I had the honor of reading an advance reader’s copy of Addleton Heights by author George Wright Padgett. In addition to that honor, I got to interview him for the release celebration!
Who did the cover art? How did you find them?
God bless the internet. I discovered a fantastic Italian artist by the name of Michele Giorgi (http://michelegiorgiillustrator.com). I have a commercial graphic art degree and have done my covers in the past, but Addleton Heights was different. This novel is solidly situated in the steampunk genre, so I wanted a classic romantic image with all the flourishes. While I do plenty of layout and design, I’m no illustrator; it’s an entirely different discipline, so I sought out someone with those skills.
I came across Michele’s art on the internet when I was a third of the way through the first draft and fell in love with his style. He hadn’t had any book cover commissions at that point, but I took a chance and contacted him in the hopes that he’d try something different. I emailed him with highlighted samples of his work which struck the tone I was looking for.
Many of the Steampunk images I’d come across to that point were often dark and grimy. I love those murky atmospheres, but wanted to go a completely different direction in an effort to make the book stand out. The end result is an image of bright sunshiny day in January with the snow gently falling to the ground. It’s wonderful contrast to many scenes contained within.
Is there any possibility of a graphic novel using the same illustrator in our future?
That would be amazing! I’d love to see that happen someday. Michele, if you’re reading this, I’m 100% up for it.
How much research was involved with writing a Steampunk novel set in the turn of the century (1901)?
Believe or not, I found myself doing as much research on this novel as I did for the space clone mining novel Spindown (www.georgewpadgett.com/spindown)
I tend to get caught into these perfectionist cycles where I compulsively need to know everything about the subject before putting anything on the page. The idea being that the more that I can understand the world that the characters exist in, the easier it is for me to immerse the reader into the scene. The end result is great because I get to transport the audience into the center of wherever I’m taking them; the downside is it’s a slower process. For instance, because I tend to go overboard, I now know all about the migratory birds of the Nantucket/Martha’s Vineyard area though there’s only two or three mentions of birds in the entire novel.
I’m not complaining; I love learning so the research was fun. A huge component steampunk stories is their connection to history/alternate history, so I spent time studying about the area’s whaling oil industry losing out to Pennsylvania coal as a source of energy, the use of immigrants for the transcontinental railroad, Queen Victoria’s death later in the month the story takes place, the Boxer Revolution in China, etc. Weapons play an important part of the story, so I spent time with weapons expert Drew Heyen to make sure everything was authentic. Hopefully there’s enough history in the book to satisfy the cravings of those that are looking for it, but not too much as to bog down the story for those that have come to it looking for a mystery-action experience.
How was writing Addleton Heights different than writing your other books?
First of all, it’s the first full-length work that I’ve written entirely in first person narration, meaning we only see what our detective hero, Kip sees and thinks. He tells us everything we need to know. He has this delicious deadpan sense of humor mixed with a bitter melancholy. Life has been hard on him and he’s developed all of these colloquial sayings that he spouts out when describing things. These ‘Kipisms’ (as I came to call them) were a blast to write.
Also, I wanted to be true to the genre while offering something enjoyable to those uninitiated to steampunk stories. While the steampunk genre doesn’t officially have any set rules, there are elements that help to frame the story. As the story developed, I sent chapter sections to a group of beta readers for feedback. Doing it while the novel was written, allowed for me to tweak it as I went to ensure everything was ‘firing on all cylinders’. As a bonus, one of beta readers, a fellow writer, Christian Roule was well versed in the genre. More than once, he’d respond to what I’d submitted to him by saying, ‘It needs to be steampunk-ier here’. He and others helped me balance the story and not overwhelm it until it became a gadgets manual.
I love that you cross genres and have not pidgeon-holed yourself as a storyteller. When did you first meet the world of Steampunk? Did you find the genre or did the genre find you? (Did you read something Steampunk that inspired Addleton or did Addleton birth itself in your brilliant brain that resulted in needing the Steampunk label post development?)
Years ago I was signing books at a science fiction convention with some other authors. We were sitting across from a friendly booth of steampunk ‘makers’. They were selling all of these fantastic clothes and enhancement components (cogs, gears, and whatnot). I asked fellow author, Leo King (www.foreverwhere.com) who was next to me ‘What this steampunk thing was all about?’ He proceeded to educate me in the ways of alternate Victorian history. It was such a fresh concept to me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
As for the story of Addleton Heights? The concept that serves as the core mystery (finding the Jason character) was an idea that I when I was seventeen. I’ve carried the idea around with me all of that time until it found a home in this novel.
You write every sub-genre of the science fiction realm… are there dragons in our future? (I, for one, would love to see what you came up with involving dragons…)
Dragons, huh? Currently I’m hard at work on a kind of time travel hide and seek adventure called Drift Pattern, but I do have a rough draft for a story which involves dragons and people using them for transportation. The working title of this fantasy-ish tale is ‘Kern’. Maybe we’ll see that in a few years.
As a woman, I adore reading Janae. She’s bold and fierce, but not without flaws. She is not flat, but dynamic. She’s not all wonderful, nor is she a ninny. Tell me about her and your experience writing her.
I’m fortunate to have a number of strong women whom I admire in my life. I wanted to pay homage to these ladies by avoiding writing some messed up ‘damsel in distress’ trope.
Enter: Janae Nelson. She is a force of nature! She’s my favorite character that I’ve ever written. I spent a lot of time to achieve a balance within her of being strong without forfeiting her femininity. I was careful to make sure that no man ever rescues her in the story; that she would save herself. I attempted to turn the stereotype on its head by having the damsel do some saving of her own when the male lead gets tied to the metaphorical train tracks.
If Addleton Heights were to become a major motion picture tomorrow, who would your ideal cast be?
Oh this is a tricky one… When I write I do ‘cast’ the characters with actors from movie roles and people that I know (I even print out photos for reference as I’m writing about them).
The problem with sharing this type of thing with a reader is that it’s unlikely that we visualize the same exact ‘players’. If I envision a grisly Kurt Russell for an old sea captain character, but you imagine an unshaven Dustin Hoffman for the same part, then I reveal who I’ve chosen in the role, does it reduce or nullify your experience? As with painting, what’s on the canvas is a conversation between the artist and the person witnessing it. The viewer’s interpretation is neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, but in the same vein, the creator of the art shouldn’t have exclusive say once the paint has dried. In that same spirit, I humbly must decline to answer here and leave that to the reader’s imagination.
You’re typically a one book storyteller, completing a story in its entirety at the first go. But I’m dying for more Addleton Heights – is there a continuing series in our futures?
Detective stories are typically based on a single event; if it’s a who-done-it the question is who the murderer is and possibly the ‘why’ of the mystery. One thing that’s nice about these types of novels is that once the case is solved there can be another one right behind it. So we may see Kipsey again someday.
How can readers order posters and prints of the book cover and map to go with their copies of the book?
Warmest thanks for your interest and support of Addleton Heights.
George Wright Padgett has done it again – blown my mind with an awesome and fun reading experience.
Addleton Heights will be his third published work, but it’s an epic debut into the Steampunk genre and the world he has built and the characters he created have me smitten.
Just like everything George tackles, he writes his detective story with artistic spunk. Flare abounds from start to finish.
I believe so much in this book, the story, and the time period, I’m obsessed with the idea of launching the book release at the Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Of course, this launch is expensive (mainly because booking the museum after hours costs a pretty penny), but would be worth it.
So, Grey Gecko Press and I have set up a Kickstarter page. Please, please, if you appreciate my reviews, value my bookish opinions, and/or love supporting indie authors and publishing houses, check this out:
This was one of my favorites as a child and as I read it out loud to my own kiddo this week, I remembered why. The Borrowers is simply magical and a tale every kid can get enchanted by. The pages I read from were wrinkled with love, where I had toted it to school, to the mountain for camping, and every other place. I read it over and over again, and I’m hoping that my own kiddo will find the joy of reading this herself as she gets older. But for now, I’m happy to read it aloud, and even happier to discover what other adventures are in store for Pod, Homily, and Arriety – as we’re about to begin reading The Borrowers Afield, which I never knew existed until I worked in a bookstore as an adult.
The Borrowers Afield
I read this aloud to my five year old today. Not all in one sitting, but all in one day. It was quite the affair, filled with many tea, coffee, sandwich, and taco breaks. My voice is tired, but both our minds – despite the late hour – are alive with visions of dandelions as large as ourselves, bees to be pet like cats, and cats as large as an elephant. I long to be Spiller, dashing around a field, “borrowing” from gypsies, sailing downstream in a soap tin. I adored The Borrowers as a child, and just discovered its sequels recently; and despite having read The Borrowers Afield for the first time as an adult today, I think I might like it more. I’m enchanted, and have enjoyed all my daughter’s renderings of tiny houses with oversized flowers and butterflies, on her drawing pad today, while I read on and on. We look forward to the next book, The Borrowers Afloat.
The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Aloft
The Borrowers Afloat took off just after Afield and left the Clock family living in less than desirable quarters along with the Hendrearys. It took far to long for them to actually make it down the drain the pipe and back into the out of doors, and this book along with the one after it – The Borrowers Aloft – were my least favorite. Mostly because the dangers became more and more stressful and the lives of the Clocks simultaneously more convenient but less cozy. I did very much enjoy the introduction of Miss Menzies, and so did the kiddo. We delighted in her as much as Arrietty. I still adore the entire series and these books deserve every star available to them.
The Borrowers Avenged
Finally the story of the Clocks is all wrapped up. But is it?! We lamented the ending and long to know what became of Arrietty’s whole life. Did she marry Spiller as she speculated? Or did Peagreen capture her heart as he did her mind?
It’s a shame there are no more. I’d keep reading them one right after another for years if I could. The kiddo tried to tell me, “It’s ok mama, you’ll find that she’s written a second series about them some day.” I had to tell her “the author is dead, there’s no more.” “Sure there is, you just haven’t found them yet.” I didn’t have the heart to argue further. And who knows, maybe she knows something about Mary Norton the rest of us don’t…
Now we are off into another series of books for more adventures of a different nature.
Title: Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Author: Mario Acevdeo
Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Mystery
Meet Felix Gomez, Iraqi-vet Vampire P.I. who has been called to Denver to investigate an outbreak of Nymphomania. It sounds silly because it is. But it’s equally adventurous and well written. It’s a slightly older title, but the series is still fresh with a current addition that came out in April (Rescue from Planet Pleasure).
At Dragon Con people would walk up to the WordFire Press booth and ask, “Do they come with pictures?” To which Acevedo would, without skipping a beat, reply, “No, only scratch and sniff.”
I laughed every time. It just didn’t stop being funny to me.
I think that’s how Felix Gomez will be as I continue to read the series. I’ve never been so amused as while reading Nymphos of Rocky Flats. It has all the excitement of the X-Files with the plot development silliness of Eureka. Just as I had settled into the pace of the book and thought, “Ok, I’m ready for all this to wrap itself up,” he’d toss something else at me and I’d giggle, “Maybe not…”
I enjoyed having a vampire story-line with a more realistic life story being dropped into an absurd universe (Iraqi War Vet meets Vampirism, Werevolvishness, and Aliens) – as opposed to the typical unrealistic life stories being dropped into a more familiar world (Two-hundred year old man falls in love with high school teen in the mundane school cafeteria; I’ll take aliens over high school again).
What I didn’t expect were the author’s deep thoughts on life to make subtle waves in some of his writing. Hints at politics and undertones on what might be Acevedo’s worldview were made but never formulated completely. Having met the man, I know he is intelligent, well-read, and has a lot of wisdom regarding the world. As much as I enjoy his humorous banter, in both real life and his books, I’m interested to hear or read what his deep thoughts on life are.
Aside from deep thoughts, this book is all guy all the time but one girls can enjoy too. It sells in mass market paperback form at the bookstore to middle-aged men like hotcakes all the time, but I plan to start pushing it toward more ladies. The trade paperbacks have a longer shelf life, but honestly, I think it’s just because of where they are located. I’m already mentally planning a place to feature them for Halloween as I type.
A previous reviewer referred to the Felix Gomez series as Dude-lit. “When Girls Go Wild… Call in the Undead” the tagline of the book says. If this doesn’t place it in that fabulous sub-genre of Dude-lit, I don’t know what would. The fact that the book is the first vampire novel ever to be declassified by the U.S. government is another tell-tale sign.
Ironically, scantily clad women in hooker boots is not sub-genre specific, merely a hint that it’s urban fiction as it’s something that women expect to see on their chick-lit as well. It is a consumer behavior impulse I will never quite understand – like how magazines for men and women alike feature half naked women on the fronts… And despite the book being classic dude-lit, I’m a chick and I loved it. Then again, as a character in Rocky Flats points out: “Earth women are surprisingly complicated…”
Side Note on Content & Ratings: I was pleasantly pleased that with all the hinting and perverted jokes, the book isn’t actually raunchy. The movie version would probably still be rated R for nudity, but there’s a reason the books are not classified as erotica, and for that I was grateful. If it had been, I’m not sure I could look the author in the eye again – and I really like him, he’s fun. There’s more porn in the Outlander series than in Rocky Flats.
Title: Babylonian Life and History
Author: E. A. Wallis Budge
Genre: History/ Archeology
So, I want to be Indiana Jones when I grow up. Who doesn’t? Although a friend advised me that to be Andi “Tex” Klemm would be far cooler, and I have suggested that I just might have to embroider this onto a fedora.
In the meantime, I study as much history as I can. I also subscribe to the Archeology magazine. And the way I go all fan-girl at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, well, it’s part of what makes me awesome… right?
So my “grown-up reading time” during my 5 year old’s ancient history year was Babylonian Life and History by E. Wallis Budge. It was neat teaching her the bare bones of the Babylonians and Assyrians out of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World, and memorizing tidbits from the Classical Conversations curriculum, while getting a deeper dose for myself. I’ll continue this effort of furthering my education while I begin hers as long as I can. If you don’t have time for that, I understand completely; but if you do, this is a worthy book to select.
E.A. Wallis Budge never ceases to amaze me. Every time I think I have everything he ever wrote I think I find 3 new titles. He’s so prolific and seems to be the end all be all on Ancient History. Found some tidbit of from the ancient world you’d like to investigate? – there’s probably a Budge book for that. His prose is nothing special, and at times even a little boring, but I love reading his work and hope to read it all before I die.
I’m not really a convention queen, I just liked the alliteration. I definitely wouldn’t mind becoming one, though. That being said, I had the opportunity to work Comicpalooza (again) in Houston a few months back, and it was amazing.
I spent a lot of time chatting up this guy:
If you don’t recognize him, that’s Todd McCaffrey, co-author of the Dragons of Pern series – holding up a copy of his latest book City of Angels.
I was waiting to post about this until I had read his book. But a few days turned into a few weeks and a few weeks into a few months. Homeschooling the kiddo took priority and a lot of ancient biographies got put ahead in line. Now I find myself cramming 600 pages the night before I fly out to DragonCon, dying to find out what’s going to happen to this fictional tiny humanoid collection of nanotech. I’ll be working with Wordfire Press, hopefully hanging out with McCaffrey some more, and for sure trying to get this fun bit of sci-fi into more hands.
Wish me luck at DragonCon! And if you’re in Atlanta for Labor Day weekend, swing by. I’ll introduce you to some stellar people who love books just as much as we do.
Title: Archimedes and the Door of Science
Author: Jeanne Bendick
Publisher: Bethlehem Books
Genre: Children’s Biography
I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library. My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book. At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.
I’m playing hooky from work. To be fair, I have what I’d like to call the plague. It’s not the plague, but the green crap I’ve been coughing up out of my chest, the high grade fever, and the over all attack on my body has made me contemplate the potential peace of kicking the bucket. Instead, unable to physically kick anything at all, I’m home wrapped in blankets when it’s easily 100 degrees outside.
Briefly, between fever dreams yesterday, I thought it would be amusing to read Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and chronicle my own impending doom – but alas, I passed out about two seconds after the thought, slept for a few hours, and arose only to hack more crap out of my lungs, cry a little, and crawl back onto the futon… the bed was too high to climb.
As amusing as a post on Garcia’s work would be while I drink my calories in the form of honeyed tea and chicken broth, I have no desire to spend the energy it takes to walk across the room in search of it. Instead, I reached to my right where I had been cataloguing my ancient literature collection, prior to plague, and plucked up a thin little piece called Egyptian Myths by George Hart. It took me two days to read all 80 pages, because – you see – I’m dying. But I made it. And my laptop, conveniently in arm’s reach to my left, said “Hey, You have been USELESS for days. DO SOMETHING other than sleep and troll Facebook.” Did I actually hear the computer speak to me? It’s possible. After all, fever dreams.
All in all, I am surviving, and this little George Hart piece has helped me feel as though I didn’t entirely fry all my brain cells with my 2 day fever. I learned some things I didn’t know, refreshed some previous mythology tales I hadn’t heard in a while, and found a cool list of suggested further reading. It was a great addition to the Ancient History stuff I’ve been studying with my kiddo over the last many months, and it went hand in hand with the arrival of my Archaeology magazine subscription. If you can get your hands on one, it’s a great addition to any library.
Title: Deadly Dunes
Author: E. Michael Helms
Length: 220 pages
E. Michael Helms has done it again. He’s written a fun, spunky mystery involving Mac McClellan, and I find myself crushing on him much like the overly spirited cop, Dakota. Mac is the token ex-marine turned P.I., equal parts gentleman and appropriate amounts of perve. Cunning, but not too lucky.
I like that in this installment, Helms works in the fact that private investigators don’t have the luxury of only working one case at a time if they want to get paid. Mac has to take time away from the big case everyone is grumbling about to an unseemly one that will cut him a check. As per the norm with Mac McClellan books, it was easy to get into, a breeze to read, and satisfying to finish.
My only lament was due to my over excitement at the possibility of more archaeological tidbits. I love archaeology and was anticipating Mac going a little more Indiana Jones in this book than usual due to the nature of the big case. This is to no fault of Helms, who included what was appropriate for the story and the characters, merely a personal disappointment.
As usual, I look forward to the next Mac McClellan book. He’s a personal favorite of mine and made a great addition to my summer mystery binge reading.
Be sure to follow E. Michael Helms on twitter: https://twitter.com/EMichaelHelms