Please welcome Dru Pagliassotti to The Qwillery. Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind, the second novel in the Clockwork Heart Trilogy, was published on March 15, 2014.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Dru: I’ve been writing fiction since I learned the alphabet, but I didn’t get serious about publishing it until I finished my dissertation and settled into a university position. I’ve managed to work my way up from for-the-love to check’s-in-the-mail, but, alas, I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Dru: A pantser. I should be a plotter. I admire plotters. I aspire to be a plotter. But I write the way I run tabletop RPGs — I figure out the key scenes and simply let the characters loose. With luck, they get to each scene with minimal authorial assistance.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Dru: Finding the time. I’m a full-time university professor and department chair, so I squeeze most of my writing into the three months of my summer break.
TQ: Tell us something about Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind (Clockwork Heart Trilogy 2) that is not in the book description.
Dru: As one of my friends pointed out with amusement, Iron Wind brings up the problem of urinating while traveling three separate times. …Well, what can I say? Finding the right time and place to pee is serious business when you’re on the road!
Also, if anybody’s wondering, “iron wind” refers to weapons fire, as in an iron wind of bullets.
TQ: What inspired you to write Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind?
Dru: Someone asked, “what happens next?”
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind?
Dru: Much of my research involved various modes of flight and steam-powered locomotion, but I also looked into weather and altitude effects, military organization and rank systems, and quite a bit of weaponry, including acid delay incendiaries. (I suspect my IP address is now on an NSA watchlist…).
TQ: Why did you write Steampunk Fantasy? What is the difference between Steampunk and Steampunk Fantasy? What do you find appealing about Steampunk?
I grew up writing fantasy and horror. In 2004, however, I decided to make National Novel Writing Month a little more challenging by writing in two genres I’d never tried before — steampunk and romance. I had a vision of wings and giant gears that I wanted to develop, so I decided to write in a fantasy world instead of an alternate Earth. Clockwork Heart was the result.
I referred to Clockwork Heart as steampunk fantasy because, in its early days, steampunk was considered an alternate-history genre. My hope was that the word “fantasy” would warn people that this novel wasn’t set in Victorian England. Today, of course, steampunk has embraced all kinds of settings, but Victorian England and the 19th-century United States still dominate the genrescape.
The problem with using “fantasy” as a descriptor is that a lot of people associate fantasy with magic and monsters. Neither exist in this particular series. The Clockwork Heart trilogy does propose the existence of a handful of pseudoscientific elements — most notably a buoyant metal, ondium — but otherwise I’ve avoided supernatural and inhuman elements. I know many writers include magic and monsters in their steampunk, and I’ve thrown them into a few of my steampunk short stories, but in this trilogy I’ve enjoyed the personal challenge of keeping the supernatural out and focusing on what humans can do with ingenuity, perseverance, and the resources around them.
That emphasis on heroic self-reliance is part of what makes steampunk so appealing to me. Steampunk protagonists are intelligent, talented, and hard-working, just like makers in the real world. They value craftsmanship and artisanry, building things that look good and that last over time. They control their tools, rather than let their tools control them. Even at its most dystopic, steampunk suggests that we humans got ourselves into this mess, and we humans can get ourselves back out of it — no supernatural intervention required. I think that’s an inspiring message for these often overwhelming times.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good 'guy', bad 'guy' or ethically ambiguous character in the Clockwork Heart Trilogy (so far)?
Dru: The easiest character to write was Cristof, because both he and I are socially awkward introverts.
The hardest character to write was Taya, because of the many challenging moral dilemmas she’s faced. Taya’s innately optimistic, enthusiastic, and friendly, but it’s hard to stay positive when people are trying to destroy you and your loved ones. She makes some tough decisions over the course of the trilogy, and I’ve done my best to show how she manages to live with her choices.
As far as ethically ambiguous characters go, I like Alister, of course — he’s a hero in his own mind — but there’s not much I can say about him without spoilage. A good guy whose role expanded a lot from Clockwork Heart to Iron Wind is stoic Lieutenant Amcathra. The poor man does his best to impose order and propriety on the chaos that whirls around Taya and Cristof, but it’s a thankless job.
TQ: What's next?
Dru: The third and final book in the trilogy, Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire, comes out in September. In the meantime, I’ve dusted off a post-apocalyptic dieselpunk political fantasy and made it my summer writing project.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Dru: Thank you!
Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind
Clockwork Heart Trilogy 2
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, March 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Cover Illustration by Timothy Lantz
Ondinium stands on the brink of war...
Love and duty collide when Taya is appointed attaché to Ondinium's first exalted ambassador and is soon plunged into a sinister world of secrets and lies. After the diplomatic contingent’s hasty withdrawal from Mareaux to avoid an international incident, Taya's faith is shaken by a disastrous crash and a tragic murder, which reveals just how much she has to lose. Now, if she's going to fulfill her duty to her nation, she must risk everything she cares about. As the winds of war whip around Ondinium’s borders, Taya’s metal wings must bear her through storms, gunfire, and explosions as she fights to save them not only from their enemies, but also from their own government — a government that regards them as nothing more than clockwork cogs in a ruthless political machine.
Clockwork Heart Trilogy 1
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, September 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Cover Illustration by Timothy Lantz
Flight is freedom, but death hangs in the skies..
Taya soars over Ondinium on metal wings. She is an icarus, a courier privileged to travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately amongst its castes. But even she cannot outfly the web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and intrigue that snares her after a daring mid-air rescue. Taya finds herself entangled with the Forlore brothers, scions of an upperclass family: handsome, brilliant Alister, who sits on Ondinium’s governing council and writes programs for the Great Engine; and awkward, sharptongued Cristof, who has exiled himself from his caste and repairs clocks in the lowest sector of the city. Both hide dangerous secrets, in the city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart.
Dru Pagliassotti is the author of the Clockwork Heart trilogy, Clockwork Heart, Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind, and the upcoming Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire (EDGE). She’s also written the horror novel An Agreement with Hell (Apex Publications) and various short stories. She’s a professor of communication at California Lutheran University.