7 July 2014

Author Spotlight: Interview with Kara Jorgensen

The Earl of Brass - Kara Jorgensen
(The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #1)
Genre: Steampunk

When Eilian Sorrell, a promising archaeologist and the eldest son of the Earl of Dorset, loses his arm in a dirigible crash, he fears he will face a bleak future among London's aristocracy. On a quest for normalcy, Lord Sorrell commissions a prosthetic arm but finds the craftsman is not what he seems. After the death of her brother, Hadley Fenice takes over his prosthesis business but knows it will be an uphill battle as women are discouraged from doing man’s work. In return for building Lord Sorrell an automaton arm, he offers her a chance at freedom by following him to the Negev Desert under the guise of a man. But what lies beneath the desert is more precious than potshards or bones. As they venture deeper, they discover a society where the path of life is not governed by gain but by passion. When imperialistic invaders come in search of a new colony to pillage, Eilian and Hadley are forced to defend their fleeting glimpse of paradise.

Kara Jorgensen

How did you come up with the idea for The Earl of Brass?
I wasn't content with the steampunk books I was reading, and the idea popped into my head about a man who was severely injured and needed steam-powered organs.  When I got into the science of it, that didn't work (he would cook from the inside out), so Eilian evolved into a man in need of a prosthetic arm. Hadley always existed as his craftswoman, but she too evolved into a more driven woman who was more than a love interest or mechanic.  

Which books and authors have inspired you the most and why?

My biggest inspirations have been Edwardian and Victorian adventure novels.  In terms of the lost civilization aspect, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have been paramount because they were written by authors who lived during that period and involve English-speakers as invaders.  Some others are Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series for the steampunk aspects and Anne Rice's The Mummy for the adventure and romance in a historical setting (it's also one of my favorite books). It isn't a book, but Disney's Atlantis: the Lost Empire was a huge inspiration as well.

What was the most interesting piece of research you did whilst writing The Earl of Brass?

The mechanical arm was probably my favorite thing to research.  It was challenging to find materials that were used during that era that could be used inside the body without reacting with human tissues.  There was no stainless steel, so I had to improvise with other metals and materials that were more common, like porcelain and titanium.  I was also taking physics at the time, so it sparked my interest in mechanisms, electrical circuits, and how to intertwine them with the human body.

Is feminism an issue for you, as your book has a very strong theme? 

As a woman, feminism, or more importantly equality for all, has been a very important issue to me, but the overarching theme in The Earl of Brass is not only feminism but how society is not accepting and does not promote individual happiness and growth but instead relies on people conforming to an imposed norm.  Not only is Hadley under societal pressure but so is Eilian, and the Billawrati show the contrast between the societies since their people are allowed to do what makes them happy instead of what is profitable or the norm. I noticed the theme part way into the book and decided to emphasize it by contrasting English society with the Billawrati.  As someone who chose to go to graduate school for creative writing instead of medical school, which would have been much more lucrative, I see the need for individual happiness and a movement toward humanism and away from capitalism.

What might be in store for Eilian and Hadley in Book Two of The Ingenious Mechanical Devices?

Actually, book two, which is entitled The Winter Garden, follows some new faces, including Hadley's brother, Adam.  The series involves the same world and characters, but it will shift between Eilian, Hadley, Adam, and two new characters who were briefly mentioned at the end of The Earl of Brass, Emmeline Jardine and Immanuel Winter.  There is a mystery in book two surrounding a four hundred year old potion, a girl who can see people's deaths, and an Oxford student who is tormented by a nobleman in search of the secret of resurrection. Eilian and Hadley will make an appearance, but they will be the focus of the currently unnamed book three.

If it was made into a film, who would you get to play Eilian and Hadley?

For Eilian, I would love Tom Mison (from Sleepy Hollow) to play him.  When I see pictures of him when he is clean-shaven, he is exactly how I pictured him.  Hadley needs to be played by a strong woman, so I always lean toward Jennifer Lawrence, especially since I think she could portray her when she is disguised as a man.

Are you planning any other projects?

Book two, The Winter Garden, is my current project, but I have several books and plots planned for future Ingenious Mechanical Devices books and a separate story for another time that will involve creatures and the supernatural.  The separate story will probably wait until I am doing my thesis for my masters degree in a year or two.

Do you have any interesting facts to add?

The book was actually completed because it was my final project for my bachelors degree.  I also have some Easter eggs in there. The first letters of the names of the citizens of Billawra spell out "steampunk" and all of the names are words that can be made from the letters in "steampunk".  Malcolm Holland, the Earl of Newcastle, is actually a shout out to Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Malcolm on Firefly and Richard Castle.

You can pick up The Earl of Brass here.

How did you like my first interview? Doesn't Book Two sound amazing?