Oct 2 2009 2:44pm

Hello and Good Morning (Technically. Here in West Coast Time)

I’m tempted to make a dorky joke to the tune of [:: tap tap ::] “Is this thing on?” But I’ll restrain myself. Sort of. The truth of it is, I always feel a little weird when guest-blogging—much less in front of an audience the size of this one. I’m always afraid I’ll say something to embarrass my host, or reveal a gaping black hole of personal ignorance.

But was kind enough to invite me, here on the cusp of my fifth novel from Tor Books, Boneshaker. So here I go, game and happy to give it a whirl.

As a matter of general introduction—and to get the obligatory self-promotion out of the way—I figured I’d natter on a bit about this new book and how it came to be; and thereby warn you about what you might expect from me over the next few weeks.

To lay it down personal-ad style: I’m a history dork and an alternate-history nerd. I like to ask “what if?” and give honest consideration to wacky conspiracy theories. I’m fond of pirates, clandestine societies, adventure pulp, mad scientists, and hats. I love short sprints on the beach and overly elaborate goggles. I brake for zombies. But then I rev the engine and hit the gas.

Shall we then?

Pick a genre book—any genre, any book—and the cover will probably provide a satisfactory shorthand for where it ought to be shelved. Wizards, elves, and knights? You’ve got yourself a fantasy novel. Fangs and a matte black background? Horror. And so forth.

But a couple of years ago when I began working on Boneshaker, I couldn’t name many meaningful signifiers that screamed out “steampunk.” Oh there were goggles, sure—but no one seemed to have a good explanation for what the goggles were for apart from leaving a sweaty crease above your eyebrows. The delightful preponderance of Victorian garb was striking and fun, but the gas masks left me scratching my head. Gears made sense, even on top hats, I supposed. Watch chains were shiny, so, you know. Cool.

However, the odd goggle-wearing, retro-dressing, hat-decorating pocket-watch toter might be mistaken for a goth at a glance. In fact, my friend Jess Nevins once repeated that he’d heard steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown. While this assessment oversimplifies the matter, it’d be silly to pretend that there isn’t a great deal of overlap between the two scenes.

So. As an aging quasi-goth with a deep-seated interest in steampunk, I wanted to take an honest stab at the genre—giving it legs, or at least giving its stranger elements a literary excuse to complement the fashion imperative.

Boneshaker began this way, as an idle exercise—a noodling experiment. But like so many projects, I had no idea when I began exactly how far it would take me ... or how weird it would get.

I started out with only a few concrete demands: I wanted this story to be American, and not London gaslamp; I wanted to write about people, not about a world-setting; but I needed for the people to by symptomatic of that world-setting.

Also, I wanted zombies.

The world came first. Nineteenth-century America was strange enough without any interference from yours truly, but I imagined it as if the Civil War had lingered—and the west was not incorporated, or organized. I thought of Texas, and how it might have remained a republic. I wondered how the Confederacy could’ve held on, and how the Union would’ve restructured, and what the war would’ve looked like decades down the line—when most of the men who’d started fighting it were dead, and their sons were fighting over grievances they were too young to remember firsthand.

Piece by piece the Clockwork Century came together, and on that foundation I found people with stories to tell. I found former slaves and air pirates, criminal overlords and Native American princesses. I found a deranged scientist or two. And eventually I found Briar Wilkes—the widow of a madman, mother of a runaway, and daughter of a dead folk hero.

Boneshaker is her story. And like steampunk itself, Boneshaker is about rummaging through the wreckage of the past and finding something worth salvaging, and maybe even worth celebrating. So if you take a chance on my new book, I do hope you enjoy it. If it’s half as much fun to read as it was to write, I’ll consider the whole noodling experiment a grand success.

Cherie Priest is the author of seven novels from Tor books and Subterranean Press, including the award-winning Eden Moore series, Dreadful Skin, and Fathom.  Her most recent book, Boneshaker, was released on September 29th by Tor.

This article is part of Steampunk Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Herb Schaltegger
1. LameLefty
I am very much looking forward to reading your new book! So much so, in fact, that I looked for a Kindle edition to take with me to the beach this week but alas, there is no such edition. :-(
2. cmpriest
LameLefty - Thank you so much! And for what it's worth, I've been told that the Kindle edition is coming sometime soon -- hopefully within a few days. If it's not up by Monday, I'll do as instructed and poke at the Tor folks to see if there's been a problem.
Herb Schaltegger
3. LameLefty
Woohoo! With luck, I'll buy if FROM the beach! Thanks for the info. :-D
4. NebsiNsaNe
Wow. Just wow. I've always been interested in Steampunk but never interested enough to read alt history stories about it, but the way you set everything up Im about ready to head to the bookstore for this. Sharing a bit of this article with the wife already has her asking if there are any more book.. I think you may have just made two new fans! ^_^

Oh, and off topic, who was your cover illustrator? Its also very good work.
5. cmpriest
Hi there NebsiNsaNe! And thanks tremendously for your interest. There will be two more books at least, CLEMENTINE (though Subterranean) and DREADNOUGHT (through Tor), both coming next year sometime. For more information, check out this website:

As for the cover art, it was done by Jon Foster, who shall drink for free in my presence forevermore ... :)
Michael Curry
6. mcurry
Okay, I'll ask, why zombies? Yes, they're very awesome, but what made you think of them as a necessary element of your first steampunk novel?
7. cmpriest
Dude. Why NOT zombies?
I just ... I like 'em, okay?

Sheesh ...

9. The Literary Omnivore
I was so excited to read Boneshaker after I saw it in Publishers Weekly a few months ago that I ran down to my favorite independent bookstore to see if they had ordered it the week before it was released. I bought their only copy! (It is currently in high demand in my social circle.)

I can't wait to read it. Not only does it hit alternate history and steampunk, both genres I've been interested in for a while, but it also hits a storyline I love set against a fantastical background- a woman searching for her child. Briar sounds like such a great heroine.
10. cmpriest
@The Literary Omnivore - Thank you so much! I really hope you enjoy it (and that everyone else in your social circle does too!).

Suzanne W
11. Alecto
I am so excited to read this book. I wish I could justify tearing into it right now, but I have a bad habit of doing that while I'm reading six other things. Which... I am. So I'm making it a reward for finishing two of the books in my currently-reading stack before adding another. (It is, however, jumping ahead of everything on my To Be Read stack.)
12. Barbed1951
The more I hear about Boneshaker, the more I want it. I'm probably going to be making a run to B&N tomorrow to look for it. Thanks for an interesting peek at how the book came to be.
Erika A.
13. brownjawa
I just received a copy of Boneshaker as a gift and can't wait to get started! I run a book blog and am eager to review a steampunk book. :)
14. mityorkie
Goggles are used for welding and for piloting vehicles with open-air/unrefined cockpits. These two activities seem to form the stereotypical basis of steampunk.
15. Lincoln Crisler
Got my copy in the mail today!! SQUEEEE! And I'm totally blowing off everything in my TBR pile after finishing the one review I've obligated myself to. SQUEEEEE!!

Oh, and before I forget...

Leigh Butler
16. leighdb
mityorkie @14:

And also, for driving horseless carriages, so the velocity doesn't RIP YOUR EYES OUT. Heh.
April Vrugtman
17. dwndrgn
@ leighdb - ha!

@ Cmpriest: I've had Boneshaker on my To Read list for quite some time. Your post (and the image of the cover - nice) have reconfirmed why it is currently on my list, thank you!
18. cmpriest
Thank you so much everyone - and I very much hope that you enjoy BONESHAKER. I'm glad to hear that you're so excited about it!

@mityorkie - I was half joking about the goggles. I tackle a more honest answer about them over in my Steampunk FAQ on's page. :)
19. sqt
I just finished "Boneshaker" last night and all I can say is wow! Great, great book. So impressed.
Sassy Brit
20. Sassy
I think including zombies with this book is a fantastic idea. They are very "in" at the moment, but to mix that with Steampunk is totally awesome!

Good luck with your sales, although I'm sure you don't need it. Good luck, that is, not sales. :)

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