by Penny Blake

Soup of The Day: With Margaret McGaffey Fisk

 

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

 

Helping me this morning is storyteller Margaret McGaffey Fisk, author of The Steamship Chronicles.

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Good morning Margaret, thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Do let me take your coat my dear and…oh! What an adorable mechanical puppy you have with you!

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Hopefully he can scare off that dreadful clockwork cat that keeps sniffing about; it is a dreadful piece of gutter-wizardry! There, I have set him a little dish of oil on the rug. Now then, is that the lovely soup you have brought to share with us?

Yes! I was raised on a hearty pea soup myself. I think it would be wonderful to line urchin bellies especially if you have some butter crackers around that managed to avoid the recent soaking.

I certainly do, here we are…

I called on my mother for the exact recipe. I just hope I brought enough for everyone. Good thing dried peas can survive almost anything.

Christmas Eve Split Pea Soup

 

2 quarts boiling water

1 lb. split peas

1 medium carrot

1 stalk celery

1 white onion (optional)

 

Seasoning: 1 Bay leaf, 1/8 tsp Thyme, 1/8 tsp Savory, Salt & pepper.

 

Wash and quarter celery and carrot. Rinse split peas in cold water, drain and add with other veggies to boiling water. Season to taste. Boil moderately fast for 1-1/2 hours. More water may be added if necessary. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Take out bay leaf and blend until smooth.

 

P.S. My mother often puts in a cup of red wine for cooking. Also, when serving, she sometimes adds milk (and I always do ;)). The ham-flavored recipe just adds a ham shank or ham bone (rinsed) and added first to the boiling water. Then continue as above.

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire. I hope your journey was a good one, although I imagine you are quite used to travelling by now, like me you seem to have done rather a lot of it!

I had quite an exciting journey on the way over here, but then I always have fun travelling whether it’s down familiar paths or somewhere brand new. It’s all in the perspective. You never know when you’ll see a wild animal, bird, or even just some unexpected structure to tickle your fancy.

That is so very true! You certainly seem to have lived in some very exciting places, has that influenced your writing do you think?

Not a bit 😉 unless you consider the frequent forays into desert and Middle Eastern imagery, the prevalence of social and cultural clashes, and philosophies uncommon to American traditions. In other words, quite a lot. On an amusing side note, the greatest culture clash I personally experienced was my return to the United States both because the diplomatic community has guides to your new cultures and because I was believed to be native when, beyond visits to family, I hadn’t lived stateside since I was three or four.

You’ve written plenty of historical fiction but what started your interest in steampunk?

Both my grandfathers were tinkerers (at least that’s how I remember them), and I spent many a visit with my mom’s father in his basement workshop. As a reader, I’ve always been drawn to the mad scientist type of story starting with Jules Verne and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Long before I’d heard the term, I loved steampunk, even playing with dismantled travel clocks myself.

However, I never thought to write in the genre until a very special young woman introduced herself and explained her story. My characters come to me rather than the other way round, so even had I thought to write steampunk, I would have floundered until Samantha showed up. How could I turn down a tale rife with social and economic change, and unjust laws to boot? This was the little sister in Safe Haven, by the way. I didn’t meet Lily until later.

Their world and personal circumstances offer the perfect conjunction of a grand adventure or two with questions to encourage thought about how we define people and treat difference. I don’t seek to make a statement with my writing, but I’m definitely drawn to stories that both entertain and have something interesting to say.

I have read the prequel book in the Steamship chronicles, Safe Haven, and very much enjoyed it. It is a gripping and highly original steampunk adventure that centres around the lives of Lily and Henry as they struggle against the prejudices which place Lily’s sister in danger. Would you like to tell us a little more about it?

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Well, though Safe Haven is the prequel to The Steamship Chronicles and was written first, it came into being after Sam showed up demanding her story be told. I saw a call for short novellas that were steampunk romances and I thought I had nothing. After dismissing the idea, Sam pointed out she didn’t come from nowhere and would I like to meet her sister? That didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped because their story, when held to a tight word count, missed too much of the meat. A few years later, I went back and fleshed out the society until the novel, a mix of romance and adventure, was born.

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for Henry, a crusader born to what he thought to be the wrong age and the wrong social status. Little did he know he would stumble upon a duty every bit as important as his grandfather’s efforts to hide those suffering from religious persecution. I would never have thought the older sister and guardian of a Natural (a small group of talented people able to talk to and transform machines—for those new to The Steamship Chronicles) would be drawn to a police officer, and had Henry been a normal man, I doubt she would have been. He might not have any supernatural abilities, but he’s a very special person who believes everyone has the right to be happy, regardless of class or circumstance.

And do the other books in the series continue this storyline, or do we move on to new characters within the same world?

The answer to this is yes … to both. There is an eight-year gap between the prequel and the series, giving Sam time to grow from a precocious child to an equally intense young woman. As is true of any good romance, Lily and Henry end up together, sharing the welcome task of protecting Lily’s little sister. But when it’s no longer possible, they send Sam off to the safe haven Lily and Sam had been working toward in the prequel. The first three books in the series focus on Sam’s journey in search of a place where she can be accepted for who she is. This introduces a whole cast of new characters, including Nathaniel Bowden. He is a cabin boy determined to learn all he can about sailing and steamships so he can captain a ship of his own someday. I have always loved the sea, and Nat is the embodiment of that joy. Lily and Henry remain in England, while Sam sets off for unknown lands. They are present only in the beginning of Secrets, but the second volume of three books (only Life and Law has been released as of yet and I’m currently writing the third) follow Henry’s attempts to end the persecution of all Naturals in England now that he won’t risk Sam’s safety doing so. As you might guess, they discover more than just legal hurdles oppose them, making their path a full adventure in its own right, peopled by some familiar and some new faces. I’ll even note, while Henry’s policing days are far behind him, his former team has an important role to play in this second volume as well.

Is the series finished or will there be more?

The series will ultimately be composed of three volumes and somewhere between seven and nine books. Only the first volume is complete, and the second just begun, so the series is not over quite yet. I also have some other stories in mind that are set in the same world with some character crossover for when this one is finished. I’m having far too much fun to walk away, and I hope my readers feel the same.

And do you have any new projects, appearances or releases in the coming months?

I’m on the verge of releasing the third in my Seeds Among the Stars series. While far future science fiction rather than steampunk, some of the same themes make an appearance there, and it’s definitely an adventure though of a very different sort. The main character in the first book fights her way out of the lowest class on a low-tech colony, not always making the right decisions, but determined and with a good heart. She shares the leading role in the later books with Deluth, who is ship-bred and has little experience with colony life.

The fifth Steamship Chronicles should also be out later this year, continuing Lily and Henry’s story as they leave the English shores for the Continent in search of Sam, among other goals.

Finally, if you enjoyed the sweet romance in Safe Haven, the fourth in my Regency sweet romance series, Uncommon Lords and Ladies will be released this year as well.

For those in (or visiting) the San Francisco Bay Area, California, I will be a panelist at BayCon 2017 over Memorial Day weekend, a convention focused on all things science fiction and fantasy: http://baycon.org/bcwp/.

Oh splendid, that sounds like lots to look forward to! And where can we find your books for sale?

I go where the readers are so you can find my books at the main online stores: Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, etc. If you’re a paper aficionado, all book-length works are available in paper both online and by order in your favorite bookstores. You can find links to many options on my website, which lists the anthologies and short stories I have out as well: http://margaretmcgaffeyfisk.com/publications/.

For those intrigued about The Steamship Chronicles, you should know Secrets (the first in that series) is free in eBook at all the main online stores.

Splendid! And now the all important question, upon which the fate of the universe may hinge – the kettle is singing so, what is your favourite hot brew and how do you take it?

I have to name just one? If so, it must be a traditional Masala chai, spiced and steeped very dark with cream, just one more influence of my vagabond childhood. Sacrilege, I know, because properly done, it’s steeped all day in the spices and tea leaves. I can’t remember which of the first volume books, but one of them has a tiny joke about the differences between tea steeping across cultures.

Oh I completely agree with you about the Masala Chai my dear! Well thankyou so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Margaret, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Absolutely. Mustn’t keep hungry bellies empty. I do so hope you will answer the question of “please, [Miss], can I have some more?” with a full soup bowl and a smile.

But of course! Besides the seaweed they scavenge from the shoreline, this soup is the only sustenance the poor darlings have.

Thank you for having me. It’s been a delight, and always grand to enjoy a thick soup with eager company. If you’d like to explore any of my worlds a little more or just say “hi”, feel free to drop in at my website, http://margaretmcgaffeyfisk.com/ . I’m always happy to see new faces.

Wonderful, well thankyou once again Margaret for helping me today, I hope you will all join me again next week when Mr Ichabod Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt will be joining me to help dish up some tasty soup so, until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 responses

  1. Delightful as always, and looking forward to next week’s offering. Just ordered my free copy of volume 1 of The Steamship Chronicles to my bulging Kindle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    February 22, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    • smithandskarry1

      Thankyou Jan! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, it really is a lovely book and I’ll be reviewing the next in the series soon as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 27, 2017 at 4:16 pm

  2. Pingback: A Fun Interview and Book Giveaway | Tales to Tide You Over

  3. Reblogged this on Darswords and commented:
    Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    March 1, 2017 at 1:48 am

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