Read part one here.
Airship Ambassador: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?
Terri Favro: Lady Laura’s famous general, Sir Isaac, will turn out not to be who everyone thinks him to be…in some very fundamental ways.
Also, in the 1949 “present day” of the story –– when Lady Laura’s oral memoir of the war is being transcribed –– the reigning monarchs are not who would expect them to be.
AA: How elements of your own experiences play into the story?
TF: As a proud graduate of Laura Secord Secondary School, you might think that I grew up in a neighbourhood of Canadians descended from the UEL settlers of the area, but in fact I lived in what is now known as the “old foreign quarter” of Facer Street. It was a community almost entirely made up of immigrants of Italian and Eastern European origins, as well as black families who had come to Niagara via the Underground Railroad [2nd link]. Facer Street had a “wrong side of the tracks” reputation. So, my neighbourhood had a bit of a Voltagetown feeling to it.
I also grew up in a very observant Roman Catholic family, so the worship of electricity in the story is based on some of the language of religious worship that dominated my childhood.
Finally, my sister was a teacher in a school for the hearing impaired. I did some volunteer work there while I was in high school, and learned how to finger spell, something that I then taught to friends. It came in very useful when you wanted to ‘talk’ to someone on the other side of a classroom.
AA: It is a pretty handy skill to know. It’s a shame that it’s not taught in all schools. What kind of back story is there which didn’t make it into the final version?
TF The first draft of the story included the character of Tecumseh, the great Shawnee chief who played a pivotal role in the War of 1812. Eventually the editor, Dominik Parisien, and I decided that it might be jarring to include an actual historical character in the story that hadn’t been drastically altered in some way, the way that Lady Laura and Sir Isaac are. The real Tecumseh would not even have been alive in 1899. But I still wanted a character to reflect the fact that the First Nations played an important, and often unacknowledged, role in that War as allies of the Crown. Lieutenant Barnfather (whose name I saw on a headstone in an old cemetery in Toronto) came to life as a result.
AA: Are there any plans for more stories with Lady Laura?
TF: Definitely! I would like to turn the story into a novel, expanding on what is already in the short story. I think Lady Laura, Sir Isaac, Lady Lola and Barnfather all have bigger tales to tell. Barnfather, in particular, would be an interesting character to develop more fully. I’d also like to develop the young vice-regal transcriptionist, James Hansom, who records Laura’s interview with the Governor General, into a fully realized character. What was he thinking as Laura recounted her colourful, violent and sometimes shocking story? Was he sympathetic to her? Did he share her obvious dislike of the Governor General? It would be fun to flesh out this story.
AA: Yay! I’m looking forward to more colorful stories 🙂 When people read your work in Clockwork Canada, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
TF: Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Don’t be kept in your place by your so-called betters. Question and challenge the accepted order of things. Listen to people who are younger than you. Don’t assume that just because someone is in a position of authority they deserve to be there.
On a more practical note, make sure your wiring is sound. Houses are still burned to the ground due to faulty wiring.
AA: What kind of research and balance went into creating this world?
TF: I revisited the history of the War of 1812 as it developed in the Niagara region, and tried to understand the AC/DC (alternating current/direct current) battle of the early pioneers of electricity. I also read up on early hydro stations and how, when and where they were built. I visited the ruins of a hydro station that was first built in the mid-19th century and collapsed in the 1950s on the American side of the Niagara gorge.
AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the history?
TF: I used the names of actual battles and well-known icons of the War of 1812, as well as some aspects of early 20th century history in the 1949 time frame when Lady Laura is telling her story.
AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?
TF: It was probably about a four-month process. The initial draft of the story came very quickly, because I was having so much fun writing the story! Dominik worked with me to strengthen the story, especially by making Lady Laura more independent and self-directed.
AA: Always nice to have a good editor. What kind of attention has the story generated?
TF: There have been some very positive reviews for the book overall and for my story. Not all reviewers loved my story, but the ones who did really “got it”. The sexual content of the story has come up – I think one reviewer referred to it as “saucy”, a word I thought was oddly Victorian in itself! But it’s not inaccurate: Lady Laura is very blunt with the Governor General in what was done to her as a young girl in the name of the Crown. She tells her story with the intention of shocking him, which in turn might slightly shock the reader.
We’ll stop here in our chat with Terri. Join us next time when she talks about lessons learned about being a writer.
Keep up to date with Terri Favro’s latest news on her website.
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