Let's learn more about author Phoebe Darqueling!
How did you begin writing?
I was 9, I had a poem about Halloween published in a volume of short
works done by kids. It was mostly in order to sell said book to those
kids’ parents, but it was still pretty awesome for a 3rd grader!
Looking back at my high school poetry, it’s possible I peaked back
terms of fiction, I got my first publishing credits by working with
the Collaborative Writing Challenge.
They had this really interesting
system where authors get the first chapter of a book, the chapter
that precedes the one they are going to write, and reference notes.
Then, 3-5 people would take their best shot at writing what came
next. A story coordinator would choose their favorite chapter,
sometimes two but also sometimes none, and then the story would move
on from there.
I contributed to one of their novels and had two out
of three of my attempts chosen for the book, including writing the
big climax. I thought it was such a cool concept that when they were
trying to decide what genre to do next, I suggested Steampunk and
offered to be the coordinator. Over a year later, Army of Brass was
born. (Of course, you know all about Army of Brass, haha)
Well, seeing that I wrote chapter 16 ... yeah! ;) So what's happened since then?
were a few short stories thrown in here and there, and now I’m the
proud “mama” of my first officially published solo novel,
I actually finished Riftmaker back in 2015 and had a publishing
date for 2016 set with a small press, but things there went south. The whole experience was traumatizing
enough that I tucked Riftmaker away and moved on to my next novel
without any real plan to try to publish it.
Happily for me, I became
involved with a totally legit small press called Our Write Side as a
columnist, and they encouraged me to submit Riftmaker. I was already
querying my second novel, No Rest for the Wicked, and soon found
myself in the crazy but exciting position of two steampunk books, two
publishers, six weeks apart. So now you know why I’ve got those
deep circles under my eyes!
What do you feel is unusual or unique about Riftmaker as compared to other steampunk books?
was just getting to know the genre as a whole when I wrote Riftmaker, and
kind of threw all of the individual elements about Steampunk that I
loved into a blender and made a delightful smoothie. But it does also
have some aspects to it that are less common to Steampunk books. For
instance, it takes place now.
Of course the “now” of a fantasy
world can be really fluid, but Riftmaker has one foot in the fantasy
world and one foot in our world. There are two characters from
Berkeley, CA in the here and now who travel through a rift in time
and space to a city called Excelsior in a world called Erde (which is
just German for Earth, btw). That’s one of the aspects where I
think it’s clear that I drew inspiration from Philip Pullman’s
His Dark Materials series.
addition to the attire, which is often Vic-wardian in appearance
(though there’s a couple outfits Adelaide wears that are definitely
more punk0, there’s a lot of Steampunk-inspired technology. And by
that I mean things that wouldn’t necessarily work in real life. Or
in the case of Riftmaker, they wouldn’t work unless people had
continued to refine things like steam engines and clockwork over
another 150 years rather than moving on to gasoline. There’s an
alternative to a wheelchair that walks around on bird legs. The
carriages are pulled by life-size clockwork animals. And then there’s
the riftmaker itself, a machine that uses resonance to punch through
the fabric of space-time.
Wow! I really like the idea of resonance as a wormhole generator (you can tell I'm a SF geek LOL).
What do you feel your book is "about"?
this is a book about tolerance. In
Riftmaker, there’s a deep-seated prejudice against “Travelers,”
or people who travel from our world to theirs. The rifts make you
change as you travel through it, so animals manifest as people and
people come out as animals. On the surface, you can’t easily
discern if someone’s a Traveler because people just look like
people, but the citizens of Excelsior harbor great fear and hatred
I liked the idea of taking the concepts of prejudice and
tolerance even one step farther than what people looked like to
demonstrate both how extremely stupid it is to carry those
prejudices, as well as what can happen when you mistreat a whole
population of people for something they can’t control. This
exploration feels just as important now, if not more important, than
years back when I first had the idea for the story.
Thank you so much for sharing your steampunk books with us, Phoebe! We wish you the best of success.
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Find more character spotlights, book reviews, guest posts, and interviews with Phoebe Darqueling during the Riftmaker blog tour, Jan 24 - Mar 6.
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