Read Part One here.
Airship Ambassador: What kind of back story is there for The Clockwork Heart which didn’t make it into the final version?
Kim Fielding: I would have liked to talk more about Dante’s childhood. He was close with his mother, who died when he was young, but his father never understood him. If this had been a novel rather than a short story, I could have explored how those early experiences shaped Dante into the man he became.
Also, we never learn much about Talon’s past, aside from the fact that his previous owner was cruel—and never appreciated Talon’s humanity. In a longer piece, I would have loved to write from Talon’s point of view as well.
AA: Could those stories still be a possibility? What would you like for people to take away from the story and the characters when they read The Clockwork Heart?
KF: A couple of morals. First, it’s important to be true to yourself, regardless of what others’ expectations might be. I think that’s the only way to be happy. And second, regardless of what other people say and regardless of whether we are considered “normal,” we all have the capacity for love. Love and empathy are what make us human.
AA: Certainly, there are those days and those events where it can be hard to remember that. To be so challenged, or oppressed, or depressed, that we we forget, just find it hard to believe and accept. What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel The Clockwork Heart history?
KF: I was very careful to include grit. Dante is desperately poor, so his living quarters are spare and his cupboards often remain empty. And because he’s living in a Victorian-era city, there’s smoke in the air and deep poverty in the streets, along with a gulf between social classes. Whether Dante is poking through the rubbish heap or attempting to make a meal out of spoiled vegetables, I want readers to feel the difficult reality of his life.
AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, The Clockwork Heart?
KF: Because it’s a short story, and because I felt passionate about the story and characters, I wrote it in just a few days. I tinkered with it a few days more before sending it to my editor friend. She and I went back and forth, polishing it, for another week or two before I submitted it.
In general, short stories like this one are quick. I sometimes think of them as palate cleansers between longer works—a chance to relax a bit and take a fast but intense look at some people and events that interest me. From a publishing perspective, shorts are less intense too. They still go through several rounds of edits and proofreading, but none of these rounds last long. From start to finish, perhaps nine months passed for this story.
AA: I found the story enjoyable and engaging. What do you think puts this story on someone’s must read/have list?
KF: The characters. There’s nothing terrifically complicated about the plot, but I strive to write characters with depth. Long after readers have finished this story, I hope they remember Dante and Talon. In a sense, I want to give Dante and Talon life in people’s imaginations.
AA: If The Clockwork Heart were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
KF: I keep picturing a slightly younger Hugh Jackman as Dante. Talon’s a little harder to cast. Zac Efron, maybe? Maybe a very young Jude Law?
AA: Those are some good choices! How about a soundtrack for The Clockwork Heart?
KF: I have pretty eclectic musical tastes, which might be reflected in the soundtrack, but I think maybe goth rock might predominate. I can picture The Cure, Joy Division, or Nick Cave playing in the background. Or maybe something more punk like Patti Smith or Richard Hell or even the Talking Heads.
AA: How are new readers finding you?
KF: Readers find me a variety of ways. Some of them discover me in anthologies like the one in which The Clockwork Heart appears. I try to attend one or two cons each year, and I always meet new folks there. Of course, I have a social media presence, and I try to make my posts interesting instead of pushy. But I think word of mouth remains a powerful source of new readers—whether it’s literal word of mouth or via online reviews. I know that I often try a new author based on friends’ recommendations. I think a lot of readers do.
AA: Nothing beat’s a friend’s recommendation for something to read. I may have, ahem, picked up a few books that way. What lessons have you learned over time about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?
KF: I don’t currently have an agent, but I can speak fervently about editors. When I first began, I felt somewhat possessive and even defensive about my writing. I think that’s natural for most authors. So much effort and emotion goes into our work that we become personally attached to the outcome, and edits can feel like someone’s bullying our favorite child. Eventually, however, it dawned on me that editors are on my side. They want the same thing I do—for my story to be as wonderful as possible. Once I began to think of editors as my collaborators rather than antagonists, it was a freeing experience. Now when I’m really stuck on a particular passage or when I have the gut feeling something’s not quite working, I don’t have to kill myself trying to make it right; I can rely on a trusted editor’s assistance instead. Now, this doesn’t mean I always agree with my editors 100%. But I do seriously consider their suggestions, and I’ve learned a huge amount from them. Plus I am a nerd who’s amused at having long, friendly debates over hyphens and commas.
We’ll pause here in chatting with Kim. Join us for part three when Kim talks about balance, location, and being a reader.
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