Interview with an Author: Jayne Barnard on Writing Steampunk

frontdraft5Jayne Barnard’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in many publications over the past quarter-century. Her first Steampunk YA novella, MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND, came out from Tyche Books in October 2015. Her full-length mystery, WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS, won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur Award (Best Unpublished First Crime Novel by a Canadian writer) in June 2016. She enjoys teaching vocal workshops and discussing psychological motivations at literary conventions.


Judy: Tell me a bit about Maddie Hatter.

Jayne: MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND (October 2015, Tyche Books) is a lively mystery for adventurous women aged 12 to 102. A fledgling fashion reporter, Maddie is the last English journalist to have seen an eccentric adventurer, Baron Bodmin, before he vanishes into the Nubian desert in search of a legendary diamond. Hoping to break into investigative reporting, she and her clockwork sparrow delve into the baron’s pre-trip activities. But no men in 1898 Egypt will answer a young, female reporter’s questions. When the explorer’s airship turns up off Cornwall, adrift and deserted, she chases the story back to England and far beyond.

Judy: You’re visiting today to talk about writing steampunk. For starters, what exactly is steampunk?

Jayne: Steampunk is the late Victorian/early Edwardian world as if steam power, not petroleum, was the main source of power. As if the writings of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and other late-nineteenth-century writers of the fantastical were the truth instead of fictive imaginings. Think of amazing clockworks and mysterious steam-driven machines, incredible airships, larger-than-life heroes and villains, fabulous costumes and beautiful hats.

Judy: Is steampunk the same thing everywhere?

brass birdJayne:  Not quite. British Steampunk costumes tend toward recognizable Victorian wear with the addition of goggles and other odd, usually brass, accessories. Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ and ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ are the forefathers of its Steampunk literature, and the modern, short-lived tv series, The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, helped trigger the genre’s resurgence. American Steampunk has a strong frontier flavour. Costumes include a lot of leather and, often, exotic-looking fake weaponry. The movie ‘Wild, Wild West’ is an icon of the American variant. There’s a colourful diversity of Asian-rooted Steampunk as well, with its own styles and rooted in its own historical writings.

Judy: What or who inspired you to become a writer?

Jayne: My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Rinaldo, let me take a whole week to write out the suspenseful tale that came to me during a class exercise. I lived and breathed that story, all four scribbler pages of it. From that point on, I never quite stopped writing.

Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?

Jayne: Don’t write what you know; write FROM what you know. That gives you a firm base on which to build,  allowing you to write with confidence. Writing outward from there allows you to explore ‘what-ifs,’ keeping the story as fresh in your writing as it will be for the eventual readers.

Judy: Do you have a favorite author or series? A favorite genre?

Jayne:  I read a lot of historical fiction and non-fiction, often crime-related. Along the way I’ve gathered data about family life, social customs, and politics, which feeds my writing indirectly.

Judy: Do you read your genre when writing? If so, why? If not, why not?

Jayne: If Steampunk or other SF is on my desktop, history and mystery are on my nightstand, and the other way around. My mind needs a nightly break from the styles and constraints of that genre in order to work more effectively the following day.

Judy: What’s next for Jayne Barnard?

Jayne: I’m finishing the second Maddie adventure, which takes place in Gilded Age New York City. It will be released by Tyche Books in April 2017. Meanwhile Dundurn Press, sponsor of the Unhanged Arthur, is assessing WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS. And I’m always on the lookout for short fiction submission opportunities to break up the long slog through writing a novel or novella.

Jayne Barnard

Jayne Barnard

Find Jayne Barnard: Website Amazon Goodreads Facebook Twitter


7 responses to “Interview with an Author: Jayne Barnard on Writing Steampunk

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Good to hear from you Melodie!

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by Kristina!

  3. Fun interview! I have the whole Wild Wild West TV show collection; now I just need Jayne’s wardrobe (envy…) I also like how they are weaving steampunk into the Murdock mysteries (Canadian mystery series.)

  4. Kristina Stanley

    Congratulations on winning the Authur Ellis. That’s fantastic. And I’m impressed you can remember your 3rd grade teacher. Good luck with the second Maddie.

  5. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by Val. I always say reading is the best teacher!

  6. Thanks for sharing. Am looking at getting into the steampunk genre as a writer, but the research is frightening. I may stick to reading it for now!

  7. Thanks for hosting me today, Judy. I’ll be on the road for a bit but will check back often and answer any questions readers care to put.

We love comments!