Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Airship Ambassador: When people read Havoc’s Children, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
C.T. Hutt: I can’t understate the value of public service. During the Civil War there were some small towns in Maine that lost so many of their young men that they never recovered. Houses stood empty. Fishing fleets moved to the bigger cities. I grew up on a small farm along the stony shore among the ghosts of a forgotten sacrifice. That kind of thing leaves an impression on a young person.
Many people who work for the betterment of others do so quietly, without credit or fanfare. I believe that is worth something. I believe that is worth everything.
AA: “ I grew up on a small farm along the stony shore among the ghosts of a forgotten sacrifice. ” Now THAT is a great opening line for a story. You’ve grown up on a farm, been a government policy analyst, had plenty of years of higher education at the University of Colorado for your MFA, and endured a rather exciting flood in 2013. How did elements of your own life and experiences play into Havoc’s Children?
CTH: I don’t think writers ever really separate themselves from their work. They may try, but it often feels forced and obvious when they do. A good friend of mine once called me “a nostalgic son-of-bitch” in reference to my writing. I think Havoc’s Children bears that out.
AA: What was one memorable story while writing this story? Any laugh out loud or cry in the corner moments?
CTH: One summer a couple years back I went to visit my wife, then girlfriend, who was finishing up her Master’s Degree in London. While she would go to class I would sit under a tree in Kensington Gardens and write page after page. It was grey almost everywhere I went in that city, but that one spot always seemed to be brilliantly green. It was some of the most productive time I’ve ever had as a writer. London is a marvelous place for pen work. I often think back on that time when my process gets derailed.
AA: London is a great city to visit. Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?
CTH: Havoc’s Children is a four book project. Book II, Havoc’s Children: Fall of Central, is well underway.
AA: Readers may be chomping at the bit for it. What kind of research and balance went into creating the Havoc’s Children world?
CTH: I read pretty much everything written by Shelby Foote, one of the great historians of the Civil War. I went through the complete wartime correspondence of General’s Lee and Grant, all of Lincoln’s speeches, and innumerable other works on the subject. I also poured over maps from the period and other firsthand sources. Mark Twain’s voice was an especially useful milestone as I was working out how the text should feel.
AA: For steampunk stories, I’m always intrigued about how real history plays into it or sparks teh imagination for what the story becomes. What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Havoc’s Children history?
CTH: The Latter Calendar is a recurring artistic device used throughout the narrative. It’s based on the Lakota Winter Count, a wonderful Native American art form that helped enhance a tradition of verbal record keeping. The Latter Calendar is one of the most cohesive illustrations of Thereafter’s history and I relied on it heavily to remind myself of what happened when. It is interesting to note that the seminal event in Havoc’s Children, The Westfall Blight, is the fifth such event to occur in this world.
I would often include highlights from the Latter Calendar to help explain when a character referenced a previously unheard of historical event. The history of Thereafter, much like our history, is mired in legends and half-truths.
Here’s what a scholar in the world of Thereafter had to say about it:
“There are eighty eight pictographs in total, twenty five of which cover the nebulous events of calamity. The remaining sixty three cover the entire six hundred fifty five year history of the nation. They are to be read from the center outwards, left to right. The closer to the edge of the deerskin one gets, the closer they are to the present day.”
As I mentioned before, it would have been quite impossible for me to tell this story without the illustrations.
AA: Amazing. To bring in history and historical art forms to tell a modern story can really create an interest and connection to real events and traditions. How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Havoc’s Children? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?
CTH: About four years, all things told. I seriously underestimated how long the artwork and editing process would take. Now that I have the company set up and the black book of talented artists I need, I feel confident that the sequels will come along much quicker.
AA: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. You’ve created your own publishing company, and in your Goodreads profile mentioned some of the pitfalls of such – what has that whole experience been like?
CTH: The whole publishing industry is in a state of flux. The giants are getting eaten to death by trillions of digital ants. No one is sure what is going to work next year or why last year’s big thing worked at all. Frankly, it’s been a torturous mess to get started, but I’m supremely glad I took the time to do it. BookHutt LLC is a very small cog in the big machine, but it is all mine.
AA: If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like Havoc’s Children. What is “X”?
CTH: I’ve heard it very favorably described as a western Game of Thrones. There are no dragons or clever dwarves, but the narrative structure is fairly similar.
Another landmark novel I’d consider referencing is The Gunslinger from the Dark Tower series. For the uninitiated, it’s a western epic with more sci-fi influence than steampunk, but it feels right to mention. I’m from Maine, I can’t really help it, Stephen King has always been a hero of mine.
When this comes up in conversation, my wife insists on mentioning the recent Marie Brennan draconic novels, the Memoirs of Lady Trent, because of the steampunk theme, the strong female characters, and the variety of different cultures the reader experiences as the main characters travel across Thereafter.
We’ll pause here in our chat with C.T. Hutt. Join us again when he talks about reading, writing, and touring.
You can support C.T. and our community by getting your copy of Havoc’s Children: Dog Days of Thereafter here.