The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Phoebe Darquling
Stacey – Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?
Phoebe – I grew up in a place colder than Moscow every winter and hotter than Miami in the summer. Sounds far off and exotic, right? Well, it’s actually Minnesota! And whether I am petting friendly stray cats at the Hagia Sofia, strolling down the mosaiced streets of Freiburg, or gazing into the hot springs at Yellowstone, Minnesota will always call me home. I’ve been a bit of a nomad these past few years after a “quarter-life crisis,” followed by bouncing between institutions as The Mister completed his research, his PhD, and got his first post-doc.
Stacey – When did you start writing?
Phoebe – I got serious about writing fiction the same time we made our first nomadic leap of faith. But I admit, I am one of those writers who started young. It was that middle part where I lost my way. My first novel just sort of poured out of me at a time when I was feeling crushed by real life, and reminded me that there were other ways to feel.
Stacey – You write Steampunk. It’s an interesting genre. What drew you to it?
Phoebe – The first time I heard the word Steampunk was in 2009. But once someone explained it to me, it was more like finally having a word for the things I already liked than finding something new. In short, Steampunk is a genre of literature and its adaptations that is informed by the science and superstitions of the Victorian era, and has inspired costumers, prop makers, and other artisans to apply the aesthetic to a variety of things. I love the real 19th century, but I also love to give things a twist here and there, and that is the “punk” part of Steampunk. I started a blog to explore the facets of Steampunk in 2013, but was invited to join SteampunkJournal.org and am in the process of transferring all of my content there.
Stacey – You’re involved with the Network of Indie Steampunks. How did that come about?
Phoebe – It was my brainchild, in fact. I am still in the initial stages as my living situation remains fluid, but the goal is to bring together Steampunk authors to act as beta readers and co-promoters. I’ve also recruited several Steampunk websites to participate in blog tours to help promote these awesome independent writers. The Network of Indie Steampunks (NOIS) is intended to be a membership program that gives members discounts on products and services writers need, as well as marketing support like a free blog tour. Army of Brass will be the pilot blog tour in spring 2018.
Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?
Phoebe – For me, writing a story is a string of small epiphanies. Details can suddenly fall into place. Characters will change their minds on you. A little historical detail throws a door wide open or slams it shut. One word changes the mood of a whole scene. I love the feeling of solving all of these puzzles.
Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?
Phoebe – I mentioned my fascination with the 19th century, and I think that comes in large part from watching period mysteries with my parents. I enjoyed history and seeing how these people were alike but different from me. I got older, I found myself drawn to elements of culture more than the cold facts and dates, and took anthropology courses. I know that being exposed to so many cultures, as well as simply the possibility that there are so many different ways to be humans, made science fiction and fantasy and obvious segue.
Stacey – Has anyone influenced your writing along the way?
Phoebe – In a very direct way, my mother was my first editor. She would read my essays and help me with my arguments (not to mention my punctuation). The authors who have influenced me the most would probably be Kurt Vonnegut on the sci-fi side, and Neil Gaiman on the fantasy side. Plus, Joss Whedon has definitely influenced the way I try to integrate humor into even the direst situations.
Stacey – What’s your writing process like?
Phoebe – Evolving! My first novel willed itself into being by taking over my whole brain for months at a time. The second was a product of plotting, pre-writing, and NaNoWriMo 2016. In the interim, I’ve read a few more books about the craft of writing, which is changing the process once again. I’ve got a Blake Snyder-style beat sheet to work with as I embark on the next project later this month.
Stacey – What was the first story you had published?
Phoebe – “Next Time” under the pen name M.E. Anders. It’s a romance story set in current times, which is a big deviation from my other work so far, so I created a name that spelled “meanders.”
Stacey – I see you’re a fan of American Gods. Have you seen the television series, and who’s your favourite character?
Phoebe – Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the show yet, but I am excited for it! There are a lot of great characters to choose from, but for some reason, I’ve always liked Czernobog. Maybe it is the Eastern European thing, or his role in the story, but he’s always stuck out to me.
Stacey – Do you have a favourite character from your own works?
Phoebe – I think I have two, and they are favorites for completely different reasons. One is a complete wide-eyed optimist and often wise in his own childish way. The other is a professional liar with a heart of gold buried somewhere deep below her selfish streak.
Stacey – I see you’re a coordinator at CWC, tell us about it.
Phoebe – That was a huge learning experience, to say the least. The Collaborative Writing Challenge brings together over 100 writers per project to write a novel. We plan on 30 chapters, and up to five writers attempting each chapter with the aid of reference notes and one previous chapter. As the coordinator, it was my job to select the chapter (or sometimes chapters) that would be included in the book each week. Army of Brass was the seventh project and was Steampunk-themed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the word Steampunk. In the end, we reached chapter 30 but still had too much story to tell. I formed a committee with some writers who already had chapters in the book, and we worked together to plot and write the ending. The CWC is taking a year off to give attention to their current releases, but they will begin Project 8 with a romance theme in late 2018.
Stacey – Your story The Vigil appears in Chasing Magic, did you have fun with it?
Phoebe – That story started life as an entry into a different contest. At that time, I was with a small (but now defunct) publisher that was going to start a collaborative novel. I wrote The Vigil as a potential starter chapter. I definitely had fun writing it! I had been thinking about magic rings and how I could make the idea feel “fresh,” and I’d wanted to write something atmospheric in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe. The story fell together from there. And who knows? Maybe I will still make it a novel some day…
Stacey – I see you’ve got a steampunk series in the works. When is it due for release?
Phoebe – Originally, I was going to self-publish a series of novellas. I submitted the first part to just two potential publishers because I knew novellas were a long shot. Months passed and I heard nothing, so I announced my self-publishing date. Within a week, I heard back from both of them requesting full manuscripts! After some feedback and a lot of revisions, No Rest for the Wicked is now a single novel rather than multiple novellas. It’s with my last beta readers now, and will go a-querying soon. But you can read excerpts on my author blog every Friday! (www.phoebedarqueling.com/blog)
Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
Phoebe – Absolutely! This is from Chapter 1 of my story about a con woman in the old West who is forced out of retirement when her past comes back to haunt her…literally.
The ghost removed his hat and tried his best to mollify her. “Please, I must speak with you.”
“No. What you must do is move on and stop bothering the living. I’m out of the business of running errands for the dead, thank you very much.” Vi’s hands traced shallow furrows in the water.
“But you don’t even know what I want.”
“It’s my wife, you see—”
“There are these men and—”
“We owe them some money.”
“I can keep this up all night,” she warned.
“But, they’re going to—”
She raised her hands out of her bathwater and moved them like a conductor as she sang to the tune of a new song that had been making the rounds. “I’m not interested in helping, all the live-long day.” Her hands dropped back into the water with a splash.
If he could breathe, the ghost’s chest would have been heaving in anger, but in his current state he had to settle for pulling a sour face. “Well, I had to try. My wife is—was—my whole life.” The ghost donned his spectral hat and turned to leave with a final mumble to himself. “He warned you she wouldn’t help.”
After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”
“Yep, he was right,” she called lazily, then the water surged as she sat forward with sudden interest. “Wait. Who warned you I wouldn’t help?” After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”
“Will you help me if I tell you?” the ghost asked, hope written in the lines of his gently glowing face.
Vi narrowed her eyes. “I can guarantee I won’t help you if you don’t tell me.”
He smiled and waved his hands in imitation of her earlier display. “I’m not interested in telling, all the live-long day.”
She looked away in a huff. Not knowing the identity of the referrer was going to eat at her, but the information alone wasn’t worth the price of dealing with this guy.
Hat in hand, he tried again. “Aw, shucks ma’am. I promise. I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale of how I found out about you as soon as you agree to help me.”
“No wonder you’ve gotten yourself in trouble,” she said with disgust. “You shouldn’t offer to pay someone up front, you need to hold onto whatever it is for leverage.”
“Alright. Then I promise to tell you after you help me.”
“Nope. Still not interested. It would take a lot more than that to get me out of this tub.”
His face fell for a moment before he brightened. “Well, there’s always the gold.”
Vi’s half-smile returned. “You didn’t say anything about gold before.”
Stacey – Thank you so much for your time, Phoebe! If you would like to find out more about Phoebe and her work, check out the below links.
Author website: www.phoebedarqueling.com
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phoebe-Darqueling-953785968035747/
Steampunk Journal: www.Steampunkjournal.org
Steampunk Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1589640957716352/