Is that a tentacle, or are you just happy to say hello?

Emma Jane Holloway
November 9, 2013  •  No Comments

When asked about the appeal of steampunk, it’s hard to give a serious answer. We’re talking about a group of ingenious folk who adore squids and octopi and parade around with their underwear on display, possibly wearing birdcages on their heads. I love steampunk and everything about it, but I don’t like overanalyzing the phenomenon or its participants. My head might combust.


Not that steampunk can’t be serious, but it’s enormously difficult to define beyond the standard answer of: it’s alternate history (typically Victorian) plus unusual technology (typically steam), often with themes of rebellion (which is where the punk comes in). To try and narrow it down any more than that wouldn’t be wise.


It’s that difficulty of definition that makes steampunk appealing to me. It is whatever you want it to be, and though it got its start in literature (classic authors include Jules Verne), it’s become an endeavor that spans everything from music to furniture making to fashion to iPhone apps. I maintain steampunk is an aesthetic, not a genre, but people tend to roll their eyes and tell me I’m talking like a professor.


So I can only tell you why steampunk appeals to me and let others speak for themselves. First and foremost, it’s cool. I’ve had a wardrobe of semi-Victorian clothing since I was in university and discovered Folkwear patterns (they’re still around at I also absolutely love the fact that so many in the steampunk community are reviving old craft techniques and making just about everything by hand. In a world of shopping malls and throw-away goods, I value quality, unique items made by a person I can name. Call it a rebellion against mass-market culture if you like, but I’m content thinking of it as nifty. I’m also very much in favor of the revived interest in good manners—let’s hope that one spreads!


But back to the storytelling side of things. I’ve steeped in history and literature pretty much since my parents gave me my first book to chew, so writing historical fiction feels like I’ve finally come home. I also love the fact that most steampunk stories are packed with adventurers, pirates, and mad scientists. I live for edge-of-the-chair stories with derring-do and heroism, and here I have the scope to write that. My books have adventure, magic and romance—and my heroine, Evelina Cooper, is Sherlock Holmes’s niece. Of course there is mystery, too!


If the word “steampunk” didn’t exist, I’d call the Baskerville Affair trilogy Victorian fantasy with an ensemble cast. My books are long, but I have four important character arcs to see through by the end of the series, and I don’t cheat readers out of the full ride. In A Study in Silks, my characters start out in the elegance of London’s Mayfair and end up by the time A Study in Ashes comes along as players in a war of magic and machines that tears the Empire apart. Along the way, they have to face the darker sides of their natures and decide just how much they’re willing to risk for the futures—and the people—they desire.


So what’s the appeal of steampunk books? In many ways, they are the same as any other books. There might be flying machines and automatons, historical settings and tea, but all excellent tales are about good and evil and the complexity of the human heart. If you’ve got that, and a few good chase scenes—romantic or by dirigible—what’s not to like?

(originally posted at Books ‘n Kisses)

Flashlight Commentary Interview

Emma Jane Holloway
November 1, 2013  •  No Comments

A really nice interview here:

I wish all interview questions were this thoughtful!

Fashion and the Mad Scientist: Guest post and contest with Shelley Adina

Emma Jane Holloway
October 31, 2013  •  1 Comment

Shelley Adina is the author of the wonderful Magnificent Devices series of steampunk novels. She’s also an excellent writing teacher, just in case you’re lucky enough to be at a conference where she’s teaching. Don’t walk–run to get a seat in the class. Anyhow, she and I observed the other day that we were in good company at the top of the steampunk list on Amazon–after all, we were with each other! And since the reading public has such good taste, we decided it made good sense to introduce ourselves on each other’s blogs.

In addition, we’re running a wee contest. To enter for Shelley’s prize, sign up for her mailing list. The contest will stay open until midnight Pacific Standard Time, Guy Fawkes’ Night (November 5).

Visit Shelley’s blog here.

Fashion and the Mad Scientist

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of a competency is likely to spend some part of it on clothes.


In writing about the steampunk era, one would be remiss in omitting certain aspects of life—such as fashion—even if our female characters are up to their batiste-clad elbows in chemical fluids and bombs. Which my characters often are. In the Magnificent Devices world, society is divided along general lines formed by Wits (those who make their way through intelligence and mechanics) and Bloods (those who inherit their fortunes and who want to keep the status quo). While it is an inescapable fact that the ladies in the latter category do spend the occasional afternoon doing nothing but going to the dressmaker and taking tea, I find that my Wit ladies are possessed of a feminine appreciation for fashion also. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the cut of a well-made skirt or a pretty embroidered waist, even if you are in the laboratory building a firelamp (an incendiary bomb hung beneath a steerable, remote controlled balloon).

I’ve been a costumer since the age of five, and the language of clothes has fascinated me since long before I was able to articulate it. Even then, I knew there was a difference between a blouse with lace insets down the front and a checkered one with a plain shirt collar. The woman who wore one or the other was saying something about herself and her approach to the world.


So, Lady Claire Trevelyan, Alice Chalmers, and the Mopsies (street sparrows Lizzie and Maggie) are very different characters, but their personalities are emphasized on the page by the clothes they wear. In Lady of Devices, book one, Claire forgets to go to the dressmaker altogether, and has to appear at her graduation in a hastily made-up dress that is too low in the décolletage and makes her very uncomfortable. By the end of her four-book cycle, she is wearing ballgowns with confidence, ease, and an eye for detail. Why this change? Because she has gained confidence in other aspects of her life—her mind, her talent for engineering, her ability to approach others as an equal—and this shows in her confidence in her own femininity.

Alice Chalmers is an engineer with a hardscrabble childhood in the deserts of the Texican Territory. She spends most of her time in overalls and a flight jacket, and her first experience with a corset is, shall we say, not the best. She has been hiding her femininity for years, and in future books will have to develop the same kind of confidence in herself that will allow her to embrace that side of her personality.

In steampunk, we give women a voice—and in using fashion both inside and outside of the laboratory, that voice may be subtle, but it is every bit as distinctive and assured as our characters are.


About the author

RITA Award® winning author and Christy finalist Shelley Adina wrote her first novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages.

Shelley is a world traveler who loves to imagine what might have been. Between books, Shelley loves playing the piano and Celtic harp, making period costumes, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.

Latest release:


You can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family … or can you?

Now sixteen, the twins Lizzie and Maggie are educated young ladies who have not been called “the Mopsies” in years … except by their guardian, Lady Claire Trevelyan. With the happy prospect of choosing their own future, the girls can leave their dodgy past behind, and Lizzie can bury her deepest childhood memories where they can do no harm. Upon her graduation from school, Lizzie is awarded an enormous honor—but can she pay the price? Is she ready to be separated from Maggie and become the woman she believes she was meant to be—or will old habits tempt her into defiance and plunge her into disaster?

On a dare, Lizzie picks the wrong man’s pocket and nearly loses her life. But these frightening events bear unexpected fruit: The dream Lizzie holds closest to her heart comes true in a most unexpected way. But this dream, too, comes with a price. Lizzie must decide whether her true family is the one she was born to … or the one she chose that long-ago day when the Lady of Devices steamed into their lives …


Talking about A Study in Darkness

Emma Jane Holloway
October 26, 2013  •  2 Comments

I’m over at Coffeetime Romance chatting about A Study in Darkness (and giving away some really cute earrings)


Emma Jane Holloway
October 20, 2013  •  No Comments

Here is the link to my podcast interview on Blog Talk Radio. I did my best not to sound like a complete idiot, but I make no promises! The interviewer was wonderful, though.


Take Five

Emma Jane Holloway
October 3, 2013  •  No Comments

This is kind of a fun thing I did for the Random House website – you have to say 5 things about yourself or your writing.  Here is one of them:


I made a research trip to the south of England for the series and discovered scrumpy, which is a kind of thick apple cider brewed there. I decided it was the perfect beverage for pirates or other tough, fearsome customers. I managed a pint and I could feel my organs failing within minutes—I think it could be used to clean engine parts, or perhaps dissolve them. It was at that pub the innkeeper told me a story he claimed was the original tale of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I can’t say if that was true, but the place where Conan Doyle stayed was indeed nearby.

Read the rest of the piece here:

And while we’re playing linkity-link,  here I am talking about magic over at As the Pages Turn:

And an interview at Literal Addiction:

And yet more blog fun

Emma Jane Holloway
September 28, 2013  •  No Comments

Here are today’s stops on the blog tour!


Ramblings from this Chick:

Steampunk at Coffeetime Romance:


Help Wanted, Steampunk Style

Emma Jane Holloway
September 26, 2013  •  No Comments

Today’s blog is at Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi

What would Evelina do if she had to get a real job?

Urban Fantasy Investigations …

Emma Jane Holloway
September 25, 2013  •  No Comments

Urban Fantasy Investigations – talking about the temptations Evelina has to face –

Drop by and see me!


Emma Jane Holloway
September 22, 2013  •  No Comments

Congratulations to Lysette, my winner from Blogs ‘n’ Kisses!

I’m up at some other blogs right now:


Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy:

Fantasy Book Cafe:

Literary Escapism:

Stop by, comment and win stuff!