Stuart Conover (SC): First off I’d love if you could share with my readers what your upcoming novel ‘Climate Change’ is about?
Daniel Durrant (DD): ‘Climate Change’ is set in the Victorian era of the British Empire, but not as we know it. The discovery of a new element brings the Empire ever-greater power, and has turned technology onto a different, and very dangerous, path. This leads to an attempt to clear the frozen Northwest Passage for shipping, but some factions are determined the scheme must fail.
SC: What draws you to the steampunk genre?
DD: Oddly, although I’ve always loved the steampunk vibe, it never occurred to me to write it. Then the ideas that underpin ‘Climate Change’ popped into my mind, and it just seemed a natural fit. The genre ties in with my interests and the things I (hopefully!) do well. My work always has an element of horror, which blends into the genre nicely. I love imagining the technology. A big part of the appeal for me is that I love history and alternative history in particular – I’ve read many of those “what-if” historical essays, and had immense fun creating the world depicted in the novel.
SC: What research did you use to help set the mood and location?
DD: Realism (within genre rules) is very important to me, so there was a lot of work. The core of the novel, and hence much of the mood, is drawn from the (real) doomed Franklin expedition of 1845. Since it’s a pet subject of mine, I really wanted to do it justice, and revisited a lot of material to blend historical fact into the tale. Location is arguably the single most important element of ‘Climate Change’ – the brutal environment is an enemy in itself, so much of the novel was written with a map of the Northwest Passage pinned to the wall. I even ended up reading a piece on how pack ice forms!
SC: Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?
DD: Edward Rankine is an engineer by trade, and I let that determine who he is. Very clever people are often a bit introverted – Edward might be a genius, but he’s naïve, doesn’t like social situations and is clueless when it comes to the opposite sex. He is definitely not the clichéd tough guy – his mind is his best weapon. I think what makes him special is that he has the will to do things that terrify him – he’s much stronger than he realizes. An ordinary person will do extraordinary things if they care about something enough, and that is the position Edward finds himself in.
SC: Where do your ideas come from?
DD: I always find this really hard to explain! I think most of my ideas come from a posing a ‘what-if’ question when something draws my interest. Sometimes it’ll be a news story – I’ll start to wonder ‘what if that plane crash wasn’t an accident?’ Sometimes it’ll be a historical matter – particularly a bit of unsolved history, which is probably why the Franklin expedition fascinates me. Then the question becomes – ‘what if things had gone differently – what would the world be like?’ Basically I think all writers have an excess of imagination – I couldn’t stop having ideas even if I wanted to.
SC: Do you write full-time or part-time? (If part-time add in: When do you fit in your writing?)
DD: Very definitely part-time, since my day job is quite demanding. I make time for writing most evenings and every weekend. My work involves some travel, so many pages have been done in hotel rooms – which can be good, actually, as I’m away from distractions.
SC: What are your ambitions for your writing career? What do you have planned for the future?
DD: The end game would be the opportunity to write full time, but that is a massive challenge. For now, I’m happy to keep developing as a writer. Seeing ‘Climate Change’ published was marvelous, and I’m currently working on the sequel. I feel the world I’ve created has potential, and I want to see what else comes from it.
SC: What is your ideal writing environment? What helps get you in the mood and mindset for writing? More specifically what does your writing process look like?
DD: My normal writing environment is a tiny office room built into my house. There are no distractions – my view is looking straight at a beige wall. It’s a confined space with room only for what I need to write – me, the desk, the computer, my files. Depending on the time of day, either coffee or beer will be on the desk. I try to get ready to write during the day – I drive a lot in my work, and I often use that time to think through ideas so that I’m keen to get them down when I arrive home. I would say my writing process is quite a ‘tight’ one – I can’t just throw it on the page like some writers (I wish I could). I tend to revise as I go, so that the writing is 80-90% done on the first draft. It’s slower, but I guess the trade-off is that the work is more developed early on.
SC: Do you have any advice for other writers who are writing in or who want to write in the genre?
DD: I’d shy away from detailed advice because I’m not sure I’m qualified at this stage. One thing I would say is that Steampunk, perhaps more than any other genre, is driven by pure, unbridled imagination. The rules are whatever you say they are – nothing is off the table. So maybe my advice would be: don’t be afraid. Anything you can imagine, no matter how crazy, can find a home in Steampunk.
SC: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
DD: I do work in quite a tightly controlled fashion, otherwise I find things can get away from me. I start by writing background notes, and then create a plot planner (I find spreadsheets quite good for this). That gives me a framework I can use to guide everything. Having said that, it will always change a bit, because you get better ideas along the way. Also, characters have an annoying habit of behaving in ways that might not fit the master plan! So it’s a bit of both.
SC: Who are your three favorite authors or books that you would recommend to readers of your work?
DD: I’ll pick out a few that I’ve loved. I’d recommend the ‘Northland’ trilogy by Stephen Baxter. He’s best known for straight sci-fi, but this alternative history epic is amazing. I adored John Ajvide Lindqvist’s ‘Let The Right One In’; the way he takes a horror trope and spins it into something different is very, very clever. Finally, I’ll recommend the ‘Projekt Saucer’ series by W A Harbinson. He created an alternative, and wonderfully dark, explanation for UFO phenomena.
SC: Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so how do you deal with it?
DD: I’m a bit suspicious of writer’s block; I think perhaps it’s a convenient name we’ve invented for other problems. Don’t get me wrong, I struggle just as much as everyone else, but I think you just have to get on with it. If I genuinely hit an impasse on a manuscript, I leave that scene and work on a different one. Past that, I’ll hit something else – work on a short story, do some research etc. I find a change of focus often solves the issue. It’s like the whole memory problem thing – if you just can’t recall something, the best thing to do is forget about it for a while. Then it suddenly comes to you.
SC: Do you have any other information for my readers who may be interested in finding out more about you or your writing?
DD: All my work is available through Amazon, and you can find out more at the following –
“Phantom Street!” the driver bellowed, stopping the tram. “Last stop before the docks, ladies and gentlemen!”
Edward dallied whilst curiosity fought common sense. Delaying here posed a risk, but he thought a short visit would be safe enough. As a hiss of steam signaled the tram’s departure, curiosity scored a knockout blow. He had to see.
He leapt down as the tram pulled away, his boots crumping into fresh snow.
“Shilling for a tour, sir?” an urchin offered, stepping into his path. “I know all the best ghosts, and you’ll need no Medium to see them!”
Filthy children gathered behind the boy, forming up like a wolf pack. Although he knew far more than any guide could tell him, it seemed non-payment would buy trouble.
“I have no need of a tour,” Edward said, flipping him the shilling. “But get yourself a decent meal, eh?” He moved on before they tried to repeat the tactic.
The street was fascinating. The positions of long-gone streetlamps were marked by permanent shadows on the wall. A ladder climbed a building two stories high, but existed only in silhouette. Then he saw the first phantom, unmistakably a woman. A few paces later he saw a child. They looked vaguely like life-size daguerreotypes, but each exposure was the remains of a living person, the developing agent the intense energy of the decay excursion. Vaporized in the blast, these indelible images were all that remained of them. It was as if their very souls had been burned into the masonry.
Sickened, he backed away.
“Don’t move,” a voice grated.
“I-” he began. The heavy click of a gun being cocked sounded behind him. Those damned kids, he thought. He felt a hand in his back pocket. “Take it,” he said, unwilling to risk death over a few pounds.
“Give it back.”
“Eh?” Edward turned to find a teenage boy holding his wallet in one hand, and a knife in the other. Behind him, a figure wrapped in furs held a revolver to his head.
Very slowly, the boy passed the money back.
“Go.” A wave of the pistol reinforced the command.
The boy nodded, and ran. He disappeared into an alley.
“Sir, my sincere thanks.” Edward ducked, trying to make eye contact under the hood, but a gas mask blocked his view. The stranger looked like a scout, perhaps in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company. “If you had not-”
“Sir?” his savior repeated. “Do I really smell that bad?”
The stranger pulled back the hood, revealing long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. The mask came off next. Underneath was one of the most beautiful women Edward had ever seen. He opened his mouth, but closed it again without speaking.
“Are you alright?”
Her English was perfect, but laced with an odd accent. She certainly wasn’t local, though; no one here was blessed with the vivid health evidenced by her flawless complexion.
“Ah – we should move on,” Edward stumbled. “This is no place for a lady.”
“I see chauvinism manages to flourish even in the harsh climate of the frontier.”
“Chauvinism? No, you misunderstand, madam. I meant not the street, but the whole town. Badash isn’t safe for ladies. The enervating remnant, you know. I’m concerned for your constitution, not female sensibilities.”
“You sound like a doctor.”
“Indeed, although one of engineering. Doctor Edward Rankine. I should say at your service, but it seems to be the other way around.” God, she’s beautiful. As he recovered, instinct asserted itself. Try to be charming, it said. He couldn’t walk away without her name, at least. “And who may I thank for my rescue?”
“I’m Charlotte. My friends call me Charlie.”
“Charlotte,” he repeated, reveling in the familiarity of her first name. “Well, if I may presume – Charlie, then I-”
A series of horn blasts echoed across town. Even a mile away from the docks, they were loud enough for the Royal Navy signal to be distinct.
“The Dominator,” he groaned, looking at his watch. “She’s preparing to leave. I have to go.”
“Then perhaps you could escort me. For my safety,” she added, with a sly smile.
“You have passage booked?” Edward tried not to show his surprise. How can someone of the working class afford that?
“My father arranged it,” she said, setting off.
“So what brings you into town?” The question was an irrelevance; he just wanted an excuse to talk with her.
“Oh, a business venture. We can cut through here, I think,” she said, leading him down a narrow alley.
It delivered them into a chaotic marketplace. It contained hundreds of stalls, but there had been no discernible attempt to set them out to any kind of plan.
“This way,” she yelled, heading into the labyrinth.
The array of goods was bewildering. There was food of every kind, some of it still alive. Traders hawked everything from household supplies to spare machine parts. Artisans offered repairs. The next few stalls were curtained-off, and Edward was mystified as to their function until he heard the noises that came forth. They supply a different kind of service altogether, he thought.
“I wouldn’t touch those,” he cautioned, as Charlotte eyed a vendor offering grilled sausages. “Everything is tainted.”
“And for many years to come. Eat after you board.”
“The snow is the only clean thing here,” she muttered, moving on.
It was literally true. Aside from the few surviving buildings on Phantom Street, Badash was new, built on the ruins of York Factory. The town had yet to see its tenth birthday, but seemed decrepit already. Dysfunction was everywhere, extending even into the cells of plants and animals. Including the people, he thought, looking at a deformed child. Realizing Charlotte had pushed on, he gave chase.
Another alleyway led down to the harbor. Dockers toiled, loading boats, but none of the ship’s tenders were present.
“Come on!” he shouted, running for the pulley railway. Asking for a pier number was superfluous; the battle-cruiser occupied the entire length of the harbor’s main jetty.
On the ride out, Edward tried to glimpse the modifications that were his design. All space forward was taken by three quadruple turrets. They began to pass the castle, but before the stern became visible, the ship was lost in a fog bank of her own making.
“She has decay engines?” Charlotte asked, watching steam engulf the superstructure.
“Yes, four.” He pointed at the cooling towers. “I can arrange a tour if you’d like,” he offered, hoping to impress.
“Yes.” She smiled. “I would.”
After hopping off at the loading pavilion, they pushed through the crowd and showed their papers to the Royal Marine manning the embarkation point. He directed them toward the nearest elevator, but as they approached, an enormous man began to close the gate.
“Hold, if you please!” Edward called, hurrying forward.
In a world driven by steam and power-hungry Industrialists, can one man change the course of history?
Edward Rankine, inventor and engineer aboard the battle-cruiser Dominator, has devised an ingenious plan to open the frozen Northwest Passage.
Believing he is performing a service for the benefit of mankind, Edward is appalled to discover there is a saboteur in his midst.
Working with a crew of ‘Jacks and Jills’, mechanically enhanced humans sentenced to a life of servitude, Edward is forced to battle on the icebound waters of the northern seas.
Not only does Edward have a mutiny on his hands, but he must also find a way to save the passengers aboard the Dominator, possibly abandoning his own noble ambition in the process.
Will Edward’s plan succeed in the face of adversity, or in failing to clear the Northwest Passage will he stumble upon something greater?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Durrant is a new author writing mainly in the horror and science fiction genres. His short stories have been published in anthologies in the UK and USA, and he is currently working on his first full-length novel. He lives on the Norfolk Coast in England.
Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of Climate Change by Daniel Durrant to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!