Carolyn here - hiya.
Lori squeed herself into a muddled puddle on the floor ... okay, that sentence might be misunderstood, so let me begin again.
Lori is incapacitated due to an extremely blissful case of fangirl-itis and so it falls to me, the older (and wiser) Fart to carry on. Which, believe me is not a problem - except ... Meljean Brook might see what I'm writing here. She might notice run on sentences and comma splices and misuse of adverbs and semi-colons!
That's okay, I have some British somewhere in my ancestry, so I'll keep a stiff upper lip and carry on.
Sorry about that. As older Farts are wont to do, I tend to wander off topic a bit. But I'm back on track now.
First up, my impression of the latest in the The Iron Seas series, Heart of Steel which can be summed up in one word - SQUEEEEEEEEE. However, I'll try to be a little more succinct.
Then we're going to have a 'contrast and compare' with some bookcovers and last, but most certainly not least, a short question and answer session with noted author Meljean Brook herself, who graciously accepted Lori's pleas for an interview.
Heart of Steel
This is the story of the unusal courtship of Archimedes Fox and Yasmeen, owner and captain of the Lady Corsair airship. These two are made for each other. Yasmeen is the alpha in this book, Archimedes a beta and yet ... that's not quite right. There's so much more to him.
He does daringly foolish things and manages to pull them off and still keep himself alive. I guess it's that he doesn't have the personality of an alpha. He doesn't brood, he doesn't try to dominate Yasmeen - unless he's sure he can win.
Watching these two feint and argue, while they inevitably learn more about each other, was sheer pleasure. Yasmeen is kickass, but every act of cruelty has a valid reason behind it, one that allows her to remain captain of her airship and dominent among her peers.
I'm not going to give away any plot devices - oh no, that would be like writing a synopsis and I don't care who's doing the review, they never do it as well as the author, so you'll just have to get the book and read it.
Where was I?
Oh yes. Well, this isn't really a review anyway because you know - review/synopsis?
Okay, I suck at this. But may I just say, if you want to read a great adventure, learn more about Yasmeen's background, and hang with a couple of unusual but absolutely great characters, this is the book for you.
And despite Meljean's answer to the last interview question, she'll have to write hard and fast to top Archimedes Fox. He's at the top of my hero list. However, I have no doubt she can do it, and I can't wait for the next book.
Now then. The 'contrast and compare'.
Consider these two bookcovers:
The one on the top is the British cover of Iron Duke. Is that not Rhys??? Huh? Huh?
That is Rhys!!
I like it sooooo much better than the US cover. I always thought the guy in that picture (who CANNOT be Rhys!) needed an uplift, or at the very least a training bra. The English cover chickened out on Minna though. She doesn't look Asian enough to be the brunt of racism. But the cover itself is beautiful.
Now check out these two covers:
On the top is the German cover for Heart of Steel. Is that not Yasmeen?? What a gorgeous cover. I lust after that cover! On the right is the US cover, and I'm telling you right now, that is NOT Archimedes Fox! Where's his waistcoat? And if he were staring danger in the face, he'd be grinning like a madman (which he may be, but I love him anyway).
So far, by my count, it's Europe 2, USA 0. Really, can't US publishers get away from man titty?
Don't mean to get on a soap box here, so we shall continue on to the piece de resistance.
Here, in her own words, is Meljean Brook.
When did steampunk become a genre? Did you have an interest in it from its beginning?
The first works that we consider steampunk showed up in the seventies and eighties. Of course there were works that can be considered steampunk earlier than that (the oft-referenced Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are not steampunk, however--they wrote science fiction, not historical science fiction) and the term itself was invented in the 80s and applied to books like Morlock Night and The Anubis Gates.
Personally, I've always loved the idea of science fiction and gadgetry in a historical setting. Whether its something like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court or Wild Wild West, there's just a wonderful sense of adventure and invention (and romance!) about the genre that appeals to me.
You have a complicated, very realistic world in The Iron Seas series. Which came first, the world building or the storyline?
The world building came first ... sort of. I'd developed the basic idea of the world before I began writing anything in it, but there are bits and pieces that I developed in response to some need from the storyline (usually something that had to be explained, or I needed a conflict -- and so I peeled away a few more layers in the world building until I had what I needed.) It's the same now, as I'm going deeper into the series. I know many things about the world and the general history, but as I move around the world, I need to develop a more specific history for each location -- those smaller, localized conflicts and issues that shape the characters' viewpoints.
You've made many people happy with your ethnic heroines. But their ethnicity was never pushed into my face (except for Min, with her experiences of racism). Was this a conscious decision?
That's a difficult question to answer -- because everything about the stories is a conscious decision, so: Yes, definitely. But if you mean: Did I set out to create ethnic heroines just to have ethnic heroines ... nah, not at all. I did want to show that the world is diverse, but above everything else, the decision was more a function of the story and the worldbuilding than anything else.
For example, Mina. The racism you mentioned is something that she faces every day -- and that racism is based on the history of England and its occupation by the Horde. So the process of showing her character was also a process of explaining the world, and so all of the little details ended up doing double duty (which, as a writer, is incredibly helpful.)
But it's not *just* that, of course. This is a world that is populated by many different races, not just the Europeans who fled to the New World, and not just the English who remained in England. It would be kind of silly to have this huge world available to me, but only use certain races to tell the story of that worldhrough. (Anyway, history has already done that.)
How are you going to top Archimedes Fox as a hero????
With vulcanologist David Kentewess in the next book, Riveted. You'll have to let me know if he does it! :-D
I thank you, Meljean, and so does Lori - or she will when she recovers - for visiting and giving us some insight into your writing process.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.
To celebrate Meljean and the holidays, we'll give away a copy of Heart of Steel to a random commenter (ebook or paperback) if there are enough commenters to justify a giveaway (more than 5, basically). Otherwise, get your copy ASAP for an amazing and fun read with one of the most original heroes ever written.