eSpec Books interviews Beth Cato, contributor to volume 2, tentatively The Weird West Frontier edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret McGraw. Check out our Kickstarter campaign at

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What is your favorite western movie and why? I’ll be a little rebellious with my answer. I was horse-obsessed as a kid and I adored both of the Man from Snowy River movies. They’re very much westerns, albeit in Australia. That scene when he rides over the cliff still gives me chills.

What does the wild frontier mean to you? A ruthless, isolated environment where you must be self-sufficient to survive.

What interested you in working on this project? I love historical fiction and fantasy and science fiction, and love when they overlap. My parents raised me on westerns. They still keep their TV on westerns for much of the day. Plus, I was born and raised in Hanford, California, a place with a rich pioneer history. It feels personal.

How do you research to capture that western feel? There are so many western clichés; it makes it all the more important to delve past those stereotypes to get the setting right. For example, if I’m reading a western story or watching a movie and it has tumbleweeds rolling along, it had better be set in the early 1900s. Russian thistle is an invasive plant that didn’t come to America until the 1870s!

For research, I like to hit up Wikipedia for the Cliff Notes version, and then I look at the footnotes. From there I hit Amazon or Better World Books. To save money, I buy as many used books as I can.

Have you had any weird western experiences of your own? Please tell us about it. My hometown is a true old west railroad town. Just a few miles away is where the infamous Mussel Slough Tragedy took place over a century ago, where angry homesteaders and Southern Pacific railroad men exchanged gunfire, killing seven. There’s a tremendous amount of history in the area, from the nearby China Alley to the oil boom in the Coalinga hills where my great-grandpa labored. I have always been attracted to fantasy, to the idea that there’s something more, so it feels natural to me to overlay those elements on the western history I know.

Which Wild West archetype (Gambler, Outlaw, Saloon Girl, School Marm, Railroad Man, Pioneer, Cowboy, Lawman or Indian) would you chose to be and why? I’d totally be the School Marm. No hesitation there. I’m the quiet, straight-laced one with a scowl that can make children cry.

What projects of your own do you have coming up? My debut novel The Clockwork Dagger came out in September from Harper Voyager, and the sequel The Clockwork Crown is out in June. The duology is steampunk/epic fantasy, but there’s also a pioneer west vibe.

How can readers find out more about you? My website is I have a full bibliography, links to find out more about my books, and my food blog Bready or Not features new recipes each Wednesday. Come for the fiction, stay for the cookies!


Beth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.





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