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 John L. French, 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?
JLF: This is my first time writing about either, although as an editor I have edited some steampunk novels and stories. As for the difference, Let me compare the two subgenres to types of crime fiction – steampunk is closer to the cozy mystery while dieselpunk is closer to hardboiled.
eSB: What was your favorite aspect of writing for this collection and why?
JLF: I generally don’t write either dieselpunk or steampunk fiction. So writing for this collection was a way to try something new, to stretch my writing muscles so to speak.
eSB: As an author, what drew you to participate in a collection of dieselpunk fiction?
JLF: I was invited to do so by my co-editor, who had faith enough in me to believe that this was something I could do.
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?
JLF: Neither. I did some research into both steam and dieselpunk and some of the aspects of the latter and as I did, I suddenly had the story. It was not one I expected to write. After I wrote the first one (“No Man’s Land”) another idea occurred to me and I wrote the second one (“The Return of the Diesel Kid”).
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?
JLF: I love putting Easter Eggs in my stories. There is a series of them in “No Man’s Land” that relate to a novel Patrick Thomas and I write if anyone gets them, it should tell them where the story is going.
eSB: Is this your first time writing for a themed anthology? If so, how did you find the experience? If not, what draws you to them?
JLF: No, I’ve been contributing to and editing themed anthologies for almost as long as I’ve been writing. I like them because the theme will not only suggest a topic about which to write but act as a challenge to take a topic like zombies or mermaids and write about it a way no one else has. I also think that readers take to themed anthologies because they know what to expect.
eSB: What advice would you give aspiring authors considering participating in a themed anthology?
JLF: First of all, read the guidelines. If the anthology is about police detectives, don’t write a story about a dog-walker who stumbles on a murder unless the dog-walker is an off-duty police detective. If it’s a topic with which you’re not familiar, do some research. If it’s a well-known subject like Sherlock Holmes or the Lovecraft mythos, go to the source material, read the original stories rather than rely on what you think you know. Once you do that, don’t be afraid to do something different.
eSB: What other events are you doing this year—dieselpunk or otherwise?
JLF: Several conventions of various kinds, Monster Mania, the Balticon (hopefully), the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, the Frederick Comic Con, and the Pulp Adventure Con. It’s always fun doing conventions, meeting old friends and fans and making new ones.
eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?
JLF: While it’s no secret that I was once a CSI for the Baltimore Police Crime Lab, I also “worked” for Captain James Gordon of the Gotham City Police in that city’s crime lab. I provided forensic advice to C. J. Henderson when he wrote a few Batman comics and as a thank you I was drawn into the comic as myself.
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
JLF: There are the novellas I wrote as part of Systema Paradoxa’s ongoing Cryptid series – When the Moon Shines, which features snallygasters and dwayyo, and Chessie at Bay, which features Chessie the Chesapeake Bay sea serpent. There’s also my Bianca Jones series about monster hunting in Baltimore (Here There Be Monsters, Monsters Among Us, and The Last Monsters. And a two-book (so far) series about a CSI who becomes a private eye then goes to work for the Baltimore City State’s Attorney.
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
JLF: Hopefully, I will have a few books coming out in 2023. My first fantasy collection from Padwolf Publishing (In the Ruins of Caerleon), a hardboiled detective collection from Bold Venture Press (The Wages of Syn), and a novel set in Patrick Thomas’s Agents of the Abyss series (The Detective of the Abyss). 2024 will see the release of Daylight Comes, my third book in my cryptid series, which features the return of the dwayyo along with at least one other monster.
JOHN L. FRENCH is a retired crime scene supervisor with forty years’ experience. He has seen more than his share of murders, shootings, and serious assaults. As a break from the realities of his job, he started writing science fiction, pulp, horror, fantasy, and, of course, crime fiction.
John’s first story “Past Sins” was published in Hardboiled Magazine and was cited as one of the best Hardboiled stories of 1993. More crime fiction followed, appearing in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, the Fading Shadows magazines and in collections by Barnes and Noble. Association with writers like James Chambers and the late, great C.J. Henderson led him to try horror fiction and to a still growing fascination with zombies and other undead things. His first horror story “The Right Solution” appeared in Marietta Publishing’s Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak. Other horror stories followed in anthologies such as The Dead Walk and Dark Furies, both published by Die Monster Die books. It was in Dark Furies that his character Bianca Jones made her literary debut in “21 Doors,” a story based on an old Baltimore legend and a creepy game his daughter used to play with her friends.
John’s first book was The Devil of Harbor City, a novel done in the old pulp style. Past Sins and Here There Be Monsters followed. John was also consulting editor for Chelsea House’s Criminal Investigation series. His other books include The Assassins’ Ball (written with Patrick Thomas), Souls on Fire, The Nightmare Strikes, Monsters Among Us, The Last Redhead, the Magic of Simon Tombs, and The Santa Heist (written with Patrick Thomas). John is the editor of To Hell in a Fast Car, Mermaids 13, C. J. Henderson’s Challenge of the Unknown, Camelot 13 (with Patrick Thomas), and (with Greg Schauer) With Great Power …