Sunday, 11 September 2016

How I discovered my steamy side




Way back in 2008, I was heavily involved in my ‘vampires with a difference’ series, promoting the Legacy of the Dark Kind wherever I could.
I was deeply honoured to be an author guest at Elfie… the spectacular three day festival of all things fantasy related in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Over 30,000 people passed through the castle gates over the weekend from all over Europe. Including wonderful family groups from grandparents down to babies and pet dogs dressed in a fantasy theme…like elves and orcs or other wondrous characters.  While I was wandering around all this marvelous spectacle, I came across people dressed in an unknown and extraordinary way, top hats with brass goggles, ladies in corsets and bustles and all manner of weird and wonderful gadgets and contraptions including metal wings that could expand.
Whatever it was, I loved it….I wanted in!  On return to the UK, my very dear friend, Gothic model and DJ Darren Powell posted photos from a recent shoot, wearing similar garb which I now knew to be steampunk. The creative boost this aesthetic always triggers in people kicked in, I began to make jewellery with cogs and gears, seeking out charity shops and car boot sales for items to adapt and re-cycle. Not to sell, but for the pleasure of making it.


The following spring, I attended Easter Con which had a steampunk theme and ball in the evening. Surrounded by people of all ages and backgrounds in their splendid finery, I felt like the dowdy Cinderella who would not be attending the ball. In my lonely hotel room, I needed to create….something. That night my first and most successful steampunk novel (so far) Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron was born…a paean to my love affair with all things steampunk.
I always avoid reading anything in a genre I am working on, so this book was inspired by the people and imagery I’d seen and by my love of the darker side of Victorian life, the dangerous, fog –shrouded alleyways of Old London, the possibilities of what may lurk there. Their fascination with the occult and magic of the time and the confidence of the age that technology could solve all problems.


Darren Powell at the Cyrus sequel launch
     Next year, I attended my first steampunk event, the extraordinary Weekend at the Asylum in old Lincoln, immediately overwhelmed by the warm welcome and friendliness of the community, the die was cast. Raven Dane became a fully-fledged steampunk first….who happened to write about it second.

    When that same community voted Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron as Steampunk Novel of the Year for 2011, I was in tears of surprise and joy…such an overwhelming and emotional moment. I had joined a vibrant and creative community as a total newbie and they loved my rogue alchemist.  To add to my joy, a fabulous portrait of Cyrus by Vincent Shaw Morton won the VSS art prize that year too. 

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