Heather Hiestand has dabbled in writing Victorian-set fiction since 2006, which she has published with Highland Press, Ellora’s Cave and The Wild Rose Press, and soon with Kensington (Marquess of Cake, July 4, 2013). All of her Victorian steampunk has been self-published, to honor the DIY nature of the movement. Her first collaboration with author Eilis Flynn is the steampunk vampire historical fantasy, Wear Black.
by Heather Hiestand
Where do steampunk titles come from? Figuring out steampunk novel titles seems a little trickier than the romance titles I am used to dreaming up. What is going to attract the target audience without scaring off a more general audience? How do you create an appropriate mood in just a few words?
This is how we came up with the title for Wear Black, our steampunk vampire novel. While this title was our third choice, not our first, it still makes me smile, and I hope it evokes a dark, vampire-y mood.
I came to the main storyline of Wear Black by reading Robert Louis Stevenson. Many steampunk writers have been fascinated by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I’m no different. I wrote an opening scene about turning a royal prince into a vampire (by accident) with a potion and we were off and running with our story. Needless to say, our early efforts had the working title of Dr. Coburg and Mr. Vampire.
We loved the title, but to be honest, Dr. Coburg isn’t in our story very much, since it is set more than twenty-five years after the first vampire is created. Also, a respected industry professional hated the title. So, we thought about our story and settled on Blood and Steam. Great title, right? It encompasses both our vampire characters (their diet, at least) and steampunk plot. But, we weren’t the only ones with that title idea. We held onto it as various “Blood and…” books started to come out, but then a couple of months before we planned our release someone used the exact title. Yes, we had a good title, too good of a title. We were frantic!
What’s a writer to do? We started pouring through the early chapters, looking for key phrases that would look cool as titles. Eventually, I came across this passage:
The thief dropped the knife and ran. Blood was smeared all along the side of the curved blade. Was it his blood?
“You shouldn’t have tried to help me,” the woman gasped. Her eyes behind her spectacles looked odd. Were they red?
His head started to swim. He put his hand to his side and felt warm liquid gushing out.
“It was Lord Fitzrobbins, correct? An Irish title?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes.” Lucas tugged at his tie. “Wear black” had been the fashion advice he had been given the day he left the hospital, the explanation being that in the first days of his new life, he would be sweating blood a great deal. It was true.
Wear Black! Not only was it short and punchy, it perfectly described the new life our hero, Lucas, will have as he fights crippling flashbacks and blood lust while trying to save England from its enemies. Our sequel –in-progress is currently titled Seven Seconds. If you read Wear Black, you will soon understand why…
Choosing our cover image was easy in comparison. Since our book includes Jack the Ripper we found a fantastic stock image with an imagined Victorian murder scene. All that was left was finding a font that reads Victorian and/or steampunkish. Not as easier as it sounds, but we are pleased with the end result.
Death did not end his service to the British Empire
Beneath Windsor Castle, a shadow network of immortals keeps the British Empire safe. Army captain Lucas Fitzrobbins becomes one of them when the cure for his mortal wound turns out to be a vampirism potion. He is abruptly inducted into the secret St. George Protector Society…and it’s not long before the Society’s newest recruit discovers it has dark mysteries as well…
Marked as a target
Hampering Lucas’s efforts to adjust to his after-life is An Tighearn operative Nellie Clifton, a beautiful and enigmatic assassin, who has marked Lucas as her latest quarry. But then…
Secrets are threatened to be revealed
A brutal killer stalks the seamy underside of London. Protectors and assassins alike must leave the shadows to find the fiend before their existence is revealed to the world. Tasked with the job of tracking down the murderer, Lucas discovers that the crazed butcher may have connections that go to the heart of the British Empire. One thing is certain:
The Queen must never know