Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Feature - Once Upon a Clockwork Tale

Hello, happy people! It's day 3 of our four day author extravaganza! Today, we talk to Kat French, author of "Bitter Cold."

Bitter Cold - Kat French

Childhood friends, Kit and Greta, live in an extraordinary place powered by alchemical magic and mechanical wonders. Just when life might offer him favors, Kit is captured by the Snow Queen, a ruthless industrialist, bent on developing her Eternity Engine. Greta must risk everything to save Kit. Can a stubborn young lady best the most powerful woman in the world, with a little alchemy, a lot of luck, and a clockwork reindeer?


Kat French lives in southern Indiana with her husband, two kids, and a pug named after Rocky Balboa. She's been writing professionally for over twenty years, including a stint writing social media content for a famous bourbon (hint: they really like red wax). A long time science fiction and fantasy fan, she's become obsessed with Steampunk in the last two years, possibly due in part to her unrequited crush on Firefly's Nathan Fillion. Free time has been merely a theoretical construct to Kat for a while now, but if she had any, she'd probably enjoy reading with a wee glass of fine whiskey, preferably while lounging in a hammock.


Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I've been writing professionally in marketing and advertising for as long as I've been married; over 20 years. I got married at eighteen and my first job out of high school was at a local radio station where, among other things, I wrote and produced all the commercials. I put aside fiction writing for a long time, but about two years ago I joined a local writer's group at my library and started doing flash fiction and getting really interested in steampunk. Bitter Cold is my first commercially published piece. Aside from writing and reading, I love kayaking.

Why did you choose to retell the Snow Queen? 
When I found out about the project, I wanted to steer clear of fairy tales that have been reworked to death already. I briefly considered Beauty & the Beast (with a clockwork cyborg beast!) But in the end, I loved the redemptive themes and sense of wonder in the Snow Queen. I loved that its the girl gets to ride to the rescue, even in the original tale. And when I re-read it, I could see how a lot of steampunk tropes and themes would fit really neatly into Andersen's story.

I love how you kept details of your story close to the original tale—even down to the clockwork reindeer. Did you have difficulty coming up with science to back your technology?
Well, it's definitely a story I couldn't have pulled off as hard science fiction, or anything remotely resembling it. I made a decision early on that this was a world with a functional magic system, alchemy, which basically boils down to "magic potions." Then I tried to stay internally consistent with the rules I'd set up for that world. That meant I didn't have to explain the science of how an anti-gravity formula or a machine that grants eternal youth worked. Because let's be honest, there's no scientific explanation for a flying Christmas decoration or a doomsday device that reverses aging.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your story?
The time constraint! Echelon accepted my query without the story being completed. In addition to that, I misread the contract and thought I had to get a draft done in a month, instead of three months. But that also ended up being for the best. With it being my first published work, I didn't have time to second guess myself or procrastinate. My marketing experience just kicked in and I worked like I do when on a project with a hard deadline. I barreled through and got the draft written in about three weeks. At about 20,000 words, that was a lot of writing! And then when I realized I had more time, I got to set it aside for a while, send it to a few beta readers, and send a much stronger draft to my publisher.

What’s your favorite part of your story? Of the anthology?
My favorite part of my story is probably the end, but I won't say more to avoid spoilers. In a general sense, I like the humor throughout my story. I think it came at a nice point in the anthology. As far as the anthology itself, I think my favorite part is how different all the stories ended up being. Between the four of us, I think we covered a pretty broad swath of styles while staying pretty close to the heart of steampunk.

If you were a part of the world you created, do you think you’d have been an alchemist, a tinker, or something completely different?
My entire family will attest I have no mechanical skill whatsoever, but I did want to be a mad scientist for a little while as a kid. So probably an alchemist. Blowing things up is more fun than fixing them. If not that, I'd have been one of those intrepid lady journalists because I think I'd be writing in any alternate universe.

What are your plans for future projects?
I was really inspired by the whole concept of steampunk fairy tales, and the world and characters I created for Bitter Cold. I've written two other shorter stories set in that world. One is called Big Teeth, and is a retelling of Red Riding Hood. It's a prequel of sorts, featuring Lulabelle and Evelyn's mechanical wolves from Bitter Cold. The other is Blowhard, which is the Three Little Pigs set on a Kansas homestead with three brothers named Hamm and a steam-powered cyclone machine. I just finished the draft of Broken Mirror, which is novel length and takes place about twenty years after Bitter Cold. It's a Snow White tale set in a turn of the century traveling circus. Kit and Greta make a brief cameo. In all, I have at least three more steampunk fairy tales planned.

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