author of The Clockwork Dagger
High Priestess of Churromancy
and fearless corseteer
BC: I originally pitched it to my agent as MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS on a airship, with a healer as the lead character, and I think that's still accurate. Just add in espionage, a dash of romance, and a temperamental world tree.
TT: Haha, amen to that - if I had a dollar for every time Yggdrasil got on my case...! But I'm really interested in this idea of having a healer as the main protagonist - it's definitely not something we see very often. What inspired you to make Octavia a medician?
BC: Healers/white wizards/clerics have been my Mary Sue since I was 11 years old. I fell in love with Final Fantasy II (now best known as the Japanese FFIV) for Super Nintendo and bonded with Rosa, the white wizard. My grandpa had died of a terminal illness a few months before, and the idea of healing magic hit me in a very profound way. Whatever I wrote--or tried to write--from then on tended to explore that kind of magic. I wanted novels with that kind of lead character and never found them. I wrote the kind of book I wanted for a very long time.
|(This is Rosa, but also my love letter to Yoshitaka Amano.)|
BC: I wanted to defy the healer stereotype that you see in so many games and books: the supportive character. The one you keep in the back row, because if the boss monster hits them, they die in one hit. Octavia needed to be passionate. This is a woman who is 22-years-old, but she's spent the past decade in training as a healer, and most of that as a medician and doctor at the front lines of a war. I was inspired by tales of battlefield nurses and doctors from World War I and II. If you're not strong at the start of that job, by golly, you better find your gumption at some point.
TT: Boy, ain't that the truth! But the other thing that occurs to me is that in fantasyland, you usually just wave your magic wand and everything's all better - no need to dirty your nice white robes. I see that's definitely not the case in The Clockwork Dagger: the healing process seems to be as ugly and visceral and real as the wounds themselves. Was that a big factor for you in crafting your magic system?
BC: Yes. I'm big on realism. My agent and editor can attest to that, as they asked me to tone things down a bit and reduce the details!
TT: Holy mackerel. If the "puppy misunderstanding" in chapter one is the toned-town version, I'm not sure I could handle the rawness of the original! And speaking of the editorial process, I was reading about how you nearly followed your beta reader's advice cut out the gremlins - and yet they were ultimately what ended up selling the book! What do you reckon people love so much about cuss-ugly little flying cat-monsters?
BC: *laughs* People love rex cats and pug dogs and all kinds of critters that are called ugly. I just rolled them all into one, made them green, and added some wings. I think it's how gremlins act, too. Leaf the gremlin chirps, purrs, and says a lot without actual English. He's based in part on my belated cat, Palom, who managed to be obnoxious and endearing all at once.
BC: There was a lot of common ground in the questions asked by these kids, grades 6-8, and adults. They often ask what the book is about and where my ideas come from, and everyone asks if my novel will become a movie. I was very surprised and pleased that the kids connected so strongly with my book cover and my character of Alonzo. No one asked about Octavia. Alonzo is described as having nutmeg skin, and bless the folks at Harper Voyager, but they fully supported having him on the cover exactly as he should be. My son's school has varied demographics and strong Hispanic representation. You could see these kids' eyes light up when they saw Alonzo--he looks strong and positive! They need to see more people of color like that on covers.
|LOOK AT THIS COVER. LOOK AT IT.|
BC: If I go by the blurbs thus far, the two stand-out elements are the magical system and the gremlins. The cover gets a lot of reactions, too. At Phoenix Comicon, I had lots of high fives because of it!
|Beth's Churro Shortbread Cookies. |
Carbohydrometry at its finest!
BC: *laughs* Food certainly plays a role. Gremlins love cheese, and that's definitely a projection of one of my great loves. There's also a country named Frengia to the north that's inspired by Canada, and in my kingdom of Caskentia, the Frengian immigrants often manage bakeries that feature maple.
TT: Oh my gravy. Well, folks, you heard it here: if you want to see cheese-eating cat-monsters, butt-kicking (and butt-healing!) medicians, airship whodunits and the steampunk answer to Tim Horton's, haste ye forth and pre-order THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER - coming September 16th to a war-torn kingdom near you!