Lisa Mantchev discusses how a random discovery and a love of steampunk inspired Ticker, her new novel.
It started with a pocket watch: an actual, physical pocket watch that I found on eBay in 2008 while looking for brass bits. At the time, I was writing and editing theater books. All my excess nervous energy I channeled into a new costuming aesthetic that was popping up at the science fiction and fantasy conventions I attended.
Bustle skirts? Corsets? Goggles and gadgets? Count me in.
But when I discovered that particular pocket watch on eBay—a watch that contained a compass and sundial instead of a traditional timepiece—my writer-brain took over.
Who would have owned such a thing?
Where would he or she have traveled with it?
And, of course, what kind of cake did they have when they got there?
This was my chance to wallow in the words of Jules Verne, to reboard the Nautilus and venture once more Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. To punch dates into H.G. Wells’s Time Machine. To reacquaint myself with Tik-Tok from the Land of Oz books. To take tea with Stoker and Shelley, then throw myself headlong into worlds lit by gas lamps and populated by the lords and ladies, spies and saboteurs which now feature prominently in young adult work by authors such as Gail Carriger (the Parasol Protectorate series and Finishing School series,) Kady Cross (the Steampunk Chronicles) and Tiffany Trent (the Unnaturalists novels).
And because steampunk is as much a rich and varied maker-movement as it is a literary genre, I was similarly inspired by the music of Professor Elemental, Abney Park, Steam Powered Giraffe, and Emilie Autumn. I admired the technological artwork of artisans like Richard Nagy (Datamancer) and the vibrant, glorious couture produced by Kato. I reveled in movies like Hellboy II: The Golden Army, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Hayao Miyazaki's anime Howl’s Moving Castle. I rejoiced over the brilliance of comics like Girl Genius.
Because that is the beauty of steampunk: it is a creative garden that defies definition and cannot be contained by convention. It will continue to break through the fences, burgeoning into exotic jungles through which we must crash, wearing pith helmets, and carrying our pocket watches… which secretly contain sundials and compasses, so that we might (eventually) find our way home.
Ticker is a Kindle First Pick during the month of November. The book is free for Prime members and $1.99 for non-Prime members.