WHEN THE STEAM-POWERED WORLD DRIES UP…
Two-hundred years ago, the steam-powered world experienced an apocalyptic flood. When the waters dried up, the survivors settled around their steamship in a wasteland they named Desertera. Believing the flood and drought were caused by a scorned goddess, the monarchs demanded execution for anyone who commits the unforgivable sin—adultery.
ONE KING RULES WITH ABSOLUTE POWER AND UNQUENCHABLE LUST…
Today, King Archon entraps his wives in the crime of adultery, executing each boring bride to pursue his next infatuation. Most nobles overlook King Archon’s behavior, but when Lord Varick’s daughter falls victim to the king’s schemes, he vows revenge.
UNTIL THE COGSMITH’S DAUGHTER RISKS EVERYTHING FOR VENGEANCE.
When Aya Cogsmith is thirteen, King Archon has her father executed for treason. Orphaned and forced to turn to prostitution for survival, Aya dreams of avenging her father’s death. When Lord Varick approaches Aya with plans for vengeance, she agrees to play the king’s seductress—even though it puts her at risk for execution.
Packed with high-society intrigue, dappled with seduction, and driven by revenge, The Cogsmith’s Daughter is a steampunk dystopian novel with the perfect mixture of conspiracy and romance.
I am so happy to be included in this amazing author’s blog tour. Kate is a wonderful writer and from the moment that I read her novel The Cogsmith’s Daughter, I have been anxiously awaiting its release. The steampunk world she creates, Desertera, is extremely interesting and intricate. I was extremely curious on how she created such a complex world, so…I asked her.
Desertera: Conception and Construction
I always joke about how I wish I could write something that takes place in “the real world.” After all, while writing any novel is extremely difficult, having a setting that the reader can easily imagine and understand right out of the gate would make my job a little easier. Unfortunately, to this day, I have not had a single (in my opinion) good idea that takes place in reality as we know it. Until one strikes, I guess I’ll just keep making up my own worlds.
As a reader or fellow writer you may be wondering, how exactly do you come up with these new worlds, Kate? How do you create them? How do you make them seem real? Well, I can’t tell you how everyone does it (and let’s be real: I’m no Tolkien), but I can tell you how my process worked for The Cogsmith’s Daughter and its world, Desertera.
When it comes to my novels, I almost always come up with a theme or message for the story first. Then, the plot and characters fall into place afterward. The setting is a little trickier. Sometimes, it arises organically out of the theme and plot. Other times, I have to try out a few ideas before I know when and where my story should take place.
In my original conception of Desertera, this is what I knew about how the plot and setting should interact: the story takes place in a kingdom where adultery is punishable by death, and the king is all-powerful and uses the law to entrap his wives in the crime, getting a new wife every time he gets bored.
That’s it. It had to be kingdom. Adultery had to be illegal. The king had to have absolute, unquestioned power. As long as my setting allowed those three things, it could facilitate the plot.
(Tip #1 for aspiring authors: Your setting should exist to aid the development of the plot and your characters. If your story is a road trip, your protagonist is the driver, the plot is the map/road, and the setting is the car.)
Knowing these things about my plot and setting, I began to brainstorm what this kingdom should look like. I couldn’t shake the image of the desert—to me, the absence of justice, and the abstinence implied by the strict sexual code felt isolated, dry, empty. When I told my husband the plot, he immediately envisioned it as steampunk. My first thought was, “That is brilliant. But it can’t work. This kingdom just has to be in the desert. It won’t work in Victorian England.”
And then I realized, “Oh, yeah. I’m a fiction author. I can do whatever I want.” So, I took the steampunk world, put its inhabitants through an apocalyptic flood, dried up all the water to run their steam machines, and stranded them in a desert wasteland. Thus, Desertera was born.
(Tip #2 for aspiring authors: There are no rules. You are only limited by your imagination.)
Now, when you make a world, there’s a lot to consider. Luckily, the plot gave me the government (monarchy) and a hint of a legal system (adultery, murder, and treason warranted capital punishment—with the king as judge and jury). But there’s so much more to a world than that. You need an economic system, villages/countries, dwellings, careers, language and dialects, morals and ethics, etc.
For me, most of these world elements emerged organically as I wrote. After all, the basics of my plot defined the “big rules.” Everything after that just had to make sense under them. The one thing I did spend a lot of time and energy intentionally constructing? My map.
After this apocalyptic flood, my society was left with a giant steamship. What do you do with a stranded ship? Why, you make it a palace for the nobles. What do you do with the commoners? Why, you scatter them around the ship/palace in villages constructed of scavenged materials from nature and the steerage section of the ship (what self-respecting nobles would go down there, anyway?).
To help myself envision this world, I drew a map.
Here is my original doodle of the ship and the surrounding villages. To help the reader envision Desertera, I did two things. First, I named the villages with nautical terms—to explain their locations—and added traditional British town/village suffixes—to make it clear they are segments of this kingdom. Hence, Desertera has: Bowtown, Portside, Sternville, and Starboardshire. Second, in the first chapter, my protagonist, Aya, takes the readers on a walking tour to help them get their bearings.
(Tip #3 for aspiring authors: Know your world beyond what you will tell the reader. If you know it inside and out, it will be easy for you to convey your world to your reader.)
As I said before, once I had the geography down, it was a matter of letting the rules and norms of the world evolve organically. Writers: like most aspects of writing, you have to trust the setting to come to you as you write. If you have a good starting idea and a basic map, it will. Readers: all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
So, did I pull it off? Did I make a compelling, believable world that readers will enjoy exploring? I think so, but I can’t be the judge of that, can I? Why don’t you tell me?
If you’d like to experience Desertera, you can enter my Goodreads giveaway for your chance to win one of three signed copies of The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) HERE.
Don’t like leaving things up to chance? Me either. You can pre-order your copy at any of these online retailers. Today is the LAST day for the special pre-order price of $0.99, so if you’re interested, don’t miss out!
Kate M. Colby is an author of cross-genre fiction and creative nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk dystopian novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children. You can learn more about Kate and her books on her website: www.KateMColby.com.