Swanky Seventeener Rosalyn Eves recently spoke to Evangeline Denmark, about her debut YA Steampunk Fantasy, CURIO (January 5, 2016, from Blink).
About the Author
Evangeline Denmark cannot sing. The tragic discovery of this truth led to bouts of angst-ridden poetry writing in her teens, several ill-advised relationships with literary characters, and the compulsive creation of her own fictional worlds. Having found her true voice, Evangeline now writes fiction with hints of whimsy, glimmers of fantasy, and strokes of the supernatural.
Her debut novel, CURIO, sets coming of age and first love against a backdrop of steam-propelled greed and societal repression.
She has also co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press.)
To avoid the reaches of the corrupt Chemist Council, Grey Haward escapes into an enchanted curio cabinet in her grandfather’s store. Inside the cabinet, Grey discovers a world of living porcelain and clockwork people on the verge of revolution and becomes embroiled in their fight. To get home, she must find the only other human, a boy disguised as the Mad Tock, whose secrets stretch from one world into the next.
Rosalyn: You’ve created two very different but fascinating worlds in CURIO. How did you come up with the ideas for these worlds? What inspired you to create the Chemists with their sinister blood magic? Alternately, where did you get the idea for Curio itself?
Evangeline: Really everything was born out of the word curio, which I happened to fall in love with while driving home one day. Random word crushes are perfectly normal, right? The word tumbled around in my head, expanding to curiosity, which became Curio City. I started thinking about a world inside a curio cabinet and then wondered, what would be curious to the sort of creatures that would live inside a curio cabinet? The obvious answer was, a human. From there I knew I had to write a story about a girl who got stuck in a world inside an enchanted curio cabinet.
The idea for the Chemists started with a conversation with my husband where we threw around the idea of punishers as a form of law enforcement. I knew I wanted my heroine’s home world to be a very repressed place, but building believable villains can be one of the biggest challenges of writing a novel. I settled on blood magic–a corrupted form of alchemy–because I wanted the Chemists’ power to have a truly terrible price, and what could be worse than building an empire by mining the veins of your citizens?
Rosalyn: CURIO is a cool blend of fantasy and sci-fi/steam-punk: were the details straight out or your head or did you rely on outside research? How did you flesh out the worlds in your book?
Evangeline: For the world inside the cabinet, I started by thinking about what would be inside a curio cabinet in an antique store–an old west mercantile in later revisions. The porcelain people and tick-tock people sprang to life, but obviously I needed some sort of magic for this world to exist as well as an explanation for why it came about. The concept of a prison and a spell designed to keep one prisoner alive but with unexpected consequences provided the foundation for the land of Curio.
The “real” world outside of the cabinet went through several iterations. I did do research on Colorado’s early history as a mining territory, but obviously events are vastly different in my alternate history. Mercury City is as grand as New York or Chicago around the turn of the century, but relies on a propaganda machine to attract the disenfranchised from the slums of America’s largest cities. Not unlike the enchanted world of Curio, Mercury City, Colorado is a veiled prison for its residents.
Rosalyn: When and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Evangeline: A lot of writers say they knew as children that they wanted to write books. It wasn’t that way for me. Sure, words and story were part of my daily existence thanks to my teacher/storyteller mother, fantasy novelist Donita K. Paul. But as my bio hints, I wanted to be a singer. It wasn’t until junior high/ high school that I realized what I really wanted to do was put words together and craft pieces that touched people. Still, I didn’t start actually writing a novel until after I’d had two kids.
Rosalyn: What was the writing process like for this book? When did you know this was “the one”?
CURIO is my fifth novel and writing it was unlike any of the others because I had “given up.” By that I mean, I’d let go of the pursuit of publication and I just wrote what was in my head without filters or expectations. It was freeing and wonderful and scary. But I think it was my willingness to let my creativity loose that gave CURIO the uniqueness that caught an editor’s attention.
Lightning Round questions:
Oddest job you’ve ever had?
I haven’t had any really unusual jobs, but I did work at Baskin Robbins as a teen. My husband and I started dating during that time, and he likes to tell people that I had really strong hands (from scooping) and regularly smelled like waffle cones.
Favorite Broadway musical?
If you had to live in Curio or Mercury City, which would it be–and why?
Oh, gosh. This is a hard question and has made me realize that I’ve created two really awful places. I guess I’d have to choose Curio because even though the food is paint, there are no Chemists after your blood.
What were you reading at 16?
Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles
Favorite place to write?
In my office
one dog, one cat, two turtles
An author you would love to meet?
Just one? Ok, since you didn’t clarify living or dead, I’m going to say Charlotte Bronte. My critique partners would tell you that I have this complex fantasy about meeting Charlotte Bronte and a nightmare sequence involving being slapped by Emily Bronte. The Brontes are my literary heroes, so rather than explain any further, let’s just leave it at that.
About the Interviewer:
Rosalyn Eves is a writer of romantic, lyrical, atmospheric young adult fantasy novels. Her first novel, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, a historical fantasy set at the height of the Austro-Hungarian empire (with magic!) debuts Spring 2017 from Knopf/Random House.
In an alternate 19th-century Europe, after 16-year-old British gentlewoman Anna Arden is exiled to Hungary for spell-breaking, she finds that nothing about her world or her own lack of magic is quite as it seems. Fissures in the Binding that holds her world’s magic are expanding, and the ancient creatures bound by that spell beg Anna to release them. As rebellion sweeps across Hungary, Anna’s unique ability to break spells becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and gypsies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted—or embrace her ability, destroy the Binding, spark a revolution, and change the face of magic itself.