As promised our open-internationally signed book giveaway is up here. Also, don’t forget to enter our gadget contest, which ends April 30.
Today we welcome author Steven Harper.
Steven Harper lives in southeastern Michigan with his sons. THE DOOMSDAY VAULT, the first novel in the Clockwork Empire series came out in November, 2011 and its sequel THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE arrives in stores on May 1.
The Speed of Write
by Steven Harper
I’ve written my share of steampunk: three novels, a novella, and a novellette. I just realized today that when I finish the fourth Clockwork Empire novel, I’ll have written more steampunk than any other genre.
And the process always feels somehow wrong.
See, when I sit down to work on another chapter, I pour myself a tall glass of diet soda, boot up my dual-core processor computer with 2-terrabyte hard drive and flat-screen display, call up a word processing program and a streaming music player, and begin writing. When I finish a book or story, I create a computer file for my editor and send it off by email. Later, the same file returns to me with comments in the margin, asking for this change or that. Later still, I get a PDF of the pages to proofread. Never do I actually touch pen to paper. I’ve only actually spoken to my editor once. All the rest of our interaction has been by email.
This feels just . . . wrong.
Steampunk is (usually) set in the 19th century, and it should be created differently. I should climb the steps to a drafty garret, slide a creaky chair up to a rolltop desk with a stack of foolscap on it, and pick up a pencil or fountain pen. I should be wearing tweed and flannel, and a teapot with a leaky spout should perch on a spindly table nearby.
Or maybe I should sit in a comfortable, leather-backed chair in a book-lined study with a roaring fire in the grate while yellow fog presses against the windows and a maid in starched ruffles brings a lunch tray and the afternoon post. Words are carefully tapped out on a cast-iron typewriter with a crooked M. Scratchy music from a Victrola complements the hiss of gas lamps. This version sounds less likely but a lot more fun.
True, I could write by hand. But the modern world won’t really let me. The speed of write has changed.
My publisher requires all manuscripts to arrive electronically, not on paper. And modern bookstores don’t keep novels on the shelves for very long (unless you’re famous), so my publisher fights back by putting books out faster. This is nice for readers–the next book in the Clockwork Empire is always no more than six months away–but it means I have to work quickly. Fountain pens and foolscap simply won’t cut it, especially when I can type 80 words per minute.
Ah well. I do have to admit it’s nice to have total control over the temperature in my office, and that my choice of music helps me stay focused at all times. It’s easier to correct mistakes on a computer. And I prefer diet soda over tea.
But in my imagination, I’m still wearing tweed.