Monday, April 14, 2014

Diversify Your SteamPunk Day 2: Reinventing Shakespeare and SteamPunk with Lev AC Rosen

Sooooo Guinevere discovered this awesome author through an amazing guest post he wrote about queer characters in fiction, particularly in Steampunk(check it out here!). Since then, we've been trying to find the appropriate theme to feature him on our blog after we begged and begged and begged him to come on!(We really did beg *_*) 

Alas, we found the perfect month to have him as our guest!!!He talks about SteamPunk, Shakespeare and and last but not least stepping outside your experiences to create diverse characters! We'd love to welcome Lev AC Rosen on a first but hopefully not last visit!!!

1. I've learned a bit about you through your official web site, and guest blog posts I've seen from you on other blogs. Introducing yourself to people for the first time, what can we come to know about Lev AC Rosen?

Well, I'm an author, born and raised in NYC, and still living there.  My first novel, All Men of Genius, came out a few years ago, and I have a middle-grade book, called Woundabout, illustrated by my brother, due out in July 2015.  I also teach creative writing in the city.

2. I have to ask this to everyone, but why did you choose to write a steampunk novel? Were there influences that attracted you to the sub genre? Have you always been a steampunk fan?

Honestly, it would be video games.  Old school video games that I grew up with were really my introduction to the steampunk genre, although I didn't know the term then.  They just combined lots of things, like weird mechanics and magic in ways that I found really appealing.  When I got older, and heard the term, it was something I could think of as an umbrella to write under.  

3. Are there any other underlying themes in your novel "All Men of Genius?" 

Plenty, I hope.  The thing about themes is that I think readers tend to see all sorts of themes, and some are intentional on the authors part, but not all, and those themes I didn't think I was putting in are still valid.  That said, I think the big ones have to do with freedom vs society - in terms of gender, sexuality, class, race.  The Victorian Era had a lot of ideas as to what was "appropriate," but those ideas were constantly being toyed with and manipulated.  It was a constant struggle between various factions, and people were trying to figure out how much they could essentially get away with.  That's really interesting to me.

4. Your main character Violet, poses as her twin brother Ashton. Being a twin, that's extremely fun to do(obviously if they can't tell), but I can imagine in her shoes, it was to gain respect she may not otherwise receive. What prompted you to create her for your story, and why is her narrative important to your story?

Well, the book is influenced by two famous plays.  First, 12th Night, by Shakespeare, in which a young woman, shipwrecked on a foreign shore and thinking her twin brother dead, disguises herself as a man so she can get work.  But then a countess falls in love with her and her brother shows up and hilarity ensues, as they say.  So that idea is pretty much stolen from Shakespeare.  The other play is The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.  That one is actually Victorian, so I got to use a lot of that influence to really create the Victorian comedy of manners I wanted.  Plus Wilde plays with a lot of ideas about identity, which are obviously really important in a story in which everyone has disguises.  This isn't to say it's a mash-up book, by the way.  98% of the words are totally my own.  I just combined ideas and stole names.  

5. People try to make sure characters of color are represented, but when it digs deeper into sub-cultures, many tend to get under-represented. Any advice to aspiring writers who have a hard time writing characters outside their own experience?

Research.  And not just with books.  You have to be willing to go ask people outside your experience what their experiences are like.  You have to collect people's histories in many ways, and then not steal directly, but use that as an inspiration point.  Ask questions.  Figure out what your characters life would be like.  You get to choose how they react, but it has to feel authentic and express an authentic experience.  And most importantly of all, remember that your characters are full fledged 100% human beings.  

6. In your guest post with "friend in my head" blog "The Story Siren", you mentioned queer characters getting a shorter end of the stick when it comes to diversity. I know there are queer characters in the book, but I'm curious to know if you considered making Violet queer as well?

I never did.  I knew front he start she'd be masquerading as a man, and I thought the idea of a lesbian masquerading as a man felt a little too obvious. Plus, then it wouldn't let me get in all the homoeroticism I wanted where she's dressed as a man and in love with a man.  I suppose I could have just made her a gay man, but the danger of discovery for that story would be very different (higher stakes, but much easier to hide).  And Violet as a lesbian wouldn't have made much sense in the overall plot I had planned.  

7. What are some SFF books you've read that you felt highlighted queer main characters in a positive light?

Brit Mandelo's excellent anthology Beyond Binary, pretty much anything by Malinda Lo, and some old school Mercedes Lackey are the ones that come most readily to mind.

8. Lastly, what can we all do to keep up to date with anything and everything Lev AC Rosen?

Well, I have a website,, thought it's currently undergoing a revamp so I haven't been blogging much.  I also have a twitter @ LevACRosen and a Facebook fanpage, - I try to keep them all relatively up to date.  And I also try to answer any questions over twitter.  Feel free to ask!

*photo by Barry Rosenthal*


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