Interview #106 – Author Kara Jorgensen, Conclusion

Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk with Kara Jorgensen, author of The Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, which includes The Earl of Brass, The Gentleman Devil, The Earl and the Artificer, Dead Magic, and Selkie Cove. There’s also a short story series including An Oxford Holiday, and The Errant Earl.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.


Airship Ambassador: Writers are often heavy readers, too. How is that for you?

Kara Jorgensen: Oh, I wholly agree and it’s something I tell my creative writing students often. I read constantly. It probably occupies more of my time than actually writing. Thus far, I’ve finished reading 94 books this year. Several of which were short stories and about two dozen graphic novels, but as you can tell, I read a lot. If you don’t read, you don’t have the same exposure to written language and the mechanics of stories that a reader has. As a writer, you’re automatically at a disadvantage. My best advice is to read a lot and widely. Reading outside your genre will teach you new skills that you can apply to your own stories and set you apart from others in your genre of choice.

AA: Learning from others and what has been written can be invaluable in finding our own style and voice. What has made you stop reading something before finishing it?

KJ: My two biggest pet peeves are wooden characters and horrible editing. I don’t mind a typo here or there. It’s impossible to catch everything, but blatant typos or hideous grammar grate on my soul. If you don’t care enough to use spellcheck or invest in an editor if you know you have bad grammar, then why should I care about your books? I try to make sure my works are edited and most of the mistakes are caught (though I always miss some). When it comes to characters, I need to connect to them and they need to have more depth than a cardboard cut-out. If a character is one-note or completely without logical motives or emotions, I just don’t care anymore. With my writing, I feel that I know my characters very well, and because of that, I can delve into their psyches and hopefully, present a realistic person.


AA: Recently, I finished a story which, on the whole, was fairly creative but it was in need of some serious editing to make me recommend it without caveats, for all the same reasons you mentioned above. What story would you like to write but haven’t, yet?

KJ: I would love to write a solarpunk story. The idea of a world powered by nature has been brewing in the back of my mind, but I have yet to form a plot or even characters. For now, I’ll let it stew until it’s ready.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

KJ: Sadly, you knocked out most of my interests. Reading takes up a lot of my free time, but my favorite part of my day is spending time with my dogs. I have border collie mixes that I love more than anything.

AA: Awwww! Dogs are wonderful! What other fandoms are you part of?

KJ: I love period dramas, so I am a huge Downton Abbey fan along with shows like Poldark, Versailles, Call the Midwife, and most things that involve historical fiction and are fairly accurate. I’m a bit of a Harry Potter nerd and tend to wear Slytherin swag on a regular basis.


AA: Sounds like we could have quite the tv marathon sometime! With recipes from all the shows, too! What is on your to-be read or watched pile right now?

KJ: I need to finish watching Versailles season two on Netflix along with a bunch of documentaries. My to-be-read pile is massive, but I am hoping in October to finish Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series and start the Lunar Chronicles series. I’m also a huge fan of Jordan L. Hawk and K. J. Charles, both of whom have a book coming out in October, which I am super excited about.


AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

KJ: My main writing influences are Anne Rice, Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, K. J. Charles, and Jordan L. Hawk. They are all authors I’ve read extensively and thoroughly enjoyed, so I try to emulate the things I love in their writing. In real life, I am very close to a professor from my alma mater, and she has been my mentor since I was a freshman. She convinced me to double major in biology and English, and she was the one to push me to finish The Earl of Brass. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.


AA: Wonderful and creative people! Readers, go check out the people you aren’t familiar with.  What is the best advice you’ve been given?

KJ: Write the book you want to read. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of writing a book because you think it will sell or the kind agents want, but if you aren’t invested in a project, it shows in your work. I’d much rather write a book that I feel is missing from the canon than write what is expected. It ultimately leads to greater creativity with less pressure.

AA: Lack of interest can really show in the final results. What is something that you wish you were asked in interviews but haven’t been?

KJ: Hmm, I guess what character do you think most closely resembles you? In my case, I’d say all of my characters have bits and pieces of my personality, but Immanuel Winter is probably the closest. We share a love of science along with a heaping dose of anxiety. We also have partners who care very deeply for us, and we try to make up for what the other lacks.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

KJ: I would just like to thank you for having me. I greatly enjoyed this interview, and I’m so glad to have gotten to share my thoughts with you.


Thanks so much, Kara! It was wonderfully engaging to chat with you, too!  We look forward to hearing about book #6!


Keep up to date with Kara’s latest news on her website and Twitter.

You can support Kara and our community by getting your copies of Ingenious Mechanical Devices here.

Also, check out Kara’s exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on October 11, 2017 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Interview #106 – Author Kara Jorgensen, Part 3

Welcome back for part three in our talk with Kara Jorgensen, author of The Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, which includes The Earl of Brass, The Gentleman Devil, The Earl and the Artificer, Dead Magic, and Selkie Cove. There’s also a short story series including An Oxford Holiday, and The Errant Earl.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.


Airship Ambassador: With five books, how much back story hasn’t been told yet?

Kara Jorgensen: I try to leave quite a bit of their lives behind the scenes unless I absolutely need to talk about it in the story. That way, in case I want to create a plot point in a future book that involves one of the characters, I have room to work with. In the series, I’ve mentioned parts of Eilian’s early travels, and one day, I would possibly like to explore that in a spin-off series of novellas.

AA: That would be interesting, to see the events and thoughts which shaped him along the way before we first meet him. When people read the books in the whole series, is there anything you’d like them to take away from the experience?

KJ: No matter what story you read in the series, I hope my readers understand that somewhere you are appreciated and loved. No matter what you go through or worry about or how many molds you don’t fit, there is someone out there who will support you and think you are amazing. All of my characters are misfits in their own ways and most are the recipients of prejudice. For any readers facing a similar situation, I want them to know things get better and their tribe is out there.


AA: Finding our place, wherever that may be, and being happy is something everyone can relate to. The challenges we face and resolutions we enact guide us one way or another. You website bio includes the comment “…she realized she no longer wanted to be Victor Frankenstein but instead wanted to write like Mary Shelley…” Some might say you really could have been both, but it is great to see all that medical knowledge was put to very good use in these books. What kind of other research went into creating these books?

KJ: I research pretty much anything I talk about in my stories. Some examples are prostheses (especially biomechanical and antique), dirigibles, Victorian accounting practices, PTSD, trauma, phantom-limb syndrome, Victorian women’s rights, anything having to do with Victorian etiquette or party norms, 19th century Palestine, seal anatomy, and spiritualism, among other things. I’m a compulsive researcher, so I spend a lot of time reading articles and checking my reference books. While writing Selkie Cove, I learned more about seal anatomy than I ever thought I would. My background in science and English has served me well while working on this series.

AA: If it weren’t for the self checkout kiosks in libraries, I’m sure your book list might have some questionable pairings along the way. Afternoon Tea and Victorian Poisons, Grey’s Anatomy and A History of Burke and Hare, Home Galvanic Experiments and Frankenstein: A Guide Book. What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

KJ: I try to get a book out every nine months or so. It usually takes me several months to finish the first draft of a novel as I tend not to write a lot per day. My editing period takes about a month or so, and that includes major edits, line edits, and proof-reading. Once I’m in that mode, I’m fully in the zone and power through it. If I didn’t teach, I could probably write more and faster, but with life the way it is, it seems a book every nine months is as good as it gets.


AA: Ugh, life and responsibilities! Can you share what’s coming next after Selkie Cove?

KJ: Well, I am currently writing book six of the series, which will feature Emmeline Jardine and a certain dandified Egyptian novelist. The story features a long-lost relative, romance, a bratty medium with an attitude that exceeds her stature, and werewolves. Being the latter is a crime in England, which greatly complicates matters. The working title is The Wolf Witch, and I’m hoping to have it out by the spring of 2018.


AA: One more for the reading list <smile>. If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like Ingenious Mechanical Devices. What is “X”?

KJ: Hmmm, my best answer is if you like period dramas and Doctor Who, you’ll probably like my books. It sounds like a strange mix, but you would be amazed how many Doctor Who fans watch shows like Downton Abbey. I think you need to like a little mad science while still appreciating historical detail.

AA: Both shows are high on my list! What do you think puts this story on someone’s must read/have list?

KJ: I would like to think it’s my characters. They are what truly carries my stories, and without them, the plots would fall flat.


AA: What has your publishing experience been like over the years?

KJ: When I was at university, I thought traditional publishing was the only way to go. I had finished The Earl of Brass in my senior year and was polishing it to send out to agents when I saw some of my friends on Facebook talking about how they had self-published their books. At that time, there was still quite a bit of stigma surrounding the indie publishing scene, but my friends were doing well and their books were of good quality. What really sent me away from traditional publishing was hearing from an author I liked that she had to omit a romantic subplot between a gay couple because her publisher didn’t think it would be marketable. The idea that someone could make me change my plots so heavily was the final nail in the coffin. From then on, I started researching indie publishing, and in 2014, I published The Earl of Brass.


We’ll break here in chatting with Kara.

Keep up to date with Kara’s latest news on her website and Twitter.

You can support Kara and our community by getting your copies of Ingenious Mechanical Devices here.

Also, check out Kara’s exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on October 10, 2017 at 6:16 pm  Comments (2)  

Interview #106 – Author Kara Jorgensen, Part 2

Welcome back for part two in our talk with Kara Jorgensen, author of The Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, which includes The Earl of Brass, The Gentleman Devil, The Earl and the Artificer, Dead Magic, and Selkie Cove. There’s also a short story series including An Oxford Holiday, and The Errant Earl.

Read Part One here.


Airship Ambassador: There are a lot of -isms in The Earl of Brass, and you and the characters don’t shy away from them. How do they relate to the key themes being presented?

Kara Jorgensen: Each of the characters deals with different sets of issues. In the series, we have ableism, feminism, sexism, racism, and prejudice against LGBT people. These come in varying shades and intensities. A lot the subplots in my stories deal with characters coming to accept themselves for who they are, despite what society may say about them. These are universal themes that span genre and time, and my pseudo-Victorians are no different. In their little world, they’re able to carve out a niche for themselves that protects them from the greater Victorian society. I think the –isms shouldn’t be shied away from. People deal with them on a regular basis and to pretend they don’t exist does a disservice to those who suffer them.

AA: The books rotate between sets of characters. Who are those main characters?

KJ: Eilian Sorrell, Hadley Fenice, Adam Fenice (her brother), Immanuel Winter, and Emmeline Jardine.


AA: What can you share with us about the personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities of those main characters?

KJ: Eilian Sorrell is a nobleman who would much rather be digging up ancient civilizations than attending balls or climbing the social ladder. He has a tumultuous relationship with his father, the Earl of Dorset, due to this call to explore, and because of that, he often struggles with who he is, where he fits in, and if he deserves the life he has. Hadley Fenice is an inventor and craftswoman living in London where she is forced to masquerade as a man in order to keep her family’s business afloat in a world where woman stay home and have children. Hadley doesn’t struggle with her identity as much as Eilian, but as the series goes on, she finds herself out of her element and at odds with the prescribed version of womanhood. Adam is Hadley’s twin brother, who looks like a fop out of Oscar Wilde’s set, but he’s an incredibly hard-worker with a head for numbers. Adam is gay, and of course, during that time, that meant the possibility of arrest and imprisonment with hard labor. This fear leads him to build a wall around himself. Immanuel Winter is an Oxford student from Germany who ends up being kidnapped and tortured in order to discover the secret of thwarting death. This trauma leads to mental and physical scars that complicate every facet of his life, but it also gives him strange new abilities. Emmeline Jardine is a spoiled teenage girl who also happens to be a Spiritualist medium. Her bratty façade hides a woman willing to do nearly anything to get what she wants and the determination to do so.


AA: It’s a rich cast to follow. There’s a lot of ground to cover in five books and the related short stories, but briefly, how do they change throughout the adventures, or does the world change around them, instead?

KJ: Without going into too much detail to keep from spoiling the stories, the characters all grow from the beginning to the end of their stories. Little by little, they begin to accept themselves or their circumstances, and at the end of the day, they’re better people for it. Along the way, evil beings are thwarted and their view of the world changes, though not always for the better.

AA: Looking behind the scenes, how do you connect readers to the characters?

KJ: I think the best way to have a reader connect to a character on an emotional or mental level is to make sure they’re human and not just characters. What I mean by that is that they need to be realistic no matter how strange the story is. Human emotions are universal, which is why we connect to stories and characters written thousands of years ago. The best way to maintain this connection even in times where the story goes beyond what is really possible is to make sure their emotions are realistic and their reactions visceral. Nothing helps someone more than actually feeling the tension or sadness a character is experiencing.


AA: That tension and suspense came through for me several times, and I couldn’t stop reading until there was some resolution. What are some of the interesting items within the world of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices?

KJ: Some of my favorite details to write are descriptions of the character’s houses or rooms. I always feel like our spaces say so much about us without having to overtly state it. I would love to see what readers think about my characters after seeing their rooms. Other interesting details I hope my readers notice are the devices features in the series. A lot of them are well-researched and at least close to what could have been conceived during the late Victorian Era.


AA: Very well researched and well described, I thought. Good descriptions and commentary, sometimes, without being burdening or tangential. Is there a passage which stands out for you?

KJ: The initial reveal of Immanuel’s physical condition after he and Emmeline escape their kidnapper was a particularly emotional moment. “Both doctors’ eyes widened as they beheld his askew jaw and lips, which glistened with sputum and blood. The man’s eyes were hidden beneath the swath of second skin, but the unseen wound bubbled and trickled with congealed plasma.” I struggled with how to present his injured face without making him out to be a sideshow spectacle. In the end, I decided to present the injuries with a doctor’s eye. The hysterical laughing and crying usually come when I have to write a romantic or sensual scene. I try not to be a prude, but it’s so hard for me to write scenes like that without spending twice as much time and tears on it.

AA: Those two sentences are pretty intense and set up a scene which sounds rather horrific. Was there any section that you really wanted to keep but had to leave out?

KJ: Most of my stories tend to be very tight when it comes to drafting plots, so I don’t abandon much. I’ve had lines along the way that I clung to until the last rounds of edits when I knew I had to get rid of them. After the first book, killing my darlings became much easier. I have a few stories that I’ve started and scrapped because they just weren’t working. Eventually, I hope to un-scrap them.


We’ll break here in chatting with Kara.

Keep up to date with Kara’s latest news on her website and Twitter.

You can support Kara and our community by getting your copies of Ingenious Mechanical Devices here.

Also, check out Kara’s exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on October 9, 2017 at 7:29 pm  Comments (3)