Interview with Editor Dominik Parisien

This week we are talking with Dominik Parisien, editor of steampunk anthology Clockwork Canada.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Dominik, thanks for joining us for this interview.

Dominik Parisien: Thanks for having me!


AA: You have quite a bit of published work behind you, including The Time Traveler’s

Almanac, and stories in Andromeda Spaceways and Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Now you have edited a new anthology, Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction. I suppose the key is in the title, but what is the book about?

DP: At its core, this is a book about showcasing alternate Canadas and Canadian history, focused through the lens of steampunk.


AA: What got this project started?

DP: First and foremost, I wanted to give Canadian authors and readers a chance to see their own stories told, as Canadians. There aren’t that many anthologies that focus specifically on Canadian authors and perspectives. The Tesseracts series has been great in this respect, but for Clockwork Canada I wanted stories set in Canada, in addition to featuring Canadian authors.

Exile Editions had already published other anthologies in this vein (Dead North and Fractured) and I felt steampunk/alternate history would make a valuable addition. There haven’t been any recent anthologies of alternate Canadian history in a few years, and I felt that steampunk offered a great balance wherein stories could be purely fictional and still set in Canada, or reimagine specific Canadian events in a steampunk light.


AA: Aside from sharing stories by Canadian authors, what is the goal for Clockwork Canada?

DP: Other than making a good book with engaging stories, my goal with Clockwork Canada is to encourage Canadian authors to look to local sources for inspiration in their storytelling, whether it be history or myths. Many Canadian authors often hesitate to incorporate Canadian elements in their stories. There can be various reasons for this, the biggest of which I think are: the idea that it won’t appeal to international (often American) markets, and because of a sense that Canadian history and myths are not as interesting as those of other countries.

Dead North and Fractured were both successful, and my hope is that Canadian authors will continue to write such stories, but will also submit them to other venues not specifically Canadian. In terms of readers, my goal is to show that genre fiction can be fascinating, engaging, and still have a distinctly Canadian flavour and that this can be appealing as much to Canadians as non-Canadians.


AA: I think it’s always great to see stories set outside of the typical locations. There’s the whole world of the 1800s to explore. Why specifically choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for these stories to tell?

DP: Steampunk was a natural choice because of the genre’s potential for thoughtful alternate history, engagement with issues of imperialism, exploration and adventure, and, of course, the importance of steam (specifically relating to the railroad for Canadian history). Also, I love steampunk, both as a literary mode and an aesthetic, and I wanted to see how Canadian authors would imagine steampunk in a Canadian way: which stories they would tell and what inventions they would come up with.


AA: There are fifteen authors contributing to this anthology, what can you share with us about their backgrounds, and what we can expect from them?

DP: The authors in Clockwork Canada vary widely in terms of their publishing experience. Some are award-winners and have multiple books published, others are emerging talents with only a few (but great) stories to their names. Some have been primarily published in literary magazines, whereas others are firmly established in genre. Several of them have published multiple steampunk works while others have made their first foray into the genre here. That kind of variety is, to me, exciting because it results in very different perspectives and approaches.


AA: How did you round up the group? Was there an open call and selection process?

DP: For the most part stories were selected from an open call, and some really extraordinary stories came in this way. I was pleased to encounter stories by authors whose work I was familiar with, and others who were completely new to me. I also solicited a few stories by authors whose visions I knew were in keeping with my own for this specific project. Once all the stories were in I made my selections, keeping an eye for certain themes and approaches I wanted to see represented.


AA: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?

DP: I’ll actually use part of the back cover for this!

Experience steam-powered buffalo women roaming the plains; join extraordinary men and women striking out on their own or striving to build communities; marvel as giant rampaging spirits are thwarted by a miniscule timepiece; cringe when a great clock chimes and the Seven O’Clock Man appears to terrorize a village in Quebec; witness a Maritime scientist develop a deadly weapon that could change the course of the American Civil War.

In addition to these, readers will encounter steampunk superheroes, terrifying creatures in the wilderness, artificial beasts, mechanical appendages, and, of course, airships.


AA: All of those are interesting things to grab once’s attention. Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling a story?

DP: This is steampunk, so, absolutely! All manner of unusual devices play pivotal roles in the stories. These include things like: a life-detecting timepiece; a mechanical lion; steam-powered buffalo women; and an intricate contraption used by spiritualists to contact the dead, amongst many others.


AA: Any key historical figures or events?

DP: Yes! Three stories deal specifically with historical events and individuals. Terri Favro’s “Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl” reimagines both the heroine Laura Secord and General Isaac Brock in an alternate version of the War of 1812 where the conflict endured until the turn of the century. Kate Story gives us a haunted Sir Sandford Fleming, the famous surveyor and railway engineer, as he struggles to complete the first survey of Newfoundland using a mounted, spider-like theodolite. And finally, Rati Mehrotra reimagines the Komagata Maru incident in British Colombia, where Gurdit Singh and a boatload of his people were denied entry into Canada in 1914.


We’ll break here in talking with Dominik.

Join us next time when he talks about some of the stories in the anthology and initial feedback.

Keep up to date with Dominik latest news on his website and on Twitter.

You can support Dominik and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on April 24, 2016 at 4:15 pm  Comments (4)  
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Interview with Author Charlotte Ashley, Part 3

Welcome back for the conclusion of our chat with Charlotte Ashley, author of La Clochemar, which is a story in the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Part one can be read here.

Part two can be read here.


Airship Ambassador: What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?

Charlotte Ashley: I’m lucky enough to have a job that lets me write at work. So writing is part of my work, I do it in my work-space, and the rest of my life is what I do at home. I think if I ever had to leave my job, I’d still need that division: writing as a job in my work-space, and the writing stays there.


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

CA: All the time! Like I say, I’m an extrovert, so I jump right in whenever I have the opportunity. I contribute regularly to three different writer’s forums, and have regular private correspondences with people from all three. I’m all over Facebook and Twitter. I beta read and workshop for piles of people.

I also have an amazing, tight writing group in real life with three other women at a similar place in their writing careers. We meet once a month to workshop stories, gossip, brainstorm, and compare notes. They are the best thing for my writing. I owe them so much!


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

CA: I’ve found my voice, I think. When I started, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write science fiction, high fantasy, magical realism, or what. I like all of them. But I’ve come to realize my happy spot is alternative history, or historical fantasy. I like research, history, politics, sociology. The more I can cram in there, the better.


I’ve also come to realize that I prefer longer forms. Getting stories under 5k words was always a struggle, and editors would always say “I feel like this is part of a longer work.” Now I write novelettes pretty consistently. If I need more space, I take it. I’ll go back to novels soon. I think it’s time.


AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

CA: I thrive on input. Social input is important to me – having readers, writing buddies, crit groups really helps me. Inspiration is helpful too, so I try to read as much as I can – non-fiction, in particular. I shy away from junk input, or filler. If I’m going to watch a movie, I need it to be a really good, original, thought-provoking movie. Same with television, books, music, websites – people. I want things that will teach me new things and push me, well, anywhere. The more that is coming in to my brain, the more will come out of it.


AA: Quality in, quality out J How is Toronto for writing? I haven’t been to the city in a very long time but I recall that is was a good, manageable, and engaging city. Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

CA: I am so lucky to be here. Toronto has everything, everybody. I grew up in rural places – the scenery is nice, but it’s a living hell for someone like me who thrives on bustle and experience. In Toronto, I could be at a play, a concert, a book launch, a party, a community event any day of the week. There are so many different types of people with so many different ideas of how to be. If you want to – and I do – you can have more different experiences here than you could find the time to engage in. I love it.


AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?

CA: Knitting. Joining a band or a musical ensemble. Writing video games. All of the above, plus writing too.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

CA: I have kids, so their lives tend to take up a lot of mine. I love cooking and baking – we make bread and bagels almost every day. The kids are in music lessons, so I’ve dusted off my viola and play myself. They took up gymnastics, so I took up parkour. I still do a lot of gaming – RPGs, video games, board games. I also do a lot of community and volunteer work. In the summer, I do a lot with Not Far From the Tree, a group that harvests & uses urban fruit.


AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

CA: Honestly, having kids. I can be a bit scattered – I want to do everything, so anything can be a distraction. But having kids forced me to put down some roots and stick with things. I decided to get serious about writing because it was time to focus and really excel at something, instead of flitting around doing a bit of everything. So even though the kids take up a huge amount of my time, the fact of their existence is what gave me the focus I needed. The challenge, then, has been to maintain that focus. Not to, tomorrow, rebrand myself as a game developer. Or a chamber musician. Or director of a cool NGO.


AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite beverage, fashion accessory, and automobile?

CA: White wine (Riesling, please,) unexpected socks, and a bicycle.


Thanks, Charlotte, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  We look forward to hearing about your next projects!


Keep up to date with Charlotte’s latest news on her website.

You can support Charlotte and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on April 22, 2016 at 6:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Author Charlotte Ashley, Part 2

Welcome back for part two in our chat with Charlotte Ashley, author of La Clochemar, which is a story in the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Part one can be read here.


Airship Ambassador: What are some initial reactions to La Clochemar which you’ve heard about?

Charlotte Ashley: So far, the response has been really positive! Readers are having fun and coming away with things to think about, without feeling preached at. I have also been fielding a variety of veiled questions about my own history, so let me put it out there – I am not Ojibwe or Anishinaabeg, and I do not identify as indigenous in any way. I am definitely writing this as a white outsider. I have tried to be as respectful and informed as I can, but the story should not be taken as an indigenous narrative.


AA: I think your goals have been reached with your approach to the story. How long did it take to write, and rewrite, La Clochemar? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

CA: “La Clochemar” was really unusual for me, in terms of my timeline. Dominik (the editor) approached me about writing for Clockwork Canada in mid-April of last year, and the anthology deadline was the end of April. He allowed me to push the deadline to mid-May. So I went from no ideas at all to final product in a month, during which time I was in England having a nervous breakdown. I had written the first draft inside of two weeks, then I melted down, took my kids to England, and rewrote it right before the deadline. How surprised I was to find, in mid-May, that my first draft was actually pretty good! Maybe adrenaline and hysteria are good motivators for me.


AA: LOL, I guess it’s that or caffeine! Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What have your publishing experiences been like?

CA: My experience has been almost magical. Like most writers, I dabbled around and wrote a few bad novels for about ten years, never thinking I’d ever actually publish. Then I got pregnant and realized I might like to actually make some money from home, so I took my best terrible novel and polished it up. In 2012, I put it on Wattpad where the response was positive enough that I thought I might actually have a shot at this writing thing. I also realized I needed a crash course in plotting, so I took up writing short stories as an exercise in telling actual stories in a finite space.

I wrote my first short stories in 2013. At first I wrote them for challenges in writing forums, but I won almost every single one of those mini-contests and thought I’d better up the stakes. The very first thing I sent off on submission actually made it to final consideration for an anthology, so that bolstered my confidence. I submitted a dozen stories probably a hundred times over the next year, getting enough personal and encouraging rejections to keep at it. I sold my first story in there somewhere.

I just kept writing and submitting, and made my first pro sale (to F&SF) at the end of 2014. 2015 was a disaster for me on a personal level, but I had enough stories out at that point to continue making sales and seeing stories in print, even thought I wasn’t writing as much as I was. So by early 2016, I found myself a published writer with a pretty good track record. I had a half-dozen stories in great venues, another few in the pipe, and I came out of my horrible year pretty much intact. This year, I have been writing more than ever before. I like my stories, and so (it seems) do editors and readers. Like magic!


AA: That’s a good story about learning on the job, and being persistent. For the aspiring writer, what lessons have you learned over time about having an editor, their feedback, and your writing?

CA: I’ve learned that it helps to have this balance between all the ego and none at all. This is a job and publishing is a business, so you have to be confident enough to know you can do the job, withstanding a lot of rejection and criticism, but flexible enough that you can do the rewrites and take the suggestions without getting too prickly about “your voice” or “your art” or whatever.

I mean, obviously, you don’t want to become a sold-out compromise machine, but at the same time, you can’t resist taking criticism. You have to listen and incorporate the lessons that seem to make sense. My voice, I have learned, can withstand a lot of editing. Nothing is lost when I change something – it’s still me, just me with slightly different specs. Anywhere, there’s always another story, another chance, another editor, another publication. Just keep writing.


AA: That’s a very good lesson for everyone, in every job. Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?

CA: I’m still pretty new to this. I have small children, so I can’t travel far from Toronto. But I jump right in to anything I can get to. I love talking in front of people, love reading. So far the weirdest thing to me about fan reaction is that there is any. I’ll be up there, talking about Utopias or agricultural imperialism or something, and someone raises their hand and says, “Hey, I just wanted you to know I really liked ‘La Héron’.” It’s incredibly flattering and I’m still working out how to respond. I mean, thanks? I’m pleased as punch, and maybe we can go talk about utilitarianism after the panel? I’m really approachable and love talking with people, but I’m not quite sure yet what a fan wants from me, specifically. Hopefully, they will continue to let me know!


We’ll break here in our chat with Charlotte.

Keep up to date with Charlotte’s latest news on her website.

You can support Charlotte and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on April 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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