Q&A with Phoebe Darqueling, No Rest for the Wicked
You’re living in Germany right now. What are some pros and cons of ex-pat life?
Freiburg im Breisgau is a gorgeous city at the foot of the Black Forest and nestled between France and Switzerland. I really love being so centrally located within western Europe, and my husband and I are taking the opportunity to travel. After all, when you can just pop over to Zurich for an art exhibit or go to a wine tasting on France’s Rue de Vin (wine road) for the cost of a carshare rental, there’s really no excuse NOT to get out and see more of the world.
The biggest con, besides being so far away from friends and family, is navigating the bureaucracy. I found out just a couple of days ago that in order to have a long-term resident permit, I have to take 700 HOURS of “orientation” and language courses. And though I’d like to be able to banter with the occasional cashier, learning German is really hard. I leave the classes feeling completely exhausted mentally, which makes it hard to get writing done. I’m switching to evening classes in the hopes that I can do my writing in the morning before I get so tired of braining for the day.
So far, what has your publishing journey been like?
Unfortunately, my publishing journey has been plagued by promising organizations that implode on me right after I’ve invested a lot of time and effort. The small press is a difficult model to maintain, and I’ve been sucked in doing a lot of extra work marketing other people, then been spat back out because the institution folded after a big fight a couple of times. One of my pieces of advice for new authors now is to make sure you don’t put all of your publishing eggs in one basket; you never know when someone’s going to knock it over.
Luckily, No Rest for the Wicked and my Mistress of None series has found a home with Black Rose Writing, which is a very stable indie press located in Texas. I’m in great company there, both with the authors and the staff.
But before all that, I got my first publishing credits by working with the Collaborative Writing Challenge. They had this really interesting system where authors get the first chapter of a book, the chapter that precedes the one they are going to write, and reference notes. Then, 3-5 people would take their best shot at writing what came next. A story coordinator would choose their favorite chapter, sometimes two but also sometimes none, and then the story would move on from there. I contributed to one of their novels and had two out of three of my attempts chosen for the book, including writing the big climax. I thought it was such a cool concept that when they were trying to decide what genre to do next, I suggested Steampunk and offered to be the coordinator. Over a year later, Army of Brass was born.
Since then, I’ve had two novels published and I am actively working on two more. My first nonfiction book, The Steampunk Handbook, will be available starting this summer, but it is currently available for free for people who subscribe to my newsletter.
I’ve also been a part of a couple of short story anthologies. My shorts tend to be a lot darker and graphic than my novels; probably because I don’t like to dwell too long in that headspace. Better to dip a toe in the darkness than to dive right in.
What comes first in your writing, the plot or the characters?
With the two novels I have finished, the characters definitely came first. The main character in Riftmaker is basically what I think my dog would be like if he suddenly found himself in a human body with human thoughts.
Viola Thorne, the main character of No Rest for the Wicked, has an interesting story behind her. I absolutely love the “bad science” of the Victorian era and where it intersects with magic. Spiritualism, for instance, is fascinating to me. So when I got a job as a tour guide at the Sacramento History Museum and needed to create a persona, I immediately had the idea to be a medium. However, Sacramento was also famous for the high density of grifters and thieves at the time, so I decided to create a fake medium. And thus Viola Thorne was born.
With some of the other ideas I’ve had for books that I haven’t started yet, the plot came first. It was an interesting challenge to go the other direction and figure out who would be the best character to star in story that already had plot points in it rather than the other way around.
Where does your inspiration for your pieces come from?
I really like what I lovingly refer to as “bad science.” These are concepts that make some semblance of sense, but turn out to be false. Or the phenomena are real, but the explanation is just plain wrong. I enjoy taking these concepts and creating stories around them. This can make what I do a little tough to classify sometimes because it is sits right where fantasy and science meet.
I’ve also realized that the idea of worlds that are separate but overlap somehow, be they actual portals you walk through or the ability to see the dead among us, has a real hold on me. That is more like a common theme than inspiration though, because it seems to be where I end up but not necessarily where I start.
What is No Rest for the Wicked about?
Other people just think they’re “haunted by the past.” In Vi’s case, it’s true.
Clairvoyant Viola Thorne wants to forget about her days of grifting and running errands for ghosts. The problem? Playing it safe is dull. So when a dead stranger begs for her help, Vi jumps at the chance to dust off her hustling skills. The unlikely companions are soon tangling with bandits, cheating at cards, and loving every minute.
Then she finds out who referred him, and Vi has to face both a past and ex-partner that refuse to stay buried. Though she betrayed Peter, his spirit warns her of the plot that cost him his life. Vi’s guilty conscience won’t let her rest until she solves his murder. Though she’s spent her whole life fighting the pull of the paranormal, it holds the key to atoning for the only deception she’s ever regretted—breaking Peter’s heart.
The Mistress of None will take Vi from CA down to New Orleans and up the East Coast of the US in the fall of 1871. The series is planned for a 5-book arc, but I love the character so much that I have also been playing with the idea of writing a prequel book or two as well.
Where can people find you on the web?
From May 17-19, I’m part of OWS CyCon 2019, a cyber book convention for readers and writers. In addition to hosting guest posts on my blog and sharing posts with others, we’ve got contests and games going on all weekend. If you RSVP to the Facebook event page, you’ll get a reminder to check out the festivities when they begin.
I spend a lot of my non-fiction writing energy on writing reviews and articles for the Steampunk Journal. In addition to myself and my co-editor, we have a ton of guest writers who drop by to add their flare. Plus, indie authors send in chapters of their books for our readers, so stop by and find a fun new book to read!
Here are a few other ways to connect with me online:
Newsletter - Sign up and get a FREE copy of The Steampunk Handbook
Facebook Fan Group - Where I post links to all of my guest posts and other goodness
Thanks for having me, Michelle!