Airship Ambassador: Hi C.T., thanks for joining us for this interview.
C.T. Hutt: You are very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to put together such a stellar network of likeminded steampunk aficionados.
AA: It has been great fun over the years to meet so many wonderful people from around the world. Readers may know you from your previous work, including Walking Still in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Three Nights on Isola de Felicita in 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and Ode to the Unceasing Doggerel in Juked. Now, your latest book is being published. What is Havoc’s Children: Dog Days of Thereafter about?
CTH: Havoc’s Children is about the past. It’s about how time and again history’s mistakes crawl out of the dust to plague the living. It’s about small town folks caught up in calamitous events they can’t control. Havoc’s Children is a yarn about god-like creatures playing us mortal fools like pawns in some terrible game. Mostly, it’s about people, regular people in strange circumstances trying to live, love, and survive like the rest of us.
AA: Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for this story?
CTH: Steampunk felt right for this story. Steampunk isn’t all top hats with built-in cuckoo clocks, it is a genre that builds a certain flavor into a world. I needed a certain romance with technology for this story to work and I pulled a lot of steampunk genre thinking into the world-building to make that happen. I admit I also borrowed a few tropes from traditional sci-fi and fantasy genres. And as long as I’m confessing, I should admit I do have a thing for fun hats.
AA: Almost everyone could do with a fun hat 🙂 How does Havoc’s Children express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to the existing works in the genre?
CTH: When telling a story, it’s important to remember that genre is just the bread, not the whole sandwich. The 1800s (the steampunk aesthetics’ inspiration) were not all lace and fancy parties. It was an age of violence, war, mad innovation, and politics by way of the sword.
If Havoc’s Children adds anything to the steampunk experience, I hope it’s a little western grit.
AA: And there’s plenty of grit in what I was reading. What was the inspiration and motivation for creating Havoc’s Children?
CTH: I was taking a class at The University of Colorado on the late 19th century sympathetic novel. Terribly dry stuff for the most part, but still pretty interesting to discuss thanks to our excellent professor, Mary Klages. During the course she brought in some actual newspapers from 1859, two years before the US Civil War kicked off. Something about holding those crumbling documents with their intricate etchings and sprawling articles struck me like a bolt of lightning.
I was instantly hooked. I visited used book stores from Denver to London sniffing around for documents and periodicals from the time period. I’ve put together a decent collection. All the while, the story began to come together. Havoc began as a short story I sold to the ill-fated Steampunk Magazine called “The Dead and The Dust.” From there it grew and grew until it was this entire other world where I spent long periods of time. Most of the first scenes and images for the book proper came to me in dreams. The rest was the result of long hours at the computer or notepad, writing and re-writing chapters.
AA: That’s an interesting journey which I think people can relate to – history becomes ‘real’ and living when seeing artifacts from the time, which can inspire questions about what life was really like then, and for writers, sparking an idea of what could be. What are the key themes in Havoc’s Children?
CTH: I’ll leave that one to my readers and future scholars of twenty first century sympathetic novels. Feminism, perhaps. The cyclical nature of history, I suppose. One could also make the argument that it’s a meaningless penny dreadful about a war against undead ghouls. I’m afraid I’m poorly qualified to make this analysis.
AA: OK, readers, chime in about the themes you felt were in the book. What can you share with us about the personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities of the main characters, such as Beauford, Susan, and Cora?
CTH: Well, there are quite a few characters in Havoc’s Children. I never felt fully comfortable thinking of any one of them as the main character. The basic narrative structure of the book divides the reader’s attention between five distinct storylines.
Beauford Kearn is the most obvious contender for the role of primary protagonist. He’s a reluctant player in his own story, a working joe with a distaste for politics and grandiosity. Frankly, he’s kind of a difficult fellow to work with, very irritable and strong-willed. Even still, he’s the right person for the situation he finds himself in. Trouble and danger follow Beauford Kearn like a black dog, but he doesn’t shy away from what he’s called on to do.
Susan Carby is an Executor, a learned scholar in the fields of administration and ethics. Her family has a troubled history with Havoc and her mother will never let her forget it. Even still, she puts a high value on public service and makes it her business to do what’s best for the town, no matter what. She’s under a lot of pressure to conform to the standards applied to someone of her position and class. Very few people get to see her without her professional armor on except her lover, Beauford.
The Magi are three of Havoc’s smartest and most capable citizens. Red Briar, Amelia Brook, and Jean Mason form an unusual, but brilliant sisterhood. Red and Amelia sort of hate each other, which doesn’t help much. Red is a hard-drinking, hard-working industrial genius. Amelia is a gifted inventor, but she is bookish, high born, and withdrawn around people. Thankfully, Jean is there to help them get over themselves and work together. She’s a farm girl with a warm nature and an aptitude as a pilot. They are all capable individuals, but working together their innovation has the power to change the world.
Joan Carby, Susan’s estranged sister, is more of a ghost than a woman. “The Shootist” as she calls herself is an ominous drifter with unclear motives. Whatever happened to her since her exile from Havoc is a mystery, but one thing is very clear about her: she’s dangerous.
Cora Hale is the first character that readers meet in Havoc’s Children. She’s a picker, she spends her days combing the dead cities of Thereafter looking for valuable salvage from the old world. Despite her low station in life, she’s happy enough being a nobody. Sadly for her, such anonymity was not meant to last. Through her eyes, so to speak, we catch our first look at the sinister characters behind The Westfall Blight. She’s not fully aware of it yet, but she has a much bigger role to play in the world than she’s ready for.
There are a great many other characters in the world of Thereafter that bear analysis, I fancy. Why, I could write a whole book on the subject…
Always so much more, but we’ll pause here in our chat with C.T. Hutt. Join us again when he talks about characters and details in the world of Havoc
You can support C.T. and our community by getting your copy of Havoc’s Children: Dog Days of Thereafter here.