Cherie Priest has written ghost stories, monster stories, tales of the Elder Gods, urban fantasy and steampunk, but she is probably best known for the EDEN MOORE series, and for Boneshaker and the subsequent books in her CLOCKWORK CENTURY series. The Inexplicables, the fifth book in that series, was released earlier this fall. In addition to moving from Seattle to Chattanooga, Tennessee, Priest just finished up a book promotion tour, but she found time in her schedule to answer a few of my questions for Fanlit. Priest has donated an autographed copy of The Inexplicables for one random commenter (with a U.S. address) to win.
Marion Deeds: You have the EDEN MOORE series, the CHESHIRE RED REPORTS with Raylene Pendel, and the CLOCKWORK CENTURY series, which right now seems to be the most active. Did I miss any? What do you like most about each series? What is the most challenging about each?
Cherie Priest: No, that’s all of them — except for a few one-offs here and there. I love them all equally, if differently. I’m a huge ghost story nut, which is my favorite thing about the EDEN series; I enjoyed writing the humor of the CHESHIRE books; and constructing the alternate history of the CC books has been an entertaining exercise. That having been said, those are each the things I found most challenging about each set.
Marion: The beauty of the CLOCKWORK CENTURY books is that you can set them anywhere in the continental United States, and you seem to be doing that. The Inexplicables goes back to the roots of the series, with a return to Seattle. One of the themes of The Inexplicables is how to develop a pioneer society. Is that intentional? Do you consciously pick themes for each of the books?
Cherie: The theme usually develops somewhat organically, and/or I figure it out about halfway through — then have to go back and make sure it’s clear and consistent throughout. Actually, the theme I had in mind for The Inexplicables was the idea of what (and who) can or should be saved. There’s the question of saving Rector, front and center; but it runs alongside the question of whether the city might be saved, and at what expense.
Marion: I was happy to see Angelina Sealth play such a big role in The Inexplicables. Angelina is a person who existed in our history, but was obviously different from your interpretation. (Because, after all, no zombies.) How did you develop her character?
Cherie: By all reports, she was quite a character in real life. I only exaggerated what I’d heard, and modified it slightly to give her more autonomy and authority within the alternate-history version of her father’s city.
Marion: You create a powerful sense of place in your books, but I feel it especially strongly in Boneshaker and The Inexplicables. Any tips for how to go about doing that?
Cherie: I find it terribly difficult to write about places I’ve never been — and I think (I hope?) I write best about places I know very well.
Marion: How do you research an area?
Cherie: Hmm… I read a lot of nonfiction, I guess, and I like to visit “local attractions” and whatnot. Eventually, just living in a place for a while, you sort of acquire the information via osmosis. And once you know a few particulars, you can always dig for information via the library, a bookstore, the internet, etc.
Marion: In the CLOCKWORK CENTURY books, the main characters often have to work with people they don’t particularly trust. In The Inexplicables, for example, Angelina has to work with Yaozu. She makes an interesting comment about him, that he might be evil, but he knows how to run a city. What do you think about pragmatism as a driver in pioneer societies?
Cherie: Yaozu is a different kind of pioneer, an expatriate who’s carved out his own fief in a place no one wants… until it turns out that there’s a huge amount of money to be made. He wouldn’t survive long — nor would the city — under the guidance of someone who isn’t prepared to make difficult, brutal choices.
Marion:You’ve got the dangers in Seattle, the ongoing civil war, and espionage. What can we expect in the next CLOCKWORK CENTURY book?
Cherie: The next CLOCKWORK CENTURY book goes back east, to Washington D.C. You can expect that the Civil War will end, one way or another — and there shall be espionage, mad (but good) science, pirates, politics, and other assorted mayhem.
Marion: Well, I am looking forward to that! Is there ever going to be another EDEN MOORE book? I have to ask.
Cherie: I don’t know. The first book did respectably, but the sequels didn’t sell very well; at present, they’ve recently been released in the UK. If they sell well enough over there, there’s always the chance an English company might approach me about writing more.
Cherie: See above re: the EDEN books. Thus far, they haven’t sold well enough in the US to warrant any further sequels; but they were also released in the UK this year, and you never do know. If they take off in another market, there’s always a chance.
Marion: It’s off the topic of writing, but I notice on your blog and Facebook that you are active in animal rescue and pet-fostering. (Or maybe animals just find you!) Can you tell us a little bit about that? Do social media help with that activity?
Cherie: Stray animals — cats, in particular — can smell a sucker a mile away, and yes, it was raining kittens for awhile there. I’m fortunate enough to have an audience online (and many local friends) who are the animal-friendly sort, and so far, I’ve successfully placed all my unexpected charges.
The internet is very helpful in this regard, as it spreads the word and ups the potential adoption pool; and since I’m typically willing to pay veterinary expenses and/or drive significant distances to put critters in new homes, people are sometimes willing to take a chance on a new family member when the distance or initial expense might otherwise be prohibitive.
Marion: That makes me curious about the monster in The Inexplicables. It seems that you also like “monsters,” and that you redeem them in your books. Just what is your position on monsters? :)
Cherie: Oh, I don’t always redeem them. But the monster in Inexplicables is one more tie-in to the book’s overall theme: Can it be redeemed? And should it? Angeline and Zeke think it’s worth a shot; Houjin and Rector are less confident.
As for how I feel about redeeming them in general… I try to take it on a case-by-case basis. Not all monsters are created equal. :)
Marion: Where can we go to find out if there are upcoming promotional tours or appearances?
Cherie: Already home from the tour, thank heavens — but all future travel is listed on my webpage.
Marion: Thanks for chatting with me, Cherie!
Readers, one commenter with a U.S. address will win an autographed copy of The Inexplicables.