Interview with N. K. Pulley, author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Alt Hist’s next author interview is with N. K. Pulley, who wrote ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ for Issue 2.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I work for Cambridge University Press in the maths and astronomy departments, where I write a lot of blurbs and steal cake from the production editors. In September, I’ll be starting a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. I hope, at some point after that, to go to Japan.

How did you get the idea for the story?

Keita Mori coelesced one evening while I was watching Dr Who. I built everything else around him; I read through some old editions of the London Illustrated News to see what was happening in the 1880s and found that there had been an Irish bombing campaign, and that there had been a Japanese presence in Knightsbridge in the form of a show village. One of the lovelier things about historical fiction is that it practially writes itself.

I understand that your story is part of a series. What does the future hold for the characters of Watchmaker of Filigree Street?

Gilbert and Sullivan, a clockwork octopus and some suffragists, although possibly not all together.

Do you write exclusively historical fiction or do you stray into other genres? If so what do you think the main challenges are of writing historical fiction compared to other genres?

I write fantasy too. In some ways it is much easier than historical fiction, because you can make up your own timeline and your own rules; in others, historical fiction is a gift to plotting because often the things that actually happened, or could have happened if somebody hadn’t had toothache, are much more extraordinary than something completely imaginary. I think the main difficulty is finding the line between fiction and biography. It doesn’t do to get too bogged down in whether the Earl of Salisbury grew petunias or not, but at the same time, there needs to be enough research involved to avoid any howling errors.

Don’t forget to check out N. K. Pulley’s story ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ in the second issue of Alt Hist.

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Interview with AshleyRose Sullivan, author of ‘In Cappadocia’

AshleyRose Sullivan, author of ‘In Cappadocia’ from Issue 2 of Alt Hist is next up for an interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Los Angeles now but I grew up in the mountains and foothills of Appalachia. I have a degree in Anthropology with minors in English and Theater and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. Aside from writing, I founded and run a Shakespeare Institute for children in rural Kentucky.

What attracts you to historical fiction?

I’ve always been a huge history fan but when it comes to fiction, I prefer alternate history. I like looking at the tapestry of our past, getting really close to it, and asking, “What would happen if I were to pull at this single thread? What sort of effect might that have on the larger piece?” And, of course for me, thinking about it isn’t enough. I have to come as close as I can to actually pulling the thread and running with it. Writing alternate history is a way for me to do that.

Tell us a bit more about the background to the story ‘In Cappadocia’.

I’d heard about the Cappadocian civilization before but had never seen it until I caught a special about it on The History Channel. Once I got a look at the amazing caverns that make up the underground cities and the alien landscape above them, I was transfixed. I thought about how terrifying and captivating a place like that would be to an invader from antiquity and wanted to get close to a person like that – to show how scary the unknown can be.

One of your stories has been turned into a musical. How did that come about and what did you think of the results?

At Spalding, I got to work with a number of really talented writers. One of the playwrights, Tommy Trull, liked my work and asked if I had any stories that might work as a musical and I sent him “Silent Pictures” which is about an immigrant actor at the end of the silent film era who’s in danger of losing his job because of his accent. The play premiered at the Greensboro Fringe Festival in North Carolina. Tommy did an amazing job converting the story to a musical, especially considering the fact that the main character didn’t have a single line of dialogue in the original piece. It’s a fresh, multimedia production and I love what he’s doing with it.

What are you currently working on?

I recently finished an alternate history young adult novel which I’m beginning to shop around and I just started research on a new novel that mixes contemporary paranormal elements with events and people from history.

Don’t forget to check out AshleyRose’s story ‘In Cappadocia’ in the second issue of Alt Hist.

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Interview with Priya Sharma, author of ‘The Orchid Hunters’

Priya Sharma has written two stories for Alt Hist so far: ‘The Bitterness of Apples’ in Issue 1 and ‘The Orchid Hunters’ in Issue 2. She kindly answered a few questions for Alt Hist.

How did you get into writing?

Reading a great book transported me but it also made me envious. I realised I wanted to write too and was making excuses not to. Some people find it a natural, easy process but I had to go through a very big pain barrier to make a start. Writing can feel like pulling teeth but nothing beats the thrill of completing a story (except for an editor accepting it, of course).

What do you do apart from writing?

I love books and films. It’s my mother’s fault. She introduced me to Hardy and Hitchcock. I’m a doctor by day.

How did you come up with the idea of writing about Victorian orchid hunters?

Men once died looking for what we can now get at the local garden centre. I find the history of the mundane fascinating- wars were once waged over coffee and nutmeg. Orchids are a window into a certain strata of Victorian society and its ideals. When I saw a documentary that showed elephants cradling the bones of their dead I knew I wanted to work it into a story and the ‘elephant orchid’ was born.

Are you working on any other short stories or novels at the moment and if so can you tell us a bit more about them?

I have two novels sat on my hard drive that need reworking- one is a historical fantasy and the other science fiction. I’m currently writing a horror short about the recession. The other piece I’m wrestling with is about a woman haunted by the failure of her marriage.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

To write more and write better. To be better at plotting. My approach to writing doesn’t lend itself to tight story structure, so it means I have to do a lot of rewrites to get a story I’m happy with. If I was better at planning it would also make it easier for me to write another novel.

Priya’s website: www.priyasharmafiction.co.uk contains more information and links to her other work.

Don’t forget to read the free extracts of Priya’s stories ‘The Bitterness of Apples’ and ‘The Orchid Hunters’.

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Interview with Jessica Wilson, author of ‘Death in Theatre’

We’re going to be running a series of interviews with the authors from our second issue. First up is Jessica Wilson, author of ‘Death in Theatre’.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s Elementary Education program. I’ve loved writing since the third grade, and I’ve been an aspiring novelist since middle school when my friends and I would exchange writing on the bus. I’m 23, recently engaged, and currently working on what I hope will be my first novel. I write largely fantasy; I’ve actually earned Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest twice.

What attracts you to historical fiction?

“Death in Theatre” was actually a happy accident. I do not typically write historical fiction, and I only rarely read it. When I do read it, my favorite part is being immersed in the world as it was back then. It’s one thing to think about how different life was in historic times, but quite another to view it through the eyes of someone (real or fictional) who lived it.

How did you get the idea for the story?

I wrote “Death in Theatre” for a challenge on my writing website. It was a genre challenge, and that round was Historic Fiction. At first I wanted to go with something closer to my usual comfort range, like something medieval, Roman, or feudal Japanese. But eventually I decided that focusing on an individual would be best, and that a traitor or assassin would be the most intriguing. When I thought of John Wilkes Booth, I was uncertain at first because it’s not my usual fare, but I decided to challenge myself. What kind of man must Booth have been to assassinate President Lincoln?

Union or Confederacy?

Union. My family is actually from the south, but my dad was in the Army when I grew up and I lived all over. When I came back to the family home for my tenth grade year, seeing the Confederate pride down there disturbed me on a number of levels. The Confederacy wasn’t all about slave-holding, of course, though that was one reason I was put off by all the Confederate pride. But the simple fact that the Confederacy wanted to split from the Union makes all that pride seem unpatriotic to me. Maybe they view it differently, but that’s why I found (and still find) it hard to understand.

What are you currently working on?

A young adult fantasy novel. I actually have a lot of ideas floating around, but I’m trying to stick to this one. I have a long history of getting very far in a story and then abandoning it, taking a break for another idea. By the time I get back to the old story, I hate it and want to rewrite. My goal is to get all the way through this one this time, because what’s the use in being a writer if you never finish anything?

Don’t forget to read a free sample of Jessica’s ‘Death in Theatre’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.

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Previews of Alt Hist Issue 2 Stories Now Available

You can now read free previews of each fiction piece in Alt Hist Issue 2 on the Current Issue page. I have included the biography of the author and about a quarter or so of the story in each case.

Hope it whets your appetite for more!

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Free Story Available: Disambiguation by Ian Sales

Ian Sales who wrote the story ‘Travelling by Air‘ for the first issue of Alt Hist, has kindly allowed us to distribute his story Disambiguation. This is a great alternate history story, and is available for free as it’s published under a Creative Commons licence. The story also includes some great photos provided by Ian.

The story is available here.

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Provisional Table of Contents for Issue 2 of Alt Hist

As work progresses on putting together issue 2 – typesetting, proof-reading etc – I thought you might want to have a quick glimpse of what will be coming up, so here’s a list of the stories that will be appearing (in no particular order!):

  • The Apollo Mission by David Wiggin
  • In Cappadoccia by AshleyRose Sullivan
  • Son of Flanders by William Knight
  • The Orchid Hunters by Priya Sharma
  • The Scarab of Thutmose by Suzanne Sykora
  • The Watch-Maker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
  • Long Nights in Languedoc by Andrew Knighton
  • Death in Theatre by Jessica Wilson
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Eight stories in the second issue of Alt Hist

I am pleased to announce that we have now accepted eight stories in total for the second issue of Alt Hist. I’m really excited about this issue. We have managed to get more fiction in this time and an even more diverse range of settings and types of historical fiction, from straight historical to alternate to historical fantasy.

Work is now starting on typesetting. More updates soon.

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Publication Date of the Second Issue of Alt Hist

When will the second issue of Alt Hist be published?

Well for the next issue I’m aiming for between 7 and 8 stories altogether and so far I have accepted 4. I do have some to review that looked quite good, so I’m fairly confident that I should have enough stories accepted by the end of this month. There will then be a round of proofs and typsetting to do in February/March, which means that with a fair wind you can expect the second issue of Alt Hist to be coming in March or April.

I’ll keep you posted!

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Alternatively we also have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, which will also post all the latest news, sometimes smaller nuggets of information that won’t merit a whole post on this site, so these are well worth a look too.

On the Facebook page especially we’re starting to get some good discussions going. For instance about whether podcasting stories was a good idea and also some questions about the next issue. So if you use Facebook I’d encourage you to join the debate, or even start one of your own on the Alt Hist page on anything to do with Alt Hist or the subject of historical fiction, whether alternate, fantastical or reality-based.

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