I am feeling thoroughly spoiled right now. I’ve got a cold, and my roommate went out to get me lemon tea and cough syrup before she went out. Not only that, but my ARC copy of The Clockwork Menagerie arrived, and it was just as much of a pick-me-up as the tea. Honestly, I think Elliot Cooper might have written the perfect bad day book. The Clockwork Menagerie is charming and sweet, a quick read that very quickly replaced my self-pity with a warm glow of contentment. It is a cup of tea in book form, a story I am sure I will be returning again and again. Elliot, thank you for this lovely story!
Elliot: That’s high praise! Thank you 😀 I got the same feeling on my final reread, so it’s good to know it brought out the same feelings for you when you needed them.
When we last talked during The Clockwork Menagerie Cover Reveal, you said that the catalyst of the story was the cat, Ophelia. Even knowing this, I found the way that the story unfolded was a lovely surprise! I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for other readers, but I loved the form Ophelia’s involvement took. You are definitely a cat person, if you can create a mechanical cat that still does the cat thing of being sick in inconvenient places and make her thoroughly sympathetic.
Elliot: LOL yes, poor Ophelia and her mechanical “hairballs.” That was a little comedy relief that I wanted to make sure was tied to the plot. Much like real life, getting sick wasn’t exactly her fault.
The other thing that made the story for me was your deft touch with characterization, which allowed you to set the stage for the conflict between Clement and disgruntled client, Lady Archington, and also between Clement and Duke, and then step back to let events play out in a thoroughly natural way. It’s one of the cases where events and characters blend so perfectly that it’s hard to imagine how the story came into being. Characters first? Plot? The characters suggested the plot?
Elliot: Thinking back, I believe it was a case of the characters suggesting the plot in the end. I had originally imagined the story to be a longer novella with all manner of fantastical obstacles/chase scenes/near misses, but when I sat down to write…that angle was just too much and the characters didn’t allow for it.
Speaking of perfectly blended, I loved how Clement and Duke’s personalities were so well matched, each appreciating what the other had while providing what he had not. Despite this, their misunderstanding felt totally natural and not forced. I loved their slow move towards understanding–and I loved that Clement stayed true to his artistry and integrity. It’s really easy to see a parallel there with writing. What does being true to your art mean for you?
Elliot: Not giving up on it and doing what’s right for the story. The second is kind of nebulous. Sometimes it can mean going with my gut, other times it means listening to feedback from others and reevaluating my point of view. There’s an important balance there that’s going to be different for each project.
It also has a bit to do with not letting publishers force me to add extraneous things to my work (like sex scenes in a sweet story) or remove things that are important (like sex scenes involving character development in an erotic story). I keep seeing authors mention this sort of thing, especially the former, and I hope I never have to deal with it.
Duke might be the better businessman of the pair, but I loved that he was equally as awkward as Clement when it came to the tricky business of feelings. We saw less of him, but I adored that his choice of employee was the unconventional Miss Rigby. I’d really like to know how they first crossed paths!
Elliot: Minnie had a falling out with her captain and quit being an air pirate. I always kind of imagined her trying to steal from Duke–sneaking in to dismantle some of his automatons to steal key parts to flip–and him catching her and offering her an honest job. Eager to more fully escape her past, she accepted. 🙂
Actually, on the subject of Duke and Miss Rigby’s pasts, I really enjoyed how much world building was packed into the story. I have to ask– is Elsa correct in her theory about Captain Herringbone?
Elliot: I’m afraid to say! I’m actually developing a story featuring Elsa and Minnie. Elsa’s theories are going to play a key role. 🙂
Before we leave The Clockwork Menagerie, I believe you promised me a picture of your cats. Cats please!
Elliot: Kitty time! Gaius is the black cat and Padme is the tabby.
The Clockwork Menagerie ends with a preview of Junk Mage, your upcoming romance between a cyborg and a technomancer. I’ve got a lot of questions, but I’m going to start with the obvious. What is a technomancer? And wow but Quillian Defote is an amazing name. Does Quillian have a nickname?
Elliot: In the world of Junk Mage, a technomancer is a mage who can manipulate technology. So Quillian, who goes by the nickname Quill, is able to repurpose tech objects into other tech objects or otherwise enhance them.
I’m glad you like his name! I felt like it was both mage-y and futuristic sounding, plus a little over the top like Quill’s personality.
Cyborgs take many forms, but what form does yours take? Besides polished silver hand and possibly bionic eyes?
Elliot: Primarily the cyborgs in Junk Mage‘s setting have visibly bionic parts with metal casings and so on, but some also have internal parts. There’s an overarching marriage of tech, magic, and biology in the universe. It’s mentioned that some people acquire bionic parts for cosmetic or job performance reasons, not just to replace missing or damaged parts.
Although you described Junk Mage in our last interview as another sweet romance, the tone feels very different in the sample–perhaps because we’re seeing the meeting of two strangers rather than the gradual understanding between longstanding rivals. What challenges did writing Junk Mage pose? How did you overcome them?
Elliot: Junk Mage is more action adventure romantic comedy, whereas The Clockwork Menagerie is character driven drama. So the tone of the stories is definitely different. I think you’re right, too, that the type of relationship has a lot to do with it.
My biggest challenge with Junk Mage was showing enough personality and motivation in the major non-POV characters. I hadn’t worked in first person in a while, but Quill’s voice is so strong and vibrant that it didn’t make sense to use any other POV. I tweaked a few things after my beta readers and critique partners got back to me, and I think the secondary characters come across more strongly for it.
And before we say goodbye, what are you enjoying currently? Please share a recommendation of a book, TV show or game that you think might appeal to readers of The Clockwork Menagerie.
Elliot: I confess that I don’t read a lot of sweet or light-hearted romance. And I have a bad habit of reading several things at once, usually varied works that have nothing to do with each other so I can pick up whatever suits my mood.
Right now I’m reading: Perihelion by Tami Veldura (sci-fi), If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (contemporary), The Misbegotten by Justin DePaoli (fantasy), Bump in the Night edited by Rachel Haimowitz (horror), and The Indestructible Jews by Max I. Dimont (history).
I’m not sure if any of those would be of interest to readers who will enjoy The Clockwork Menagerie, but the first two are closer than my favorite TV show, Game of Thrones lol!
Now that I think about it, though, puzzle-loving gamers might like the Professor Layton series for DS/3DS.
Keep up with Junk Mage and news of Elliot’s other releases by following him on twitter, or at his site http://www.elliotcooperwrites.com
The Clockwork Menagerie
Autosmith Clement Dyer wants to create his life-like, mechanical animals in peace. He’s tired of being badgered about selling his business to his long-time rival and former lover, Duke Goodwin. He also craves appreciation for his living works of art.
Unfortunately, not all of Clement’s clients see his clockwork creations the way he does, and a prominent but dissatisfied customer threatens to sink his struggling business into the ground.
Elliot Cooper is a creativity addict who prefers writing stories that embody adventure, a hint of the taboo, and shadows that are deeper than they appear at first glance. All the better if romantic or erotic elements are key.
Elliot also enjoys video games and knitting, and lives in the southern US with his human and feline family.