Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She’s the author of The Clockwork Dagger steampunk fantasy series, with the next book, The Clockwork Crown, out in June. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.
by Beth Cato
Gremlins ended up being one of the most vital elements of my Clockwork Dagger series. They weren’t even in the initial plan, but at one point I needed something fairly innocuous to attack an airship; one of those gremlins insisted on being named and playing a major part through both books.
I can’t complain. When my agent called me with the news of an offer on The Clockwork Dagger, she said one of the big factors was that the editor fell in love with the gremlins. I continue to get comments like that from readers, too, along with requests for gremlin plushies (I wish!) and more gremlin stories.
Gremlins aren’t just a cutesy element in the series, though. They are chimeras cobbled together with magic and science, bits and pieces of other animals fused together into hideously adorable, green-skinned monsters. Most are about the size of a cat with bat-like wings.
As much as my readers love gremlins, most of the people within my books despise them as monstrosities and pests. Gremlins thieve food and hoard anything made of silver. The cruel manner of their creation doesn’t make them more sympathetic; no, it makes them even more abhorrent.
The scientist who created gremlins hasn’t stopped his experimentations, either. Balthazar Cody is one of the most powerful men in the southern city-state of Tamarania. He is a political heavyweight, wealthy, and well-connected with a network of spies and substantial control of the media. He is not a man most folks would mess with, so of course, my characters do just that. In The Clockwork Crown, my heroes rob him of his latest, most glorious experiment–a massive war machine that is part gremlin, part metal–but events in the book quickly carry them away. Mr. Cody remains in power, his laboratory even busier than before. I knew I needed to change that, though I wasn’t even sure how to go about it. Mr. Cody is a daunting figure.
I realized I had two minor characters who would be left in Tamarania at the end of the book. They didn’t know each other, and they were also the least likely people to take down someone like Mr. Cody.
Rivka and Tatiana are teenage girls. They have no magical abilities. Rivka comes from a background of poverty and abuse, and is ill at ease amongst the society elite in her new home. She has a passion for mechanical work, and her compassionate nature would enable her to quickly connect with gremlins.
The other girl, Tatiana, is cold and manipulative, and mature beyond her eleven years. She’s one of the villains in The Clockwork Crown. I wondered: if she met Rivka, what would happen? Could they form a friendship for the sake of gremlins–or would Tatiana be as cruel and selfish as always?
“Wings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella” is out as of November 10th. I might not be able to supply the plushie version of gremlins that readers have requested, but I hope a new story will suffice!