Interview #105 – ‘Caress’ Author Eli Easton

This week we are talking with Eli Easton, author of Caress in the steampunk anthology Steamed Up by Dreamspinner Press.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Eli, thanks for joining us for this interview.

Eli Easton: Thanks, happy to be here.

AA: Readers may know you from your previous work, including Before I Wake, Puzzle Me This, and your most recent book, Snowblind. Of interest to steampunks will be your story, Caress, in the Steamed Up anthology. What is that short story about?

EE:  I wrote the story for a m/m steampunk anthology. I’d never written steampunk before and it sounded like a fun challenge. The main character of the story is a man, Tinker, who is a genius clockwork maker. His mentor had fashioned a mechanical heart for him when his own heart failed. He ends up working for the British war department during the Crimean war and he falls for a soldier he’s been tasked with saving by giving him clockwork hands. In the story, the war department uses Tinker and clockworks to create sophisticated weapons, so there’s an anti-war spin on the story.

AA: How does Caress express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to the existing works in the genre?

EE: To be honest, I’m not a huge reader of steampunk, so it’s hard for me to compare it to other works in the genre. What I tried to do with the story is stay as true to the British/Crimean war period as possible, only tweaking the sophistication of the clockworks technology and how much of a role it played in war and weaponry. I’ve read some interesting pieces of how the earlier nuclear scientists felt when their work was used for the bomb, so I incorporated some of that.


AA: Both of the main characters, Tinker and Colin, like so many of us, see their perceived weaknesses as partially or mostly defining them, despite the strengths which other people clearly see. Both are also confined, maybe defined, by their circumstances. What can you share with us about their personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities?

EE: Tinker’s sexuality defines a lot of how he feels about himself. He’s incredibly brilliant, but he always felt small, odd, and different, and his sexuality as he matures is another way he’s simply not like other men. So he tends to hide himself in his intricate work and has no close associates. Colin is more of a straight-forward man’s man, or he tries to be, but he ends up hating the bloodshed of war. He would probably not have survived if he hadn’t fallen for Tinker and had that love returned. The fact that their sexuality is not accepted in their place and time makes both of them loners and, conversely, when they meet and can bond with each other its more of a lasting bond.

AA: What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Caress?

EE:   I liked the idea of clockwork weaponry, and so I was able to get creative with that. If I ever expanded the story, that’s probably where I’d spend more plot time. I also like the idea of Tinker’s mechanical heart, which he has to maintain once a year by switching out valves. It’s gory but cool!

AA: LOL, it did strike me as a bit of “Oh, ugh, don’t pass out, don’t pass out!” What passage, paragraph, or scene was really memorable to write?

EE:  One of the hooks to the story was that Tinker was order to design hands for a solider amputee and they are supposed be exceptional weapons—super strong, able to crush and kill. But Tinker loves the solider, so he creates hands that can also caress and be loving and sensual. It’s a bit of an erotic take on something like those old horror moves like The Hand. Here’s a key scene:

“Tinker,” he said, questioning.

I nodded, not trusting my voice.

“Could I ask you something terribly personal?”

I nodded again.

He blushed. “I—” He tried again. “I know the hands must be set to kill. I know this. But….”


“Can you make them do other things as well?” He looked down where his hand held mine, frowning at it as if he didn’t trust its current gentleness.


“Can you make the hands… caress?” His blush deepened and he couldn’t meet my eyes. “No one will want a mechanical man, you see, to be touched by things like these.” He held the hands up to look at them. I missed the weight of his hand on mine immediately.

“That’s not true. Many men have prosthetics. And you’re a handsome man.”

He looked at me sharply but without much hope. “You’re used to mechanisms. But for most people…. They’ll frighten away any lover.”

I noted that he did not say the word woman. I swallowed.

“And if the hands don’t keep them away, the blood on them will,” he said roughly. “I’m already a killer. But with these…. If I ever see England again, I’ll be soaked in blood.”

I couldn’t argue with him. I knew what duty he and his hands were bound for. But my fingers rubbed his chest to offer comfort, as if they had a will of their own.

He closed his eyes as he choked out the request. “Allow me to be tender to myself at least. No one else will ever want to touch me.”

I felt my face heat, understanding his meaning perfectly. Ten pounds psi, twenty, scrotum, shaft, glans. The ideas it sent rushing through my head overwhelmed me, intellect and body both.

He mistook my silence and pulled away, rolling onto his side to put his back to me. “My apologies. I didn’t intend to ask. I shouldn’t have. Please forget I ever said it. Please, Tinker.”

He was distraught. I felt the strongest urge to lean down and kiss his hair. I was losing my mind. I did lean down, but only to whisper in his ear.

“I will teach the hands to caress, Colin,” I vowed with all my heart.

He froze, then nodded.

And before I could do anything else irredeemably foolish, I removed the hands and took them away to be finished.

We’ll take a quick break here.

Join us for the conclusion when Eli talks about writing, elements of the story and other interests.

Keep up to date with Eli’s latest news on her website.

You can support Eli and our community by getting your copy of Steamed Up here.

Published in: on June 18, 2017 at 2:49 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Read Part One here. […]

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