The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato
The Clockwork Dagger
by Beth Cato
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Cato’s Debut Novel: Murder on the Steampunk Airship

An exclusive Authorlink interview with Beth Cato,
Author of The Clockwork Dagger

By Diane Slocum

December 2014

Octavia Leander is a medician. Her extraordinary skills with healing herbs and magic are desperately needed in a world suffering from war, poverty and disease. When she boards an airship to travel to her new assignment, she has no idea the hazards she will face or the people – or creatures – she will meet. Very few turn out to be who they seem to be at first. The charming steward she meets as she boards the ship has more than one secret under his helpful demeanor. Conspiratorial twists bring her into the sights of the Clockwork Daggers – the spies and assassins of the queen. From mysterious illnesses to invading gremlins to dangling precariously from the outside of the airborne ship and even to murder, the voyage proves to be a rocky ride. Once on the ground, the going gets even more precarious for Octavia. Can even the Lady she prays to and the world tree help her this time?

“Steampunk is Victorian science fiction in the tradition of Jules Verne.”

AUTHORLINK: What is steampunk? What elements are usually in a steampunk story?

CATO: Steampunk is Victorian science fiction in the tradition of Jules Verne. It usually features high manners, fashion such as corsets and goggles, and advanced clockwork devices like airships, submarines, and robots.

AUTHORLINK: What was the first aspect of your story that came to you? Where did you go from there?

CATO: I knew I wanted to write about a healer, and I hit on the idea of doing a steampunk twist on Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but on an airship. The immediate question was, “Why are people trying to kill her? What do they want?” The plot evolved from there, delving into politics, war, and even green-skinned little gremlins.

AUTHORLINK: Even though your story is science fiction and fantasy, there is also the historical aspect. What research did you do?

CATO: The novel isn’t set on Earth, but is based on post-World War I Europe. For research, I read novels and nonfiction on World War I and also the Civil War. I made up the magical herbs in the book but otherwise the medical knowledge and tools are accurate to the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

AUTHORLINK: Can you explain the title?

CATO: I wanted the word “Clockwork” in the title because it’s a clear indicator of the steampunk genre. A friend suggested “Clockwork Dagger,” and I realized that would be a great term for the assassins used by the royal family.

“Every short story, article, and poem is training for a novel.”

AUTHORLINK: How did all of the writing you’ve done before this novel help prepare you to write a salable manuscript?

CATO: Every short story, article, and poem is training for a novel. That’s not only in terms of the technical writing–making the story make sense–but also in surviving as a writer. It’s a job filled with consistent rejection and imminent one-star reviews. To make it, you have to stay stubborn and strive to improve your work.

“There’s a sense of imposter syndrome–“Am I really allowed to sit here?”

AUTHORLINK: You’ve attended comic conventions before selling your novel – this year you went as a featured speaker. How did you feel about that?

CATO: It was incredibly fun! I attended Phoenix Comicon as a fan for several years and it was amazing to be a panelist and sit on the other side of the room. There’s a sense of imposter syndrome–“Am I really allowed to sit here? I can wander the back halls and see celebrities walk by? Wow!” It’s like being a kid and getting access to Santa’s workshop.

AUTHORLINK: It looks as if more adventures are in store for Octavia. What can you tell us about a sequel?

CATO: The Clockwork Crown comes out June 9th, 2015! It’s a duology, so this book will wrap up Octavia’s story with a lot more murder, mayhem, and–to the delight of readers– even more gremlins.

About Beth Cato:

Cato grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley and now lives in Arizona. She always knew she wanted to be a writer. She has published well over 100 works in diverse magazines from The Ultimate Cat Lover to Niteblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine and has had more than a dozen essays in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She was a panelist at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC, in November.

Diane Slocum
Regular Contributor:
Diane Slocum

Diane Slocum has been a newspaper reporter and editor and authored an historical book. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to magazines and newspapers. She writes features on authors and a column for writers and readers in Lifestyle magazine. She is assigned to write interviews of first-time novelists and bestselling authors for Authorlink.