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)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on Kara Jorgensen and commented:
    Part two of my interview with the Airship Ambassador about writing, the Ingenious Mechanical Devices, and characters dealing with -isms.

  2. […] Read Part Two here. […]

  3. […] Read Part Two here. […]

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