A steampunk writer often brings to life worlds of dystopian struggles, grim horrors, fantastical wonders and deliciously mad scientists. We dive into these stories with relish as we sample the angst, loves and terrors with fascination of these alternative realities. As our imagination stretches to encompass these constructs, there is another side to consider: the sweetness afforded to a children’s bedtime story.
Written by Emilie P. Bush and Illustrated by Kevin Petty, Her Majesty’s Explorer – A Steampunk bedtime story, follows the footsteps of a young automaton through his travels in the wilderness all the way into his own little bed. St John Murphy Alexander marches the young reader through the excitement of exploration and duty, and lulls us with the tender familiarity of a comforting bedtime routine. The story is curious and and intrepid, yet ready to be tucked in for a good night’s sleep.
[O'ink] “What inspired you to write this book?”
EPB: The short answer: Kevin. He sent me some fan art after reading my first novel – Chenda and the Airship Brofman. It was good, and I, being a soldier’s daughter and very flattered by the great honor he paid by drawing the ship in my head (three times! He kept tweeking until he got it to match my vision) I showed his drawings around at conventions – and folks advised me “Don’t be stupid – do a project with this guy!” So, I looked at his collection of art, saw an automaton soldier that was fascinating to me, and I wrote a story about him – and Kevin softened up the tough soldier into the adorable St.John Murphy Alexander. Did I mention that – at this point – we’d never actually met in person – never talked on the phone even? Kevin contacted me from where he was deployed in Kuwait.
[O'ink] “How did you come to choose a children’s bedtime story as a genre?”
EPB: My kids are all about the bedtime story, and the best bedtime stories are the ones you can read with your kid, and then they can explore a book on their own.
I hope that parents will read this book to their kids and then leave the light on a while to let the kids comb through Kevin’s very detailed images a second time or more while they wind down. The main story – I wanted it to be a circle – kids are all about going around in circles – so St.J marches for weeks – goes home and washed up for bed – where he dreams of marching for weeks and weeks. it takes them right back to the beginning. The seek and find encourages them to take a look again – Can you go back and find the eagle? Where is the picture frame? I recall growing up the Richard Scarry picture books, and in each two page spread was hidden The Gold Bug, My sister and I spent HOURS looking at Richard Scarry illustrations searching for that little bitty thing!
[O'ink] “You have managed to incorporate steampunk themes with a bed and bathtime routine, how have children (and parents) reacted to this novel approach?”
EPB: Most demand a Steamduck for their own baths. Grownups more than you would think…
Like I said – for simple creatures – kids like detail and to do things over and over again. You know what happens when you leave a kid alone in the car for a second – they climb up into the front seat and flip all the knobs and switches and play with the mirrors and stick quarters from the coin drawer into the CD player. Kids can turn ANYTHING into an exploration and experiment. Children and adults connect to Steampunk on THAT level. Together. For grown ups, we talk about the subversive nature of Steampunk – the class and gender bending in costumes, making contraptions and so on, but it really brings out the play in us – the KID in us – to craft costumes and play with the test tubes, cogs and grease.
[O'ink] “St-John Murphy is a plucky automaton, and Steamduck an fearless bath toy, will we be enjoying more of their adventures?”
EPB: Eventually – yes. Kevin and I have been kicking around several more books together. They are very much in the planning stages at this point, but we are committed to a partnership for the foreseeable future. Keep your eyes peeled for more adorable Steampunk animals, some poetry lessons and a more grown up project. You will see more books from us at Coal City Stories – THIS – calendar year. Count on it.
About the Author:
Journalist and writer Emilie P. Bush has writtten two novels. Her first, Chenda and the Airship Brofman, was a “ripping good yarn!” and the tale was a 2010 Semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The Gospel According to Verdu picks up the epic tale where Chenda left off – high in the skies.
Emilie P. Bush lives, laughs and writes with her family in Altanta where she works full time as a writer. In her own words: “I like to think of myself as a “retired” broadcast journalist (I left after almost 15 years in broadcasting to raise my children, and have few regrets about not going back.) I’ve lived in Atlanta since 1997, I’m originally from Northeastern, Ohio, which is where I learned to drive – but I never let myself believe that gives me any right to be driving in Georgia in the snow. Growing up – my father was both a soldier and a librarian. My mother, too, worked in an elementary school library. (I joke that dinner at our house was like this: “Shhh! (whispered) Pass the potatoes…”) So part of each year was spent on an army base and at the American Library Association’s summer convention.
I do talks across the Sci/fi convention circuits and at writer’s conferences on the future of electronic books and the Good, the Bad and The Ugly of Publishing in the 21st century.”