Read Part One here.
Airship Ambassador: How do the characters you’ve told us about change throughout the story, or does the world change around them, instead?
C.T. Hutt: The Westfall Blight starts to change these characters even before we get a chance to meet them. To some, like Joan Carby, it seems like a faraway distraction from more important matters. To others, it’s the beginning of the most important metamorphosis of their young lives. No one gets away from war unchanged. For better or worse, the struggle to contain this blight will test the mettle of every soul in Thereafter.
AA: Change is the only constant. Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story?
CTH: The Aegis are enormous suits of cogwork armor, commonly used in construction and agriculture, but also employed in the business of war. I’d say that they are the most obvious objects that play a role in telling this story. Not only are they a strategic military asset, the process of their construction and improvement factors heavily into The Magi’s storyline. In fact, Amelia and Jean first meet because of Jean’s unique gifts as an Aegis pilot.
There is also a much smaller item that first appears in the story in the hands of Phineas Bailey, a flamboyant proprietor of a gambling hall in the town of Havoc. The Colorado Standard Playing Card Deck plays a direct role in telling the story. The contrast between fate and free will is a commonly recurring trope in Havoc’s Children and what better way to illustrate that concept than the shuffling of cards? Illustrations from the cards appear throughout the story, bringing characters and themes into sharper focus.
Incidentally, The Colorado Standard Poker Deck will soon be available for sale featuring thoroughly steampunk artwork and a myriad of opportunities for game creation. My wife Jenny Lynn and I are ironing out the final details with the US Patent office.
AA: Very nice, we’ll keep an eye out for that when it becomes available. What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Havoc’s Children?
CTH: The Cross Territorial Pneumo Lines are a form of nearly instant transportation that crisscross the continent of Thereafter. Their construction and the implications of such infrastructure factor heavily into the recent history of the world.
The maps, letters, and quotations sprinkled throughout the book contain quite a few details that a casual reader may overlook. The entire truth of the somewhat grim world I’ve been working in can be found amid those illustrations, but it would take a keen eye to uncover them all.
AA: The maps, and other images you’ve included in the story really add some great foundation and background information to the story. In some ways, they are stories in themselves. Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?
CTH: Throughout the book there is a clear suggestion that there are forces at work beyond the characters’ common understanding. The readers have a bird’s eye view of the entire narrative and by the end of Dog Days of Thereafter, I think I’ve given them enough material to form a general thesis as to what those forces may be. Personally, I find the super-narrative to be quite interesting even if it is a little tongue-and-cheek. My early readers have been very enthusiastic about the illustrations. Even if the story doesn’t meet one’s taste, I believe the work has merit from a design perspective.
I suppose I should be asking you the same question. You’re as much a scholar of Steampunk as anyone. What did you find interesting along the way? Was there anything novel about this novel?
AA: Ooohhhh, Turnabout! Some of the action descriptions, and the interactions between characters, also created an emotional feeling. It’s one thing to shallowly describe a character’s actions and have the reader infer they are good or bad or complex, but it’s another to write that same passage in a way to really drive home that same conclusion with a definite and lingering, even haunting, impact.
The images added a lot to the story and the feel of what was happening. Some provided background information about things that the people in the world of Havoc would already know, and instead of characters having a discussion about such things for the benefit of the reader, the image not only shares that information but also creates a feeling to go with it. Like one of the letters from Beauford to Susan.
So, good job!
AA: Speaking of those illustrations by Yherok Scars, the letters, and other graphic work , how did all of that come about and why include it at all?
CTH: I feel that maps are some of the most telling and interesting things to really study. A single piece of artwork or a faded photograph from a bygone era can help tell a story from that period with greater clarity than ten thousand words. I included the illustrations, maps, and other documents because the story simply couldn’t be told without them.
AA: What passage, paragraph, or scene was really memorable to write?
CTH: When we first meet Beauford he is looking over Havoc County. It’s the first real look that readers get at the place. We get a sense of how much he loves his home. I often think of Havoc from that perspective.
“The whole breadth of Havoc County lay before him. The prairies and ranchlands below the windspires stretched all the way to the twisted pine forests at the foot of The Irons. From the sunforges set into the mountains themselves to the sands of Damnation, fifty thousand souls called the town of Havoc their home. It was the only land that Beau had ever known, or cared to. Though he had seen the view many times, the miller never got tired of looking at it.”
AA: Right off, we get a sense of the land and Beauford’s connection to it, as well as insight to him – he loves where he is and has no desire to search out for something else. It seems like he already feels there is no place better that Havoc, maybe different, but not better, at least not for him. Was there any scene-passage-text-etc that you loved but which just didn’t work and had to be cut?
CTH: Yes, a great many. In a story this long there are lots of threads that have to be cut. Faulkner once said that the key to writing was to “Kill Your Darlings.” I’ve left a vast cemetery of my precious literary children in my wake.
One of the hardest things for me to cut was the original opening text, pages of poetic world building that I spent hours refining. In the end, I think only two sentences survived. It had to be done.
AA: Maybe some of those will find their way into another story. What kind of back story is there for Havoc’s Children which didn’t make it into the final book?
CTH: I think this may be my favorite question so far.
I originally tried to fit Joan Carby’s full back story into the first book. There was simply no room for it. I’m sure the picture will become clear in the fullness of time. There also was an important event that occurred some years before the beginning of Havoc’s Children known as The Latter Rebellion. I sometimes wish I had included more details about it.
YAY! Favorite question!
We’ll pause here in our chat with C.T. Hutt. Join us again when he talks about research, sequels, and publishing.
You can support C.T. and our community by getting your copy of Havoc’s Children: Dog Days of Thereafter here.