I’d like you to all give a warm welcome to author Scott Tarbet, who kindly agreed to answer some questions that I had about his upcoming novel ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’.
AND WHAT A GREAT COVER by Dale Pease!
So, Scott, you have a novel about to be released, how does that make you feel?
It’s a debut novel, and the parallels to first time parenthood are inescapable. Only here the author is both father and mother, laboring to conceive, grow, nurture, and deliver a bouncing baby book. And just like with parenthood the time comes when the child is no longer a child, and goes out into the world to seek its fortune.
The major difference is that with a book the timeframe is so condensed. From conception to leaving the nest, A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk took far less than the 18-20 years my kids did. And the anxieties are correspondingly condensed.
Now, this question has been dying to get out of me since I first heard of the book. The title is ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’ which begs the question – is this just a copy of the original, with the occasional clockwork device thrown in, or are we going to see something new?
Good question. It’s definitely not just a copy, and not just lightly decorated with steampunk tech. Although Shakespeare’s play is at the heart of the plotline, it is interwoven with real characters from Victorian-era history, and real historical conflicts on an international scale. Moreover, the plot depends 100% on the speculative steam-powered and clockwork technology that are at the heart of steampunk. The novel doesn’t just feature steampunk gadgetry, it is steampunk.
Wow! Okay that does sound like something new – new and exciting. But now I have to ask – iambic pentameter?
Ambic pentameter? No. Although as a huge Shakespeare fan and aspiring poet I’m so immersed in pentameter that if I thought the audience would put up with it I might have been tempted to make the effort. I find that once you start thinking in pentameter, it becomes like thinking in another language, and just starts to flow.
I’ll just have to take your word for it, Scott.
Out of all the characters in the story, who was your favorite character to write and why?
Oh geez! That’s like asking me which of my three kids is my favorite! The ‘rude mechanicals’ from the Shakespeare play were the starting point, and steampunking them, making them into the half-man/half-clockwork ‘mechs’ was a lot of fun. Likewise steampunking Puck, turning him into the 7-foot tall Zulu mech warrior Shaka, tickled my imagination.
The three Queens, two of whom are true historical figures, were a lot of fun as well, as were the Oberon and Titania characters, the two mech-creating Doctors Malieux.
But of all the characters, I had the most fun writing the four young lovers. I have been fascinated by Winston Churchill for many years, and giving him some additional youthful exploits in the context of this story was irresistible.
All things considered, though, the character of Pauline, who could be called the heroine of this ensemble piece, was personally the most engaging.
Now, Scott, tackling ‘The Bard’ himself is a bold move, what made you decide to take it on, and why in the steampunk genre?
The adaptability of Shakespeare’s stories to each new generation is at the heart of his longevity and continued literary dominance. He not only the writer at the center of English literature, his stories continue to have ‘legs’. Stage productions, movies, and books are constantly adapting him. (One of my favorite directors, Joss Whedon, has a brand new film production of Much Ado About Nothing.) Extending that history of adaptation into the steampunk sci-fi and alternative history sub-genres couldn’t have been a more natural fit.
You almost make it sound easy there, Scott, although I know a lot of hard work had to have been put in this creative work. (and I adore Whedon)
Now I feel that interviewing an author without the following question would somehow be amiss and, although it is a bit of a standard question, I think it is different for each author, and each book, so… What was the hardest part about writing this book, and conversely, what was the easiest?
The hardest part was de-Shakespeareanizing (is that a new word??) my language as I wrote a treatment for modern audiences. Time after time I found myself lapsing into archaic and arcane vocabulary and rhythms that weren’t conducive to modern storytelling.
The easiest part was knowing what the story was to be. On the twin skeletons of the Shakespeare play and late Victorian world history, a lot of the story seemed inevitable.
Since language can make or break a novel, that would have been tricky keeping the right tone with all the elements you have combined in this novel. It’s a great new word by the way – destined for the O.E.D.
The novel is being published through Xychler Publications – how did you find working with them?
The literary midwives at Xchyler Publishing have been wonderful. Huge props go out to my editors McKenna Gardner and Laurisa Reyes, designer Dale Pease, and especially EIC Penny Freeman, without whom none of this would have ever seen the light of day.
Now, Scott, neither of us are what might be called ‘young men’ anymore, so is writing a new passion for you or was it always there?
It has always been there. Ever since my first short stories in my public grade school magazine I have known that I wanted to write stories.
And do you think it is ever too soon, or too late, to take up writing?
Never. George R. R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame) is a perfect example. His first novel came when he was older than I am now.
That’s an excellent point, Scott.
Now with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’ basically wrapped up, are you tackling another?
AMNS actually elbowed its way in front of a longer-term Work In Progress by the name of Dragon Moon, which is also under contract with Hamilton Springs Press, and is pending the creation of an ‘imprint’ specific to sci-fi and techno-action. DM is a techno-thriller, and not a perfect fit for the Xchyler Publishing imprint, which focuses on fantasy, paranormal, and steampunk.
Dragon Moon is a cautionary tale of what happens when the International Space Station partners rest on their Space Race laurels and let newcomer nations take up the slack.
Okay, so clearly you are full of creative ideas – glad to know we will be reading your works for years to come.
And finally, Scott, one must ask – Do you believe in fairies?
Steampunk fairies, like the ‘micromechs’ in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’, yes. 100%.
They’re not just the stuff of science fiction, they’re the stuff of current reality. They’re in operation in surveillance operations in every modern battle space, and the tipping point of self-awareness is very close indeed.
Well, thanks, Scott Tarbet, for taking the time to give us some insight into your novel ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’, and another perspective into the world of writing than my own.
If you want to know more about Scott Tarbet, I’m sure he’d be happy to have you follow any of the links below, so give them a click and get to know this wonderful writer better.
About the author:
Scott Tarbet writes enthusiastically in several genres, sings opera, was married in full Elizabethan regalia, loves steampunk, waltzes, and slow-smokes thousands of pounds of Texas-style barbeque. An avid skier, hiker, golfer, and tandem kayaker, he makes his home in the mountains of Utah.
Follow Scott E. Tarbet online on his BLOG or on Twitter @XchylerScott