eSpec Books interviews Jeff Young, author of Spirit Seeker and contributor to After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer, funding now on Kickstarter.
eSB: What can you tell us about the story you have written (or plan to write) for After Punk?
JY: This will be the second story in Kassandra Leyden’s timeline. Now that she knows she’s one of the few that can speak with the dead, she should learn how to do it properly. Enter one Madam Foss, well know medium who has some spirits rather than skeletons in her closet. She maybe showing Kassandra her first view of the other side, but they should both beware what might enter when that door is opened.
eSB: Why did you chose that particular aspect of the afterlife to ‘punk up? How did it lend itself to the theme?
JY: A lot of the other stories in the anthology will be taking on specific legends and aspects of the afterlife, whereas I’ll be looking at the way a character interacts with it, ie. Kassandra Leyden Spirit Seeker. That doesn’t mean I won’t be doing a little world building of my own. Recently, I went for a walk on rail to trail conversion and after about a mile or two of walking on a straight path you reach a point with nothing but woods on either side. If you stop in the middle and look both ways, the path disappears into the distance and the similarity of the trees blends together. It’s an optical illusion that I’m using to describe the interface between the living and the dead. You don’t get to see the other side unless you take a one-way trip, but a medium like Kassandra can straddle the border.
eSB: Does you story introduce new characters, or are they old friends you revisit often…to torment mercilessly?
JY: I would hardly say I torment Kassandra, I see her as someone smart enough to find a way out of whatever I throw at her. On the other hand, sure there are a few new characters in the story. This is part two of her origin tale. Kassandra knows her ability to speak to the dead is unusual; now she’s going to learn from someone more experienced how to make it work for her.
eSB: Do you have any plans to expand your story…or write in the same universe? If so, what more can your readers expect?
JY: This story falls under the collective known as The Kassandra Leyden Adventures. It’s grown organically over time due to requests from various Steampunk anthologies. After a while it did occur to me that I should start filling in the gaps. So there are some stories about Kassandra growing up and then there are those where she’s partnered with Cobham Peckwith. In those cases so far the viewpoint has shifted to Cobham because since he’s not the believer in the phenomenon they experience, his view fits better with that of the reader. In the future, if the novel ever gets written, the idea is to switch viewpoints every chapter. So why keep calling it The Kassandra Leyden Adventures? Well because that sounds cooler, that’s why.
I’m sure there’s lots more to do in New Britain. One of the new stories will be about the use of pre-electronic listening devices to detect dirigibles trying to sneak across the southern border. Kassandra and Cobham will investigate the mysterious deaths of the soldiers garrisoned a listening post set in the Mississippi Delta. I am barely resisting the urge to include clockwork crocodiles.
In a longer story, I plan to bring back villain Emond Ressex who got the better of Kassandra in “Fox Chase”. Our pair of heroes are dispatched into the Red Lands to seek the aid of the natives to cure a violent outbreak of disease. When they reach the city of Cahokia they will discover that Emond is posing as a shaman and using his automaton animals and captured spirits to gather influence. The story is tentatively titled “White Shaman in Red Lands”.
There are certainly more stories to tell, but the big piece in the picture is the novel, which has the working title The Emancipation of Maxwell’s Ghosts. Kassandra and Cobham are charged with protecting dilettante genius Godfrey Kensington from assassins. When they return to Londinium from his father’s estate, they discover that Kassandra’s father has left on an illegal expedition to the Old World. Using various means of transport they follow and discover a diabolical plot to ensnare a god by Sante Moore (first introduced in “Ambergris on Ice”) and that Moore has convinced Casimir Leyden to join him. I have a certain fondness for Moore because, while I tend to let him grandstand like a Bond villain, he’s actually a morally gray character. He believes that the society can’t continue the way it has and that there most be another answer rather than steam power. He’s seen what burning wood and coal does and the effects on the environment around Londinium. I really wanted a villain who stood for something good, but was willing to do anything to achieve it, including step over socially acceptable lines.
eSB: The coffin or the pyre, which one for you and why?
JY: Probably the pyre. I’m an outdoor person and I’ve always tried to leave things the way I find them following the minimum impact rule. I don’t really see the need to hold onto a piece of the world in terms of a cemetery plot after I’m gone.
eSB: What are some of your own works readers can look for?
JY: This eSpec Kickstarter will be helping to put together my short story collection Spirit Seeker, which features several previously published Kassandra Leyden stories as well as some new material. These steampunk stories set in New Britain cover Kassandra’s awakening as a speaker to the departed through to her pairing with the ever practical Constable Cobham Peckwith. Fortress Publishing has published a collection of my other short stories, TOI 2 Diversiforms. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my work included in a number of other anthologies: Writers of the Future V.26, In an Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk, Clockwork Chaos, Gaslight and Grimm, By Any Means, Best Laid Plans, Dogs of War, Man and Machine, If We Had Known, Fantastic Futures 13, The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson, TV Gods & TV Gods: Summer Programming
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
JY: Aside from writing more Kassandra Leyden stories (One short, one novella and one novel in the works), I’ve been asked to contribute to the upcoming anthology Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way. This military science fiction collection features stories about field medics and will be produced by eSpec Books. I do have a few more long term invites to other anthologies and of course there are at least a dozen other things I should be writing, editing and more but that life thing tends to get in the way.
eSB: How can readers find out more about you?
JY: http://jy.watchtheskies.org/ and follow or view the social media tags. Don’t worry I’m a low effort follow. Or if you prefer a little more, try the Watch the Skies website for the SF&F reading group that I run (http://watchtheskies.org) and facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/watchtheskies) where things are much more active.
Jeff Young is a bookseller first and a writer second – although he wouldn’t mind a reversal of fortune. He is an award winning author who contributed to the anthologies: Writers of the Future v.26, By Any Means, Best Laid Plans, Dogs of War, In an Iron Cage, Fantastic Futures 13, Clockwork Chaos, TV Gods, The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson and Gaslight & Grimm. Jeff’s work was also published in the magazines eSteampunk, Realms, Cemetery Moon, Trail of Indiscretion, Realms Beyond, Carbon14 and Neuronet. He is also an editor with Fortress Publishing for their Drunken Comic Book Monkey line as well as the anthologies TV Gods and TV Gods : Summer Programming. Jeff has helped run the Watch the Skies SF&F Reading Group of Harrisburg and Camp Hill for more than fifteen years. Finally, Jeff is also the proprietor of the online eBay and Etsy shops- Helm Haven, which produces Renaissance and Steampunk costume pieces.
SOCIAL MEDIA USER IDs
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jywriterguy/
Twitter – @jywriterguy
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7057883.Jeff_Young
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Young/e/B00575IB9U
Blog Address – http://jy.watchtheskies.org/
Instagram – ironmind42