So there I was trying to write a straight romance novel for National Novel Writing Month in 2008, bored to tears because … well, I guess I’m just not made to write romance novels … when my friend suggested I make the story “steampunk.”
I had no idea what “steampunk” was at the time, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo I took up his challenge. The world of Magnellum, where Witch-Born and Dead Magic take place, was given a distinctly “steampunk” flavor in all its trains and dirigibles and telegrams, but it does fall short of being an actual “steampunk.”
Real steampunk would focus more on the steam-powered technology and how it works and how it affects the characters and … you get it. Witch-Born and Dead Magic do not do this. They focus more on the magic in the world, thus detracting from the steam-tech on the page.
That being said, I enjoyed the flavor. It opened me up to new possibilities within the novels like the dirigible — because who doesn’t love a good dirigible? And it gave me Valeda Quinlan.
Valeda is a newspaper reporter. The distinctly steampunk flavor of the novels sort of threw the concept of a reporter at me. I mean, if they have telegrams then they have newspapers. If they have newspapers then they have reporters.
Yes, Valeda is unabashedly a character trope. She’s as nosy and tenacious as they come. But she gets thrown into a situation where her talents as a reporter can’t help her, which is what makes her so fun. I do love “fish-out-of-water” stories.
Valeda is also more at home with the steam-technology prevalent in her world. Where the Witches of Magnellum tend to avoid mechanical contraptions, Valeda sees nothing wrong with them, so Dead Magic explores these things a trifle more.
The original draft even had a massive clock with all its gears and shifts for me to play with, but in the end that was edited out of the book. It distracted from the main storyline and had no real purpose than to blare “STEAMPUNK FLAVOR” at you.
In fact, there were many such instances like that one where I had to walk the tightrope between too much flavor and not enough. Perhaps one day I will make a revised edition of Dead Magic that puts all of that flavor back in, should Readers desire it and I feel so inclined. For now, however, the work will stand as it is.