We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

While we are not the first to explore the realm of dieselpunk, it is fair to say there isn’t a lot out there. And I can say with full confidence no one else has gone in this direction! Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running and even mod it out beyond its original capabilities, striving for efficiency and peak performance or just keeping things going.

The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be featuring these spotlights so you can get to know our authors—and the projects—better.

eSpec Books interviews Danielle Ackley-McPhail, contributor to Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and John L. French.

 eSB: Grease Monkeys is a collection of dieselpunk stories, a genre that doesn’t seem to get as much attention as its older sibling, steampunk. What challenges did you face transitioning from one to the other? What did you find similar, and what was different?

DAM: This is a new playground to explore. The esthetic is different, as is the focus. We transition from the visionaries who create the tech to the individuals who keep it going and even figure out how to optimize and improve the tech. We go from a very proper and societally structured setting to rabble-rousers and patriotic. It gives the fiction such a different feel with such a breadth and depth of character to deal with, from mobsters and molls to flappers and socialites, rumrunners and servicemen. With so many directions to go in my head spins a bit, but I am very excited to dive in.

eSB: What was your favorite aspect of writing for this collection and why?

DAM: I love finding a bit of tech that no one knows a lot about and building a story around it. In this case, I delved into the British Interplanetary Society and their Lunar Rocket and Lunar Suit. Yes. You heard that right. As early as the thirties, people were already looking to go to the moon, or at least theorizing how it would be possible and what you would need to make it happen. What is even better is that, at one point, someone actually built the suit based on the original designs, and the insight to be had from videos detailing the process helped me figure out what I could and could not do in terms of the story and still maintain authenticity.

eSB: As an author, what drew you to participate in a collection of dieselpunk fiction?

DAM: Well, I have to admit, I am the reason this collection is happening. I have a long history of coming up with catchy ideas for themed anthologies, taking them in directions no one would have expected them to go. I love finding the tangent to give us a fresh backdrop to play with, even with topics that have seemingly been overplayed. In this case, I came up with the title first, Grease Monkeys, and then my mind took off running of how to spin that for a dieselpunk collection because in the movies of that genre, the mechanics always stood out, even though they were always supporting characters rather than the stars.

eSB: Did you base your story on your own previous literary setting or did you embrace the faerie connection? Or hey, did you do both?

DAM: This one is brand-spanking new. It would have to be, nothing I have written before falls into this time period, and I chose such an off-the-wall topic to write about that there was no way of it dovetailing into anything I’ve written previously. That’s what makes this so much fun. New ground to explore.

eSB: No spoilers, but what was your inspiration for your story and did you introduce any easter eggs for either the dieselpunk aspect or your own body of work?

DAM: Oops, I kind of already answered this. There was a lot of speculation about space travel as early as the mid-20s, so I have incorporated some of that history and then extrapolated behind-the-scenes action to support the premise of my story. Since this is about aerospace, There are some nods in there.

eSB: What is your favorite dieselpunk fiction? What is your favorite dieselpunk movie? Share with us why.

DAM: I haven’t run into a lot of dieselpunk fiction, but my favorite movie is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. They uses iconic imagery and effects from the time period in such away that I would say the techniques created a whole other character on the screen. From the banner headlines and the lighting effects and newsclips mimicking those of the day. I consider it not just a fun movie, but a brilliant piece of cinematography.

eSB: What advice would you give aspiring authors considering participating in a themed anthology?

New BloodDAM: This is easy, the advice I always give. Take the first three ideas that occur to you to fit the theme and throw them out. Everyone else will have thought about them too. Instead, find the most unique, unusual way that you can meet the them and pursue that. The idea that looks like it’s come out of left field but actually fits. With themed anthologies, particularly those with open submissions, so many stories come in that are virtually identical that it is the quirky surprising ones that are going to catch the editor’s eye. Believe me, I know. I’ve been at this for a long time as both an author and an editor. Another piece of advice that goes hand in hand with this is to ask the editor what they want to see that no one has given them, and let that help you shape your idea. I did that once for New Blood, a vampire anthology I was invited to and the editor’s answer was “Science Fiction!” I wrote her a “vampire” story that hit every classic trope, without actually having a traditional vampire in it… and she bought it!

eSB: What other events are you doing this year—dieselpunk or otherwise?

DAM: I haven’t encountered any specific dieselpunk events, but I am attending a few conventions in the near future. The first is Farpoint Convention in Hunt Valley, MD, at the beginning of February. That is followed by Tell-Tale Steampunk Convention the weekend of April 1st, also in Hunt Valley, MD. Heliosphere is next, in Picataway, NJ, which is the weekend of April 28, and finally, on June 3, I am participating in the Freaky Mutant Weirdo Variety Show in Hackettstown, NJ. 

eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?

DAM: According to my mother, I am related to both Captain Kidd, and Grace Kelly… making me an authentic Pirate Princess! I have also, officially, been a clown.

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

DAM: Depends on what they like. If they are specifically into steampunk, I have a novel called Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-written with Day Al-Mohamed, which is a steampunk retelling of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I also have seven other novels, all urban fantasy except one, which is military science fiction. Those are Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, The Play of Light, and the sci fi, Daire’s Devils. I also have three writers’ guides under the Literary Handyman brand, eight short story collections, and a cookbook called the Ginger KICK! Cookbook, featuring recipes that all incorporate either candied ginger, simple syrup, or both.

Danielle Ackley-McPhailAward-winning author, editor, and publisher Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with Mike McPhail and Greg Schauer to form eSpec Books (

Her published works include eight novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, Daire’s Devils, The Play of Light, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, The Kindly Ones, Dawns a New Day, The Fox’s Fire, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guides The Literary Handyman, More Tips from the Handyman, and LH: Build-A-Book Workshop. She is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and Footprints in the Stars. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections. She is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady Custom Costume Horns, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail and four extremely spoiled cats.

Learn more about Danielle Ackley-McPhail here:

Website  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page  *  BookBub  *  Newsletter  *  YouTube

Follow Danielle Ackley-McPhail on social media: 

Facebook  *  Twitter  *  Pinterest  *  Instagram

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