When I began to plot out Tin Fingers, I knew that I needed a romantic couple with a strong, healthy relationship to place in front of Ikey. He needed to see such an example in order for him to have something to contrast against the relatively unhealthy romantic relationships he’d been exposed to in the past. When it came to time to plan out the partners for this relationship, however, I hit a wall.
In Tin Fingers, Ikey finds himself in a fictional setting that is a cross between a Victorian workhouse, a factory, and a prison. To be true to the Victorian values that I borrow from when writing this world, the setting is highly segregated by gender. The men and the women are kept apart. This presented a real difficulty, as I wasn’t sure how to get the strong, romantic relationship in front of Ikey when he and his sidekick David would actually have very little contact with women in their particular situations. Once I realized that the setting made it nearly impossible to feature a convincing heterosexual relationship, I decided to feature a homosexual relationship instead.
Over the years, I’ve come across a number of gay characters in fiction, and I’ve noticed recurring themes, stereotypes, and tropes. Before plotting out the romantic couple for Tin Fingers, I took some time to think about the portrayals of gay men I’ve come across, and how they made me feel. After a bit, I came up with a short list of boundaries to impose on myself for writing a gay couple. My intent with these boundaries was to establish some parameters within which to write. I didn’t want a reader to feel the same way I felt after reading some of the portrayals of gay men in popular fiction, and I also wanted to challenge myself to stay away from stereotypes and tropes.
- Neither character dies. In so much of the fiction I’ve read, one or both of the characters in a gay couple dies in order to prove that their loss is as real and heartfelt as that experienced by heterosexual couples. I wanted to challenge myself to write characters who are realistic and complex enough that there wouldn’t be any doubt that they would grieve like any other human if faced with such loss.
- No limp-wristed dandies. I see this so much in fiction, and it disappoints me. I wanted to allow David and Gavril to have emotions and express them appropriately, but without being effeminate.
- Their homosexuality is not the story. Frequently, when I see gay characters in fiction, their sexuality becomes the story. It is often a coming-out story, or a story about how their relationship is just as real as a heterosexual relationship, or it is a story about a heterosexual character who must learn to accept a gay character. Rarely do I see a story in which there is a character who just happens to be gay, and that’s the story I wanted to write.
It is my hope that these boundaries helped me avoid cliched, stereotypical characters while supplying Ikey with an example of how a loving relationship can give strength and provide support through horrible times. I haven’t received much feedback yet, but what little I have gotten has been positive, including a request to give David and Gavril their own series, which I believe is now stewing in my imagination. It might be fun to send David and Gavril off to a steampunk version of the American West.
With great excitement, and relief, I’m happy to announce the release of Tin Fingers, the second book in the Arachnodactyl series. After the conclusion of the first book, in which Ikey lost his arm and eyesight saving Cross from the burning airship Kittiwake, Ikey and Cross travel to the city of Kerryford in search of mechanical substitutes for Ikey’s losses. But the cost Ikey must pay is far more than he expected. Separated from Cross, Ikey relies on his mechanical skills and ingenuity to survive imprisonment in a forced-labor factory. With the help of a pair of new friends, Ikey must decide how much, and who, he is willing to sacrifice in order to escape a world brimming with monsters both natural and man-made. Tin Fingers is available now. Pick it up at Amazon.com, or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.
Tin Fingers is a bit of a departure from Arachnodactyl When I first sat down to write Arachnodactyl, I had not intended to write a series, or even publish a book. It was an experiment in how to infuse emotion into narrative, and so my only goal was to write a compelling, emotionally intense book. For this experiment, I borrowed characters and ideas from another novel that I still haven’t gotten around to writing yet. When I was encouraged by early readers to continue Ikey’s story, I borrowed more characters from that unwritten novel, and thrust Ikey over to that other novel’s world; a grim place called Kerryford that is a hyper-industrialized extension of Victorian London. Also, Tin Fingers was the first book I wrote with the stated intention to write something for publication. With that in mind, I tried to keep a high level of emotion going, but add a good bit more action and make it more compelling. Tin Fingers transitions from the dark world of Rose, to a more active page-turner. So far, the early feedback is unanimous that Tin Fingers is a better book, and I’m quite relieved to hear it.
The change in the series tone is also reflected in a change of tone in the cover art. Tin Fingers is more flat-out steampunk, and it has more steampunk-looking cover thanks to the talents of Damian K. Sheiles of DKS Art and Design. Also, thanks go out to Kathleen Kirvin at Taledancer for the editing services and beautiful formatting. Finally, thanks go out to Vickie Knestaut for her hard work with proofreading, copy editing, and the brilliant suggestions. I look forward to working with all of these talented people again on the third book in the series, which I am being pushed (“shoved” might be a better word) to release by the end of the year.
Please give Tin Fingers a look. You can click on the cover image to read a free preview right now.
Thank you for your time.
In short, if you liked Arachnodactyl, you’ll like The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia. It is the kind of dark, moody science fiction tinged with a bit of fantasy that I both love to read and write.
The story revolves around Mattie, a sentient automaton and skilled alchemist who becomes embroiled in a clash between two political factions that threatens to tear apart the city she lives in. As Mattie’s world order is upset and forever changed, however, Mattie’s innerworld is set into turmoil as she grapples with the emotional limits of her construction, and struggles for independence from the man who created her.
As with many of my favorite books, the real story is not what happens on the surface, but what transpires inside the characters. In The Alchemy of Stone, Sedia delivers a book full of depth and subtext by creating a haunting set of characters, almost none of whom are as they appear to be on the surface. One of the joys of this book becomes trying to figure out how all of the different characters and competing motives are connected as Mattie’s world unravels around her. Despite her being an automaton, I found her easy to empathize with. Her desires and fears are all too human, and Sedia does a fine job of using Mattie’s artificial nature to reframe the things that make us human, such as loyalty, jealousy, love, and lust. Furthermore, Sedia does so with writing that is rich, thoughtful, and has a subtlety to it that I don’t often find in contemporary fiction. She has managed to pack a little of everything in this book, including romance, political intrigue, and mystery. All of it comes together and works surprisingly well in this imaginative and original book.
I’d rate this book with 4.4 stars. It was a solid, intriguing read. The story on the surface moved things along, but it was the depth and the complexity of the characters that made this book memorable. Though The Alchemy of Stone is not part of a series, once I finished it, I immediately put another of Sedia’s books onto my Goodreads list.
The Whole Latte Books blog is hosting a Halloween-themed challenge for the month of October called BiteOber. The idea is to read up books on the To Be Read list that feature vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. I’ll be participating by putting my own steampunk twist on things, and to that end, I’ve assembled a reading list of monstrous steampunk.
- The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
- Hounded by Kevin Hearne
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- God Save the Queen by Kate Locke
- Wolves of the Northern Rift by John Messenger
- Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster
If you’d like to join the challenge, or you’d like to see who else is participating, you can read the full details here. Also, as I’m always looking for something good to read, I’d appreciate it if you let me know on Twitter what you are enjoying by using the #BiteOber hashtag.