writer allowed me to teach an occasional writing course; and of course being out there in the world and working gives me something to write about. Academia is a very stimulating environment, so I really wouldn’t wish for anything else. Keep in mind, college professors do much more than just teach courses – we do research in our fields of study, we help run our colleges (so that is a lot of committee and administrative work). It’s a lot, but I love it.
ES: I assume that people other than con-goers read my books, otherwise my sales would be pretty dismal! I do occasionally get fan emails, which always makes my week. And I always respond.
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?
ES: Weightlifting and fashion blogging. I am also involved as a Board of Trustees member of an environmental startup; I’m hoping to share more about that when we get the project off the ground a little bit.
AA: How do those interests influence your work?
ES: Fashion is a language all its own, and I think knowing how stylistic/sartorial choices can contradict or support a character’s narrative is just one more useful tool. Working out certainly adds some contemplative time. And yes, environmental issues. When I do write SF, it tends to be about near future Earth, and environmental degradation is a subject impossible to ignore in this context. I mean, not every near-future piece has to be about environmental disasters, but at least we need to acknowledge that we are rapidly creating a very different world – the one we might not actually like very much.
Oh, and of course environmental issues and fashion nicely dovetail when it comes to global justice issues – we all know that our clothes are made with a terrible amount of land degradation, not to mention horrid conditions in which it is made. Sorry, that got depressing fast – but I think the takeaway here is that things influence each other a lot, and the world is a messy place, and we need to acknowledge the messiness, at least, rather than completely ignore it and imagine a perfect future (or past) without giving a nod to the present.
AA: It has been great chatting with you again! Are there any final thoughts to share with our readers?
ES: Read what you love and write what you’re passionate about. And feel free to say hello at cons.
Thank you so much for joining us for this interview! I’m looking forward to reading all of your work, so thanks in advance for making my to-be-read pile even bigger!
Her books are available here:
Paper Cities (editor)
Running with the Pack (editor)
Bewere the Night (editor)
Bloody fabulous (editor; upcoming)
Wilful Impropriety (editor; upcoming)