The end draws nigh on Full Steam Ahead!
There are many, many bonuses to be had, and an amazing prize pack to be won, not to mention fantastic stories in the books themselves. Here is where you get to meet the authors. Heather was actually a stretch goal bonus, contributing to Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, taking 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.
eSpec Books interviews Heather E. Hutsell, 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?
HH: Dieselpunk is brand new to me as a genre to write about. I love the aesthetics of the decades it covers, so I’m already very familiar with those, but the punk aspect was something I had to explore. Steampunk has always felt more natural and familiar to me, so I haven’t found it as difficult to write. Between the two, I’ve found that the characters who share those worlds also share the inability to stand still. There’s so much drive to invent more, improve more, and, for better or worse, change more. And as gritty as both genres can get – literally and figuratively – there is still some element of elegance maintained, and that’s something I can identify with.
eSB: What was your favorite aspect of writing for this collection and why?
HH: I really love the challenge that comes along with writing a dieselpunk story. Again, it’s so new to me that I’ve really had to stretch my wings and get into it; see what it’s all about. I’ve probably been aware of it for about a decade and have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get a closer look. I also love just being a part of a collection with other authors. We all come at a contained vision like this from so many different backgrounds and approaches and bring such rich ideas – it’s just great fun to see what everyone has come up with, and have those, ‘Whoa! I never would have thought of that!’ moments.
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?
HH: One of my original ideas for this story stemmed from my steampunk series, The Case Files. There is some time travel that puts a few of the prominent characters right in the middle of the dieselpunk world, and as tempting as it was to lean into that, I just couldn’t settle on a vignette that could be made short enough. The Case Files get a little… complicated!
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?
HH: This is a tough one to answer without giving anything away! I had a few loose ideas when first asked to contribute to Grease Monkeys, but after some brainstorming, things really fell into place quickly! Part of the inspiration for my story comes from a real-life event that happened to a close friend of my paternal grandfather, who also happened to be friends with a major icon from the late 1920s. The event itself is only mentioned as something upcoming in my story, but I felt compelled to put this family friend in there because he is such a great bridge between a few key elements. Coincidentally, a story my mother recently shared with me about her father and his role in the military also plays a part. It’s really sort of amazing how the two completely unrelated events could be so easily woven together to create something I’m really excited about.
eSB: Are there any interesting details that you incorporated in your story to harken to the historic period of the genre? Are you the kind of ’punk who reveals in the period-appropriate technobabble, or do you dig deep into the research to include period-accurate touches?
HH: This definitely required some research so I could get the timing and setting just right. Since there’s an element of the occult going on in my storyline, and a handful of true events playing a role, I needed to make sure I kept the chronology of those in mind. As it turns out, I could not have written history itself more perfectly to suit my story. I also needed to know the details of certain technological elements, and both of those for the circumstances of the story also happened to work out just so.
eSB: What is your favorite dieselpunk fiction? What is your favorite dieselpunk movie? Share with us why.
HH: I have seen The City of Lost Children described as both steampunk and dieselpunk, and regardless of which it is, it has been one of my favorite films, even long before I ever heard of either genre. It’s simply gorgeous, humorous, thought-provoking, disturbing, and it has inspired many fascinating and unsettling dreams-turned-stories of mine. If Jungpunk ever becomes a thing, that movie will be the epitome of it.
eSB: What advice would you give aspiring authors considering participating in a themed anthology?
HH: It’s great to participate in an anthology on a subject you love. Even better if it’s one that challenges you, or even makes you uncomfortable. The ones that make you feel like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this’ – definitely do those. The anthologies I have written for so far – sci-fi, pulp, superhero, and this one – have all terrified me at the onset, but I ended up loving, not only the stories, but the process involved for approaching and writing them.
eSB: Could you tell us about one of your most amusing experiences promoting your books?
HH: As someone who is terrible with marketing, and just can’t seem to sit down and really invest the time necessary to make social media work for me, I make sure that I make the best use of marketing time at conventions. I’ll do readings, speak on panels, and appear at every meet & greet and book fair I can, just so I can speak to people about my books in person. I have had several people ask to buy whatever book I was reading from right out of my hands, before I can even leave the room – or sometimes, the panel. I am both amused and fascinated by it every time it happens. To have someone say, “Oh, my gosh! I want that book right now – can I buy that copy from you?” – it never gets old.
eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?
HH: I don’t actually enjoy writing vampire or werewolf stories – but that didn’t stop me from still doing it four times! And since I have a sequel in mind for one, and plans to complete a trilogy for another storyline, it looks like I’ll be doing it again at some point. There are a few people out there who will be thrilled to know that.
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
HH: On the subject of ’punk writing, the first five of eight books of The Case Files are available. As mentioned, I also have a few romantic horror novels and novellas (By Blood, By Moon and By Heart, By Sun; In the Clothing of Wolves and Blood Mettle), and my first gothic, paranormal romance (Nevermore, Inc.) is available. Or, if you just don’t know where to start, 366 Tales: Stories Year-Round is exactly that – a one-page story for each day of the year, spanning all genres.
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
HH: Having recently finished book five for The Case Files, I’d like to get moving on the next one, though I’ve had requests to do more paranormal stories and another collection of mixed-genre short stories, so which one I go with next is a little up in the air at the moment. As long as I’m writing, I’m pretty happy.
Heather E. Hutsell is the authoress of over twenty titles, including the steampunk mystery series The Case Files, short story compilations The Doll Collection Volumes 1 & 2, and an epic poem, The Merry Widow of Frankenstein. Her other works include fantasy, romantic horror, absurdist fiction, dystopia, and fairytales gone awry. Her most recent publications are the paranormal novella Nevermore, Inc., and 366 Tales: Stories Year Round, a collection of flash fiction. Heather has also written two historical documentary series for Lionheart Productions, LLC, contributed numerous articles to OneUnitedLanaster.com, and has stories in three anthologies put out by Crazy 8 Press. You can learn more about her projects at www.heatherehutsell.com.
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