Monday, December 19, 2011

Meljean Brook, y'all

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

My best,

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.


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.


  1. I'm not sure exactly what a squee is but I sure do it a lot.

    I adored this book! Steampunk is a strange genre, in my opinion, and I oftentimes have to work to understand what's being described. Without a truly invigorating story, the genre would lose me completely.

    I liked Iron Duke but I loved Heart of Steel. The characters were two of the best, most original characters I've ever read.

    Archimedes had to be the best hero ever. He was constantly upstaged (up-heroed) by the heroine Yasmeen yet he was completely her equal. If not more.

    Archimedes understood that to be Yasmeen's love, he'd need to stand behind her as well as next to her. How many alphas can do that?

    Rollicking fun. Zombies. Da Vinci. God, what can you not adore about this book?

  2. Hey, Lori and Carolyn!

    Whee! on loving the book! That always makes me so happy :-D

    But, haha, even more exciting is cover discussions! I do love the international covers so far. I absolutely understand why the U.S. covers look like they do (and I even suggested many of the elements, since we were trying to convey steampunk + romance, and doing it in the most obvious way possible) but I'll admit to clapping my hands and squeeing a bit when the other covers came in.

    The German Heart of Steel is just gorgeous. But I'm curious what you thought about The Iron Duke German? I'm kind of torn, because I really love manga-influenced art, and the colors/clothes are just amazing ... but I've heard some comments that it looks like it is intended for a younger audience.

    (You can see all of the international covers I have so far here.)

  3. Awesome, awesome covers. I love the German cover and never thought of it leaning toward YA until Meljean mentioned it - now it does kinda sorta (but still freaking awesome). The Iron Duke hooked me on steampunk and Heart of Steel hooked me on Archimedes (*sigh*, is it getting hot in here?).
    Skip my name for the giveaway since I'm already a proud owner of Heart of Steel... I just wanted to pop in for a bit of fangirldom of my fave author (*waving at MB*)

  4. I picked up The Iron Duke after reading the short story Meljean Brook had in Wild and Steamy. Best. Purchase. Ever. I stayed up till 2 a.m. reading and only put it down because I HAD to sleep before work the next day.

    Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to get Heart of Steel, since it came out right before November, better known as National Novel Writing Month.

    I look forward to reading it the second I get a chance, though!

    And Meljean -- looking at the Iron Duke German cover, I have to agree with you. It's great art, but it definitely looks like the target audience is teenagers/young adults.

  5. i love the european covers!! super awesome.. not that i can really object to the half nekkid men.. but i do love the elements of the other ones better!

    these were my first experiences with steampunk and i havent looked back! i just managed to buy the Iron Duke, and have gotten Heart of Steel from the lib.. would love to add it to my collection! thanks for the chance to win! i would love a paperback one if possible!

    and may i ask.. who is David Kentewess?? have we come across him before that im not remembering? or is he new?

    alainala AT hotmail DOT ca

  6. I enjoyed reading The Iron Duke a lot, Heart of Steel lies already on my desk and I'm quite curious how the story continues ...

    I do love the British covers, the US ones would not persuade me to buy the books but they are ok. But I really have a problem with the German Iron Duke. Sorry to say, but so not Rhys for me!

    However, as long as I get a thriling story I don't care for the cover ;-)

  7. David is completely new! All of the characters will be, although you might recognize a few references to other events/characters from the series.

    I'm trying to keep it as fresh as possible though, and easy for new readers to come in at any time (so that they don't have to worry about backstory for many different characters.) My plan is to tease in one book and fulfill in the next -- so in Heart of Steel we have mentions of virgin cults and the Vashon aeronauts, and we'll see more of them in Riveted.

    Eventually I'll head back to England for a little bit, but first I want to really open up the world and make it as big as possible.

  8. I do think a nice little heroine named Lori might move the world along nicely...

    I'm also a fan of the European covers. I like the steampunk look with the clockworks but man, oh man... these aren't really man-titty stories. These are adventure.

    Wow. It just made me think of the books they used to have in the 40s and 50s, the adventure books for boys. Tom Swift and all that. I guess we had to grow up and now with paranormal and steampunk, we finally got our adventure books for girls.

    And Meljean created our Tom Swift in Yasmeen. Though she's a lot more kick ass.

  9. "Give me that knife!" Yasmeen demanded cuttingly.

  10. Adverb alert! Adverb alert! ;-)

    I'm sorry Meljean, but I've never particularly cared for the American covers. I read the books despite them, because I'd read your novella "Here There Be Monsters" in the antholgy "Burning Up". I fell in love with the Iron Seas and you're an autobuy for me. (Btw, any chance that novella will be published alone?)

    The international covers are so eye catching. In a store, I would almost certainly stop and pick up the book and read the blurb. Those covers reflect the work residing between them, IMHO.

    I don't think I can say the same about the American covers. I just don't like that guy on the cover, lol. He is NOT Rhys, he is NOT Archimedes. And that's that.

    I'm wondering if you're planning any stories in the non-European portions of North America. I think the native Americans in the midwest would be fantastic to read about.

    Regardless where you voyage next, I'll be along for the ride.

  11. Forgot to say, that German cover for The Iron Duke - he's a flashy dresser but he looks sneaky and ....

    He's not Rhys!

    (Actually, he looks more like I imagined Lord Scarsdale.)

  12. Don't enter me, since I already won an ARC of HoS, but I just had to chime in and agree. Soooo much better covers, those lucky Europeans!

  13. Carolyn covered what I would have said, right down the line:

    Read The Iron Duke (despite so much hype--I don't trust hype) because "Here there Be Monsters" made me fell head over heals in love with the world. I've yet to get my dirty little mittens on Heart of Steel (so pretty please count me in for a giveaway, gracious hostesses?), but neither of the US covers look like the protagonists.

    The UK covers, on the other hand...right on!

    And yes, definitely, the cover of the German Iron Duke? Totally Lord Scarsdale!

    Which reminds me...have you considered writing his story? *begging puppy eyes at Meljean*

  14. Carolyn -- the next one won't be in North America, but David is native and from the disputed territories area on my map below the Great Lakes. So we kind-of learn more about what's going on there, but most of the story takes place in Iceland, where there's just a mix of everyone. I will probably visit the Americas in portions -- considering the way Europe/Africa settled the continents, a lot of different stuff happened with the natives and different alliances were made. The indigenous populations definitely can't be lumped together. So I'll tease a bit, and then hopefully fulfill that within a book or two. (I also want to go east, lol, so it might take me longer!)

    azteclady -- I have plans for Scarsdale. If not a novella next year, then something shortly after that. It mostly depends on how long his story ends up being, and how long it takes me to write it.

  15. On covers ... I do think (with the exception of my last three Guardian covers) it's very rare for a cover to get everything right.

    I'm usually pretty happy if they just get the "feel" of something in the book right, or if I think that the design works on a marketing level (my business side can't ignore that) :-D I think for all of these there are aspects that work and are just right, and other aspects that I can pick apart and just don't fit the books at all. I can never tell, though, whether it's because I have such a strong mental image of all of the characters and the mood of the books that it's just impossible to capture that.

  16. Thanks Lori and Carolyn for the interview and Meljean for the insight to your series- I will certainly look you up on my kindle- my daughter is fascinated with steampunk and I am just discovering it. Much success. Ree

  17. I do like the UK cover for Iron Duke better than the US cover (which is the one I have) but I can only see the spine on my bookshelf anyway, so...

    Please include me in the giveaway (which I assume is on given you have more than 5 comments! :D) and thank you for the interview!

    hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

  18. Super great interview and I love Archimedes fox! This is such a great steampunk series and I've already seen so many great reviews for heart of steel.

  19. I really love this series and cannot wait for the next one.

  20. I've had these books on my wish list since I read the first review on them. Can't wait until someone (hints at children) gives me money for Christmas so I can buy them :D

    felinewyvern at googlemail dot com

  21. I adored The Iron Duke, and I agree, the UK cover is so much better, as is the UK cover for Heart of Steel. I'm dying to read Heart of Steel, I can't wait to find out how Archimedes got out of the tight spot he was in when last we saw him in The Iron Duke.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

  22. I do like the UK cover better!

  23. Its not that I dont like the US covers. I do. Its just that really the foreign covers are just better. Ive seen this with a lot of other series too and I really dont understand why there are multiples and why we cant have the cool ones.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  24. I agree with you ladies that the European covers are much the one of Rhys!

  25. I have to agree the foreign covers are better -- the us ones would be ok if they left off the male figures, as I do like the dirigible!