Airship Ambassador: Hi Anne, thanks for joining us.
Anne Regan: Thanks for inviting me to talk with your readers.
AA: Readers may know you from your previous editing work, including Harmonious Hearts 2015, Myths and Magic: Legends of Love, and A Brush of Wings. I came across this anthology after reading a post by Gail Carriger. What is Steamed Up about?
AR: Steamed Up is an anthology of steampunk-themed short stories featuring m/m characters.
AA: There have been just a handful of LGBT-focused steampunk anthologies over the years. What got this one started?
AR: The idea of doing a steampunk anthology was on our radar, but when we saw the art by Nathie that became the cover image, we knew we had to use it. It’s one of my favorite covers ever.
AA: It is a pretty eye catching cover! Aside from sharing stories by authors, what is the goal for Steamed Up?
AR: Since Dreamspinner is a romance press, the stories had to include a relationship (new, developing, or existing) as well as a strong steampunk storyline. And since we’re a gay romance press, the relationship needed to be between two men.
AA: Why specifically choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for these stories?
AR: Part of the appeal of steampunk is how it twists the expected technology and conventions of the time period the stories are set in. Being able to subvert the way gay characters would have been perceived during those time periods gave authors a freedom they might not have in a “straight” historical story.
AA: That is one thing I definitely appreciate about steampunk and the stories, flipping, changing, and turning assumed and historical roles and expectations into something different and more motivational for today’s readers. There are eleven authors contributing to this anthology, what can you share with us about them?
AR: Quite a few of the authors have published stories with us outside the anthology, both in and outside the steampunk genre. Readers can search the Dreamspinner Press website by author name or also to view some of our forty-plus other steampunk releases.
AA: How did you round up the group? Was there an open call and selection process?
AR: Dreamspinner posted an open call for submission. We received fifty-five stories totaling almost 500,000 words, which had to be culled down to a maximum of 120,000 words. In the end I selected eleven stories with a variety of settings and emotional “feels”. We also suggested to several of the authors that they expand their submissions so they could be published as standalone stories.
AA: How long did it take to pull it all together? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?
AR: We generally post our open calls for anthologies at the beginning of the year. For Steamed Up, authors had about seven months to submit stories. It took about a week after the submission deadline to make the selection decisions, and about three months in all for editing, proofreading, and galleying. To be honest, that’s a pretty aggressive timeline for an anthology of this length. The authors were all great to work with, which helped a lot.
AA: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling a story?
AR: Beside the “typical” steampunk devices like airships and roadsters, several stories deal with enhancing humans through prosthetic elements and, in one case, a wholly mechanical being. The most unique story element is a fully mechanized pleasure garden.
AA: Ahhh, yes, the garden! Any key historical figures or events?
AR: My favorite historical setting in the anthology is Prohibition – not a period you’d typically find in a steampunk story.
AA: I found the stories rather engaging – any plans for a second volume?
AR: While not a direct sequel, in December Dreamspinner released Once Upon a Time in the Weird West, which I think will appeal to many of the same readers who enjoyed Steamed Up.
AA: OK, readers, go check it out! When people read Steamed Up, what would you like for them to take away from the stories?
AR: That anything is possible, not only in terms of technology but in terms of being open about who they are and finding someone who will appreciate them for that.
AA: For the aspiring writer, what suggestions do you have as an editor, regarding their submissions, your feedback, and general collaboration?
AR: When I make anthology selections, I’m always looking for a unique take or twist on the theme. I mentioned the story set during Prohibition – it’s a great story on its own, but the fact it’s not the typical Victorian steampunk setting was an added bonus. It’s always a good idea to be sure your story meets the submission criteria in terms of length, formatting, and any other guidelines.
AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and editors to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?
AR: As an editor outside anthologies, I have a core group of authors I work with regularly. It’s always helpful to chat with them about their upcoming writing plans and goals. One of the things I enjoy most about Dreamspinner is the annual author workshop, which is a chance for authors and staff to meet for a long weekend and share information, ideas, and just get to know each other better.
AA: That kind of networking and effort to make connections with other people can only be a good thing. How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
AR: I’ve definitely gotten more diplomatic over time!
AA: LOL, maybe some of us need to learn that, too! In your experience as an editor, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?
AR: Punctuation! I joke that using commas is actually an art rather than a science, since you can find so many different opinions on the “correct” way they should be used. Oxford comma, anyone? Having a defined “house style” helps keep things consistent. The other thing that never gets easier is having to decline a really good story because of the limitations of length or mix of story elements.
AA: That has to be frustrating, to see a story which is so enjoyable and worthwhile, but having to let it go for other reasons. As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it?
AR: When a character who has been established to have a certain personality and beliefs does or says something that’s completely out of character, usually because the author needs the plot to move in a certain direction. I try to show why the action or dialogue is out of character, understand what the author is trying to accomplish, and brainstorm other ways to get there without sacrificing the character’s integrity.
AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite holiday, historical “thing” to read about, and song you never get tired of hearing?
AR: Favorite holiday – New Year’s Day. A chance to start fresh where needed.
Favorite historical “thing” – I’ve always had a soft spot for regencies (blame Georgette Heyer!)
Song: Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day.” It reminds me of being able to leave my evil day job to work full-time for Dreamspinner.
Oh, the dream path to happiness and contentment!
Thanks, Anne, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.
Keep up to date with Anne’s latest news at the Dreamspinner Press website.
You can support Anne and our community by getting your copy of Steamed Up here.