I’d like to introduce you to the seventy-fifth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Aiyana Jackson.
Hi, Aiyana! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
I write mainly Steampunk and High Fantasy, although I’ve been known to dabble elsewhere. My background is like most writers: I’ve always loved to read and write, and I’ve been writing stories since I was a teenager. A couple of years ago I started working non-stop on one particular concept, Encante is the start of that.
Your first novella, Encante, was published in October 2013. It’s the first in a series set in steampuk multiverse called The Fifteen Solars. I also read that it was inspired by Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Tell us more?
The novella was first written as a short story for a Steampunk Anthology produced by Kristell Ink. As often happens when I write, the story became somewhat larger than I expected and was far too long to include in the anthology. I was working on another Steampunk novel at the time, and in the midst of developing that world, and there were quite a few parallels between the world of my novel, and the criteria that had been created for the anthology. Consequently I ended up developing the story and incorporating it into the world of The Fifteen Solars. As it happens, two of the characters from Encante have now proven to be crucial to the series, so I’m very glad I let it run away from me in that first instance!
For those readers who don’t know what steampunk is, what is steampunk?
Steampunk is essentially an offshoot of Science Fiction, or arguably Fantasy. I believe it depends on the author which way that falls, as they can include a lot of Sci-Fi elements and few Fantasy elements or vice-versa. Some, like mine, end up being a mixture of the two. What is distinct about Steampunk as a genre is the fixation with Victorian costumes and values, in particular the top hats and corsets that have become the hallmark of Steampunk, along with clockwork mechanisms, cogs and, of course, steam. The basic notion is that Victorian technology can be expanded to include anything that the people of that time could imagine, but the main source of power is steam and clockwork rather than electricity. Fantasy elements sometimes come in when it comes to how things work, as some authors will go into detail, in the manner of Science Fiction, and others (like myself) will simply simply have the ‘it just works’ mentality, which generally means there is some form of magic or other fantasy element behind it when there isn’t enough science to hold it together. The portal technology for example, in The Fifteen Solars multiverse, allows people, ships and various other vehicles to travel from one planet to another. I have absolutely no notion of how they do it. I haven’t given it much thought. They simply work, much like the magic of any Fantasy novel works, and like the rest of the technology within the series works: everything is governed by a specific set of rules, and they can’t exceed those rules.
How long have you been reading and writing steampunk, and what got you interested in it?
I’ve been actively hunting down Steampunk novels, films, TV series etc. for several years now. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials was the first Steampunk thing I read, I was about twelve at the time I think, although I had no idea it was Steampunk, or what Steampunk was. It’s only in the list five or six years as it’s gained a little more popularity and a little more exposure that I’ve really become aware of it as a genre and fallen in love with it. I was already writing a lot of Fantasy, and it just naturally progressed from there, which I suspect is why there is a heavy dose of Fantasy in my Steampunk, as opposed to a lot of other authors who like to stick to the Science Fiction elements.
Are you working on the next novellas in the series? How many do you have planned, and why did you chose to write them as novellas instead of full-length novels?
Yes I’m working on Honour, the next novella. There are (at present) two more after that followed by the first of what will probably be a trilogy of full length novels. I only ever intended it to be one stand alone novel (Soul of Avarice), but as I said, things got away from me!
What kind of research went into the planning and writing for the series?
Of the whole series? An awful lot. I still haven’t finished fully planning it out and there is a vast amount of research left to do. For Encante itself there wasn’t a great deal in comparison, I was mainly checking on Victorian colloquialisms and facts about submarines.
Your book cover is really eye-catching. Who designed it? Did you have any input in the creation of the cover?
The artist is Jenny Laatsch (http://www.jennlaadesigns.com/), she worked with Aädenian Ink on their first art book Out of the Dark. It was a peculiar coincidence actually, because we had been looking for an artist to design the cover as Hazel [Butler—Aädenian Ink’s cover designer] was unable to do it at the time. We were really struggling to find someone who had the right style and then she [Hazel] was looking at some details on Jenny’s DeviantArt page one day while finalising the art book, and she stumbled across the image. I say it was a bizarre coincidence because the woman on the cover is the image of one of the characters in the book, yet I had not spoken with Jenny about it and it was simply a design she had done for herself. She transformed it into the wonderful cover you now see on the book and I think she’s done an amazing job.
Are you working on any other books, novellas, etc.? Will you write another series?
I do have another novel in the works, in the very early stages, a High Fantasy novel called Briar. I have no idea when I will have chance to write that however as I expect The Fifteen Solars series to be taking up my time for several years to come.
What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing?
Editing. I don’t know many authors who would say otherwise. It is a soul destroying and tedious process. You have the rush of adrenaline and creativity that allows you to write the story and then you just have to plough through it again and again, shaping and re-shaping until it is absolutely perfect, which of course is impossible.
Do you have a writing routine or a favorite place where you write?
Not particularly. I own a rather divine chaise lounge and I do like to sit myself on there, legs up, laptop on knee, and clack away at the keys, but it isn’t a given. You will more often than not find me at my desk, or even on the sofa in front of the TV.
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!