Blogging has allowed me to meet many great authors over the years, several of whom came to my blog as debut authors and have gone on to find many successes. Nikki McCormack, author of steampunk series(it might technically be clockpunk, but more on that next week) The Clockwork Enterprises and the Forbidden Things fantasy series, is one of these authors. I met her not long after her first novel, The Girl and The Clockwork Cat, came out and I am thrilled to be showcasing her successes here years later. I hope you’ll enjoy our conversation and take the time to check out her work.
Can you tell us a bit about your Clockwork Enterprises series?
The Clockwork Enterprises series follows the adventures of a young half-Japanese pickpocket named Maeko living on the streets of London. Everything changes for her when she finds Macak, a cat with a clockwork leg. In her efforts to protect the cat, she becomes entangled in a murder investigation and the hunt for the one person who might know the truth, Macak’s true owner, the wealthy inventor and owner of Clockwork Enterprises. Along her adventures with Macak, Maeko has the chance to discover love, friendship and the true meaning of family. Most importantly, she has the chance to show that she is much more than the lowly pickpocket people see her as.
What originally drew you into the world of steampunk?
I was always marginally aware of steampunk, but I knew very little about it until, in the summer of 2010, a friend of mine invited me to a steampunk vendor faire with a burlesque show and Abney Park concert in the evening. I was captivated by the creativity of the people involved and the unique look and feel of the steampunk atmosphere. That was when I first started paying attention to steampunk.
That’s awesome! I am utterly fascinated by burlesque dancing and I can only imagine how wonderful it is when combined with the steampunk aesthetic. I would have been sucked in right away too.
Did you set out to write a steampunk novel or did steampunk simply worm its way into your world?
Shortly after the event I mentioned above, I attended a writer’s conference and heard several editors and agents mention steampunk. I had been listening to my new Abney Park cd on my drive to and from the concert and the event was still fresh in my mind so, even though I was working on another book at the time, I started wondering how one would go about writing a steampunk novel. The next morning on the way to the event, Maeko popped into my head and I started playing around with a story idea. A few days later, I mentioned it to my mom and we started talking about the idea and Maeko showed up in that conversation. After that, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so I had to write it, so I started doing research, attending events, and reading other steampunk work so I could get a better feel for the genre.
What is your favorite thing about steampunk? (Feel free to talk about the aesthetics/subculture as well as the stories themselves)
I honestly think my favorite thing about steampunk is the creativity. Whether in writing, clothing, or art, I have seen some of the most amazing creative effort put into steampunk and some amazingly beautiful work has come from those efforts. It is really wonderful to see people diving into a creative form so enthusiastically and witnessing the results of their passion. I also have a soft spot for the grittier leanings that give it an slightly dystopian feel at times.
The Clockwork Enterprises takes place specifically in Victorian London. How much research did you do before starting the first book?
I researched everything I could think of before starting the book and continued to do extensive research during the writing and editing process. I picked a time period and researched clothing, culture, maps of the city in that time, technology, politics, medicine. I researched everything I could think of, including Japan and its culture and political situation at the time since Maeko’s mother is from Japan. Once I had gathered as much information on London at the time the book takes place, I could start tweaking it to fit the alternate reality I was creating. I also got the fantastic opportunity to visit London after writing book one so I could see many of the places I had written about in person before diving into the second novel.
Even Japan? Talk about thorough! As for London itself, it really is an amazing place. I was there last year myself and I only wish I’d had more time to explore it.
Can you tell us an interesting random fact you learned during your research?
There were so many interesting things. I think what I found most interesting was all the invention and development that occurred during the time period. They started paving roads with tarmac for the first time, pedal driven bicycles were invented, the Metropolitan Police Force was established (and subsequently driven out by the Literati Police Force in my books), and many things started developing into more widely consumable forms, such as electricity in the form of the incandescent lightbulb. There were also huge strides in the areas of medicine and waste management. There was so much going on.
It is a pretty amazing backdrop, one that really lends itself to new, wackier inventions. Perhaps that sheer amount of innovation is what draws us all to the time period, even if we tell ourselves it’s the beautiful corsets 😉
Who is your favorite steampunk author and why?
I don’t know if I have a favorite author (though I am quite partial to Jay Kristoff with his take on Japanese steampunk in the Lotus War series). I do have a favorite book though. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling was the first steampunk novel I read and I really appreciated the approach. In some books, I feel like the steampunk aspect gets so much attention it almost becomes the main character. I do love a lot of the books that take that approach, they are incredibly fun, but in The Difference Engine steampunk was an accepted part of the world. It was an integrated part of the atmosphere and society. I really liked that approach and tried to mirror it to a certain degree in my Clockwork Enterprises series.
Most of the steampunk I’ve read or watched actually uses the same approach–steam technology is just part of the world. The tech might be used in the story at some point but for the most part it’s the backdrop. Frankly I prefer that–my favorite steampunk stories focus on the politics rather than the steampunk aspect itself. I’ll definitely check out The Difference Engine!
What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?
I am very close to releasing the third book in my Forbidden Things fantasy series. After that, my focus will be on getting the third Clockwork Enterprises book out by late summer/early autumn. At the end of the year I will be introducing a new fantasy that I am quite excited about.
A new fantasy thing! I’ll admit I’m kind of behind on the old fantasy thing–it’s hard to keep up with all my author friends AND all the other books I want to read–but I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with this time. And of course I can’t wait for the next book in the Clockwork Enterprises.
Nikki McCormack lives in the magnificent Pacific Northwest tending to her sweet old horse, a couple of cuddly cats, and her fun-loving, toy-destroying dog. She feeds her imagination by sitting on the ocean in her kayak gazing out across the never-ending water or hanging from a rope in a cave, embraced by darkness and the sound of dripping water. She finds peace through practicing iaido or shooting her longbow.
Thank you to all of you for taking the time to read this and to Nikki for taking the time to chat with me. It’s always a pleasure to share awesome authors with the world. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and suggestions for authors I could interview in the comments section below!