eSpec Books interviews Jeff Young, contributor to Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine, now funding on Kickstarter

eSB: What was your favorite faerie tale growing up and why?

JY: “Jack the Giant Killer” was probably one of my favorites. A great deal of that was because it was actually a series of linked stories. To me that was always one of the down falls of the faerie tale – it was over too soon. Jack’s stories went on and on.

eSB: What is your favorite faerie tale now and why?

JY: Don’t know that I have a favorite, but I did read several books of Russian and Cossack faerie tales in order to get into the right frame of mind to write my story. I found the differences refreshing when compared to the typical Germanic aspects of the familiar Grimm or Anderson collections.

eSB: What is your favorite faerie tale retelling…and why?

JY: While he’s known for other things, Piers Anthony wrote a wonderful Middle Eastern adaptation called Hasan that grafts a number of the 1001 Arabian Nights stories together into one novel.

eSB: Tell us about your favorite non-European faerie tale.

JY: While often not immediately considered faerie tales, the stories that Scheherazade relates in 1001 Arabian nights, contains the Seven Voyages of Sinbad. I thoroughly enjoyed the movies while growing up and I think that the “sea voyage/adventure” continues to influence books that I enjoy like The Voyage of the Dawn Treader-C.S. Lewis, The One Tree – Stephen Donaldson and even Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch.

eSB: What faerie tale did base your story on and what challenges did you face ’punking it up?

JY: There are a number of stories about Baba Yaga in the Russian culture but I think the most common one is about the young girl who is taken away and must escape to return home. She’s given help in the form of several objects and the one that is the most surreal and clever is the comb. She casts away the comb and it turns into a forest, which Baba Yaga is forced to fly over. The fact that Baba Yaga is chasing the girl riding her mortar and beating the side with her pestle while gnashing her iron teeth just adds to imagery. Baba Yaga is also known for her house that prances about on chicken legs. I’d done some artwork inspired by Scott Westerfeld’s novel Leviathan focused on the book’s steam powered walking machines. It occurred to me that I’d discovered a steampunk explanation for Baba Yaga’s house. I also read over other Russian faerie tales and made sure that I used some of the correct aspects with regards to the character. The words that Svetlana speaks to the Walking House are straight from the faerie tale. 

eSB: Faerie tales are all the rage in TV and movies right now, do you have a favor and why?

JY: The television show Grimm is a personal favorite. It’s both dark and funny at the same time. The combination of snappy dialog works well with innovations the show comes up with. I would say that it is influenced by faerie tales rather than following them astutely. The earlier seasons are more episodic and follow a monster of the week theme and were often introduced by a line from a classic faerie tale.

eSB: What interested you in working on this project?

JY: Danielle asked me a few years ago to consider writing a steampunk story but she wanted one with magic in it. I’d read a few books in the genre and most had actually avoided magic so at first I was a little reluctant and wasn’t even coming up with an idea. Within a week though I had enough to write “Drinking Down Death” after it occurred to me that to Victorians magic was mostly spiritualism. This gave me the opportunity to make my main character a medium who spoke to the dead in order to help solve mysteries. The next time Dani asked me about something similar involving Faerie tales I no longer felt the hesitation I did with my story for In an Iron Cage: the Magic of Steampunk. It made perfect sense that magic was a part of a faerie tale story and the steampunk aspect was merely a pleasant challenge. To use the Russian background though, that was where things got really interesting.

eSB: Faerie tales are all about archetypes and tropes, which one do you identify with and why?

JY: I deliberately used a number of tropes in “The Walking House” especially the rule of three. Good things, bad things most things in a faerie tale come in threes. Nikolai must over come three challenges laid down by Baba Yaga and they are of course at first sight ridiculous and impossible. However, with Svetlana’s help, he is able to succeed. There’s also traditional Russian spirits like domovoi and the vodyanoi as well as mistaken and concealed identities

eSB: Have you written/created anything other faerie tale retellings? Please tell us about it.

JY: Not yet and while it’s not exactly faerie tale in nature, but I’ve been planning to write a steampunk story where characters are acting out Shakespeare’s The Tempest using automatons and cloudbusters.

eSB: What are some of your own works readers can look for?

JY: eSpec is in the process of producing a collection of my steampunk stories entitled The Kassandra Leyden Adventures which will be offered to contributors to the Gaslight and Grimm kickstarter. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords all have several e-versions of my short stories. In the future Fortress Publishing will be producing another collection of my short stories entitled Diversiforms.

eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?

JY: I am currently working with Fortress Publishing on the second volume of the TV Gods Anthology series, TV Gods: Summer Programming as the managing editor. I am also working on two stories: one for the latest Defending the Future anthology and another for a new anthology series entitled Beyond the Cradle. I edit and produce the monthly newsletter of the SF&F Reading group Watch the Skies. Finally, I continue to make and sell costume items for Steampunk and Renaissance wear in the Helm Haven sites on both Ebay and Etsy.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you? 

JY: Visit my website; find me on facebook; at the Watch the Skies website and facebook page as well as the Helm Haven Renaissance Wear page on facebook.


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