eSpec Books interviews Michelle D. Sonnier, author of The Clockwork Witch, funding now on Kickstarter.

eSB: What inspired your concept for this novel?

MDS: The very first thing that inspired me for The Clockwork Witch was a necklace. It was a brass and silver chunky chainmail choker with gears and a large Lucite domed oval pendant that had small replicas of old Victorian keys suspended in it. I adored it then, and still do. My then boyfriend, and now husband, bought it for me in the Katsucon Dealer’s Room in 2010. I started to get a tickle of a Steampunk idea because of the keys and the gears, and since I usually write fantasy those elements started to creep in in the form of witches. And I started thinking, what would witches be doing in a Steampunk world? Why would keys be important to them? The first part that seemed to fall into place was the grand conclusion, which involved the keys, but as I developed the world and characters the keys and the conclusion I’d originally imagined for them drifted further and further away from the characters and plot lines that actually spoke to me. So, I’ve actually diverged quite significantly from what I originally imagined, but who knows? Perhaps my characters will lead me back to the keys and the original ending I envisioned, or perhaps they will take me somewhere even grander.

eSB: What is your favorite part of this universe?

 MDS: My favorite part of this universe is the shades of gray – in relationships, in characters, in the decisions the characters have to make. Much like in real life, almost no one is pure evil or pure good, and every decision has multiple consequences, some of them good, some of them bad, and some a mix of good and bad. Stark black and white decisions, worlds, and characters have never really interested me. It’s the shades of gray that fascinate me and make me want to dig deeper.

eSB: What makes it different from your standard steampunk realm?

MDS: Probably the political interplay between those who champion technology and wish to usher in an Industrial Revolution much like the one in our own timeline, and those who wish to keep to the old ways and keep technology small or non-existent. Of course, Arabella blows a hole right in the middle of this political jousting with her new powers and a shaky foot in each world.

eSB: What was your most unexpected development when writing this book?

MDS: The softening of Arabella’s mother was something that caught me by surprise. When I first outlined the book Minerva was strict, stiff, and completely intractable. She was most definitely Arabella’s biggest adversary. Then came the scene where Arabella’s father explains to Arabella why her mother is as tough as she is. We see Minerva in a more human light as we see the damage from her past that served as motivation for her emotional and psychic armor in the present. Minerva is still just as much as an obstacle for Arabella as she ever was, but there is a change in how Arabella sees her and deals with her as she begins to see her mother as fallible and human rather than a cold, monolithic presence in her life.

eSB: Which character did you enjoy writing the most, and why?

MDS: I think the twins, Jessamine and Josephine, were the most fun to write. They are playful and a bit secretive and appear a bit mad, so that’s fun, but are they really mad or are they playing at it for their own complex end game? And there is a bittersweetness to writing the twins in all their playful glory right now because I know what’s coming for them in future books. There is a darkness coming into their lives and I know I will cry for them when I have to write those scenes.

eSB: Which character surprised you the most, and how?

MDS: Julian Pattersby, without a doubt. When I started writing the novel I had no intention of giving Arabella a love interest so soon. She’s only 17 when the book begins, and while that wouldn’t be considered too young at all for courting and preparing for marriage in the Victorian time period, I didn’t want a romance being the central point of the narrative. I wanted Arabella’s growth and journey of self discovery to take center stage. But the first time Julian and Arabella come together, the look in their eyes and the spark between them was undeniable. I couldn’t not write Julian as a love interest for Arabella. He sees her as a force of nature to be honored and respected, and her power as a thing of beauty, which is very new for Arabella since everyone else in her life regards her and her power as either a burden or something to be used.

eSB: Do you have any plans to expand your story…or write in the same universe? If so, what more can your readers expect?

MDS: Absolutely! I have at least six more novels to write with Arabella as the main character (check out the grandfather clock scene in the novel, it will give you clues as to where we’re going), and I am currently finishing up a novella set in the same world but earlier in the timeline than Arabella’s story. The novella started out as a character study of an important character, named Macaria, who appears later in Arabella’s series. But Macaria kept talking to me and showing me her origins and poof I had a novella. Look for Macaria to make an appearance in book 3 or 4 of Arabella’s storyline, as a much older and wiser witch.

It’s also quite likely I’ll write more in this universe as time goes along. It’s a very rich world and it truly fascinates me. There are so many corners of that world yet to explore.

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

MDS: I have a short story collection called Charmed City: Thirteen Tales of the Peculiar and Obscure from Otter Libris, and many other short stories scattered through various anthologies, magazines, and websites. The Clockwork Witch is my first full-length novel.

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

MDS: I have a novel tentatively titled How the Night Ends that’s in editing with Otter Libris and expected out late summer or early fall 2018, and I’m working on a collection of novellas centered around the theme of death, tentatively titled Love Notes to the Reaper.

eSB: How can readers find out more about you?

MDS: I am most active on FaceBook, although I am in the process of rebuilding my website after it got eaten by gremlins. I’m also trying hard to get better at blogging regularly, but that is a work in progress.

Michelle D. Sonnier

Michelle D. Sonnier is a fiction writer with a specialty in mythic fiction, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and classic horror. She delights in giving a giggle and a shiver. Look for upcoming projects from Sam’s Dot Publications and Otter Libris.


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