Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with author Mr. Scott E. Tarbet, which occurred during his visit to my little corner of the etherverse. Tarbet is an up and coming novelist and acquaintance of mine through Xchyler Publishing. Enjoy:
Tarbet: So happy to join you! A lovely day for it.
J. Aurel: It certainly is. It’s not often that we get both moons in the same sky at sunset. I understand that you have a new work of fiction. Can you tell us a little about your story?
Tarbet: Yes, it’s a trifle disconcerting to cast this many shadows. There is no direction I can turn where a shadow isn’t reminding me I need to spend more time with my running shoes on. A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk (AMNS), is a Steampunk treatment of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is set in London near the end of Queen Victoria’s reign—the midsummer days leading up to her Diamond Jubilee—and has not only the comedic and updated, fairy-filled storyline of the Bard’s play, but wraps it up in the peril and international intrigues of the day.
That time is one of the great turning points of world history: the great empires were preparing to fall, our modern society was a-borning. How would the history of the 20th Century have been different, if at the end of the 19th, Kaiser Wilhelm’s mother had been able to kick his butt into line?
J. Aurel: Steampunk alternative history with a Shakespearian twist, how intriguing! So, Mr. Tarbet what is it that moved you to become an author?
Tarbet: Adapting Shakespeare to Steampunk—or Steampunk to Shakespeare if you will—couldn’t have been easier. One of the great charms of Shakespeare, and keys to his works’ longevity, is how adaptable his stories are to each of the twenty or so generations since he wrote. There’s no one that can hold a candle to him. Marry that up with the our century’s burgeoning Steampunk aesthetic, which harkens back to a time we perceive as more hopeful, less constrained, more forward-looking, and you get a natural fit. I love the Shakespeare stories, and am happy to help bring them to the attention of a new generation of readers.
I never became an author; I always was one, from before I learned to spell my name. I have been inventing stories my entire life, and writing them down since they were in crayon. Every child is a natural author, painter, sculptor, actor, engineer, and inventor; some us are fortunate enough never to lose that wonder of creativity. A few of us are fortunate enough to find ourselves with a talent in one area or another, fewer still fortunate enough to hone the talent into a craft. These steps may seem redundant, until you consider that there are many who are inventive, and progressively fewer who are talented, still fewer with the discipline to hone their talent.
Maybe the more accurate question is: What moved me to become a professional author. The answer is the on-demand publishing revolution that has thrown open the doors of the publishing world wide to tyros like me, who can tell stories, but previously have been manacled and excluded by the quagmire that was the publishing industry . . . and constrained by the struggle of making an abundant, reliable, predictable living for a wife and children.
Authorship was, and remains, highly analogous to professional athletics: there are a lot of good baseball players out there, but the odds against any particular individual making it to the Big Leagues is vanishingly small.
J. Aurel: This certainly is a new era of hope for the aspiring author, and what better genre to characterize this time with than the optimism of Steampunk wouldn’t you agree? But I must know, how is it that you came to be published by Xchyler Publishing?
Tarbet: I couldn’t have say it better! Despite the dire straits our world is currently in, when you take the long view—the Steampunk view—it is clear that we can and will invent our way out of our problems. We are the human race, and we are nothing if not supremely adaptable.
Ironically, what brought me to Xchyler (“the X”) was a manuscript that has not been published yet, and isn’t even in the editorial process. I approached the X first with an action-adventure-sci-fi novel called Dragon Moon, before I really understood the X’s focus (Steampunk, Fantasy, & Paranormal). Someday the X’s parent, Hamilton Springs, will have an imprint appropriate for Dragon Moon, but in the meantime it remains under contract while their growth process continues.
The Dragon Moon hiatus has worked out well for me too, because it has allowed me to tailor other projects (the novels AMNS and Lakshmi; the short stories Tombstone, Ganesh, and Nautilus Redux, et al) to the needs of the X, and simultaneously hone my craft.
Tarbet: My first published fiction, Tombstone, was with the X in Shades and Shadows: A Paranormal Anthology, where my story is in the excellent company of some fantastic new, up-and-coming writers. And yes, I very definitely mean you.
The novel Lakshmi is a follow-on to A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, and features the heroine of the same name, sharing the page with her god-daughter Pauline. Together they journey through Pauline’s recovery from the traumatic events of AMNS, and her new-found abilities. It has a fun new cast of fresh and engaging characters, a page-turning plot line, and has a thing or two to say about Edwardian society and how it shaped the world we live in today.
The short story Ganesh, which is in the hands of the X’s editors for anthology consideration, is the backstory of one of the characters from AMNS. The eponymous hero also figures prominently in Lakshmi. If you liked the character in AMNS you’ll love to hear him tell how he came to be the way he is.The story that wakes me up in the middle of the night right now, Nautilus Redux, takes us back to the voyage of the Nautilus, as told by author Jules Verne in his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and recounts an incident in that voyage that the narrator, Professor Pierre Aronax, was constrained from telling at the time. Now, years later, he can finally tell the story of the Nautilus’ encounter with a castaway from the famous wreck of the whaling ship Pequod.
J. Aurel: You’ve mentioned Shakespeare and Jules Verne. Can you tell us about some of your other favorite authors?
Tarbet: How much time do you have? Is it okay if we stretch our stroll into the evening?
J. Aurel: Take all the time you want, sunsets here tend to last a good 3 hours, and then the auroras provide enough light to make your way home by.
Tarbet: Wonderful! The auroras fascinate me, and I treasure the few times I’ve been privileged to see them in person.
I have a love for the pioneers of sci-fi and grandfathers of the Steampunk aesthetic, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, that has doubled since my initial adolescent infatuation. I am in wonder at the craft of Stephen King and Anne Rice (the only horror writers I read), and that of J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins. I am in serious author love with Yann Martel and totally awed by Khaled Hosseini. The creations of Phillip Pullman and Scott Westerfield tickle me, and color my current efforts. I aspire to the narrative punch and flow of Keith Roberts.
Of course my most abiding love is William Shakespeare, the father of us all. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
J. Aurel: How splendidly well read you are! Is it the reading of other great works that inspires your writing?
Tarbet: If I may be so bold, every Great Work, almost by definition has a Big Idea at its core. Stories without Big Ideas are pablum. Certainly there are lots of stories with Big Ideas that don’t qualify as Great Works, but an author striving for quality has to start somewhere, right?
So yes, the reading of the great works certainly inspires my own writing. The deas—those pondered at length by the great authors—excite my own imagination and kindle new thoughts that make their way into my stories.
And deadlines—deadlines definitely inspire me. Nothing focuses the mind like a good hard deadline. But before the deadline can even be imposed there must be an idea, a good, catchy concept, with a story behind it that I would want to read myself. If it doesn’t interest me, if I can’t wait to get it written to find out what is going to happen, why would I think that it would interest anyone else?
Tarbet: Just write, Young Writer. Just write. Put the words down on paper or on the screen or on a used cocktail napkin. You are like a young potter facing a lump of clay on a wheel: you have at least three quarters of a million different words available to you; don’t be afraid to use them. Try them. Shape them. Mold them into new and fascinating shapes. Your first pots won’t be museum-quality—they may not even be good enough to go into the kiln. But your next one will be better, and the one after that even more so. Just write.
J. Aurel: Very good then, what is next for you?
Tarbet: When I was a kid I could never have just one novel going—I had to have four or five under way at once. Now that I’m an adult I can keep it to just two or three for reading, and two or three for writing. Since there are no deadlines I’m working very very slowly on Dragon Moon. Lakshmi, the same, but with a little more urgency because I’m being spurred on by people who bought and enjoyed AMNS, who are already lined up to pre-read it. I am awaiting word from the X whether they will accept Ganesh for anthology publication, and am polishing up Nautilus Redux for submission to the X’s Mechanized Masterpieces II anthology.
Hmmm . . . that doesn’t sound like I’m keeping my nose to the grindstone. Better get to it.
J. Aurel: It sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you! Lastly, if you had the choice between Atlantean Aqua Polo, Automaton Chess, or Grog & Darts, which would you choose?
Tarbet: Not much contest: I’m very buoyant, so the Atlantean Aqua Polo would very difficult, since I would tend to bob to the surface at inopportune moments. Automaton Chess would be amusing, but I’m more of a chess technician than a player with any particular drive. Or talent.
Grog & Darts, on the other hand, would be just my cup of tea. I throw a mean dart. (My own favorites are black titanium Unicorns that are just about grooved in after 20 years.) If I could go nightly for Grog & Darts with the mechs at AMNS’s Oil Can Pub you’d have a hard time prying me away. Grog & Darts it is.
His debut novel, A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, can be found on: