This week, I welcome +AmyBeth Inverness back to Worldbinding to talk about how she manages to switch between Victorian steampunk and lunar science fiction without losing her mind! As you all know, I love the entire spectrum of speculative fiction. I’m preparing to write a secondary-world fantasy while fully expecting my editor to pop back in with revisions to my post-apocalyptic future Earth novel anytime, which is why I was interested to hear about how AmyBeth handles the challenge of switching genres. Check out her article below.
Switching Genres Without Losing My Mind
I have many, many stories running around in my head. Some are strictly scifi, and some are pure fantasy. Many of those have a strong romantic theme, and might be categorized in the romance genre. My OCD brain does not like to switch between genres. I much prefer to completely immerse myself in one world I’ve created and write an entire story in a short period of time. I might do a little planning and plotting for other stories within the same series, but I resist switching gears to a completely different world.
This is not always convenient. As a professional author, I have deadlines and commitments and I can’t always let myself work on whatever strikes the muse’s fancy at any given moment.
During the weeks leading up to November, I was immersed in The Cities of Luna, my series of short stories about a thriving civilization on the Moon in the near future. I had signed on with Distinguished Press to publish a collection of the stories, followed by another short story individually released every full moon. I knew that I wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo during the month of November, and I needed to get ahead with lunar stories so I could throw my complete concentration into NaNo.
The concept of Nation Novel Writing Month is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Although nothing’s stopping me from setting a novel in my lunarverse, that series is based on short stories, vignettes in the lives of everyday people. Also, it’s good for my brain to get outside a universe every once in a while so I can come back to it with fresh eyes.
I have a Steampunk series I’m developing called Victoria Pontifex. The basis is that Queen Victoria became the Pontifex, a supreme ruler and figurehead over several kingdoms, each of which has its own ruler. There’s also a mad scientist who dabbles in genetic manipulation and creates some fun monsters. For NaNoWriMo, I decided to return to this world.
I intend, and I think I mostly succeed, to maintain a high level of consistency in each world I create. If I say that a character’s personal communication device can’t call outside the starship when they’re in FTL (that’s a completely different series) that rule holds true for every story in that universe. For my lunar stories, I keep the scifi very plausible, with a realistic extrapolation of current science and technology.
I keep in mind the real features on the moon such as the Apollo landing sites. I have a spreadsheet with all kinds of detail regarding the different cities in the series, the characters that appear in each story, and terminology I made up such as ‘kondensat’ which is a device that acts as both a skylight and a capacitor, storing solar energy. It is usually programmed to recreate an Earth-like dark/light schedule. Many of the details in the lunarverse are things I completely made up. As long as I remain consistent from one story to another, I can make up whatever I want.
My Steampunk series is a little more difficult. Even though it is an alternate history I made up, it is based on real history and I need to pay attention to that. My spreadsheet contains real events, fictional events, and notes regarding which fictional events did not happen. For example, Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, did not die of typhoid fever at the tender age of 42, but went on to father several more children with Victoria.
No matter how detailed and organize I make my spreadsheets (teaching MS Excel was my day-job up until this year) there are a million details and subtleties that I have to keep in my brain. This is part of the reason I dislike switching gears. When I have the history of 1800s Europe and the United Kingdom open in my brain, I want to keep the Apollo missions and extrapolation of current trends in space technology closed.
On November 1, I closed my spacey-book and opened up my Victorian notes. I peeked at my spacey-book briefly around November 6 when Cities of Luna: Collection One and Moon Dragons came out, and I was doing promo. But my writing brain stayed firmly rooted in Victoria’s world.
That lasted until mid-November, when +RJ Blain triple-dog-dared me to write a short story with the title Faceplanting is Always an Option. I did have the notion in the back of my mind that, although I was ahead in my publication schedule for my lunarverse, I was barely ahead. I put Steampunk on pause for a few days and wrote the story, then sent it to my editor.
Opening that door was dangerous. My brain started thinking about other stories I wanted to write in the lunarverse, such as Schrodinger’s Cookies, which I’m in the middle of now. As it was, I’d been having issues in that my brain was already plotting out what happens in a story that has at least 4 books already in the queue before I can write it. After sending Faceplanting is Always an Option to my editor, I had to force myself to get back into a Steampunk mode.
November 1 arrived, and I crossed the finish line in the wee hours of the morning, with about 20 hours to spare. Although I wanted to stay immersed in my Steampunk world, where my brain was settled and comfortable, finishing the story (which is going to end up around 80,000 words) that I had been working on for 30 days, I needed to switch back to my lunarverse for the release of One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor.
That’s where my brain is now. I’m enjoying promoting the story, which was a lot of fun to write. In my lunarverse, each story begins with a different relationship dynamic. In One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor, it is a brother and sister who are just under a year apart in age. Their birthdays are close to the cut-off-date for grades in public school, so they have always been in the same grade.
The big sister, Usra, always watches out for her ‘baby’ brother Varen, although this usually means getting the two of them in trouble. On Friday night, when many of her friends are climbing into lunar rovers to travel across the regolith to a little-used mining way-station for a party, Varen spontaneously decides he will join them. But his sister’s penchant for trouble leaves the two of them stranded there, unknown to their friends, when the party’s over.
The city is called Mordor, which is a very plausible name for a city on the Moon. There’s a very real and amusing history of naming lunar features after fictional characters and books. The title was the inspiration for the story.
It’s debatable whether I succeeded in making the switch between lunar scifi and Victorian Steampunk without losing my mind. I haven’t been evaluated lately. Then again, all writers have a certain degree of madness. It’s our responsibility to use this madness to our advantage.
About The Author
A writer by birth, a redhead by choice, and an outcast of Colorado by temporary necessity, AmyBeth Inverness is a creator of speculative fiction and romance. She can usually be found tapping away at her laptop, writing the next novel or procrastinating by posting a SciFi Question of the Day on Facebook and Google+, often as part of the Speculative Fiction Writers Community we moderate.
When she’s not writing, she’s kept very busy making aluminum foil hats and raising two energetic kids and many pets with her husband in their New England home.
You can find her on Facebook, Google+, Ello @USNessie, and Twitter @USNessie or check out her Amazon Author Page.