by Penny Blake

Soup of the day with steampunk author Gill McKnight

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since those dreadful land pirates , 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 author Gill McKnight! Good morning Gill, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your hat and miscellaneous weaponry? I do apologise for the heat in here but I must keep the fire burning even in this weather!

Good morning, Mrs Baker. It’s a pleasure to help out and I don’t mind the heat at all. It’s good for the wet beriberi.

 

Indeed! Now then, have a seat here by the window where it is a little cooler. How was your journey here from your own dimension? Did you come by time machine, or is your camper van wired for inter-dimensional travel?

On the number 9 bus. I waited hours for the dirigible before they finally told is it was cancelled due to seagulls?

Ah yes, we have similar problems here with the Liver Birds but that number nine is always reliable. Ah, now I see you have  brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans!

Yes, I brought my famous chickpea and turpentine soup. It cleanses as it nourishes and makes your colon sparkle.

Oh how…er….interesting! Goodness I think it is making my nostrils sparkle already! Now while that is simmering away nicely, filling the bakery with its fumes, why don’t you tell me a little more about your steampunk adventure The Tea Machine, have you brought a copy with you to show us?

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I once had a history teacher who postulated that if the Romans had manged to use steam as a power source other than for bathing, then with their verve and vim we’d all be living on Mars by now. The advances would have been mind-blowing with the right power in the right hands at the right time.

Marvellous, I know that Max and Collin enjoyed it very much indeed! What lured you in to writing in the steampunk genre? Was it the tea?

Tea and crinoline – the ying and yang of any well-kept parlour. What could possibly go wrong when these two forces get together.

Oh absolutely!

Also, there are some fantastic authors out there who get the Oolong flowing. I’m thinking of Gibson, Powers, Carriger, Reeve, Priest, and Blaylock, the list is endless. They all acted as catalysts to my imagination.

The story is full of believable, loveable characters, particularly Weena the giant space squid! Do you have a personal favourite, or are they all your ‘darlings’?

It’s so unfair to have favourites, but I do have a slight preference for Millicent. Mostly because she shoulders the plot and drives it through all sorts of rubbish. Such a trooper – every author needs one.

The story takes us from the Victorian era to the height of the Roman Empire, two very different settings which you capture the essence of perfectly, did you have to do much research to inform your writing?

I tend to make it all up. If I so much as open Wikileeki, or anything like it, or go browsing this or googling at that, I lose hours of writing time. Really the internet is a time travel machine in its own right, in that the present seems to disappear whenever I open it.

And it should be obvious I dig deep into the cannons of Rider Haggard, H.G. Wells, Lovecraft, Melville, and, of course, Nora Roberts.

There is plenty of frivolity, humour and whimsy woven into your steampunk world but you skilfully manage to draw the reader’s attention to a lot of important issues such as equality, exploitation, industrialisation and religion and how seemingly innocent things –like tea – can be manipulated to satisfy greed and power lust. Do you think it is important for science fiction / steampunk to challenge and expose these issues?

It’s the nature of the beast. I think steampunk authors naturally go against the flow. The inversion of historical norms can’t help but throw up closer inspection and commentary. And science fiction has a long pedigree of commenting on the nature of humanity and the world around us.

Now you have hooked us all in with the first book and left us on a splendid cliff hanger, when can we get our hands on the next book in the series?

Parabellum is pencilled in for 2018. I have too much on my plate to bring it in any earlier. I write full time now and somehow seem to manage to produce less? Why is that?

And where else can we find your writing?

www.gillmcknightwrites and www.dirtroadbooks.com should do the trick.

Marvellous! Do you have any other new releases or events coming up soon?

A contemporary lesbian romance this May, and part five of my Werewolf series this July. Why was I complaining above?

So plenty to look forward to then! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dear, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I do hope you will come and talk to us again when Parabellum is released! Now then, I must say that soup really does smell like it must be about ready, even with the window open it is making my eyes water! Shall we start dishing it up?

I’ve enjoyed myself today, Mrs Baker. Thank you so much for inviting me over to help. The little, rickety orphans are a joy to behold. Could you pass me that ladle, please?

Certainly! You know I think I will keep a jarful back for next time my flame-throwing parasol runs out of juice, or perhaps when the landlord calls…

Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today I hope you will join me again next week so until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

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