The Gatehouse is happy to republish an interview with author K.M. Weiland today from our friends at Clockworker, Germany’s premier steampunk website!
Weiland’s most recent novel, Storming, is set in the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation.
Cocky, funny and full of heart, Storming is a jaunty historical/dieselpunk mash-up that combines rip-roaring adventure and small-town charm with the thrill of futuristic possibilities.
In the interview, the author talks about her inspiration for the novel and her plans for another book set in Regency-era London!
Find the full interview below the fold!
Amalia Zeichnerin: Dear Miss Weiland, Good morning to you, first of all. (it’s 8 AM in Nebraska, USA)
K.M. Weiland: And good afternoon to you!
A.Z.: Thanks. And thanks for taking the time for this interview.
Here is my first question: Your previous novels Dreamlander, Behold the Dawn and A man Called Outlaw are historical and speculative fiction. Storming must have been a special treat for you as it is set in your home state Nebraska. Did you get a lot of inspiration from your surroundings, even if your story is set in the 1920s?
K.W.: I did! I had more fun writing this book than anything I’ve done before. Part of that was just because it’s a fun story, not as dark as some of my stuff, and it has that “summer blockbuster” feel. But a large part of it was also that I was writing about familiar places that I love. I’ve never set a story in a setting I was so intimately familiar with, so it was great to have the research right at my fingertips. I learned a lot I didn’t know about my area as well.
A.Z.: That sounds great. That’s a nice part of writing, I guess. You learn so much new stuff when doing research. And a “summer blockbuster feeling” — I can relate to that when I think about the atmosphere in Storming.
My second question: How did you come across dieselpunk?
K.W.: Honestly, I just kind of stumbled into it! I’ve always been interested in steampunk, and really you could make an argument that that’s what Storming is, since its ‘punk elements actually date from the Victorian era. But someone pointed out to me that since the story is actually set between the world wars, it’s more properly dieselpunk. Which I immediately loved.
I didn’t set out so much to write a ‘punk a novel (some of its early manifestations were actually about time travel). I just followed the story around, and that’s what it gave me. In the end, as you know, the dieselpunk element ended up being a relatively light thread through the aviation- adventure angle of the historical story.
A.Z.: Yes, I guess that’s right, but it added just so much to the book, in my opinion. A girl and her people living in the skies — that was really something new!
Speaking about the historical era, Is there something you like best about the 1920s?
K.W.: The 1920s were wild! The fashion, the craziness of Prohibition, the joy of the post-Great War era, the emergence into more widespread technology — I love all of that. It was especially fun to write about that juxtaposition of rising technology — telephones, automobiles, etc. — in a rural area that still had a little bit of the Wild West feel to it.
But, really, if I had to pick just one thing it would definitely have to be the biplanes. I’ve always loved the romance of early aviation. There’s something so raw and visceral and beautiful about those rickety early planes. I knew my hero Hitch Hitchcock was going to be a biplane pilot, so I had to follow him back to the appropriate era, which of course was 1920.
A.Z: Ah, now I get your special motivation for this novel! You describe the art of flying show circuses in brilliant detail. May I ask, how did you research for that? And are there still flying shows of a similar kind is the U.S.?
K.W.: There actually are quite a few barnstorming/airshows all over the U.S. It’s still a great passion for many aviation enthusiasts. These days, of course, the shows are more exhibitions to introduce people to the old planes. But there is still the occasional pilot who will take it upon himself to fly around, putting on little shows, and trying to live just off what he makes from them.
I did the vast majority of my research through books. I found all kinds of wonderful resources about early aviation — which worked out nicely, since they necessarily provided a lot of insight into the era as well. I was also fortunate to have several early-aviation experts go over the book and fact check for me.
A.Z.: Wow, I didn’t know that about the airshows. And it’s great you had some experts to check your aviation facts.
My next question: Your protagonist Hitch has such a troubled past in his home town, no wonder he just wants to fly away all the time in the beginning. Was it easy or difficult for you to write that character and his development? (I read your extras — there is a secret hyperlink at the end of the book — and really enjoyed the interview with Hitch.)
K.W.: Hitch was one of those lucky characters that just rolled onto the page for me. Part of that, I think, was that his voice was incredibly easy — he basically talks like me.
He was also a lot of fun because he’s so conflicted. He basically just follows the pull of his personality, wherever spontaneity leads him. He doesn’t want to have to deal with other people’s demands on him, because, frankly, his family never tried very hard to understand or support him. But he’s also made major mistakes right back and really doesn’t want to have to face up to them.
I’ve always liked characters with heavy backstories. I seem to write a lot about characters who, for one reason or another, find themselves outside of the social circle and have to go through a crucial evolution to rediscover their place in the world. So Hitch was very enjoyable and interesting for me to write from that angle as well.
And I’m so glad you discovered the extras! It’s always fun to hear that readers stopped by there.
A.Z.: I guess characters with heavy backstories and lots of inner conflicts just create the best stories. By the way, that was a nice idea with the extras, please do that for your next novel as well if you have the time.
Speaking of which, can you tell us something about your next novel Wayfarer? From what I read so far, a super hero story set in the Regency era — sounds interesting for steampunks, too, I think.
K.W.: Yes, definitely. I did the extras for Dreamlander as well, and plan to do them for future novels.
Wayfarer is my historical superhero story. I conceived it as something along the lines of “Jane Austen meets Spider-Man.” It ended up having a little more of Charles Dickens (pickpockets, debtors’ prison, and slimy bad guys) than Austen (alas, only one ball!). But I love Dickens, so I was happy with that evolution.
It’s not explicitly steampunk (no technology), but it definitely has that vibe and I drew on steampunk style for costumes and (spoiler!) monsters. I kept seeing the hero in a steampunk-esque highwayman’s coat as he was leaping over a Regency London cityscape. I actually just finished the first draft, so I’m excited to get to start editing soon.
A.Z.: Cool. Sounds intriguing. “Jane Austen (or Charles Dickens) meets Spiderman” — what a premise! Well, maybe it’s not exactly steampunk, yet there are so many subgenres there, like steam fantasy, dreadpunk and others. Who knows, maybe you’ve just invented a new subgenre?
My last question: Are you going to present Storming at readings at American steampunk/dieselpunk conventions?
K.W.: My non-fiction writing, through my website, keeps me so busy (five non-fic books scheduled to come out this year!) that I focus most of my marketing efforts online, especially since that’s where most of my sales come from.
But that’s definitely in the back of mind. It would be fun to cosplay as well!
A.Z: I think steampunk conventions can also be quite inspiring and steampunks are generally nice folks.
Thank you very much for the interview! And lots of success with Storming and your other projects.
K.W.: Thank you! It was fun