Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Diversify You SteamPunk Day 3:"Bolly-Punk" and Alternate India with Susan Kaye Quinn

I was introduced to you through a blog event named "Steampunk with Heart." What interested me most were, amongst a group of steampunk authors, were a few listed under multicultural. You guys know we melt for the multicultural sub genre-d books, so it had me thinking, "Why not start a steampunk theme on Twinja Book Reviews of our own?" Only I was interested in highlighting authors and personalities that promote diversity.

The creator of the event was none other than author Susan Kaye Quinn. She herself penned a book that was indeed multicultural. When I asked if she were interested in being apart of a multicultural themed steampunk month on our blog, she jumped on board! She even gave me her book to read! You can read her review here!

I was floored by it. So she definitely deserves this spotlight as far as Im concerned! So without further a do....

1.      Good Evening Susan. How are you? For those of us meeting you for the first time, why dont you tell us a little about yourself?

Good evening! My business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist” but these days all my inventions and technology are created with words, not wrenches. I use all that engineering background to create dangerous mind powers, vaguely plausible steampunk technology, and futuristic (and retro!) worlds that ask questions like, what if there was a world where everyone read minds?

2.      While you are the author of several great titles, what caught my eye was your steampunk SFF novel "Third Daughter." What prompted you to write this book, it seems so different from your other works.

All my works are speculative fiction, which means that they look at alternate worlds and see how the technology or other strangeness affects the people who populate that world. Most of my worlds are futuristic, but steampunk casts a look back to a time when technology was more muscular and luscious, then adds a spin of the fantastic – with skyships and blunderbusses instead of starships and ray guns. So, it’s not as different as you might imagine! 

At the same time, Third Daughter is wonderfully different in that it’s an east-Indian analogue – which means all the characters are Indian, but the different countries within my world represent different expressions of modern day (and traditional) India.

3.      Im asking everyone, but why steampunk? What attracted you to this sub genre? And especially, when and what choose you to divert from the typical "Victorian" era steampunk has grown known for?

“Victorian” is an era of buttoned up clothing and scientific romance – the time when science seemed to offer limitless potential, but the world was still anchored in the traditions of the past. In fact, this clash of modernity and traditionalism is one aspect I love and explore in detail in Third Daughter. But, of course, the 19th century didn’t just happen in England! I think it was a natural progression for steampunk to evolve to include the other cultures of the time – each of which had (and continue to have) their own clashes of technology and tradition.

4.      Your main character Aniri was a great main character! She was pretty much the whole package as far as I was concerned. Was there anyone that gave you the inspiration for her character? 

I usually dream up the world and conflict first, then imagine what character would live in that world. From the start, my spunky Third Daughter of the Queen was dressed in half-sari, half-corset, climbing a wall to escape her arranged marriage to a barbarian prince. All of that spoke naïve and adventurous to me, and indeed, a girl princess who was to forge her own fate, and the fate of three countries, would need that kind of blind belief in love and stubbornness to make it happen.

5.      Outside of the steampunk aspects, what are some of the other underlying themes of the book? Were you hoping the steampunk elements distracted the reader from guessing all the plot twists toward the end?

The steampunk elements are purely for fun! But as an author, I use all kinds of sleight of hand to keep the reader guessing what’s ahead. There are several themes in the book – it’s foremost a romance, balancing the idea of love marriages and arranged marriages (which have a long history in stabilizing nations and, even today, are in higher regard in the East than in the West as a more stable form of marriage compared to love-based marriages). 

The steampunk aspect is really a stand-in for modernity, butting heads with the traditional cultures represented in the book. In fact, the three countries embody this: Jungali (the “barbarians” steeped in tradition and poverty), Samir (the Western influence of technology), and Dharia (an analogue to modern India where technology and tradition exist side-by-side).

6.      You are officially the first "Bolly-Punk" title I've gotten to read. You may just be starting a trend! It seems as though many contacts I've talked to have wanted to see a steampunk book, but set in an East Indian setting. Was it always you're intention to create it this way? Do you think you would write another steampunk series outside of "The Dharian Chronicles?"

I hope it’s a trend! It’s tremendous fun to write. The Dharian Affairs is planned to be a trilogy, but I already can see another series set in the same world, but with different characters. There’s a richness to the world that begs exploring. Beyond that, I’m intrigued by the next step-up in technology, Dieselpunk, where we have gas powered engines and crusty World War II style machinery. I can see that being all kinds of fun to play with. So… yes. More “punk” in my future (although I have several other, more futuristic, series as well).

7.      Not being East Indian yourself, can you give any advice to others hoping to write a story outside of their own culture? Do you think diversity in books is important?

I think diversity in books is tremendously important – our world is diverse. Pretending it’s not is an impoverishment of the imagination. I think there’s some fear in writers about writing outside their own culture… as if they don’t do that all the time, with fantasy creatures or aliens or even writing cross-gender. I’ve never been a boy, but I write male POV often. As writers, our job is to tell the truth by creating something that is essentially made up… and you have to get out of your own POV to do that, because the truth has many sides. Whether you’re writing cross-gender, cross-sexuality, or cross-culture, the most important thing is to remember that people are people first. 

Writing authentic characters, no matter what type, is about respecting their point of view and writing from it. That being said, of course writers want to create a sense of culture and place that feels authentic as well. If I was writing a historical or contemporary novel set in India, the onus would be greater to have cultural details that matched reality… or at least evoked reality. In writing fantasy, there’s more latitude… but I still wanted to evoke a feeling of the culture of India as well as the clashes within it. So I did my research: lots of Bollywood movies, novels set in India, and my own personal knowledge of the culture of Indians living in the West all helped give Third Daughter an alternate-India feel.

8.      Finally, now that were all caught up, where can we go to make sure were all up to date on your future title releases, or just to know more about anything and everything Susan Kaye Quinn?

The best way to know about future releases is to sign up for my newsletter—plus everyone who signs up gets a free short story! If you want to know what I’ve written so far, check out my books page, or my bio will give you some of the details on how I worked for NASA but now am a hermit cat lady who writes full time. (Wow, that sounds really sad! LOL In truth, I plan to die at my keyboard… that’s how much I love my chose profession.) Or you can join me on Facebook, where I waste far too much of my time.

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