When I first came across the word, I’ll admit, I wondered what the heck ‘steampunk’ was. It seemed it was on every editor’s ‘what’s hot’ list. Now, being of the speculative field, I was instantly interested, especially when I discovered lists of movies and books featuring the theme; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.G Wells had a bit of an influence on some of my earlier works and I’m one of the few to admit I *cough* loved Will Smith’s Wild, Wild West. A few other movies I’ve enjoyed are Van Helsing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Howl’s Moving Castle and the latest Sherlock Holmes. The amazing thing I discovered was, I’ve been watching steampunk movies for years and loving them. I just didn’t know what they were.
So what is steampunk?
Well, Google it and I guarantee you’ll find dozens of different definitions. From wiki, it defines the term as works set in an era or world where steam power is widely used, sometimes with elements of fantasy or sci-fi. I like this broader definition, as it’s definitely a theme with many, many interpretations. Some writers lean more towards the sci-fi or fantasy scale of things, and there is steampunk set in space or the future, but the technology and the steam-power is definitely something that’s not as negotiable.
Of course, I’m writing in the romance realm, so my own personal formula goes somewhat like this: Take Historical Romance, add Fantasy and Sci-fi elements, a good dash of adventure and you have Steampunk Romance. Its edge-of-the seat action, its fun and you can have some cool costumes and gadgets if you like.
For some romance reading recommendations, I can highly recommend Meljean Brooks The Iron Seas series, starting with the Iron Duke, or for a rollicking romp, try Gail Carriger’s Soulless. Some might argue they’re steampunk (and you will have a lot of purists arguing on the ‘net precisely what is and isn’t) but I quite enjoyed Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose quartet too. I’ve also pre-ordered Devon Monk’s Dead Iron, which looks like another great adventure.
In the YA field, I loved Cassandra Clare’s The Clockwork Angel and Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan, and I’m nearly finished Julie Kagawa’s The Iron Queen, which features the realm of Faerie – and the effect the new Iron Fey are having on it.
I think the most interesting part of writing steampunk is coming up with the world and the technology. I didn’t want to have just steampunk elements in my world – a pair of goggles here, an airship or two there – I wanted the whole world to revolve around it.
For my own world in the Devil of Whitechapel, I based the setting in Victorian London – but a Victorian London of my own rules and alternate history. After a mysterious virus was spread from the Far East, London is now ruled by the blue bloods of the Echelon, who must drink blood to survive. When the revolution in France guillotined their blue blood aristocracy, the Echelon decided to take no chances in controlling the populace and have an automaton army comprised of metaljacket soldiers and a Trojan cavalry. With strict ‘blood taxes’ and draining factories, humans are little more than cattle.
Into this world comes my heroine, Honoria, who is the only one who knows where her father’s diary is – a diary which contains the only potential cure to the virus afflicting the Echelon. Every blue blood in London would kill to get their hands on that diary – including the one who murdered her father.
The only person she can turn to is the notorious Devil of Whitechapel, a man who needs that cure just as desperately as the others.
Thanks to my awesome agent, Jessica Faust of BookEnds, it’s just been sold to Sourcebooks in a three-book deal and I’m still in celebratory mode! So keep an eye out, there just might be more steampunk coming in the future!
Congratulations to Bec and her 3 book deal!
We'll keep you posted with more news on Devil of Whitechapel.