Fangtastic Friday – Interview with Katie MacAlister


Please welcome Katie MacAlister, whose novels have been translated into numerous languages, been recorded as audiobooks, received several awards, and placed on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller listsHer novel Steamed, the first in a new series of Steampunk romances, will be released in February 2010. 

ETS – Please tell us a little about yourself. 

That’s always a loaded statement. To keep from frightening small children and the elderly, I’ll give you a few little known facts about me, instead.

1. I have a tattoo I gave myself when I was 15.

2. I’ve been married for nineteen years. Yes, I was married when I was five (that’s what I tell people, anyway).

3. I once lived next door to a bank robber.

4. I love belly dancing music even though I can’t dance.

5. Colin Firth is the source of inspiration for many of my heroes. 

ETS – Steampunk.  We hear so much about this genre lately, and yet questions still abound.  What exactly is a Steampunk romance? 

Let’s tackle what steampunk is, first. Steampunk, for those folk who are still confused about just what it is, was given its name in the 1980s when a new type of fantasy/science fiction book began to emerge. The steam part refers to a steam-powered society, frequently depicted as Victorian. Think Jules Verne’s spaceships to the moon, Captain Nemo, steam-powered automatons and airships. There is a decided tip of the hat to the “scientific romances” of the late nineteenth century, books that glorified science, and envisioned a rich, fantastical future using machines that didn’t, at the time, exist, or which would be modified in strange new ways. 

 The punk element originally reflected a refusal to be blended into the standard science fiction genre, instead forging paths that dipped into alternate history and fantasy, with bits of science fiction woven in. However, I think that over the years, the punk element can now also be shown in the adventure aspect of the books—great, sweeping adventures that put the characters at odds with society, or societal mores. It definitely has a “man against the world” sort of flavor. 

All of which leads to the answer to the question of what is a steampunk romance: it is simply a romance that is set in a steampunk world. 

ETS – When did you first hear about Steampunk?  Do you think the genre will explode in the romance market? 

I first became aware of it with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels, and later, the movie. I loved both, but it wasn’t until last year that I had the brainstorm to write steampunk myself. I knew it wasn’t being done in the romance world, and I thought the time was ripe for something a bit different. 

I think the adventure aspect of the books will please readers as a whole, and fans of paranormal romances will likely appreciate the imaginatively different worlds that steampunk authors produce. There’s a lot of fantasy intermixed in steampunk, so hopefully, readers will revel in it. 

ETS – I love the opening of your blurb for Steamed – Jack Fletcher’s heart is about to get punked.  Can you tell us a little about Steamed, and what we can expect from Jack and his heroine, Octavia? 

That’s the best blurb ever, isn’t it? One of the folks at Penguin Putnam came up with that, and I went wild when I saw it because it so perfectly encapsulates the story. 

The hero, Jack, is a nanoelectrical computer geek. Due to a strange series of coincidences, everyone thinks he’s a modern-day personification of Indiana Jones. He doesn’t think he’s the least bit heroic (he’s wrong), but he is genuinely a nice guy. He and his sister get transported to Octavia’s world, which Jack recognizes right away as being steampunky. He’s over the moon. Octavia is less thrilled with having strangers suddenly appear on her airship, especially since she’s finally been recognized as a captain, and given her own ship. 

Jack is a combination of a very modern man and a swashbuckler. Octavia tries very hard to be controlled and stern, as befits her duties, but she’s got too big a sense of adventure to truly be what she thinks she should be. 

ETS – Before you wrote Steamed, did you do any research, and if so, what type of research was involved? 

The only research I did was technical stuff about airships and steam engines, believe it or not. I was comfortable enough with my vision of a steampunk world to work on building that up, so I didn’t have to do any research for that aspect. I had no idea how airships worked, however, or what one looked like inside the living areas, so I hung around historic airship sites a lot, and printed up airship schematics and boiler cross-sections, just so I’d understand how they functioned. 

ETS – Romance Writer’s of America has several special interest chapters, such as the FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal), Passionate Ink, Gothic Romance Writers, among many others.  Do you see a Steampunk special interest chapter in the future? 

That would certainly be fun, but I suspect that steampunk writers would probably end up in the fantasy and paranormal chapters, since publishers are sure to classify it as both.

ETS – Your paranormal books have so much humor in them.  Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang, Even Vampires get the Blues, Sex and the Single Vampire, to name just a few.  Does humor play a part in your Steampunk novels? 

Humor will always play a big part in my books. 🙂  my warped sense of humor ensures that. And it’s very much in evidence in Steamed, from the crew of the airship Tesla, to the love scenes, even to big, dramatic moments. My personal philosophy is that life is too short to not laugh whenever possible, and that’s reflected in my books. 

ETS – Can you tell us what your writing process is like?  How long does it take you to finish a novel from idea to submission?  Are you a plotter or pantser? 

I used to be very much a plotter, writing long synopses for myself to serve as a safety net as I wrote a book. Slowly that changed as I grew to have confidence in my ability to write a story, and more or less trust myself even if I didn’t know every major plot point along the way. 

Nowadays, I am contractually obligated to give my editor some sort of an outline of the book—which is basically a brief synopsis—so the folks in the marketing and art department have something to start working on. My editor Laura Cifelli and I have been working together for long enough that she doesn’t fret if a story comes in that is radically different from the initial outline; we both know it’s just there as a general idea of the story, and to trust that if my muse has demanded I go in a different direction from what I originally envisioned, it’s all for the good. 

Technically, my schedule calls for me to turn in an outline for a book about four months before it’s due, then sit down to write it. Realistically, I turn in the outline on schedule, then have some other project like a novella that I’ve been asked to do, and squeezed into the lovely, stress-free schedule I originally set up with the latest contract. So what usually happens is that I have about two months to write the actual book. I keep swearing that I am trying to slow down, but it’s hard to turn down excellent opportunities when they pop up and wiggle enticingly at you. 

My writing day involves me grumbling my way to the computer, then denying myself any fun (in the shape of e-mail, online shopping, or World of Warcraft) until I get the daily wad o’ words written. Once that’s been accomplished, I release my muse to go romp, and everyone is happy again. 

ETS – Any parting words of advice for aspiring writers? 

Really, really, really love what you write. If you’re chasing trends (which never works—you want to lead trends rather than try to play catch-up), or writing something that your heart isn’t fully in, then you won’t be doing the work full justice. I write primarily to entertain myself, and am just lucky in that other readers have the same wacky sense of humor that allows them to be entertained, too. The key is to tell yourself the sort of story you want to read, and then let others enjoy the fruits of your labors. 

ETS – Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today.  🙂

katieFor as long as she can remember, Katie MacAlister has loved reading. Growing up in a family where a weekly visit to the library was a given, Katie spent much of her time with her nose buried in a book. Despite her love for novels, she didn’t think of writing them until she was contracted to write a non-fiction book about software. Since her editor refused to allow her to include either witty dialogue or love scenes in the software book, Katie swiftly resolved to switch to fiction, where she could indulge in world building, tormenting characters, and falling madly in love with all her heroes.

Two years after she started writing novels, Katie sold her first romance, Noble Intentions. More than thirty books later, her novels have been translated into numerous languages, been recorded as audiobooks, received several awards, and placed on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. She also writes for the young adult audience as Katie Maxwell.

Katie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dogs, and can often be found lurking around online.

Visit Katie at the following sites ~     Website | Facebook | Myspace | Twitter

11 Responses to “Fangtastic Friday – Interview with Katie MacAlister”
  1. What a wonderful definition of steampunk! I think I have a much better handle on what to expect from the new genre now that I’ve enjoyed this interview.

    I’m ready for a funny romantic adventure. Can’t wait to read it!

  2. sandrasookoo says:

    Can’t wait for this book! I’ve read nearly everything else Katie has written and have some definite front running faves. This one, however, will probably beat them all 🙂 Congrats on the continuing success!

  3. Suzanne Rock says:

    What a great interview! thanks, Kate, for stopping by. The book sounds fabulous! I can hardly wait to read it.

  4. RKCharron says:

    Thank you for the great interview Katie!
    The cover for STEAMED is terrific.
    Also thank you for the definition of Steampunk.
    I am looking forward to reading STEAMED when it comes out.
    All the best,
    Love RKCharron

  5. Robyn Bski says:

    “My personal philosophy is that life is too short to not laugh whenever possible, and that’s reflected in my books.”

    One of the many reasons that Katie Mac is made of awesome. 🙂 Great interview. I’m really looking forward to Steamed.

  6. Dawn McClure says:

    Thanks again for the interview, Katie. 🙂

    I’m a huge fan. Humor always pulls me in. My fav book of yours is The Corset Diaries. Who could forget the barking spider? lol!!

    I’m looking forward to reading Steamed. 🙂

  7. Bonnie H says:

    Wonderful interview – I’m sorry to say I have yet to read any of your novels, but I absolutely love humor in books so I now have some new titles to add to my wish list!!
    Thanks so much for sharing 😀

  8. Barbara Elness says:

    Thanks for a great interview Katie. I’m looking forward to reading Steamed – I think it will be a fantastic story.

  9. Deidre says:

    Too cool! I didn’t realize Katie had written a steampunk novel.


  10. Virginia C says:

    WooHoo! Colin Firth–your imagination can take you in many directions! Have fun!!!

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  1. […] Katie MacAlister, author of Steamed, by Embrace the Shadows […]

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