Q: Good evening! Welcome to another steampunk interview. Today, I’m speaking with Karen J. Carlisle, a steampunk author and one of my peers. Thanks for visiting, Karen.
A: Glad to be here, Stephanie.
Q: Why did you become a writer?
A: I think I’ve always been a writer at heart. I won a school poetry competition at age nine. I returned to writing in high school (there’s a 210 page typed copy of a SF/comedy book in the shed somewhere). At University, the urge surfaced in the form of D&D campaigns. Then real life hit. I suppressed the urge. I dabbled again in the mid-90s, but was actively discouraged from pursuing it (long story); I had a sensible, well-paying job. Why should I want to give that up? In 2013, I began writing in earnest to relieve work anxiety. I quit my job in 2014, due to increasing health issues, and have been writing full time since then.
Q: Are you traditionally published or self-published?
A: Self-published at this stage. I would consider hybrid publishing in the future.
Q: Do you find writing therapeutic, stressful, or some of each?
A: Definitely therapeutic. There is some stress when facing a blank page or when struggling with low confidence – though I’m told there are many writers who doubt themselves. I am happiest when I am creating.
Q: You have several collections in the Adventures of Viola Stewart series. Would you mind telling us some information about your protagonist?
A: Viola Stewart is a widow, in her early thirties. She studied medicine in Edinburgh, where she met her friends Doctor Henry Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle, and her first husband, Donell. Unfortunately, she graduated in the nineteenth century when women weren’t allowed to register as doctors. She works as an optician, occasionally assisting her friend, Doctor Collins in the Police morgue. She is independent, curious and an avid reader of mysteries. All of which get her into situations not ‘suitable for the fairer sex’. Her penchant for detectiving is fuelled by Doctor Conan Doyle, who supplies her with a continual source of mystery and detective books. She inspires others to join her: Henry and his friend, Sir Archibald Huntington-Smythe (a biomechanical surgeon). Even her maid, Polly, joins in on the fun. All the while, Viola is struggling against society’s expectations on what a woman should, or should not do.
Q: I’m under the impression that your stories have a component of mystery. Am I right?
A: Yes. They are effectively murder mysteries. Each story delves into a different aspect of Victorian life or interest, from which a new mystery surfaces (usually involving a murder). If you read carefully, you will find each story is influenced by a different nineteenth century novel or short story. Oh, I’ve given away a clue! I grew up reading Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Sherlock Holmes. I devour mystery/detective movies and television shows. I always hope to be surprised. Some make for a great mental workout.
Q: It also seems like steampunk and romance often go together. In fact, some readers call this combination gaslamp fantasy. Are you a fan of this subgenre?
A: Ah, the Gaslamp fantasy I know is a darker Victorian fantasy, often with paranormal aspects, reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley. I see the romance as a minor component in the genre, not an integral part of it. I don’t read romance genre novels specifically. I do like Jane Austin. I am a romantic. I think everyone deserves to be loved. When I started The Adventures of Viola Stewart series, I didn’t expect it to have a romance component – but Henry Collins had other plans.
Q: Every steampunk fan has his or her views on the genre. What does steampunk mean to you?
A: It is not just a fandom or a cosplay genre. It is a community of like-minded individuals who revel in the culture. It is fun. It is whimsy. It is inspirational. It is science meeting art, celebrating imagination, creativity, and individuality, with a maker’s ethic.
Q: Steampunk continues to change and evolve. What are some changes that you noticed during the past few years?
A: I’ve been involved in the local steampunk community for a decade now. Our local group has a family-friendly atmosphere, with picnics, charity fundraisers, zoo excursions, LARP-like events and, more recently an annual steampunk pirate ball. Possibly the biggest changes I have seen parallel those seen in cosplay and fandom. As steampunk has become more mainstream, there has been a sexing-up of steampunk, and an attempt by big business to commercialize and homogenise the genre. This isn’t always consistent with the basic ethos of steampunk individuality, equality, and creativity. If you can channel your passion into a living, that’s fantastic (hey, I write steampunk books), but trying to cash in on the trend and exploiting the community is not on. I recently had to send a ‘cease and desist’ to a commercial steampunk clothing website as they had stolen some event images from my webpage. It seems it wasn’t the first time they had done so.I do think the community will continue to survive and thrive when the mainstream discovers its next ‘new thing.’ In the end, our community will be slightly bigger and invigorated by the injection of new members and ideas.
Q: What’s your favorite type of steampunk setting? Victorian, Wild West, post-apocalyptic, or something else?
A: I love science and I love art. I think that’s why I like the Victorian era – it sits on the cusp of old beliefs and superstitions and the dawn of science. There was a sense of wonder and excitement. Anything is possible, and encouraged. I can ‘punk’ the social norms of the era and create a (better) alternate world. For me, the Victorian setting inspires more positive ‘feels’ than a post-apocalyptic setting. And the clothes are gorgeous.
Q: Be honest. Do you think the steampunk subculture is growing or shrinking?
A: There was an increase in numbers with the growing mainstream attention. As steampunk is becoming less ‘trendy’ the numbers are settling down but, in general, there seems to be an increase in core group numbers – at least locally. There also seems to be more people travelling to events, and an increase in the number of steampunk events throughout Australia. I also play internationally (at least when it comes to writing steampunk), and have a lot of steampunk writer friends in New Zealand, UK and Europe.
Q: Aside from your own work, what’s your favorite steampunk book series or individual novel?
A: I like ‘Soulless’ by Gail Carriger. I love her whimsical gadgets, her writing voice and the way she integrates the supernatural into her world.
Q: Cosplay seems to be an important part of the steampunk subculture. Why do you think steampunk fans enjoy cosplay so much?
A: I came to steampunk by way of costuming. For me, it is the challenge of researching and making period outfits – and then adding a fantastical twist. Dressing steampunk instils a sense of whimsy. I need more whimsy in my life. And, face it, the outfits are cool!
Q: What’s next for you?
A: A new challenge – a full length novel – the first of a new trilogy, with new characters and a new protagonist, Tillie Merriweather. (So I need to find a cover model.) This time it’s a steampunk adventure. The series, The Department of Curiosities, is set in the same steampunk alternate world, five years earlier than Doctor Jack. Then there’s a planned fantasy series and a few stand-alone books…
Q: I really enjoyed our conversation. It’s always nice to connect with other steampunk authors. You brought some interesting points to my attention. Good luck with your book series. It takes a lot of determination and effort to be a successful writer. I appreciate your hard work. Best wishes and hopefully we can talk again soon.
A: I’d love that.
That's the end of another fun interview. I hope you guys will support Karen's work. All of her work is available on Amazon and Kindle. I haven't decided on the topic for my next blog post yet. So, you'll have to wait and find out. I promise it will be equally interesting, fun, and weird as my other posts. Karen gave me some extra info and I'm going to post it below. Happy reading and enjoy your weekend!
Viola Stewart returns for a third set of adventures, The Illusioneer & Other Tales:
Viola needs a holiday. But, even at the beach, or while partying on the grand tour of Europe… there are things afoot.
Seeing is believing… or is it?
The Illusioneer & Other Tales: The Adventures of Viola Stewart Journal #3 is currently scheduled for release in late October/early November.
For more information, sign up for Karen’s newsletter: http://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’.
Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
Where to find Karen:
Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review
Welcome back! This is my review for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It's the sequel to a popular spy film and action flick called Kingsman: The Secret Service. 2017 is a hugely competitive year for action films. I have a lot of things to say about this movie. Like always, I'll cover the film's strengths and weaknesses. Keep reading to find out the full details.
I think it's always a good idea to start with the positive elements. My general opinion of the film is more positive than negative. First, I should probably start with a brief plot synopsis. Our protagonist named Eggsy Unwin is happy as a Kingsman, but everything goes downhill when someone destroys their headquarters and kills nearly every member of the organization. Technically, this doesn't count as a spoiler because the theatrical trailer shows this event in great detail. Anyway, Eggsy and Merlin are the sole survivors. They team up with the Statesman, the Kingsman's American counterparts. Major hijinks occur when they try to save the world from a drug cartel known as the Golden Circle.
This film is wacky and over the top. I mean that in a good way. The action scenes are so much fun and creative. You'll get to see the British gadgets and weapons from the first movie. There's also plenty of action from the American Statesmen with their cowboy lassos, pistols, and whips. I don't think this movie is going to get any recognition at the Academy Awards, but the special effects are excellent and the past pacing maintains a lot of entertainment value. The Golden Circle is stuffed with action scenes, but I don't consider that a bad thing. It's a big part of the franchise's charm. If you're going to see this film, prepare for a huge adrenaline rush.
I also thought the characters were very endearing. We get to see the Kingsman characters from the first movie like Eggsy (Taron Egerton), Sir Galahad (Colin Firth), and Merlin (Mark Strong). Collectively, they have a strong sense of teamwork and loyalty. Eggsy is a fun character who has plenty of flaws, but also a heart made of gold. Sir Galahad is still an excellent role model character, but he became damaged goods in this film to a certain extent. Those of you who saw the first Kingsman film probably don't understand why he's back in the sequel. Everything will make sense while the story progresses. Merlin is still a strong supporting character who maintains faith in their cause. I enjoyed several new characters, like the Statesman team. Agent Whisky was played by Pedro Pascal and he was awesome. He was a fun Americana caricature who kicked butt in a lot of action scenes. I also thought Halle Berry was quite good as Ginger Ale who's a tech officer on the Statesman crew. She's nerdy, compassionate, and a nice contrast to the other characters. Julianne Moore is delightful and hilarious as Poppy Adams, the main antagonist. On a surface level, she seems like a nice and bubbly lady who enjoys motifs from the 1950s. However, she's actually a drug leader, murderer, and psychopath. Basically, she wants recreational drugs to become legal and taxable. It's all about money. She's so wicked in a strange way and it totally works. Ironically, Elton John makes several appearances as himself. He's also really funny and it's probably best if I don't spoil anything else. I can't say enough good things about the characterization in this movie.
The Golden Circle has plenty of humor and wit. It's so naughty and politically incorrect, but most of the scenes aren't offensive. Some of the humor in the first movie was a tad offensive and they seemed to fix that problem in the sequel. Many of the action scenes have humorous elements. Even some of the death scenes are hilarious. The characterizations are brash and funny. You can't possibly feel bored with this movie. I'm sure you'll laugh at multiple scenes.
Like the first installment, The Golden Circle has some interesting concepts about morality. It will be very divisive for the audience because morality is a matter of interpretation. Overall, many of the characters have to make difficult choices and you might believe it's right or wrong. I won't give away the details, but you'll definitely think about it when these scenes appear. Personally, I appreciate the complex idea of morality in films. It engages the audience and makes them think on a critical level.
This film has an R rating, but it's very easy to watch. The violence is over the top, but it's not disturbing. There are some scenes with vulgar language, mild sexual content, and drug use. None of it compares to the material we see on HBO. This isn't much worse than the content we see on cable television. I consider this situation a good thing. Some films with an R rating are just violent and disturbing without any context. I guess some directors and producers enjoy making audiences uncomfortable. Nearly everything about this movie is entertaining and thank goodness.
Let's move to the less impressive elements. Unfortunately, the first movie is definitely better. It has a more substantial plot and a bigger impact. This one has some plot holes and inconsistencies. Some of the characters make odd and foolish choices that I didn't notice in the previous film. This movie is also too long. It's doesn't feel slow, but I don't understand why the film was two and a half hours long. I certainly don't believe the length was necessary for the plot. A flat two hours would be fine.
I was also flabbergasted with some of the death scenes. Apparently, Matthew Vaughn isn't afraid to kill his characters. None of the death scenes are particularly gruesome, but it's still shocking. He gets rid of some valuable and beloved characters. I'm not telling you who dies, but expect anything to happen. Supposedly, Matthew Vaughn is considering a third Kingsman film and a Statesman spinoff. Are there enough characters left to make these movies? I guess they'll figure out something.
That's a wrap for my review. How many of you guys are thinking about seeing The Golden Circle? Leave a comment and we can talk about it. I totally recommend this film. It might not be appropriate for younger viewers, but I don't understand why teenagers couldn't see it. I promise to write another cool post for next week. Be safe and have fun at the movies.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.