It’s interview time. Today Steampunk author Jon Hartless is here for a writer type chinwag
Why not grab yourself a cuppa, put your feet up for five minutes, and come and join us for a chat?
What inspired you to write your book?
It was a bit of a mental collision between different ideas, topics and real life. I’d known of the Bentley Boys for some time but only in the sense that I knew they were famous racing drivers of the 1920s. I did some research about the era, learning how most of the Bentley Boys were very rich playboys and I saw that the gulf between the rich and the poor could be encoded very neatly by using motor racing and car ownership. With the rich in cars and the poor on foot, you have a very clear demarcation between the two.
I’d also seen on TV a wonderful car called Brutus, the engine of which came from an old 1920s airplane. The car was a big, brutal, black vehicle that was very difficult to drive, as shown on an old episode of Top Gear (obviously before Jeremy Clarkson developed his hobby of beating up members of the production crew for not having a hot meal for him on demand), wherein Clarkson had trouble on the track as the vehicle was quite skittish owing to the power.
The final factor that came into play was chatting to someone I met at a Steampunk event at the Commandery in Worcester; she was involved in amateur dramatics and she was doing a Christmas pantomime which, in essence, was a Steampunk version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Unfortunately, I never saw it and so I know nothing else about it, but that left the vague image floating in my mind, bobbling about.
And so, eventually, all these elements collided in my brain and there it was; a steampunk motor racing story, giving me many opportunities to examine inequality within society, as well as the roles we are expected to adopt and conform to by the status quo, all centring on the heroine and a huge Brutus-like car that exacts a terrible price on any who try to drive it.
What type of research did you have to do for your book?
I did a lot of background reading on the Bentley Boys and associated topics, such as the rise and fall of the original Bentley Motor, and on motor racing in general back in those very early days of the sport. Books included biographies, autobiographies, reminiscences and the like, some written almost at the time, some not done until years later, and I also picked up anything I could on motoring and that era (the 1920s) that I could find. And of course anything on the Victorian era helped, given that the Victorian epoch didn’t really end until the Great War, and you can argue it extended (in certain ways) even beyond that.
Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?
I prefer the third person omniscient, but my one digital publisher (who sells mostly in the United States) repeatedly warns all their authors against this as their feedback from the public demonstrated this is not a popular voice, for some reason. It seems that the authorial voice telling you that a character is lying is unacceptable to the readers as they demand to know how anyone can know this, and hence the limited third person is preferred, wherein the impersonal narrator knows no more than the characters do… hence it may be suspected that a character is lying, but no more. Quite what the problem is with the concept of an omniscient author I do not know, but American readers just don’t seem to like it.
Having said that, Full Throttle is written by an editor writing “now” but looking back about one hundred years to the events “then”, so everything is being selected and filtered through his mind. Which makes for an interesting change.
Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?
I generally know the outline – where the story starts, where it ends, and a few points in between – but within those parameters I just let it develop wherever it wants to go. I could claim that unstructured free-flowing subconscious creativity is a primary requisite to creating a real, living world, but in truth I’m just too lazy to plot everything out beforehand.
What is your writing regime?
I’m out and about in my job, visiting different people in different places, so quite often my regime is nothing more than having an hour to spare between appointments and quickly getting the laptop out and doing what I can while sitting in the car. Finding a quiet side road is essential for this to work…
Jon Hartless was born in the seventies, which is rather long time ago. Full Throttle is his first novel with a traditional publisher.
Thanks for stopping by today, Jon.
Happy reading everyone,