Interview with JM Bannon, author of The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson

I love the blend of steampunk with urban fantasy. I interviewed J.M. Bannon about inspiration, steampunk fashion and The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson.

What inspired you to write the book?

I have always been a history buff and loved fantasy. The genre of steampunk allows me to do both. While Steampunk can be in the past or future, the world I have been building for my series set in the1860’s.  There is magic and anachronistic technology, but I try to keep it believable.  I am trying to redefine steampunk, where it has one foot in alternative history and another in urban fantasy.  One reader described my books as “Urban Fantasy before the telephone.”  I like that one.

What do you love about Steampunk?

There are two things I love about steampunk.

First is it a genre where I can blend real historical figures with my characters.  Although things are different in this alternate universe and the for instance, “The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson” is named after a Metropolitan Police Detective Fredrick Adolphus “Dolly” Williamson.  He was one of the first plain clothes detectives in London and eventually became the police commissioner of the world largest police department.  Really an unsung hero that few know about.  In my books Dolly is a key character.  The grounded in reality, evidence-based detective who has to reach out to other characters to deal with the paranormal activities and unexplained phenomena. Characters like him are drizzled through all the books.  As I work I see moments in our history where we were so close to either a technology being invented that would have had a huge impact on history.

The second is the fans! The great thing about steampunk is there are large active communities that are cosplaying and making objects.  In my newsletter I feature makers and cosplayers to share what they are doing. The interaction and seeing what readers create is inspiring. I also have a group of readers that are really into the books and for them I let them either feature their cosplay personas or characters they invent. In my last book “The Necronists” two readers created supporting characters to the story.  I don’t know of any other genre where people are so willing to help.  Funny thing, I have some fans that will comment and say some particular language or behavior is out of place for the time but accept the occult magic and steam powered airships.  To me that means I have found some kindred spirits.

Current Projects:

I didn’t set out to write the first book and stop.  When I set out to write “The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson”, I had the next three books roughly mapped out.  By book two I had seven books roughed out and by the third book I have fourteen outlined and another six with a concept.  This is important for my writing because I set up story arcs sometime two to four books out.  Don’t get me wrong, every story is stand alone and there are no cliff hangers. Rather, I may introduce a character or scene that is affiliated but does not resolve in the book, that is because it is the bridge to another arc in a later book.

 I am currently writing an origin story of my main character Rose Caldwell.  She is an ex nun who has been on a journey to discover her own innate powers while also coming to terms with the occult world around her. Along with that I am finishing book three the last book in the first series.  That book is called “The Mechanists and will lead into second five book series.

 

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