Greeeetings book lovers! Up for some fun steampunk talk? If so, you’ll want to check out the following interview with romance author Coleen Kwan. I’m pleased she’s allowed me to inundate her with questions about her latest release, Asher’s Invention, and the steampunk-ish goodness that it contains. We also talk a bit about her journey to writing (from the IT field!) and some of her writerly habits. Please give her a warm welcome (and check out the end of this post for some giveaway information)!
Alisha: Hi Coleen, welcome to Book Lovers Inc! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Coleen: Thanks for having me on your blog. I live in Sydney, Australia with my partner and two teenage children. I’m your classic bookworm—I love nothing better than losing myself in a good story. I used to work in IT but at the moment I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time.
Alisha: You’ve mentioned that you have worked in the IT field for many years. What finally brought you to writing? (Or *back* to writing?)
Coleen: Well, I worked in IT for a long time because the money was good and the job was interesting most of the time, but after a number of years I started wondering if there wasn’t something else I’d rather be doing. I guess it’s your classic midlife crisis! Years ago (before kids and mortgages) I’d dabbled a bit in writing, though never seriously. When I took a break from IT I decided to see if I could make any headway with writing and surprisingly it ‘took’. I guess it’s a matter of timing and persistence.
Alisha: Can you summarize Asher’s Invention for us—Twitter-style (140 characters or less)? ^_^
Coleen: She duped him once, now she needs his help. Can Asher and Minerva rebuild their relationship in time to save her father?
Alisha: So, Asher’s Invention is your first steampunk book. What initially drew you to the genre? To the story of the brilliant Asher Quigley?
Coleen: Steampunk is a new genre for me. I’d read a few of Gail Carringer’s novels and really enjoyed them. When I joined a month-long writing sprint, I decided to try steampunk just for fun. The plot for Asher’s Invention came together quite quickly. I like flawed heroes, and Asher is definitely a man with a lot of faults, but he can also rise above them. I enjoyed creating him and also Minerva Lambkin, the woman who is his match and the love of his life.
Alisha: One fun aspect of Asher’s Invention involves the visual glimpses into the steam powered world. How’d you draw your inspiration for the visual look, the gadgets and automata and conveyances?
Coleen: Steampunk has a very distinctive aesthetic which can sometimes be difficult to put into words without long, boring descriptions, so where possible I think it’s okay to leave it up to the reader’s imagination. Because steampunk is so visually appealing there are loads of websites and pictures on the internet to inspire me (and also distract me). I love looking at pictures of ray guns and weird costumes. Movies and graphic novels are other sources of inspiration. Sometimes I tried to base my gadgets on real-life discoveries. For example someone has recently designed a robot arm which is powered by steam. A catalyst is combined with hydrogen peroxide which causes it to burn and produce steam which then opens and shuts valves in the prosthetic. A small canister of hydrogen peroxide concealed in the arm provides enough energy for 18 hours. When I read about this robot arm I was fascinated and wanted to incorporate some of its components in my story.
Alisha: What’s your favorite element in Asher’s story—a particular character or setting that you’re really attached to?
Coleen: I’m rather attached to Asher. He’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He’s proud, stubborn and a bit hot-headed. But flawed people are more realistic and memorable in my opinion. There has to be some room to grow and improve and usually that involves the heroine.
Alisha: Can you share any “behind the scenes” tidbits about Asher’s Invention (perhaps about the writing process, or something about the characters that didn’t end up in the final version)? ^_^
Coleen: The final scene was difficult to write because I already had a sequel in mind and this last scene sort of leads into that, but I didn’t want to give away too much. So it was a struggle to keep the last page consistent with the rest of the book and also what I planned for the sequel.
Alisha: Describe a typical day of writing. Do you sit and write for blocks of time, or do you write in bits when you can? Do you write to music, or do you need complete silence to concentrate on your work?
Coleen: After I’ve seen the kids off to school I usually take a morning walk with my partner. That’s about the only exercise I get and walking is great for mulling over plot problems. Then I write from about ten in the morning to four or five in the afternoon. I find I get the best writing done during the middle of the day, and then I gradually fade. I can’t write if there’s music or TV in the background; it’s too distracting!
Alisha: What kinds of romantic heroes/heroines do you most enjoy, as both a reader and a writer?
Coleen: I love flawed alpha and beta heroes who are a little bit rough around the edges ie. not too immaculately groomed or concerned with their appearances. I like a hero with a sense of humour, someone who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty! For heroines, again I like them slightly imperfect, not totally together, someone I can identify with.
As a reader some of the most memorable heroines are those who have many advantages but are just doomed from the start, like Lily Bart in The House of Mirth. As a romance writer I can’t have my heroines dying, but as a reader they do make for fascinating characters.
Alisha: So, Asher’s tales don’t end with Asher’s Invention—what with Asher’s Dilemma set for release in 2013. Do you envision many more stories following Asher’s adventures?
Coleen: Hmm, I’m not sure there. Asher’s Dilemma came to me while I was writing Asher’s Invention, but since then I haven’t been hit with any worthwhile inspirations for a third instalment, so I’d have to answer ‘not at the moment’.
Alisha: Are there any other genres or themes that you’d like to explore in the future?
Coleen: When I started writing I focused on contemporary romance and that’s certainly still my main genre, but now that I’ve written two steampunk stories I’d like to write more, possibly with a slightly supernatural or gothic edge.
Alisha: Thanks so much for stopping by BLI and answering all our questions, Coleen. ^_^
Where to find Coleen:
Five years ago, Asher Quigley broke his engagement to Minerva Lambkin, believing she was an accomplice in a scheme to steal his prototype for a wondrous device. Minerva swore she was innocent, though the thief—and Asher’s mentor—was her own father.
Now, sheer desperation has driven Minerva to Asher’s door. Her father has been kidnapped by investors furious that he’s never been able to make the machine work. Only Asher, now a rich and famous inventor in his own right, can replicate the device. He’s also become a hard, distant stranger far different from the young idealist she once loved.
Despite their troubled past, Asher agrees to help Minerva. He still harbors his suspicions about her, but their reunion stirs emotions and desires they both thought were buried forever. Can they rebuild their fragile relationship in time to save her father and their future together?
On offer today is an e-book copy of Coleen’s book, Asher’s Invention, for one lucky commenter!
All you have to do is leave a meaningful comment or tell us: what are some of your favorite (or least favorite) aspects of steampunk?
(You can read our full giveaway policy here)
Please be sure to include a valid email address in the comment form (need not be in the actual body of the comment).
This giveaway is open to all!
Giveaway ends on Saturday, July 21st, 2012; we will announce the winner on Sunday.