Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow fantasy author, Charlotte Henley Babb. She writes one of my favorite genres; steampunk! Let’s learn a bit more about Charlotte.
Tell us about yourself. Where you’re from, etc.?
I live in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA. I’ve always lived in the southeastern part of the us, the red mud, rolling hills Piedmont area, where people used work in cotton mills, drink sweet tea, wear overalls and drive trucks. We’re getting really gentrified as people move here from the rust and snow belt, but there’s still sweet tea and grits.
What is your most recent project? Tell us a little bit about it.
The current WIP, 20 Hours to Charles Town, is a steampunk adventure set on an airship brothel. The madam has expanded her business to host a secret meeting of the ambassadors from the European colonies in North America where the American Revolution was not successful. The topic at hand is the recognition of Texas, which has just seceded from Mexico. Can she get them there in one piece despite a rogue detective, a hoodoo, and an anarchist plot?
Did you choose writing or did writing choose you?
Yes. I have always wanted to write since I discovered fiction. Having the backbone, intestinal fortitude, or whatever other body parts apply, to sit down and face the blank page has taken me much of my life, and I have experimented with arts, crafts, web design (my current day job), teaching writing (my current evening job) and various other things. I worked for a few weeks as a telephone psychic to make some extra money—but not much.
I wish now that I had started writing sooner, but that’s water under the bridge, and it occurs to me now that I make things happen when they happen. Now is always the right time.
What do you find so appealing about writing fantasy?
Fantasy is for people who are too smart for hard drugs. Nobody in the left mind would live in the real world, so it is up to us writers/directors/actors/ to create those fantasy world for those people to live in for a while.
Fantasy, and most other fiction as well, has to do with the protagonist taking on incredibly unbalanced odds, generally of eldritch proportions, and must face them and prevail, which s/he usually does, by wit, strategy, and cunning.
What authors make you want to be a better writer?
All of them—anyone I read. Terry Pratchett sets the bar for satire and characters in a wonderful setting, the Discworld. His other books are good, fun and well-done, but Discworld is amazing—a flat disk on the backs of four elephants on the back of a giant turtle that swims through space. Spider Robinson writes about how people can help each other through the tragedies of life with love, beer, and puns. Agatha Christie’s England is as much a fantasy to me as Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. Robert Heinlein shaped my philosophy as a child with his YA books commissioned by Boys’ Life. He was the first author I read to say that women were smarter in math than men, and that a person should be able to do anything from piloting a starship to diapering a baby. And then I read Stranger in a Strange Land and saw that I was not the only person who saw the hypocrisy and cultivated ignorance of the world I lived in.
Do you have any traditional fantasy tropes that you like to use?
The protagonist of my first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil, (http://bit.ly/Maven2ed) is a fairy godmother who goes around fracturing fairy tales because she wants people to have what they want, not necessarily what they wish for. Her favorite spell is to turn people who offend or attack her into frogs. On at least one occasion, the spell backfires and she becomes the Fairy Frogmother. (http://bit.ly/FrogMom).
Her best friend is a Troll, and she is on speaking terms with a dragon. I do my best to fold, spindle and mutilate fairy tales. The sequel (That Darn Maven – still in draft) brings her to the miller’s daughter, the handless maiden, and several other tales where her wish granting ability is limited by her being transformed, against her will, into a cat. I’d say that overall, I use every trope I can think of. TVTropes.org is one of my favorites places to fall into “research” mode, always looking for tropes that are “Older than Dirt” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OlderThanDirt ).
Do you have any weird writing rituals? What’s weird?
I write in the evenings mostly, after my day job and between sessions of grading papers for my online students. I often have something to munch on—celery, nuts, brownies, whatever, and something nearby to drink, mostly water. I do a pretty vanilla BIC-HOK: butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and then I let the words come to me while thinking about the next scene, what needs to happen, how the characters can be challenged—that sort of thing.
I’m learning that I can sit down and write new material—good or bad does not matter—every day for about 500 words at a stretch before I have to go to bed. I’d prefer to write in the mornings, but I find that I can write between 8:30 and 9:30 or 10 pm, if I make myself do it. The first 200 words may come slowly, but I usually am cranked up by 300 and then go to 500 words or more. My minimum is 500 words (2 pages) , and I keep writing until I get there, even if I know that some of it will be edited out later, or that I need to add beats or description in the conversations.
What inspires your world building?
The world has to support the story. With steampunk, I’ve done a fair bit of basic historical research to find out what actually did happen, and where some shift points might be. I wanted to write about the South, but I didn’t want to write about Civil War, slavery, or the Reconstruction, all very real and with long lasting effects even today. I wanted to write about a world that is shaped differently because of a few missed battles, a war that didn’t work and a princess who didn’t die, but that still resembles the land I see around me every day. I have probably spent much too much time in thinking out a plan for the airship, so I know where a character is at any particular time, and the airship is basically the world for the entire story. I know more about the Hindenburg and other dirigibles than is strictly necessary and not as much as I would like to know about steam power, but since those are not critical to the story, I’ve had to back off on that kind of down-the-rabbit-hole research.
In Maven Fairy Godmother, the world is basically a mishmash of pseudo-Medieveal settings where fairy tales take place. I had to make some rules—it’s a bad thing to grant one’s own wish, though it can be done. One adept can’t undo another’s spell, though she might be able to work around it.
Charlotte Henley Babb began writing as soon as she could hold a piece of chalk and scribble her name. Growing up in the red mud and sweet tea Carolinas, she was a voracious reader with widely diverse interests ranging from the classic folk and fairy tales to sci-fi writers like Terry Pratchett and Robert Heinlein. She brings to any project a number of experiences, including work as a web designer, high school teacher, college instructor, technical writer, gasket inspector, cloth store associate, girl Friday, and telephone psychic.
Her first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil, won the 2014 Sharp Writ Book Award for Sci-fi/Fantasy and an honorable mention in the 2014 National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest for adult novels. Her second novel, a steampunk story of espionage and political intrigue set in an alternate 19th century U.S., is scheduled for release in late summer 2015.
Discover Charlotte’s Books!
Maven Fairy Godmother: Through The Veil http://bit.ly/Maven2ed
A dead cellphone calls with a job offer and a promise of dragons. Imagine if Terry Pratchett sat down with Kathy Bates to make up fractured fairy tales for Edward Everett Horton to read aloud: you’d get Maven Fairy Godmother: Through The Veil. Down and out, Maven Morrigan is ready to give up what’s left of her self-esteem for a cup of coffee when her last chance to redeem her life comes as a job offer to be a fairy godmother. But Faery is shrinking, the other fairy godmothers have disappeared, and nothing she does turns out right. How can she put together the happily ever after each of her clients wants with her boss standing in her way?
Maven’s Fractured Fairy Tales http://bit.ly/eMFFT
These three stories were written as I was putting the concept of Maven Fairy Godmother together. I originally planned to make a series of short stories, rather than a novel, but as happens to many authors, my characters took off in their own quests. These stories happen in the future after the first novel, which turned out to be a prequel published first. Time does not flow in a linear direction in Faery, so the future often happens before the past at least from the perspective of some other space.
These stories are also available separately: o Bubba and the beast http://bit.ly/BubbaBeast Trolls need love too, but can Maven find Grizelda’s true love without her wand and wings?
o MavenStiltskin http://bit.ly/MavenStilt
Maven takes a flying leap across the gender fence to see if the grass is greener, or the straw more golden, but there are some cats who just want to tangle his/her threads.
o Fairy Frogmother http://bit.ly/FrogMom
Maven’s favorite spell backfires and turns her into a frog. How can she grant the wishes of the prince, his rogue fairy godmother mom, and frog princess Medori if she can’t even hold her wand? * Just a Smidgen of Magic http://bit.ly/Smidgen Five short-short stories from the edge of the realm of magic–enchanted moments, realizations, answering the call and returning to the mundane.
o Artifacts: Pay attention to the Mothers’ warning.
o The Croning: It’s her time. Is she ready?
o Not Even One Wish: No only should you be careful what you wish for, but whom you wish to.
o Taffy’s Tale: A high price to pay to be fed by the Fae?
o Zen of Cool: A full moon, a festival, a fool and a fiddler * Walking Off Heaven’s Shore http://bit.ly/WalkShore A ten-piece bucket of Southern-fried flash fiction
o Walking off Heaven’s Shore: Washed in the flood of knowing
o Intervention: Mothers and daughters–can it ever work?
o Turning Point: Friday morning, a cup of coffee, a decision
o Pachelbel’s Canyons: Mall Markswoman Maintains Muzak Manifested Mayhem
o Walk the Dog: Who’s holding which end of the leash?
o The Fire Inside: Can he stand the heat?
o Kitchen Witchery: The art of female bonding across generations
o Swamp of the Soul: You only see the snakes if you look for them.
o Storm Front: Revenge served cold is slippery when wet.
o The last time I Dated a Serial Killer: A literate man is hard to find.
Facebook author page: http://facebook.com/charlotte.henley.babb