Interview with Author Terri Favro, Part 3

Welcome back for part three in our chat with Terri Favro, author of Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl, which is a story in the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Read part one here.

Read part two here.


Airship Ambassador: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What have your publishing experiences been like?

Terri Favro:  Like every writer, I have had my disappointments but overall my experiences have been very positive. Quattro Books published my first book in 2012 as a co-winner of their Ken Klonsky Novella contest. It’s always challenging to get readings and reviews for a first book from an indie publisher, but over time attention grew for that book, which has been described as “dark fairy tale”. I have two new novels coming out in 2017 – one from ECW books and a sequel to The Proxy Bride from Inanna – so I’ve been pretty fortunate. And I’ve had a few pieces of short non-fiction published this year.

Also I had my first foray in the storytelling world when CBC Canada Books commissioned me to write a piece for a radio show and podcast called ALL TOLD: TALES FROM THE TRUE NORTH. That was a scary experience because I had to tell the story to an audience of 300 without notes, for a live taping –– it was like being on a high wire without a net – but I loved it. Grey Borders Books, an indie publisher in Niagara Falls, has published two Bella comics to date, with a reissue of both comics in a single book scheduled for this summer and graphic novel, Facer Street, due out next year. My publishing journey continues, and it feels like it may be gaining some momentum. I have a number of ideas for new books, including non-fiction and a horror novel, so as long as I have publishers willing to work with me, I’ll have new books coming out.


AA: How are new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?

TF: Word of mouth, primarily, although both the CBC Literary Awards and the Broken Pencil Indie Writers Deathmatch brought me to the attention of readers.


AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons have you learned over time about having an editor, their feedback, and your writing?

TF: When the editor is positive, supportive and in tune with the writer’s intentions, the writer-editor collaboration is one of the best parts of the publishing process. I loved working with Dominik Parisien the editor for Clockwork Canada. A good editor knows how to help the writer improve their story, without taking over the process, pointing out weak spots and inconsistencies, and helping build on strengths. That’s a huge balancing act for an editor, but the good ones, like Dominik, know how to make it work. My advice: if you are working with an editor who has chosen to work with you as a writer, listen, discuss and consider what they have to offer. An editor who believes in your work is like gold, chocolate, summer holidays and your best birthday present ever.


AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that  been like, and the fan reaction?

TF: I have done many readings, but I’ve never been on a book tour or read at a convention. I hope that happens! (Ironically, the first chapter of my upcoming novel, Sputnik’s Children, is set at a ComicFanCon at a Niagara Falls casino. Maybe that chapter was my attempt at wish fulfillment.)


AA: What do you do to keep a balance between writing  and the rest of your life?

TF:  My day job is as a freelance copywriter and content provider, so I feel as if writing pretty much IS my life. When I have deadline driven assignments, they take priority, but I always find time in the day for my creative work. Other than that, I like to hike and bike with my husband, who also collaborates with me on the Bella comic books. Our two sons are in their twenties and living their own lives, so my mothering days are behind me, which means that I have more time to do what I want –– writing. Oh, and reading. Because to me, you can’t be a writer without being a reader.


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

TF:  Yes, absolutely. I have a few writer friends who I share my work with, and who share their work with me. That’s always a good way to see whether a new piece is working., I also find it helpful to show work to friends who are avid readers but not writers themselves, because they often have insights and reactions that are more linked to the overall story than the technical aspects of the writing.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

TF: I’m a little braver in my choices and the topics I will tackle than I was ten years ago. I also have learned more about my personal writing process. For one thing, a quick first draft is a sign that I’m on to a good idea, but I also realize that I can never do too many revisions. For me, that’s become the process: get the story down fast, while the idea is fresh, but be ready to rewrite many, many times. Another insight: a rewrite doesn’t mean that you have to accept your own revision. It’s okay to play with a story by writing an alt version, then comparing it to the original. You might actually return to what you originally wrote, but it doesn’t hurt to play with other approaches, even if you end up rejecting them.


AA: Those are good things to know. Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

TF:  That’s easy: by reading books that are so good I wish I had written them. Reading is a huge part of the writing process because it shows me what others are doing. The pleasure of reading a great book written by someone else motivates and inspires me to try to write something that gives others the same experience. Going to literary readings is also useful.


AA: How is Toronto for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

TF: The literary scene in the city is very vibrant; you could attend a reading, poetry slam or storytelling event every day of the week if you wanted to. It’s also probably one of the easiest places in Canada to become casually acquainted with agents and publishers because so many of them are based here. Having said that, I’m not convinced that being a Toronto-based writer makes it easier to get published or to publicize a book – that has more to do with having access to media and to individuals with the power to promote a book. The writer’s so-called platform is more important than where the writer lives.


AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?

TF: I’d definitely be a bartender. I’ve always loved mixing cocktails and listening to people’s stories with Frank Sinatra from the Columbia years playing the background. I get a kick out of reading the glossy booze-porn that the Ontario liquor board produces. And I love those retro paper placemats in restaurants with illustrations of, like, fifty different cocktails of the world. I can mix an excellent Negroni (a classic Italian cocktail that is like heroine in a glass, named for Count Camillo Negroni, whoever he was). I also shake a very good martini.


We’ll stop here in our chat with Terri. Join us next time when she talks about writing and other interests.

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

You can support Terri and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on May 17, 2016 at 6:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Author Terri Favro, Part 2

Welcome back for part two in our chat with Terri Favro, author of Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl, which is a story in the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Read part one here.


Airship Ambassador: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?

Terri Favro: Lady Laura’s famous general, Sir Isaac, will turn out not to be who everyone thinks him to be…in some very fundamental ways.

Also, in the 1949 “present day” of the story –– when Lady Laura’s oral memoir of the war is being transcribed –– the reigning monarchs are not who would expect them to be.


AA: How elements of your own experiences play into the story?

TF: As a proud graduate of Laura Secord Secondary School, you might think that I grew up in a neighbourhood of Canadians descended from the UEL settlers of the area, but in fact I lived in what is now known as the “old foreign quarter” of Facer Street. It was a community almost entirely made up of immigrants of Italian and Eastern European origins, as well as black families who had come to Niagara via the Underground Railroad [2nd link]. Facer Street had a “wrong side of the tracks” reputation. So, my neighbourhood had a bit of a Voltagetown feeling to it.

I also grew up in a very observant Roman Catholic family, so the worship of electricity in the story is based on some of the language of religious worship that dominated my childhood.

Finally, my sister was a teacher in a school for the hearing impaired. I did some volunteer work there while I was in high school, and learned how to finger spell, something that I then taught to friends. It came in very useful when you wanted to ‘talk’ to someone on the other side of a classroom.


AA: It is a pretty handy skill to know. It’s a shame that it’s not taught in all schools. What kind of back story is there which didn’t make it into the final version?

TF The first draft of the story included the character of Tecumseh, the great Shawnee chief who played a pivotal role in the War of 1812. Eventually the editor, Dominik Parisien, and I decided that it might be jarring to include an actual historical character in the story that hadn’t been drastically altered in some way, the way that Lady Laura and Sir Isaac are. The real Tecumseh would not even have been alive in 1899. But I still wanted a character to reflect the fact that the First Nations played an important, and often unacknowledged, role in that War as allies of the Crown. Lieutenant Barnfather (whose name I saw on a headstone in an old cemetery in Toronto) came to life as a result.


AA: Are there any plans for more stories with Lady Laura?

TF:  Definitely! I would like to turn the story into a novel, expanding on what is already in the short story. I think Lady Laura, Sir Isaac, Lady Lola and Barnfather all have bigger tales to tell. Barnfather, in particular, would be an interesting character to develop more fully. I’d also like to develop the young vice-regal transcriptionist, James Hansom, who records Laura’s interview with the Governor General, into a fully realized character. What was he thinking as Laura recounted her colourful, violent and sometimes shocking story? Was he sympathetic to her? Did he share her obvious dislike of the Governor General? It would be fun to flesh out this story.


AA: Yay! I’m looking forward to more colorful stories:) When people read your work in Clockwork Canada, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

TF:  Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Don’t be kept in your place by your so-called betters. Question and challenge the accepted order of things. Listen to people who are younger than you. Don’t assume that just because someone is in a position of authority they deserve to be there.


On a more practical note, make sure your wiring is sound. Houses are still burned to the ground due to faulty wiring.


AA: What kind of research and balance went into creating this world?

TF:  I revisited the history of the War of 1812 as it developed in the Niagara region, and tried to understand the AC/DC  (alternating current/direct current) battle of the early pioneers of electricity. I also read up on early hydro stations and how, when and where they were built. I visited the ruins of a hydro station that was first built in the mid-19th century and collapsed in the 1950s on the American side of the Niagara gorge.


AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the history?

TF:  I used the names of actual battles and well-known icons of the War of 1812, as well as some aspects of early 20th century history in the 1949 time frame when Lady Laura is telling her story.


AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

TF:  It was probably about a four-month process. The initial draft of the story came very quickly, because I was having so much fun writing the story! Dominik worked with me to strengthen the story, especially by making Lady Laura more independent and self-directed.


AA: Always nice to have a good editor. What kind of attention has the story generated?

TF:  There have been some very positive reviews for the book overall and for my story. Not all reviewers loved my story, but the ones who did really “got it”. The sexual content of the story has come up – I think one reviewer referred to it as “saucy”, a word I thought was oddly Victorian in itself! But it’s not inaccurate: Lady Laura is very blunt with the Governor General in what was done to her as a young girl in the name of the Crown. She tells her story with the intention of shocking him, which in turn might slightly shock the reader.


We’ll stop here in our chat with Terri. Join us next time when she talks about lessons learned about being a writer.

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

You can support Terri and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on May 16, 2016 at 6:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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Interview with Author Terri Favro

This week we are talking with Terri Favro, author of Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl, which is a story in the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.


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

Terri Favro: Glad to be here, thanks!


AA: You have a wealth of writing experience behind you, including the novella The Proxy Bride and being co-creator of the Bella graphic novels, copywriting, and being shortlisted three times for the CBC Literary Awards. Now, one of your stories is included in Clockwork Canada. What is it about?

TF:  Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl speculates about how history might have unfolded if the British Crown had never given up on regaining control of the revolutionary American states. I’ve based the main characters of the story on two icons of the Canadian side of the War of 1812, Laura Secord and Isaac Brock, but changed both of them in very significant ways. I’ve also moved them forward in time to 1899 as the war to recapture America draws to a close. The story is written in the form of an oral memoir, transcribed during an interview between an elderly, but feisty, Lady Laura (my alt version of Laura Secord) and the Governor General of Canada. The interview with Lady Laura is set in 1949, on the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the war.


AA: That’s a great set up for the story and use of real life history as a base. Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for this story?

TF:  The steampunk aesthetic is perfect for an alternative history story that takes place during a time of technological change –– in this case, the introduction of hydroelectric power, which was part of what is sometimes called the second industrial revolution of the late 19th century. The opportunity to speculate about how hydroelectric power could have been used as a weapon of war was irresistible to me. In every period of technological upheaval, human lives are ground into grist to make shiny miracles happen. That is true in our own time, and it was true in the late Victorian age of electrification, particularly because electricity was still an unstable, poorly understood force. Being an electrician or electrical engineer at that time was a risky business.


I was also attracted me to steampunk by the “what-if?”  possibilities of the genre. What if the ultimate  success of the American revolution was not a given? What if the British Empire was willing to fight to the last soldier to regain control of its New England colony? What if electrical weapons were used to fight that war? What if, over the stretch of a long conflict, technology took on the trappings of religion?


AA: What was the inspiration for writing this tale ?

TF: I grew up in Grantham township, a rural part of Niagara region that has since become the north end of St. Catharines, about 20 kilometers from Niagara Falls and even closer to Niagara On The Lake. United Empire Loyalists were revered in my hometown. UELs were settlers from the New England states, who remained loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution and came to Canada in its aftermath.

Another inspiration was my father, an electrician who learned his trade from an antiquated series of books published early in the 20th century called the Hawkins Electrical Guide. It makes an appearance in the story as a type of techno-Bible. The real Hawkins Electrical Guide had strangely religious overtones, considering it was a manual for electricians and electrical engineers. The introduction even quotes from Scripture.


AA: It’s very interesting to me to hear about all this historical information forming the backdrop for your story. What can you share with us about the main character, Lady Laura Filomena De Marco?

TF: Lady Laura is the daughter of a cook who came from Italy and was pressed into service as a soldier in the war against the American States. When Laura’s father dies in a battle in the Niagara Gorge (fought with electrical weapons, of course), Lady Laura’s mother is pushed into a life of prostitution, a fate officially handed to Laura on her 16th birthday. As a state-sanctioned “camp follower”, Laura is part of the machine of war. Her suffering is irrelevant to the powers that be. But she is also clever, and that cleverness (and some luck) turns her into a powerful force in her own right. She goes from being an exploited sex worker to the Redemptress of the Realm, with a title and a land given to her by Queen Victoria.


AA: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story? Ships, devices, etc?

TF: Laura’s world includes electrified cannons (a concept imagined by electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla, whose statue now stands at the Niagara Falls New York State Park); an electrified mechanical battle horse, Alfred (named for Sir Isaac Brock’s real horse); and an early version of an electric vibrator called Old Toby. It’s interesting to note that vibrators were one of the earliest uses of electricity for, ahem, “home use”.  Also, the Hawkins Guide, which I’ve previously mentioned, plays a big role in the story as a sort of Bible. Lady Laura and her mom even refer to it as the Good Book.


AA: Now THAT is an interesting use of history, lol! What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Lady Laura?

TF:  Lady Laura lives in a shantytown called Voltagetown on the edge of Niagara Falls. Voltagetown is a place reserved for outsiders, who provide most of the backbreaking labour at the hydro station that is producing weaponry to defeat the “godless Staters”. Voltagetown also once served as a testing ground for the electrification of houses, something that was perilous before the concept of grounding a current was understood.

Since the Voltagetown residents are considered expendable, they are the ones doing the most dirty and dangerous work in the war effort. Many workers go deaf due from the constant din involved with digging the sluiceways at the power station. As a result, finger spelling (a form of sign language for the deaf and hearing impaired) becomes a form of communication used by everyone in the town, including Laura. Her skill with finger spelling brings her to the attention of a powerful general, Sir Isaac, who sees an opportunity to use it as a form of communication in battle.


We’ll stop here in our chat with Terri. Join us next time when she talks about the character, story and background for her story.

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

You can support Terri and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on May 15, 2016 at 4:02 pm  Comments (3)  
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