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.
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
The Martian is freaking amazing. Just as amazing, it seems, is the author Andy Weir, as I was just as entertained by his essay and interview in the back of the Broadway Books edition I was reading.
In addition to being clever and snarky, the book has a fun history. Originally it was self-published on a website. It got such a following that it was then released for kindles… and was so popular there that Weir got a book and a movie deal practically at the same time.
Oh, and, Weir loves Doctor Who, so there’s that.
I’m a little late to the game, I wish I had discovered him sooner so I could say something original and exciting about The Martian (I would have loved to interview him) – so this review will be short and void of spoilers. But if you’re in the mood for some suspenseful comedy set in space, all MacGyver style with the science, you need some Andy Weir in your life.
I can’t wait to see what he writes next. If you’ve already read The Martian, you might also want to check out the work of Heinlein and/or George Wright Padgett.
In case you haven’t seen it yet – here’s the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue4PCI0NamI
Author: Meb Bryant
Genre: Suspense / Short Stories
Format: Kindle Ebook
Doubles Match KILLED me! It’s so good! I have to warn mothers, however, that little Emma reminds me so much of my kiddo that the kidnapping was a rip through my gut.
Spoiler: It works out in the end – read the whole story!
Definitely worth the 99 cents as a nightcap, although I admit I received mine as a gift from the author. I’m enjoying my kindle specifically for these short gems that I’d otherwise miss.
Title: A Reliable Wife
Author: Robert Goolrick
Publisher: Algonquin Paperbacks
Length: 291 pages
Like so many others, A Reliable Wife was a freebie I acquired somehow. A number one New York Times Bestseller that seemed to be everywhere at once, yet I didn’t know anyone who had actually read it.
When I was cleaning out my personal library to take donations to the public one, my hand was on it. It almost ended up in the bag. Something stopped me, I’m not sure what. Most likely a hoarder’s impulse. The copy was too pristine. The train on the cover too gloriously mysterious. Historical fiction written by a man, not a woman, which for some reason tends to make all the difference.
Maybe it was because of my post about my selection practices and my thoughts as to what titles concerning prostitution would be at my daughter’s fingertips. The book is highly inappropriate, but it gives a thorough view of what turns people to bad decisions. What makes someone become a person with poisonous intentions and morals.
How easily anyone could slip into this awfulness.
“Yet it was a dream he had held in his heart for so long that nothing could replace it, nothing made up for his loss and his desire for restitution.”
Who hasn’t suffered from the same sort of persistence chasing an idea that maybe should have been abandoned?
“This was wickedness, and it was fatal,” is the theme that runs through Goolrick’s riveting novel. Maybe it’s the Baptist fire and brimstone in my veins that makes a story like this appeal to me, because I don’t mind wickedness when it is properly portrayed as something evil. It’s when wickedness is disguised as something desirable that I have a problem with it in novels.
Goolrick’s novel is amazing. I couldn’t put it down and I was so glad I chose to read it instead of placing it my library donation bag this week. My husband, not much of a reader, now wants to know the story and read the book as well – suckered by the blurb on the back jacket as I was nose deep in the pages. I’ve already encouraged a friend to purchase it as well. She quickly found a copy in clearance at Half Price Books, well worth a spare dollar.
Title: Harbinger of Evil
Author: Meb Bryant
Genre: Crime Fiction/ Mystery
Length: 248 pages
I met Meb Bryant at her book signing at Half Price Books Humble in October. She’s a lovely lady, sweet, professional, wonderful conversationalist. She left with me a signed copy of her book to review for my blog.
I feel terrible that somehow the book ended up in my manager’s stash cube in the warehouse at the store (how completely unprofessional of me). Yes, a little bit terrible because I feel like I should have gotten a review ready for the author sooner – but mostly selfishly terrible because I denied myself this reading experience for two whole months! Words of wisdom, don’t do that… read Meb Bryant’s work NOW.
Between Dutton sending me Elizabeth George’s latest work, a very full Halloween month of book signings, and the general mood of my year – I’ve read a lot of crime fiction this year. A lot more than usual, anyway, I think. Bryant’s crime work is the best of 2013 – no exaggeration – and I’ve read some really good ones. John Oehler is excellent, Elizabeth George always nails character development, Pamela Triolo has a grip on a genre all her own (healthcare mysteries with a registered nurse solving the mysteries), but Meb Bryant blew me away.
I adore Richard Mobey, aka Mobey Dick, he’s my favorite white whale. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him, watching him build relationships with the other characters in the novel, witnessing his snotty banter, and finally experiencing him unravel the mystery and put all the puzzle pieces together.
I love the back drop of the novel, there’s no exaggeration with the tagline: New York Crime Meets New Orleans Voodoo. In all my reading history, this is my favorite ‘voodoo’ piece. I can’t think of a better novel set in the French Quarter.
If I had my way Detective Richard Mobey would have a series longer than Inspector Lynley’s, but I have a feeling I won’t be getting my way.
Title: Slice of Life
Author: Chris Rogers
Length: 390 pages
The fourth novel in the Dixie Flannigan series, Slice of Life is actually only the second Chris Rogers book that I’ve read. I usually keep strict enforcement of the rule that I read a series in order, but I had it on good authority (from the author) that even though each book follows chronologically, the stories stand completely on their own.
Having enjoyed Bitch Factor so much, I took a risk and decided to jump ahead to the book that was sitting there in my hands rather than wait to come across the in between titles.
I’m glad I did. Rogers was right about her work, each story stands alone quite nicely. Sure, a lot of things had happened since the first book, but they were briefly alluded to and I didn’t feel like I had missed anything at all. Nor did I feel like she was retelling a previous story (like some authors do in their flash backs to prequels) when referencing occurrences from the first title.
Rogers has an effortless storytelling style that fits well in the mystery/suspense genre. She’s a true artist. And not just in storytelling. If I remember correctly, when chatting about her books at the signing we had at the Half Price Books Humble store, she paints and designed the picture used in Slice of Life. The book is set in the Galveston art scene with a bit of gambling and a few dead bodies, so I thought the cover suited the story quite nicely and really shows off the talents of the author.
Even though I have broken the cardinal rule and ‘skipped to the end’ I plan to go back and read the second and third books when I find them. Rogers has hinted at some interesting history between the characters that I’d like to know in more detail, without giving away any previous tales endings.