Sunday, March 14, 2010

Robert Appleton in the Author Spotlight

Cate: Please welcome Robert Appleton. Robert, will you please share a short bio with us?
Robert: Sure thing.
While my favored genre is science fiction, my list of published stories ranges from a Victorian steampunk mystery to a crocodile attack set during WWII (based on true events). I’ve written for several major digital publishers. To date, I have over twenty titles under contract.
I live in Bolton, Northwest England. When not writing, I love to kayak whenever I can (not often enough), underachieve at soccer with my long-standing 5-a-side team, and climb the occasional mountain. My favorite authors include Patrick O'Brian, H. Rider Haggard and H.G. Wells. I’m also a film buff (with a degree to prove it) who adores Harryhausen, Spielberg and Oliver Stone.

Cate: Tell us about The Mysterious Lady Law and where it's available.
Robert: It’s a fun Victorian detective mystery with a sci-fi steampunk twist, and is available from Carina Press.
In a time of grand airships and steam-powered cars, the death of a penniless young maid will hardly make the front page. But part-time airship waitress and music hall dancer Julia Bairstow is shattered by her sister's murder. When Lady Law, the most notorious private detective in Britain, offers to investigate the case pro bono, Julia jumps at the chance—even against the advice of Constable Al Grant, who takes her protection surprisingly to heart.
Lady Law puts Scotland Yard to shame. She's apprehended Jack the Ripper and solved countless other cold-case crimes. No one knows how she does it, but it's brought her fortune, renown and even a title. But is she really what she claims to be—a genius at deducting? Or is Al right and she is not be trusted?
Julia is determined to find out the truth, even if it means turning sleuth herself—and turning the tables on Lady Law...

Cate: I love this storyline. Please tantalize us with an excerpt.
The hillside site at Dover was a veritable three-ring circus of photographers, police, picnickers, mobile sandwich and hot chestnut stalls, curious ramblers and more bespectacled men than Julia had ever seen congregated in one place. She guessed the latter were scientists and newspaper men. The Pegasus swooped low for a wonderfully close passing view of the iron mole, minutes before the start of its grand adventure. Other airships followed suit, then the convoy climbed, executed a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turnaround and flew back over the machine, this time affording the passengers on the opposite side of the ships a clear view.
“It’s revving up,” Al enthused, responding to oohs and aahs from the far tables. “Come on.” He took Julia by the hand and hurried her across. A growl from below spun to a wiry squealing crescendo, much louder than she’d expected. No one would make way for Al, so to gain a better view he climbed onto a nearby chair. Julia offered to let him steady himself on her shoulder—the spectacle obviously meant more to him—but instead he helped her up onto a chair of her own.
Heady with excitement, she kept hold of his hand all while they watched.
The giant drill spun so fast she couldn’t make out its iron grooves. Its nose was a whirling monstrous cone of quite astounding power. Its silver body, a long, caterpillar cylinder covered with a spiral of toothlike treads, soon blackened under a layer of earth tossed up from the burrowing drill. A little over ten feet of penetration and already the debris cloud reached as high as the airships, masking much of the show.
Loud cheers and applause filled the Pegasus. Al beamed like a schoolboy at the fair. He reached over and gave Julia a peck on the cheek. She gripped his hand tighter. The Pegasus circled the cloud for a better view and she cheered along with everyone when the mole’s rear slid into the hillside and vanished, leaving a huge dark crater.
“It’s amazing,” she yelled above the furor.
“What’s that?” asked Al.
“Professor McEwan…he doesn’t even know what he’ll find down there.”
“I know. He’s a braver man than I…the magnificent fool.”
“Do you think we’ll ever see him again?” she asked.
Laughing, high on the moment, he hurled his hat and gloves at the ceiling and replied, “I don’t suppose he’s thought that far ahead. Relish it, Julia. He digs down, we climb high, the sun is out. This is a good day to be English!”
The small brass and woodwind sections finished their rendition of “Land of Hope and Glory,” then deferred to the string quartet for a lively number. Strauss’s “Tristch-Tratsch Polka,” one of her absolute favourites. Couples from all over the dining room, and even a few from the upper deck, scurried onto the polished, glittering dance floor and arranged themselves in a circle.
“Now or never,” Julia teased, holding her arms out for Al to lift her down from the chair.
He grinned and leapt to her aid with the agility of a swashbuckler. “Hey, do you even know this dance?”
“One way to find out.”
The dust cloud faded in the whorl of a breeze outside, permitting full, unfettered entry to the most brilliant sunlight Southern England had seen in weeks. It reflected off shiny crockery and bare tabletops and the roof of the spotless piano, blinding every dancer who spun in that direction. To her surprise, Al segued into the fast tempo with grace to spare, his compact, athletic frame matching her turn for turn. The feel of his hand on her waist made her giddy and his gaze found hers even when they changed partners. It inspired her to improvise during the ladies’ solo forays into the centre, and her bouncy quick-shuffles and spins soon drew generous applause from spectators. Al never once faltered. He was the steady glide to her soaring syncopation. This was her moment to shine. Hers and Al’s. While they were together, everyone else aboard the Pegasus faded away.
She had never enjoyed dancing more.
Cate: This is definitely on my TBR list. Can you tell us why we're going to love your heroine?
Robert: Julia Bairstow isn’t the most buxom or vivacious woman in London, but she’s well-liked and has integrity. She’s really just eeking her way through life, working two part-time jobs, and laments the fact that all her dancer friends seem to attract men while she goes home alone every night. But when her sister is murdered, a hidden strength awakens in Julia—she no longer takes no for an answer, and it’s woe betide anyone who stands in the way of her getting to the truth.

Cate: Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
Robert: Lady Law rides a steam-powered penny-farthing bicycle through London, and Julia gets to ride it, too. 

Cate: So cool. What's next for you?
Robert: Carina Press just accepted my next steampunk adventure, Prehistoric Clock (featuring diving bells and dinosaurs, oh yes!), as well as Sparks in Cosmic Dust, a science-fiction epic with strong romantic elements. And I’ll shortly be putting the finishing touches to Dark Side of the Moon, my new erotic sci-fi with co-writer Sloane Taylor. Our first novel, Claire de Lune, was released a few months ago by Amber Quill Press.

Cate: What inspired you to draft your first story?
Robert: I’d been writing a lot of narrative rhyming verse at the time, and realised the form was holding me back in terms of storytelling. So I decided to write the adventure book to end all adventure books, inspired by my favourite Victorian authors—Wells, Verne, H. Rider Haggard. It crashed and burned, of course. But the best part was, a couple of years ago, I redrafted that story and sold it to Uncial Press as The Basingstoke Chronicles. It did pretty well, too.

Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Robert: Yes. I’ve found the most crucial part of the entire process is that initial outline, when I shape the story and break it down into chapters. I can change it along the way, but the end product tends to be pretty close to that first outline. After that, I try for 1K -2K words per day until I’m done. I don’t like going back and rewriting big chunks, so I edit as I go. That way the DNA of each scene is fresh in my mind during its evolution.

Cate: Where can readers find you on the web?
Robert:  At my shiny website:, 
my Mercurial Times blog:,

Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Robert: I’d love to know how many of your readers have read a steampunk book or eBook. And if so, which one most recently?

Cate: I'll be interested to know as well. Steampunk intrigues me but I haven't yet ventured there.
Readers, Robert is giving away an eBook copy of The Mysterious Lady Law to a lucky commenter... so start commenting. He'll pick a winner on 21st March and announce the winner here.
Thanks so much for being my guest, Robert. Best of luck to you.


Cate Masters said...

Huge congrats Robert! I just read that your historical fiction, Sunset On Ramree, won an EPIC Award! Raising a cyber toast to you!

Robert Appleton said...

Thank you, Cate!! For the cyber toast and the spotlight, my friend. It's a real treat to be here.

If I'd have known Ramree was going to win, I'd have flown (as in red cape and boots) to Virgina!

Unknown said...

Congrats on the EPPIE, Rob! How fantastic for you. Great interview and I can't wait for the next steampunk adventure as Lady Law is epic fun.

SusanB said...

Great interview! The mixture of scifi and Victorian mystery sound intriguing. Can't wait to read it.

Cate Masters said...

I'm moving Lisa R/alterlisa's comment here so it counts for the giveaway! :)

Lisa R/alterlisa has left a new comment on your post "Don't forget to check the Author Spotlights page!":

I've only read two or three Steampunks and would love to get my hands on this one.


alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

Cate Masters said...

Thanks again for being my guest this week Robert! Come back anytime. :)

Robert Appleton said...

Thanks for having me, Cate. It was a pleasure as always.

Congratulations to SusanB, winner of my steampunk giveaway contest! Your eBook copy of The Mysterious Lady Law should be in your inbox any time now.