Hello, Kit! Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer? What got you into writing?
I was a reader well before I was a writer. My mother made sure I knew how to read. My father got me into science fiction as he was an avid fan of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.” I grew up on it. I read romance authors like Julia Quinn, YA writers like Judy Bloom, and read poems by such great people as Byron, Dickenson, and Poe. I dabbled a little in Shakespeare for a time.
I wrote fan fiction on and off; however, I never really finished anything. I had a long-standing novel I kept losing and restarting (I’m still working on it). For a time, right around the age of eighteen, I gave up on being an author.
But then, in 2009 when my (now late) father-in-law was slowing passing away from COPD, I needed something to read in the hospital. I decided to pick up Twilight, knowing nothing about it, because there weren’t many options at the store.
To make a long story short, by the time I finished reading it, I realized I really had no excuse. I wrote well; I felt confident and changed overnight. I started writing fan fiction again and I finished my stories. I chose fan fiction first because I needed to know how people—readers—would feel about my work even if it wasn’t my universe or characters. And fan fiction was the quickest test market to get my answer on.
I was received well and haven’t really stopped writing since. It’s what spurred me to change my degree status with the eventual goal of a Masters in Creative Writing Fiction.
Can you give us a brief summary of The Steam Runner?
Mostly, The Steam Runner is about a girl who’s totally out of place trying to figure out where she fits in—in a world, a time—where she doesn’t fit in at all. She’s a free runner, or as some better know it: parkour. In our world you have illegal underground street races in cars. And you probably have them in Tes’ world as well, but really, it’s free running.
She’s an athlete in a place where athletes are nobodies; only laborers watch sports where people sweat because of exertion. The mind, that’s where it’s at. But, even among the regular athletes Tes is an outsider.
At some point in the beginning of the story she finds herself wrapped up with a group of time travelers, finds out her sister is Jack the Ripper, and that she’s not even from the present time. Eventually, she has to make a decision to go on the journey with them to get answers about her shrouded past, or play it safe and stay where she’s at. But, you can probably imagine there wouldn’t be much of a series if she didn’t go....
When you were developing the concept for The Steam Runner, which came first, your story or your characters?
Characters! It’s integral. You have to build the characters first and then the world around them. You have to make them people, real people. Know that they like to wear, what their hobbies are, their deepest fears and greatest joys. The world can always be a foggy idea, but characters—to me—must always be fleshed out first.
Your novel, The Steam Runner, has a killer opening: “The adrenaline was the best part. The rush, the torrent, of blood racing throughout the body like some mind-blowing drug gone unleashed; unchecked reality was the only way to define it; free from the restrictions of the known realm of physics; nothing had, or ever would, feel so unbound to the world—terra firma—itself.” What gives you that kind of rush?
That opening was fun to write. Writing gives me that rush, honestly; to push myself harder, seeing the story unfold as I do it. To me my characters are people. When I write their dialogue, their actions, I can see them in my head acting out the parts, watch their expressions, feel the mood; show the reader—don’t tell. That’s where the rush is: reading it (as I write it) in the same way a reader does.
Steampunk is a previously niche genre that’s been growing in popularity recently. What are your views on the genre? How does The Steam Runner fit into the trend?
I know this isn’t the best way to begin answering your question, and I know it’s a tad long-winded; however, I think it might be best to totally answer it in sum. I actually wasn’t into steampunk at all at first. I thought it was a little monotone and limited when I initially glimpsed it at Dragon*con in 2008. But, when my father-in-law passed away (in 2009) we came across his old naval uniforms; he meant a lot to me and I didn’t want to throw them out. I wanted them to be useful. So, I made a steampunk cosplay with one of them for Dragon*con the following year to pay homage to him.
In that way, my views on steampunk are a little different in that it has a special place in my heart. My pop (father-in-law) loved old things; he loved coppers, brasses, bronzes, and antiques. He was actually a carpenter and made furniture in Kentucky.
I think steampunk means something very different to everyone, in sum. You ask one person and they say gears, cogs, woods, goggles, and Victorian; you ask another and they might say anything alternate history that involves some of those themes; some might even cite Jules Verne or H.G. Wells—even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s hard to explain. To me, steampunk has to involve a certain aesthetic of—at least—gears, clock hands, cogs, (goggles,) the antique and a sense of adventure from a time when the world was still very mysterious.
The Steam Runner fits into this trend in the same way Fahrenheit 451 fits into dystopian science fiction: somehow. Yes, The Steam Runner is of the steampunk genre; however, it’s not just about the genre. It’s about the characters and where they go from here. Like Bradbury, I seek to create a unique piece of literature that just happens to be steampunk as well; although, honestly isn’t really about being steampunk at all—that way, everyone in some fashion can truly enjoy it.
Once upon a time, speculative writers like J.R.R. Tolkein had the luxury of spending chapters describing their worlds. With the fast-paced demands of modern faction, contemporary writers must build world without interrupting their stories. How did you tackle this challenge?
That’s a tough one. I’ve been accused by my husband (long before he was my husband) that I place too much description in a story; I’ve cut back on this severely because I realize you have to leave something for the audience to envision themselves. It’s not always easy for someone who enjoys the flourish of words.
I suppose the best way I do it, is to build the world around my characters. Some writers will roll everything out in a big description, but through my creative writing and lit classes (and reading from other writers) I’ve learned that it’s better to have a character admire something in order to describe it; instead of telling exactly what their wearing in one go, do it through the character’s actions: She ran her hand across her chocolate colored skinny jeans, for example. It makes the writing so much smoother to the reader, as well as natural.
In your opinion, how important is cover art to a book?
I hate to kill the old adage, never judge a book by its cover… but human beings are very visual creatures; if that weren’t true, graphic arts for video games and movies wouldn’t evolve and become better every year—at least not so quickly. I certainly won’t lie and say a book cover never grabbed me. For an indie author it can be integral because it’s another form of advertising. It’s especially important if you’re not well known.
It’s not that people refuse to read a book with bad or no cover art; they’re just probably more inclined to give it a once over knowing nothing about it if it has good cover art.
With the vast number of independently published novels out there, it can be hard to rise above the noise. What is it about The Steam Runner that sets it apart from the rest?
It has a lot of different elements I’ve never seen in one book before: free running, time travel, Tes being the odd man out because she’s not smart and gifted in something like chess. However, the first important one would be that Tes is strong—not simply physically. Tes has guts. It personally bothers me how many female leads in stories, despite having the ability to be amazingly strong-willed and great characters, become overshadowed by the more powerful male lead in order to tell his story. I wanted a girl who was just as equal as a character as her male counterparts without turning it into a sexist piece of fiction in favor of one sex over the other.
The second most important part, I would have to say, is that quite a number of steampunk writers like to explain their inventions, abilities, or mechanics around magic at some point. Truthfully, this isn’t bad per say; however, I wanted to create a steampunk science fiction novel. While some elements—like the ancients—might seem like magical to some; it’s simply advanced science. Science it kind of the core of steampunk and I really wanted to shine on that aspect over using something like magic as a crutch (not that the other writers are using it this way; let me just make that clear). I wanted a character like Alaric, who’s got a doctorate in physics, to actually be able to explain certain things in a way my science readers would enjoy as much as “Star Trek” fans do.
In your opinion, what is it about books that make them a unique medium for storytelling? What sets them apart from movies or stage plays?
It would better to ask why people like reading still in an age where we can watch something on television or in a movie theater. It’s because when someone reads a book their imagination goes to work. No matter how the writer describes it, every reader gets their own impression; some are alike and some are not. But, not every reader will always get the same thing from the story they read. Whereas, with a movie or television show you see what you see; you’ve got all this input coming at your eyes and there’s not much room to imagine—not to speak ill of directors and the like. They convey with camera angles and scene, just as we do; it’s just visually, the medium of movies and television is more intrusive to the viewer. I would easily say the same about plays.
Are you working on anything new?
Yes! The next book of the “Steam Runner” series: The Clockwork Archer. I’m also trying to get another book done that’s urban fantasy-based by the end of the year. I’d like to release it and the following SR book next year. And I’ve also got another book on Wattpad.com called The Chronicles of Rose Red—another urban fantasy—that I’m always trying to update. It’s totally free to read, just like every current book of the “Steam Runner” series for the year it’s out (one chapter a month on the “Steam Runner” website); however, Rose Red will always be free to read.