Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bustlepunk? Guest Post by M.K. Hobson (The Native Star)

The Native Star is M.K. Hobson's debut novel although she has been publishing science fiction and fantasy short stories since the nineties. The Native Star is a historical paranormal adventure set in the 19th century American west for which M.K. Hobson has coined the term "bustlepunk". Here's the synopsis -
The year is 1876. In the small Sierra Nevada settlement of Lost Pine, the town witch, Emily Edwards, is being run out of business by an influx of mail-order patent magics. Attempting to solve her problem with a love spell, Emily only makes things worse. But before she can undo the damage, an enchanted artifact falls into her possession—and suddenly Emily must flee for her life, pursued by evil warlocks who want the object for themselves.

Dreadnought Stanton, a warlock from New York City whose personality is as pompous and abrasive as his name, has been exiled to Lost Pine for mysterious reasons. Now he finds himself involuntarily allied with Emily in a race against time—and across the United States by horse, train, and biomechanical flying machine—in quest of the great Professor Mirabilis, who alone can unlock the secret of the coveted artifact. But along the way, Emily and Stanton will be forced to contend with the most powerful and unpredictable magic of all—the magic of the human heart.
The book was just released last week, and M.K. is here to tell you something of the research undertaken in the writing of The Native Star. A sequel, The Hidden Goddess is due out in May 2011.

I am just about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying this briskly told tale. I'll have my review posted before the end of the week. I have a copy of The Native Star to giveaway to a lucky commenter. To enter just leave a question for the author or tell us about your favourite aspect of the wild wild west. M.K. Hobson will be dropping in to answer your questions. Contest closes September 14th at Midnight. EST.

You can find out more about the author at her website or on her blog. Welcome Mary!


Hi! Who are you and why are you here?

Hi! I'm M.K. Hobson and my debut novel hit bookstore shelves at the beginning of this month. THE NATIVE STAR is a historical fantasy romance set in 1876. It follows the adventures of a timber camp witch from California and a stuck-up warlock from New York as they are pursued across the United States by blood-sorcerors bent on reclaiming a unique magical artifact.

While writing this book, I had to deepen and broaden my understanding of America in the mid-19th century—a historical period that has always intrigued me. For this post I thought I'd share some fascinating factoids I learned while writing THE NATIVE STAR. Even if you're not a self-proclaimed "history nerd" like me, I hope you find them as interesting as I did!

Philadelphia Exposition 1876
The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition was a pretty big deal. How big a deal? Well, it was the first official World's Fair ever held in the United States. Over its six month run, it drew 10 million visitors—nearly twice the number that attended The Great Exhibition in London in 1851—and this was a time when the whole population of the United States was about 50 million! It was an incredibly influential showcase for art and ideas from around the world. Stylistic movements that became prominent over the second half of the century—such as the mania for Japanese style and culture and a flowering of interest in American colonial antiques—can be directly traced to popular exhibits in Philadelphia. (If you'd like to learn more, I wrote a whole article about the Exposition: http://www.demimonde.com/2010/03/29/the-centennial-exposition-of-1876/)

Seance
America, in the 19th century, saw an unrivaled flowering of interest in the occult. Well, OK. Maybe it was rivaled in the seventies when everybody was trying to sharpen razor blades under pyramids. But America in the mid-19th century was a hotbed of occult exploration, specifically spirtualism, in which "mediums" were used to contact the spirits of the dead. Spiritualism reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, and by 1897, it was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe. Even though I propose my own unique strains of magic in THE NATIVE STAR, there were so many schools of thought and unique types of practitioner (Theosophists, Swedenborgians, Mesmerists, Rosicrucians, etc.) that I hardly needed to.

Great Railway Station at Chicago
Transcontinental railroad travel was an incredible adventure. The golden age of railroad travel—with comfortable and luxurious cars and long uninterrupted express routes—did not reach its heyday until the late 1930s. In the 1870s, transcontinental railroad travel took place a cobbled-together transportation network built by a mish-mosh of competing interests. Passengers didn't just get on at one end of the country and ride to the other—they had to navigate their way from line to line, and each line had its quirks. From California, you'd ride the Central Pacific to Utah, at which point the line ended. Then you'd switch to the Union Pacific (which had noticeably older passenger cars) and from there (depending on your destination) ride to another major transportation hub (Chicago, most likely) and switch to yet another line. While some lines featured fancy cars (such as the ornate Silver Palace cars on the Central Pacific, or the Union Pacific's Pullman cars) the accommodations were generally not very luxe. Many of the cars—especially the "emigrant" cars with the cheapest ticket prices—were spartan and uncomfortable, with wooden seats and smelly coal stoves at each end of the car for warmth. There were even separate cars for different kinds of travelers: cars specifically designated for families and ladies traveling alone, so they wouldn't have to be subjected to the rough language and rowdiness of single men.
Central Pacific  Silver Palace Dining Car

BOOK TRAILER FOR THE NATIVE STAR

12 comments:

  1. My favourite aspects of the wild wild west were the opportunities that existed for people to better themselves, the railroads that made it easier to travel, and the telegraph, that made communication across long distances possible.
    Native Star sounds like a fantastic story and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

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  2. Yeah, this book hit my wishlist last week. Think it was here that I first learned about it.

    Anyway my favorite aspect of the Wild Wild West is James T. West (Robert Conrad). Cut my teeth on that man in syndication as a child. Oh you mean the real west...

    What captures my imagination is that if you were really willing to change yourself you could. You'd have to be smart and really be committed to it, but you could go somewhere far away and become a new person.

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  3. it's stuff like this that makes history come alive for me...all the details that you could never learn in school....

    i have a question: what started your love of history?

    can't wait for this book to come out!

    k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

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  4. @k_sunshine: I don't know what started my love of history, but it's probably thanks to my family, most of whom are also history buffs. Like you, I'm most interested in the human side of history as opposed to scrutinizing maps and memorizing dates.

    And the book is already out! You can grab a copy online or in brick & mortar stores nationwide. ;-)

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  5. Congrats on your debut! I've very much been interested in this one... I think the term "bustlepunk" makes this appeal to me a lot. I'm from the Pacific Northwest so I'm really fond of any fantasy fiction taking place in the western states.

    Because The Native Star sounds like it could fit in with the growing "steampunk done American West style" subgenre I am curious... what challenges did you face in getting it from concept to published work?

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  6. I love the term 'Bustlepunk' and, since I am a great fan of The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, I reckon your book sounds right up my alley.

    Congratulations on your debut novel!

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  7. @Rhianna: It's funny you should ask that, I have a whole blog post prepared on the subject that I just haven't posted yet. ;-) The biggest challenge was really waiting for the market to be right for the book ... I finished writing it in 2002 (!) and I I had to wait for the interest in Weird West & Steampunk to kind of catch up with me. There were many times I wished that the process would go faster, but honestly, I think my book is coming out at just the right time (thanks to the success of writers like Gail Carriger & Cherie Priest!)

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  8. I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I know you did a lot of historical research for the book, but did you also go on road trips to scout out the actual locations that you wanted to use and if so, what were some of your favorites?

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  9. @JenM I SO SO SO wanted to take a road trip down to California and drive I-80 over the Sierras ... but alas. It did not work out. So, having spent many a childhood summer in Oregon's Blue Mountains (which are quite similar both in geology and ecology) I called upon those memories for when writing about Lost Pine. In Book 2 (THE HIDDEN GODDESS) much of the action shifts to New York City, and since I travel there for work quite a bit, I have scouted out several locations there. My favorite was the Blockhouse in Central Park, which is a bit of a hike to get to!

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  10. I'd like to ask, if the woman on the cover is an actual character of the book, and who is she then? Thanks

    spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

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  11. @Dovile: Sorry for the late reply. To be honest, the woman on the cover is not who I imagine when I picture Emily in my head, which is why I'm not particularly fond of book covers with people on them. I feel it kind of hamstrings the reader's imagination. But ultimately it's one of those marketing decisions where I trust that my publisher knows best!

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  12. My favorite Wild Wild West aspect? The pony express. Because we forget much sweat used to be involved in crossing this ginormous country of ours to deliver the mail.

    katiealtman(at)hotmail(dot)com

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