Interviewer Ginger C. Mann
Wide-ranging 5-part interview,
on her blog, WordsOfMann, October, 2015
- Part 1: Shakespeare and Steampunk, Double Reboot October 4, 2015
Welcome to the first of my interviews with Author Scott E. Tarbet. A new and rising sensation in steampunk, Scott hails from the volumes of indie book producer Xchyler Publishing. His first novel, A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, was an instant worldwide sensation. Globally, the book is popular enough to earn Mr. Tarbet a loyal fanbase in the Americas, and almost a cult following in the Middle East and Asia.Now, Tarbet reboots the reboot, delivering an update well worth his readers’ time. But why all of the fuss to begin with? Clearly, something is special about a gears-and-steam retelling of Shakespeare’s comedy. In this, the first of five author interviews, Scott E. Tarbet helps me understand why his books drew me in, and why I can’t wait to read more.
- Part 2: Playing Favorites October 5, 2015
Admit it, bibliophiles, you are all biased. When was the last time you picked up a book, examined every character inside, and then led these make-believe people through your conscious mind equally, with legal precision? Face it, our relationships with fictional characters are no different than they are with living people — we like some better than others. Ever wonder why that is?Here’s an answer for you: we authors have our favorite characters, too. It is true for me, and the same is certainly true of Author Scott E. Tarbet. In this, my second interview with him, I learn about the characters in his newly revised novel, A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, and how he relates to them personally.
- Part 3: Give the actor a pen! October 6, 2015
Painting, acting, singing, dancing, writing . . . who cares? It’s all art, right? Well, try this: if you are a talented singer and actor, perhaps you are an expert at your craft, sit down and try to write some of the plots you deliver to an audience every day. Sound simple? It is not. For Author Scott E. Tarbet, telling a story is like breathing. However, few people know that it is only in recent years that he began to tell stories in writing.A seasoned actor, opera singer, poet, and guitarist, Scott knows about delivering a live story to an audience. How, then, did he decide to step behind the scenes, and become a writer of tales? Why did he start writing late in his career, and what keeps him writing, despite the steep learning curve? In this, my third interview with him, I learn about the passion that drove him to write novels like A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, produced by Xchyler Publishing. I also learn what compels him to continue writing stories, as he grows rapidly into his new craft.
- Part 4: Through the Sci-Fi of a dream October 7, 2015
It’s often said, “Good things take time, great things happen all at once.” No one knows that better than an author. The thrill we feel when the story finds us is often indescribable. For Author Scott E. Tarbet, a story came to him in a dream. Today, I bring you a sneak peek of that story: a science fiction tale that woke him up, demanding to be written.Mr. Tarbet’s initial foray into fiction landed him in steampunk, fantasy, and paranormal camps, directly in the wheelhouse of Xchyler Publishing. However, this author does not impress me as someone who wants to think inside of a box. Coming in the future is an action space thriller, a paranormal screenplay, and this surprising new idea that he tells me in this interview. Reading it, Isee the influence of sci-fi kingpins; particularly those who write stories about space colonization. Unlike many tech fiction writers, I envision Mr. Tarbet as a man who will allow his characters to lead, even at the expense of a gadget or two. But to jump genres like this, the author must remember that he is also writing for a different audience.
If there is one constant in the universe, it’s that sci-fi readers love “otherness,” especially if it creates a human ethical quandary. How do I know? I’m one of them, and speaking as his intended audience, I can tell you that Mr. Tarbet does not disappoint. Now that he has delivered the revised edition of A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, Scott E. Tarbet is dreaming up a new story that explores the depths of space, time, and human consciousness.
Readers, you will not believe where this conversation goes.
- Part 5: My lady, the Queen’s Engineer October 8, 2015I must admit that Author Scott E. Tarbet is full of surprises. To rewrite Shakespeare’s comedy as steampunk is clever, but apparently not clever enough. In this, my final interview with Mr. Tarbet, I am treated to a discussion of a personal favorite in his book. Dr. Malieux. No, this is not the sadistic Dr. Oberon Malieux that darkens the path of Pauline Spiegel. Instead, meet the beautiful wife of Oberon, the Godmother of our heroic Pauline, and her mother’s best friend. Genius physician and engineer, Dr. Lakshmi Malieux.
Interviewer Raven M Ridley
on his blog, Creativity From Chaos, Nov. 12, 2013
So, Scott, you have a novel about to be released, how does that make you feel?
It’s a debut novel, and the parallels to first time parenthood are inescapable. Only here the author is both father and mother, laboring to conceive, grow, nurture, and deliver a bouncing baby book. And just like with parenthood the time comes when the child is no longer a child, and goes out into the world to seek its fortune.
The major difference is that with a book the timeframe is so condensed. From conception to leaving the nest, A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk took far less than the 18-20 years my kids did. And the anxieties are correspondingly condensed.
Now, this question has been dying to get out of me since I first heard of the book. The title is ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’ which begs the question – is this just a copy of the original, with the occasional clockwork device thrown in, or are we going to see something new?
Good question. It’s definitely not just a copy, and not just lightly decorated with steampunk tech. Although Shakespeare’s play is at the heart of the plotline, it is interwoven with real characters from Victorian-era history, and real historical conflicts on an international scale. Moreover, the plot depends 100% on the speculative steam-powered and clockwork technology that are at the heart of steampunk. The novel doesn’t just feature steampunk gadgetry, it is steampunk.
Wow! Okay that does sound like something new – new and exciting. But now I have to ask – iambic pentameter?
Iambic pentameter? No. Although as a huge Shakespeare fan and aspiring poet I’m so immersed in pentameter that if I thought the audience would put up with it I might have been tempted to make the effort. I find that once you start thinking in pentameter, it becomes like thinking in another language, and just starts to flow.
I’ll just have to take your word for it, Scott.
Out of all the characters in the story, who was your favorite character to write and why?
Oh geez! That’s like asking me which of my three kids is my favorite! The ‘rude mechanicals’ from the Shakespeare play were the starting point, and steampunking them, making them into the half-man/half-clockwork ‘mechs’, was a lot of fun. Likewise steampunking Puck, turning him into the 7-foot tall Zulu mech warrior Shaka, tickled my imagination.
The three Queens, two of whom are true historical figures, were a lot of fun as well, as were the Oberon and Titania characters, the two mech-creating Doctors Malieux.
But of all the characters, I had the most fun writing the four young lovers. I have been fascinated by Winston Churchill for many years, and giving him some additional youthful exploits in the context of this story was irresistible.
All things considered, though, the character of Pauline, who could be called the heroine of this ensemble piece, was personally the most engaging.
Now, Scott, tackling ‘The Bard’ himself is a bold move, what made you decide to take it on, and why in the steampunk genre?
The adaptability of Shakespeare’s stories to each new generation is at the heart of his longevity and continued literary dominance. He not only the writer at the center of English literature, his stories continue to have ‘legs’. Stage productions, movies, and books are constantly adapting him. (One of my favorite directors, Joss Whedon, has a brand new film production of Much Ado About Nothing.) Extending that history of adaptation into the steampunk sci-fi and alternative history sub-genres couldn’t have been a more natural fit.
You almost make it sound easy there, Scott, although I know a lot of hard work had to have been put in this creative work. (and I adore Whedon)
Now I feel that interviewing an author without the following question would somehow be amiss and, although it is a bit of a standard question, I think it is different for each author, and each book, so… What was the hardest part about writing this book, and conversely, what was the easiest?
The hardest part was de-Shakespeareanizing (is that a new word??) my language as I wrote a treatment for modern audiences. Time after time I found myself lapsing into archaic and arcane vocabulary and rhythms that weren’t conducive to modern storytelling.
The easiest part was knowing what the story was to be. On the twin skeletons of the Shakespeare play and late Victorian world history, a lot of the story seemed inevitable.
Since language can make or break a novel, that would have been tricky keeping the right tone with all the elements you have combined in this novel. It’s a great new word by the way – destined for the O.E.D.
The novel is being published through Xychler Publications – how did you find working with them?
The literary midwives at Xchyler Publishing have been wonderful. Huge props go out to my editors McKenna Gardner and Laurisa Reyes, designer Dale Pease, and especially EIC Penny Freeman, without whom none of this would have ever seen the light of day.
Now, Scott, neither of us are what might be called ‘young men’ anymore, so is writing a new passion for you or was it always there?
It has always been there. Ever since my first short stories in my public grade school magazine I have known that I wanted to write stories.
And do you think it is ever too soon, or too late, to take up writing?
Never. George R. R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame) is a perfect example. His first novel came when he was older than I am now.
That’s an excellent point, Scott.
Now with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’ basically wrapped up, are you tackling another?
AMNS actually elbowed its way in front of a longer-term Work In Progress by the name of Dragon Moon, which is also under contract with Hamilton Springs Press, and is pending the creation of an ‘imprint’ specific to sci-fi and techno-action. DM is a techno-thriller, and not a perfect fit for the Xchyler Publishing imprint, which focuses on fantasy, paranormal, and steampunk.
Dragon Moon is a cautionary tale of what happens when the International Space Station partners rest on their Space Race laurels and let newcomer nations take up the slack.
Okay, so clearly you are full of creative ideas – glad to know we will be reading your works for years to come.
And finally, Scott, one must ask – Do you believe in fairies?
Steampunk fairies, like the ‘micromechs’ in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk’, yes. 100%.
They’re not just the stuff of science fiction, they’re the stuff of current reality. They’re in operation in surveillance operations in every modern battle space, and the tipping point of self-awareness is very close indeed.
Questions from Laurisa Reyes:
1. Tell us about A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S STEAMPUNK (brief plot summary)
A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk (AMNS) interweaves the plot points of Shakespeare’s classic play A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a story of international intrigue at a crucial turning point in Victorian era history. Four young lovers become enmeshed in the clash of the great Eurpoean empires, aided by half-man/half-machine clockwork mechanicals.
2. What inspired you to write this story?
The novel combines my great love of Shakespeare (my wife and I were married in full Elizabethan garb and honeymooned at the Utah Shakespeare Festival) and my love of history.
3. What exactly is Steam Punk and how does it differ from other spec fiction genres?
Steampunk harkens back to an idealized Victorian age, before the widespread introduction of electricity, and the subsequent inventions that have changed the world. It substitutes steam power and clockwork for electrical power in imagining what the shape of inventions would be.
4. What are the top 3 steam punk books & movies (in addition to yours, of course) would you recommend for someone new to the genre?
I was introduced to Steampunk via Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, which is a wonderful start. The TV series (and subsequent reboot movie) Wild Wild West, and the two recent Sherlock Holmes movies, are good examples of the way Hollywood continues to mine the genre.
NOT recommended: Just recently Jonathan Rhys Meyers and NBC made an attempt to join Steampunk with Horror in their new Dracula series. Despite a promising steampunky pilot, complete with Tesla Coils, it quickly devolved into mundane vampire shtick.
5. What books did you enjoy reading when you were younger? Have any of them influenced you as a writer?
From an early age I was a voracious consumer of sci-fi, in the Golden Age of Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury, etc. When Orson Scott Card hit his stride I became a big fan, to the extent that I ran one of the earliest fan websites and email lists. The email list continues to this day, though it has morphed into a Facebook group. The thoughtful examinations of characters’ inner lives draw me to Card, who eschews the space age gadgetry of my earlier idols.
6. What can we expect from you in the future?
I am polishing up the short story Ganesh for submission to the Xchyler Publishing steampunk anthology Around the World in 80 Days. Fans of AMNS will enjoy the back-story of one of AMNS’s more imaginative characters.
Questions from Amanda Elliott:
Tell us a little about yourself.
The #1 thing to know about me is that I am easily bored. That makes me an adventurer and an omnivorous reader. I love arcane knowledge; finding someone willing to keep playing the ‘80’s board game Trivial Pursuit with me was a real challenge.
Being a lover of the arcana of humankind makes me an ardent reader of history, and being a student of history makes me keenly aware of the turning points in history, albeit past, present, or future. A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk (AMNS) centers around one of those turning points.
How did you come up with the concept for A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk?
In Shakespeare’s beloved play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the tradesmen who put on a play for the Duke are called ‘rude mechanicals’, i.e., they work with their hands. The concept for AMNS was a quick and easily growth from the question, “What if the ‘rude mechanicals’ were actually ‘mechanical’ in the sense we use it today?”
To say I’m a big Shakespeare fan is a huge understatement. My Jewels and I share a passion for the work of the Bard, as embodied in our wedding garb. We honeymooned at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and go as often as we can.
I’ve been a sci-fi fan my entire reading life, and only tapered off reading it when its bleeding edge became the dark and brooding ‘cyberpunk’. I was ecstatic when that faded away and the brighter, more optimistic and inventive ‘steampunk’ came along. And because of the relative youth of the subgenre it’s a fertile field for quality writing.
The cosplay is also a big draw (see those pics again—we had those wedding clothes custom-made), as is the creative immersive content at the cons.
What was your writing process?
Because I’m so easily bored I have to approach it like a job: I get out of bed and to the computer each morning with a defined goal in mind. The days I have to go out and do my ‘day job’, or when I’m at my opera ‘night job’, I take along an iPad and keep right on plugging.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get distracted. I’ve recently discovered and embraced the term ‘laterally productive’, meaning I’m doing meaningful stuff all the time (well . . . most of the time), but it isn’t always the stuff I assigned myself when I got out of bed. The business side of my writing ‘small business’ is very distracting, including the marketing side.
What character did you have the most fun writing?
I loved writing all my characters, even the bad guys. Each of them had their own charm and therapeutic value for me as a writer. But the mechs (micro-, mech, and mega-) were the most entertaining to write. It was intriguing and exciting to sit down to write each day and find out what they were going to do next.That process is still going on, by the way, as I write out the short story version of one of the character’s back-story.
What is the most difficult part of creating a spinoff/adaptation?
Worrying about the fans of the Bard. I worried constantly what my Shakespeare-oriented friends would think. But as you can see by the quote on the cover from my friend Fred Adams, founder of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, people who love Shakespeare are attracted to Shakespeare partly because of his adaptability. We love seeing his tales told in new frameworks. Otherwise there would be no Shakespeare festivals. And there would certainly be no A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk.
What was your inspiration for this book?
I was actually inspired by the concept itself. What if the ‘rude mechanicals’ were actually mechanical? Mechanizing them, making them Cockney tradesmen from the East End of London, kicked off a creative process that rapidly filled the rest of the roles in the play. Of course to history buffs you can’t say “Bethnal Green” (a very Cockney area of the East End) without thinking “Jack the Ripper”, and that connection took on a life of its own.
The geopolitical plot line came from my understanding of just how pivotal this period was to the future: the 20th Century. If someone had taken Kaiser Wilhelm firmly in hand when he came prematurely to the thrones of Germany and Prussia, would the millions who died in the First and Second World Wars and the Holocaust have survived? Would Communism have overcome Russia, and would the millions that perished in the gulags have survived and thrived in a world made more equitable by benevolent monarchies? We’ll never know. But I think it’s safe to say the world would be a very different place today if Wilhelm’s grandmother Queen Victoria, and her daughter the Dowager Empress of Germany, had managed to get him in line. It was my pleasure to give them mech help to get it done.
What kept you up at night?
Deadlines, both self-imposed and from my publisher. I wanted to get this story out there and let others enjoy it as much as I do, and I knew that sticking closely to deadlines would help it happen.That said, the entire process was a great joy to me. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for the world, and I look forward to lots more to come.