In the first of a new series of author interviews, we kick off the series with a look at the mind behind The Periwinkle Perspective saga of Steampunk novels.
1. What inspired you to create "The Periwinkle Perspective" series, blending steampunk elements with captivating adventures across time and space?
I have been a fan of science fiction for as long as I can remember (Doctor Who; Star Wars; UFO: Space 1999; Captain Scarlet; Survivors; Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica). In particular, I have always marvelled at the worlds that are created in which to tell those stories: the alternate histories and parallel existences, that; if given enough depth, can sustain tale after tale, even when throwing new characters into the mix. Steampunk allows me to do just that: the world that my stories happen in being a character in itself.
2. The Periwinkle Perspective series features a diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique motivations and alliances. How do you approach character development and weaving their individual stories into the overarching plot?
The more diverse the cast (ethnically; politically; socially, and professionally), the more fun that can be had with the actual telling of the story. I know where the story is going well before I start, but quite how we get there is determined by the interactions of the cast. My leads are worked out in advance, as per the story’s outline requirements, but I like my secondary and tertiary characters to surprise me. Sometimes they are created merely to fulfil a specific role and are not intended to hang around, but then they begin to take on a life of their own and demand further use. Some of my favourite characters have been these. ‘Tiny’, for instance, was specifically written as a one note character and destined to die after one short scene, but he kept ‘calling to me’ from beyond the page, and so I reinstated him almost immediately and; according to my readers, he is probably the most popular character in the series to date.
3. "The Periwinkle Perspective" delves into themes of deception, history rewriting, and encounters with extraterrestrial forces. How do you balance these complex elements while maintaining a cohesive narrative throughout the series?
Those elements are all in place before I begin putting words on the page, so I don’t find that problematic at all. The biggest headaches are always the time travel elements. Where are we now? What year is it? Who’s dead and who’s alive at this point, and what do my characters know and not know about each other? It involves a lot of re-reading as I go along!
4. Steampunk is a distinct and imaginative genre. How did you go about world-building in this universe, and what challenges did you face in creating a believable and immersive steampunk setting?
My stories are set during a specific historical period; I therefore had to immerse myself in that particular period so that I could build up a working picture in my head of how people spoke; acted; interacted; dressed, etc at that time. I needed to know what had and hadn’t been invented and discovered; what the world’s political situation was like, and who the movers and the shakers of the day were. With reality as a background, I was then able to set about changing things by increment. If I was going to kill off Salisbury (the Prime Minister of that time) and replace him with my own Prime Minister, for instance, then I needed to know how that would affect what we know to have been actual history, ie: who was his real-life successor and what would have happened to him? What now wouldn’t happen as a result of my ‘messing’ with established lore? Also, bringing female suffrage in, so much earlier than we know that it really occurred, needed to be carefully seeded through several books, so that when it does happen, it feels natural and believable and not forced. Research is absolutely essential if you want to make it believable. If the audience believe in the setting because you are able to add enough real detail along the way, then they’ll (hopefully) go with such nonsense as the ‘gin drive’.
5. The plot twists and unexpected alliances in the series keep readers on the edge of their seats. Can you share a bit about your process in crafting these surprises and maintaining suspense?
Whatever I’m working on, I use my wife, Donna, as my gauge. She knows how my mind works better than anyone else (poor soul), and so it is always my intention to fox her by going in a direction that she won’t predict. If she can guess where I’m going, then so will everybody else. This means that I explore every possibility of a set up and a scene, rather than going for the first idea that I had, and thus come up with twists and turns that I might otherwise have missed.
6. "The Periwinkle Perspective" has received acclaim for its thrilling storytelling. As an author, what message or emotion do you hope readers take away from this series, and what can we expect in the future adventures of Captain Gordon Periwinkle and his companions?
If The Periwinkle Perspective has a ‘message’, then it’s one of equality. Victorian society was notable as much for its class; sex; race and educational divisions as it was its innovations and its discoveries, and all these years later, those same divisions are still present, regardless of all our great ‘advances’. We’ve made improvements, certainly, but by no means quickly or dramatically enough. By making the changes that I had to established history; through the medium of science fiction, of course, I am trying to evoke a sense of hope for the future of our species. As for what’s to come? Lots! I am currently tying up book nine in the (extended) series, in preparation to begin book ten, which I am very excited about. The original hexalogy comes to its natural conclusion in November 2024, tying up all the threads and arcs from books one to six. However, for books seven to nine (beginning in May 2025), our characters (old and new) head off on a new journey, adding detail to the overall tale that you may not have realised was missing the first time around! And then there’s the comic! Artists Paul McCaffrey and Paul B Rainey are currently working on the first Periwinkle Perspective comic (due October 2023). This will be my readers first chance to see what the characters look like and see how close they were with what they had imagined themselves. Hold on tight, though, ‘cause I haven’t finished yet; not by a long chalk!
Image of Paull Eccentric - Courtesy of Mark Ward