Today, I’m thrilled to welcome A. J. Hartley to the blog to discuss his new book, Steeplejack :D. I absolutely loved Steeplejack and one of the things I loved was how it brought in elements from lots of my favorite genres for something entirely delightful!
Lots of books—especially mine—tend to straddle genres, and when I was first starting out as a writer I used to get a lot of agents and editors saying things like “I really like this, but I’m not sure what shelf to put it on.” The industry has changed a lot over the years and one of the things I love about where we are now is that I feel less like I have to follow strict guidelines to make sure my book is one thing and one thing only. So here are some of the genres I’ve used in building Steeplejack. Hope you like it!
- Urban Fantasy
Steeplejack takes place in a city called Bar-Selehm, a sprawling industrial mess of a place which is the center of a mini empire and surrounded by wild bush-like country reminiscent of parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also a place built on the wealth generated by a particular industry, the mining of luxorite, a precious mineral which generates its own light. The city is a carefully detailed place and it’s the home of my protagonist who knows it exceptionally well because she works on its towers and tall factory chimneys. The result is that the city becomes kind of a character in the book: distinctive, quirky, and full of mystery.
Steeplejack is also a murder mystery, not a “cozy” in the Agatha Christie vein, but something more like an adventure, a thriller in which the clues require a lot of climbing and running and dodging enemies in addition to the more sedate activities of a detective story as clues are gathered and suspects quizzed. And the thriller aspect also is fed by the scale of the story. If Anglet—our hero—can’t solve the mystery of her murdered apprentice, the city will collapse into war.
I said that Steeplejack was an exotic city, but I didn’t say that it was an exotic Victorian city, so its technology, its people, its clothes, weapons, etc. are all roughly mid-nineteenth century. This gives the book a distinctive sense of atmosphere of the Sherlock Holmes type, adding a particular feel to the fantasy elements, and positioning the story at the heart of the period’s colonial expansion and racial tensions.
- Young Adult
I know that YA isn’t really a genre so much as it is a target readership, but YA novels often have a coming of age feel to them that fits Steeplejack personally. Anglet is figuring out who she is as she leaves behind the world of her childhood (a work gang) and becomes, effectively, something between a spy and a detective operating on behalf of some very powerful people. In the process she has to determine what she wants, who she wants, and what she stands for.
- Realist social fiction
The world of the story is saturated by the complex social dynamics of the place, particularly its feuding racial populations. This creates a rich background for the main plot and allows me to explore things I might otherwise avoid in writing a generically simpler kind of book. The story and characters are the focus, but much of what is going on and who these people are is informed by their place in Bar-Selehm society.
So yes, Steeplejack is a hybrid novel with lots of different influences. I hope you find the way they come together as exciting as I do.
© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.