Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview with Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger - September 16, 2014

Please welcome Beth Cato to The Qwillery as part of the  2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Clockwork Dagger is out today from Harper Voyager. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Beth a very Happy Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Beth:  Thanks for having me here! It's an amazing feeling to be on a site that I've visited for years as a reader.

I was the odd four-year-old who wrote and illustrated my own stapled-together books. I continued to dream of being an author into my teenage years, at which point reality and my own insecurities smacked me upside the head. I gave up on writing for a decade. I was at home with my toddler son while my husband deployed in the Navy and I realized I wasn't being true to myself. I needed to do something more. I needed to write again.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Beth:  I'm a dedicated plotter but I leave a lot of wiggle room in my outlines. My stories always manage to surprise me!

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Beth:  Oh, rejection. No question. It's hard to work on something for weeks or months and see it turned away with a form rejection, or worse, a personal rejection that let's you know it was oh-so-close to be accepted. I've developed a thicker skin over the years but it's still hard sometimes. My husband is acting as the screener for my book reviews so that I mostly see the positives ones.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Beth:  I adore C. E. Murphy's Walker Papers series. I found her books when I was starting to write again and I desperately wanted to be published, and I studied her books to figure out why they worked. I also love Elizabeth Moon's work--in particular, her Paksenarrion and Vatta's War books. On a personal level, she inspires me because she was a prolific writer while raising a son with autism, just as I am. I really needed a role model like that, especially during my son's hard preschool years.

TQ:  Describe The Clockwork Dagger in 140 characters or less.

Beth:  Healer on airship. Murder, spies, poison, cute gremlins & world tree that seriously plays favorites. Epic fantasy meets steampunk!

TQ:  Tell us something about The Clockwork Dagger that is not in the book description.

Beth:  The setting is based on post-World War I Europe, while the geography is based on western Washington state.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Clockwork Dagger? What appealed to you about writing a steampunk mystery novel? What do you think is the appeal of steampunk and why do you believe that steampunk blends so well with other genres / subgenres?

Beth:  I knew I wanted to write about a healer. I've loved steampunk for ages. My mom raised me on Agatha Christie mysteries. Everything mashed together in my brain. I initially pitched the idea to my agent as "Murder on the Orient Express, on an airship, with a healer."

First of all, steampunk is just plain fun. The clothes! The gadgets! The manners! Yet there's also depth to it. The Victorian and Edwardian periods were filled with such scientific promise and excitement, but at the same time you had the horrors of colonization and the dark side of industrialization. Steampunk literature lets us rewrite history or use that framework on a different world (as I do). Women can fight for empowerment, and minorities are given a greater voice. The real-life steampunk community reflects that, too--all ages, all body types, all backgrounds. Everyone is accepted and celebrated.

Steampunk blends well with other genres--mystery, post-apocalyptic, future science fiction--because there is so much inherent conflict, and anyone can be the hero.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Clockwork Dagger?

Beth:  I read a number of books set during the American Civil War and World War I, fiction and nonfiction, though I most heavily relied on books about battlefield medicine. Within The Clockwork Dagger, the Lady's herbs are the only thing I invented. Other herbs, tools, and usages are drawn from history--things like the use of iodine for tender-feet.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Beth:  Leaf was by far the easiest to write. He's also the character that readers are the most crazy about. I based Leaf on my cat Palom--I thought, what would Palom be like if he understood more language and had wings? The hardest character was Octavia. In early drafts she was an extreme good-two-shoes. I had to soften her a lot to make sure she was relatable.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Clockwork Dagger.


"I'll try not to grope you without a legitimate medical excuse."

Apparently, one doesn't make friends by assaulting fellow passengers with a serving tray.

TQ:  What's next?

Beth:  I just wrapped up revisions for the second book in the duology, The Clockwork Crown. It's set to come out next autumn. I also have another steampunk series in the works, but no guarantees about that yet!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Beth:  Thanks for letting me be part of the site!

The Clockwork Dagger
Harper Voyager, September 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

You may read an excerpt from The Clockwork Dagger at Tor.com here.

About Beth

Photo by Corey Ralston
Beth Cato resides in the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ. Her husband Jason, son Nicholas, and crazy cat keep her busy, but she still manages to squeeze in time for writing and other activities that help preserve her sanity. She is originally from Hanford, CA, a lovely city often pungent with cow manure.

Website  ~ Twitter @BethCato  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest


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