Today’s author caught my attention when I read a review of her most recent novel, The Hypnotic City, which is part of the Gold and Gaslight Chronicles. The series caught my attention right away thanks to its new take on one of my favourite old stories, Dr. Jekyll & Hyde.
Please give Andrea Berthot a warm welcome!
Can you tell us a bit about your books?
There are currently two books in my Gold and Gaslight Chronicles series, both involving glittering excess and science-gone-wrong in reimagined urban settings during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The Heartless City is set in 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years, terrorized by a race of monsters created by Henry Jekyll. Due to his own devastating brush with science, seventeen-year-old Elliot is now an empath, leveled by the emotions of a terrorized, dying city. He finds an unlikely ally in a music hall waitress named Iris, and together they must discover who’s pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake. Monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face. The Hypnotic City is a sequel/spin-off that will be released on August 1st, 2016, and it follows one of the minor characters in The Heartless City – Philomena Blackwell – as she attempts to make it as an actress in 1905 New York. When she lands a big break, it seems as if the city is ready to fall under her spell – just as she seems to be falling for a handsome young stage manager – but a new and more terrible danger lurks in the shadows of Broadway’s bright lights, and even a mind as determined as hers may not be immune to its seductive, insidious pull.
Which part of the story came to you first?
I first thought of the idea for The Heartless City when I was discussing one of the film versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with one of my students (I am an English teacher). I suddenly thought, “what would have happened if Dr. Jekyll hadn’t kept his formula to himself, but instead shared it with his friends or sold it?” And the idea grew from there.
I love when stories come about like this! It’s amazing how much story you can get out of a single question.
The Heartless City is set in 1903 London and The Hypnotic Cityleads your main character to 1905 New York. How much research on each setting did you do before starting each book?
I did LOTS of research for both books. It was different with The Heartless City because it wasn’t only 1903 London but a reimagined, quarantined, monster-filled 1903 London, so I had to research things like what products, world events, and cultural changes they would be cut off from and how that would change the dynamics of the city. The Hypnotic City was a little bit easier, because it is less re-imagined history, but I still read many books and studied many maps in order to prepare, just like I did for Heartless.
When you set out to write The Heartless City did you intend to write a series?
Not at all! I thought it would be a standalone, but Philomena became such a powerful and compelling character that when the story was over I knew I had to find out what she did next and give her her own story.
This has happened to me recently, with one of my novels turning into a trilogy. It’s awesome and terrifying all at once, because a series is a much bigger commitment.
What was the first steampunk media you discovered?
I first became intrigued by steampunk fashion, especially when I saw a local production of Sweeney Todd that was costumed completely with a steampunk aesthetic. It was so dark, quirky, dramatic, and exciting.
That sounds amazing! Sweeney Todd is one of my favourite stories. I know a lot of people who are fans of the play aren’t fans of the movie, but I adore it and have watched it at least seven times.
What do you think is the most interesting thing about steampunk?
It’s just fascinating how it takes most of the things I love about Victorian culture and then adds sci-fi/fantasy. It gives the writer/artist the opportunity to ground themselves in something historical and real and then take off from there and create something new and exciting.
It really is a fantastic combination, one of the most fascinating periods of history combined with some incredibly creative additions from the fantasy & science fiction genres(which happen to be my favourite).
If you could meet any one steampunk author/artist, who would it be?
Definitely the OGs of steampunk – H.G. Wells and Jules Verne
What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?
After completing The Hypnotic City, I decided that I wanted to make the Gold and Gaslight Chronicles a trilogy, so I am brainstorming/outlining the next book, which will likely take place in Paris and have to do with the birth of early cinema, and of course some weird and creepy science.
That sounds awesome! I’m really eager to explore more steampunk that isn’t England-centric and I love that your series is all over the world.
Andrea Berthot’s last name has a silent “t,” like the word “merlot” – which fits, since that is her favorite drink to have at the end of the day.
Back when she was born in Salina, Kansas, her last name was Price, and she grew up loving singing, acting, reading, and of course writing. By day she teaches high school English, creative writing, forensics, and directs the yearly musical, and by night (or rather, by early morning, as her brain is more alive at 5am than 5pm) she writes Young Adult stories involving history, romance, magic, literature, and some good, old-fashioned butt-kicking.
She lives in Winfield, Kansas with her husband and their two sons, Maximus and Leonardo.
The Heartless City
Henry Jekyll was a brilliant doctor, a passionate idealist who aimed to free mankind of selfishness and vice. He’s also the man who carelessly created a race of monsters.
Once shared secretly among the good doctor’s inner circle, the Hyde drug was smuggled into mass-production – but in pill form, it corrupted its users at the genetic level, leaving them liable to transform without warning. A quarter of the population are now clandestine killers – ticking bombs that could detonate at any given moment.
It’s 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years.
Son of the city’s most prominent physician and cure-seeker, seventeen-year-old Elliot Morrissey has had his own devastating brush with science, downing a potion meant to remove his human weaknesses and strengthen him against the Hydes – and finding instead he’s become an empath, leveled by the emotions of a dying city.
He finds an unlikely ally in Iris Faye, a waitress at one of the city’s rowdier music halls, whose emotions nearly blind him; her fearlessness is a beacon in a city rife with terror. Iris, however, is more than what she seems, and reveals a mission to bring down the establishment that has crippled the people of London.
Together, they aim to discover who’s really pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake, and why citizens are waking up in the street infected, with no memory of ever having taken the Hyde drug…
Heart-eating monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face.
The Hypnotic City
Philomena Blackwell survived a city plagued with monsters, the gilded cage of high society, and the rule of a heartless man… and she aims to leave it all behind.
It’s 1905, and London has finally been freed from Henry Jekyll’s terrible legacy – its people cured, its thirteen-year quarantine lifted. The world is waiting, and for a girl who dreams of being its most dazzling star, what could be more enticing than the bright lights of New York City?
She is drawn across the ocean like a moth to a flame, her heart set on proving that while she may be small on the outside, her soaring talent eclipses even Manhattan’s towering skyline. When she lands a big break, it seems as if the city is ready to fall under her spell – just as she seems to be falling for a handsome young stage manager. But is it her stage presence mesmerizing the audience, or something more sinister behind the scenes?
Philomena has always relied on her fierce will and fiery heart, but a new and more terrible danger lurks in the shadows of Broadway’s bright lights, and even a mind as determined as hers may not be immune to its seductive, insidious pull…
Both fans of The Heartless City and new readers alike will enjoy this stand-alone / spin-off tale of Philomena’s adventures on stage – and in love – in NYC.
Check out The Hypnotic City on Goodreads!
Do these sound like awesome novels to you? Do you want to see more series like this featured on The Steampunk Cavaliers? Know a series you want to see featured here? Let us know in the comments section below!