We’re celebrating the UK publication of Gail Z Martin’s steampunk spectacular Iron & Blood today with a guest blog from Gail herself.
So, with no further ado, over to you Gail!
I’m thrilled to be wearing a new author ‘hat’ with the launch of Iron & Blood, the new Steampunk novel co-authored with my husband, Larry N. Martin. Like the urban fantasy setting of Deadly Curiosities, Iron & Blood’s Steampunk setting is a real departure from my epic fantasy world of the Winter Kingdoms in the Chronicles of the Necromancer.
The truth is, I love changing up worlds, series, characters and sub-genres because it keeps everything fresh and exciting. I’ve been asked whether switching worlds gets confusing or whether it’s jarring adjusting to the very different tone required from one series to another. Actually, I find those changes a lot of fun, and it’s a challenge for me as an author and for Larry and me as an author team, to make the adjustment from series to series.
Not only is Iron & Blood a change of sub-genre, it’s also the first time Larry and I have co-authored a series. Larry has been very involved behind the scenes for a long time, and in the last four years, has come into working with me full-time on the books, short stories and anthologies. It really does take two to produce three books a year, monthly ebook short fiction and original stories for numerous anthologies a year! And while Larry has been active editing and brainstorming and proofreading on books before Iron & Blood, this series is the first in which he was part of the worldbuilding, character development and plot generation from the very beginning. It’s a very exciting approach and we’re having a lot of fun with it.
So back to changing author hats. Epic fantasy is nearly always written in third person, and the grand sweep of the story as well as the large cast of characters is what makes it ‘epic.’ I love the complicated plots and the concurrent storylines as multiple viewpoint characters’ lives and journeys intertwine. Third person viewpoint lets the reader into the mind of several key characters, as well as allowing for scene-setting narration, necessary (sparingly) since you’re introducing readers to a world that doesn’t exist in our reality.
Urban fantasy, on the other hand, is often told from a first-person perspective. Since it’s modern-day, the vocabulary is very different, the tone can veer into snarkiness from time to time, and the references to pop culture and real history help to anchor the story in our own world. Of course with first-person Point of View (POV), the reader can only know what the main character knows. That’s great for maintaining the mystery around key plot elements, but it also means that as an author, I have to figure out how to get one main character positioned to personally encounter everything important. Information that can easily be introduced in a third-person book by shifting to another POV character must be shared with the main character, and therefore the reader, either by having that POV character experience it or hear about it second-hand. All these differences keep me on my toes!
Iron and Blood is also told from a third-person perspective, with multiple viewpoint characters. But because it’s Steampunk, it’s set in the Victorian Era, which dictates a lot of things about how the plot unfolds and how the characters interact with their world. The Victorians had strict social etiquette and a worldview often different from our own. In order for Iron & Blood to have the feel of its times, that means observing some restrictions and conventions that today we would find irrelevant. And while Iron & Blood is alternative history, it’s still got a lot of connection to real history, meaning that research is part of the equation. Research is also where we find some of the cool facts that become key plot points. Reality is always stranger than fiction! Needing to work around those constraints makes plotting more challenging–and fun–because our goal is to write a book that feels authentic to its period while being action-packed and being very accessible and relatable to modern readers.
I’m looking forward to writing more books in all three sub-genres and continuing the co-writing with Larry. There are lots of stories yet to be told!