Genevieve Valentine‘s short fiction has appeared in, or is forthcoming in, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Journal of Mythic Arts, Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed, and Apex, and in the anthologies Teeth, Federations, The Living Dead 2, Running with the Pack, and more.
Her first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is available now from Prime. You can learn more about it at the Circus Tresaulti website.
Her nonfiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, and Weird Tales, and she is the co-author of Geek Wisdom (out in Summer 2011 from Quirk Books).
Her appetite for bad movies is insatiable, a tragedy she tracks on her blog.
Charles Tan: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what made you decide to write Mechanique: the circus, the mechanical aspects to it, etc.?
Genevieve Valentine: I’ve always been fascinated by aerialists and acrobats, especially in a circus setting (though even as a kid, the animal aspect of the traditional circus had no appeal). The more I watched of them, the more impressive their abilities and dedication were, and the idea of supernatural and mechanically-enhanced talent (which some of them seem to possess!) followed. Mechanique grew organically from that seed.
CT: You’ve been prolific with your short stories. What’s the history of the novel, was this something you always wanted to write, was in the backburner for a long time, or something that eventually developed?
GV: I enjoy writing both novels and short stories, though they’re very different forms of storytelling. I have a list-and-sketchy-notes paper of novels I want to get to someday (it sits on my desk about three feet from my laundry pile); Mechanique was always on that list, but I really enjoy writing short stories as well as novels, and there’s definitely a time balance to doing both. (Not to doing laundry, though; that I just ignore.)
CT: I love how each chapter is short but paunchy. What made you decide to write the novel using this technique?
GV: In general I enjoy writing from multiple perspectives, especially in novels, but Mechanique is markedly more clipped than other novels I’ve written, and I wish I had a really crunchy process-heavy answer as to why. Really it’s just that when I started writing the book this format seemed like the natural way to tell the story.
CT: How did your experience writing short stories informed (or not informed) how you wrote the book?
GV: I’ve written a few companion short stories to Mechanique so far, and the ones that take place within the Circus Tresaulti itself are much more of a piece stylistically with the novel, so I think some aspects of it are intrinsic. However, I do think that short story writing in general informs the novel process for anyone, since a short story is often concentrating on getting maximum impact in minimum word count, and that’s a handy thing to be thinking about no matter what you’re writing.
CT: What made you decide to write some chapters using second person? Was it difficult switching between first person, second person, and third person throughout the book?
GV: Again, my writing process is very much of the “Think about it vaguely for a while and then sit down and start writing and run with it” school; looking at it now, I suppose I wanted the perspective of someone outside the circus, and I wanted it to feel immediate, and second person is an unusual but very useful choice in that sense. But really, it was there when I started writing it, and it kept sneaking back in as I wrote, as well, and the mix of perspectives and tenses was a really fun part of the process on this book.
CT: You have a huge cast and each character has their own quirks and vulnerabilities. How did you come up with them and did you have problems keeping track of them?
GV: Thank you! Always good to hear that about one’s characters. I have to admit that as a lapsed theatre nerd I have a soft spot for performers of all kinds, so I welcomed the chance to follow this particular troupe around. And because I’m an absolutely-not-lapsed movie nerd, I have a tendency to cast my characters as actors, which is both a great trick for keeping track of large groups of characters, and also a great way to give your book delusions of grandeur.
CT: Would you consider the book steampunk or clockpunk or just fantasy?
GV: There’s no question it’s a fantasy novel, if only because of the supernatural elements at play, but there’s definitely a strong steampunk/clockpunk undertone in a lot of what happens – not just in terms of the performers, but in terms of the struggle against authority in every sense.
CT: How did Prime Books end up publishing Mechanique?
GV: Sean asked me if I had any dark-fantasy concepts lying around that I had been dying to work on, and I crawled over the eight-foot heap of laundry, checked my list, and there was Mechanique! I had actually just finished another large project, and was casting around for a reason to finally flesh out my circus novel, so that came together in a bit of serendipity.
CT: What’s in store for Genevieve Valentine? More stories? More novels?
GV: I have several short stories coming out this year and next, and some novels that hopefully you will hear more about soon. After that, I will continue to write novels for as long as I can, just to avoid laundry.
CT: Anything else you want to promote?
GV: If you enjoyed (or are just curious about!) Mechanique, you might want to check out the companion short stories: “Bread and Circuses” and “The Finest Spectacle Anywhere” are available at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and “Study, for Solo Piano” is available at Fantasy Magazine. While they cover some events that take place within the timeline of the novel, there are no real spoilers for those who are wary of such things; they just shed a little light around the edges of the Circus.