Q: Is V.S. Velde a pseudonym?
A: Certainly sounds like one, doesn't it?
Q: Okay, why use a pseudonym?
A: I've written some more 'literary' works that I'm very proud of, some published, some unpublished. But I have a difficult time turning off that inner critic that is conscious of the sort of writer I am and the sort of writer I most idealize. I've found it liberating to approach this behind a pseudonym as a way of silencing that particular inner critic.
Q: What are you trying to accomplish with your steampunk work?
A: I want to tell emotionally and morally complex stories within a steampunk world. Victoriana, colonialism, darwinism, industrialism, these are all fascinating cultural movements, but I'm focused on how they impact individual stories.
Q: How steampunky is Blue Caldera?
A: I tend to like Mike Perschon's opinion that Steampunk is an aesthetic, rather than a genre. And there are elements of this aesthetic. Gadgets? Yes, although in some cases early electrical rather than steam. Airships? They exist in this world, although they don't play a role in this story. Otherworldly elemental forces? Perhaps! Googles? They haven't come up yet. But there are also primitive electronic devices, code-breaking machines, and a lot of time spent on funiculars. I'm positioning the world of Blue Caldera as being slightly pre-steampunk. I hope to trace rise of steampunk elements within my world over the course of multiple stories. There are things that emerge only as experiments in this novel which will hopefully be the foundation for technologies in future stories. But my take on steampunk is also, I think, unusually gothic in tone.
Q: Gothic? Does this have paranormal elements?
A: No. Although for what it's worth, I'm very interested in ideas of myth and folklore, and the way that we use those things as metaphors always plays a role - sometimes an important role - in my writing. When I talk about it being gothic, it is about gothic mood: Less wood and polished brass, more slate-grey stone and heavily patinated copper.
Q: Is it set within an alternate history?
A: Imagine a world in which Christopher Columbus sailed West and ended up in the Philippines. Where there is no North or South America, just a vast atlantic that covers half the globe. Now, imagine a tiny archipeligo of volcanic islands, roughly halfway between Japan and England, approximately where Yellowstone lies today. This is the Hudson Archipelago, aka the Blue Caldera.
I don't treat this as a thought experiment - what would it be like if the Americas did not exist? Rather, I was interested in crafting a setting that had isolation, political importance, and a specific mix of cultures; I then worked backwards to craft a world and history behind the setting. As alternate histories go, I recognize that this is backwards to the way that they are usually one. But it was appropriate to this project.
Q: You mentioned it is a detective story.
A: Yes, it is very much a detective story. I love the structure of detective stories, and their potential for exploring the complexity of morality and justice. It is not simply about finding out whodunnit: it is about how one person attempts to restore moral order in a world where such a reckoning may be impossible. I've always been preoccupied with questions of moral philosophy in my writing, and a couple years ago I began to realize that detective stories - a genre I had always enjoyed but never attempted to write - were the ideal form for exploring some of these questions. I enjoyed both the planning and writing of this novel immensely and am looking forward to giving my young protagonist some more mysteries to grapple with.
Q: What are your influences?
A: In literature, they are diverse as Jose Saramago to Raymond Chandler to Charlotte Bronte to Mervyn Peake.
Q: What's the image of waves on the background of this site?
A: Storm Breakers, by David James (1853-1904).