JWardeSpec Books interviews Jean Marie Ward, contributor to Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine,

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

JMW: Before I got married, I never had a single favorite anything. I still can’t pick a favorite color. I love them all. But if you give me a plural, my favorite faerie tales were “The Firebird” (because the hero had a talking wolf as his helper, and the wolf had his own story off-screen—how cool is that!), “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” (because Cupid and Psyche WITH BEARS!) and “Beauty and the Beast” (I still want Beast’s castle with the invisible servants; they might actually be able to keep the ambient chaos in check). Plus anything that featured a talking cat (“Puss ‘n Boots”, “The White Cat”, etc.) I didn’t become a full-time cat slave until nine years ago, but I always loved them, and I always thought they should talk in whole sentences. They already think they do.

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

JMW: Again, I must list several: “The Robber Bridegroom”, “The Peasant’s Wise Daughter” and “The Musicians of Bremen”. Basically, I love the stories where the heroine kicks ass. “The Musicians of Bremen”, however, appeals to my inner comic. Not only is it weird and wonderful, it shows every single one of us has a contribution to make—even singers who can’t sing.

And cat stories. My current Feline Overlord (a large black shorthair who thinks he’s a panther) insists I add cat stories to the list.

eSB: Who would you say is your faerie tale role model and why?

JMW: The Clever Girl in all her incarnations, because she uses her brains to make the world what she wants it to be. She’s like the Sterling character in Leverage. She ALWAYS wins.

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

JMW: First and foremost would have to be “Scheherazade and Shahryā”, the frame story of One Thousand Nights and a Night. Basically, woman storyteller saves the world. (Are you sensing a theme?) But I love the tales of Sinbad, especially since I discovered he was based on a Ming-era eunuch who sailed to Africa to bring back a giraffe. I’m also very fond of Japanese tales of trickster kitsune (magic, shape-shifting foxes), and the Chinese stories of ghost brides who became corporeal and bore children when their lovers treated them right.

eSB: What little-known faerie tale do you think is underappreciated and why?

JMW: I grew up poring over all twelve volumes of Andrew Lang’s fairy books. So I couldn’t begin to list all the wonderful stories that deserve more readers—and Lang’s compendium only scratches the surface. It’s a wide world of wonder out there. We owe it to ourselves to read as many tales from as many different cultures as we can.

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

JMW: “The Clockwork Nightingale” is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale”. I picked it because it features the classic Steampunk theme of (hu)man versus machine. My only regret is I didn’t know enough about 19th century China to create a Steampunk variation of the original locale. But I can do Western, specifically the weirdly western world of the New Dominion Territories, where the “The Clockwork Nightingale” is set. I grew up watching Westerns, and the opportunity to rewrite history with saloon girls, mine bosses and a (love-)mad scientist was too good to pass up.

If you’d like to check it out, I posted an excerpt at:

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

JMW: Grimm. The hero, Nick, is okay, but I really love the supporting characters, from the Blutbot Munroe and the Fuchsbau Rosalie to Nick’s human coworkers who get sucked into the fairy tale madness.

eSB: What interested you in working on Gaslight and Grimm?

JMW: Since I love Steampunk and fairy tales, how could I not be interested?

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

JMW: The Clever Girl (Aarne-Thompson 875), naturally. It’s not because she always wins—heaven knows, I don’t—but she never gives up, and she knows how and when to think outside the box.

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

JMW: Not yet, but I’ve been itching to set a version of “The Robber Bridegroom” in the New Dominion Territories. My projected heroine is a real pip—an illusionist and “recovery expert” named Oleander Jones. The story would also serve as a bridge between that world and the setting of With Nine You Get Vanyr—but I’m not saying how!

In addition, I’ve plotted out a version of “Snow White” from the queen’s point of view. It’s not Steampunk, however, and it’s very dark—not my usual at all.

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

JMW: With Nine You Get Vanyr, written with the late Teri Smith (2006, Samhain Publishing)

“The Wizard of Woodrow Park” in The Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens (2014, Zombies Need Brains, LLC). “Wizard” could be seen as the prequel to “The Clockwork Nightingale”, because both the heroine and hero play major supporting roles.

“Cooking up a Storm” in Tales from the Vatican Vaults (2015, Robinson), a historical fantasy set during the 1814 Burning of Washington.

“Fixed” in The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity (2012, DAW Books) for those who like urban fantasy (I do, too).

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

JMW: “The Clockwork Nightingale” in Gaslight and Grimm (2016, e-Spec Books)

“The Five Bean Solution” in Were- (2016, Zombies Need Brains, LLC). This is a sequel of a sort to “Fixed” with added were-opossum and the world’s biggest silver bullet. Mwahahaha!

“Protective Coloring” in Legends of the Dragon 2 (2016, Gilded Dragonfly Books)

eSB: How can readers find out more about you?

JMW: My website <; offers links and excerpts of my work, as well as some free fiction. I hope your readers will check it out.

Thank you. And thanks for this opportunity to chat.


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