Interview with Lisa Mantchev, author of the steampunk novel 'Ticker'

By Marie on Dec 8th, 2014

Author Lisa Mantchev
Hi Lisa, many thanks for doing the interview. Your new novel 'Ticker' has been recently released, and has been described by you as 'a romp of a book with an overabundance of nonsense. It is intended for people who like shenanigans and cake and action scenes and a little romance mixed into their NeoVictorian mysteries!”'. For those readers unfamiliar with the steampunk genre, how would you describe it? Lisa Mantchev: In a tiny brass nutshell, steampunk is “alternate history with steam-powered technology.” Quite a lot of the time, it is set during the Industrial Revolution, but it certainly doesn’t have to be confined to the 1800s, nor to some version of England. There are many standard tropes, including gadgetry and clockwork, and it’s heavily influenced by the works of Jules Vern and H.G. Wells. The world in which Penny lives is so rich in detail, especially when it comes to describing the technologies and steampunk creations. Did you do any research, or how did you come up with the concepts? Lisa Mantchev: I have an affinity for the time period, so it wasn’t any work at all to wallow in nonfiction like What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew and Gallimaufry: A Hodgepodge of our Vanishing Vocabulary, plus research on my absolute favorite thing: costuming. One entire shelf in my guest room now contains books on Victorian apparel. I also immersed myself in the steampunk maker movement. This includes artisans who make retrofuturistic NeoVictorian technology, like Datamancer’s computer keyboards rigged with typewriter keys, and the music of Professor Elemental, Abney Park, and Steam Powered Giraffe, to name but a few.

Please tell us that your delectable bakery creations are possible in real life! (a cookbook spin-off please!) Are you a passionate baker yourself? Lisa Mantchev: I really do love to cook, as does my husband Angel, and we are very much dessert people. He’s the fearless one, tackling the complicated recipes and willing to pick up unusual ingredients… and if it calls for heavy whipping cream or marzipan, he’s all over it. For Thanksgiving this year, he turned out a vanilla-poached pear and frangipane tart that was absolutely delicious. I grew up in a baking house; both my mother and grandmother are queens of pie-making. It wasn’t a true summer celebration unless someone was cranking the old-school ice cream maker (ice custard!) to go on hot blackberry cobbler. And I would love to write a tie-in cookbook with all the recipes from TICKER. Your heroine Penny, is decidedly un-Victorian in that she is headstrong, quite physical and relies on no man to direct her actions, but she certainly prescribes to the romantic mores of her time… was this dichotomy purposeful? Lisa Mantchev: Decidedly so. The best part about writing alternate history is being able to change certain things for the better, and it was very, very important to me to create a protagonist that knew her own mind, could fight alongside of--or in front of!--the boys, and most importantly, was just as brave as she was vulnerable. How important is it to you as a woman and as an author, that your young heroine be an independent thinker? Lisa Mantchev: Of the utmost importance. Both Penny and my previous protagonist, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, have strong thoughts and feelings and opinions. They make their own decisions, which are not always the right ones, but they own up to their mistakes afterwards and learn from them. I also refuse to tone down their energy and their enthusiasm for life; if they are going to “rush headlong” into anything, I let them. An aspect of Penny that was wonderful and unusual for female fiction of any type, is her unabashed appetite - specifically her love and enjoyment of sweet treats. Was there a purpose in focusing on her love of cakes and candies? Lisa Mantchev: One of my early readers pointed out to me that none of my characters ever took time to sit down and eat, which would be very important to a girl with a medical condition like Penny’s. In the revisions, I added food to almost every quiet moment. With her best friend being a baker, it was a fun choice to make it tea time all the time. I have heard that there might be possibilities for a sequel. Where do you see Penny and Marcus one year from now? Any hints you could give us? Lisa Mantchev: I would love to do further adventures of Penny & Friends. A year from now, the group would most likely be visiting the other countries mentioned in TICKER. Marcus and Penny would have had twelve months of social events and time spent in each others’ company, so they’d be even more acquainted with their strengths and foibles. The two of them spend quite a lot of TICKER edging around each other, making assumptions and suffering a bit more for it, so in a sequel I would be able to challenge them in new ways. ---- About the author: Lisa Mantchev is a temporally-displaced Capricorn who casts her spells from an ancient tree in the Pacific Northwest. When not scribbling, she is by turns an earth elemental, English professor, actress, artist, and domestic goddess. She shares her abode with her husband, two children, and three hairy miscreant dogs. She is best known as the author of the young adult fantasy trilogy, The Théâtre Illuminata. Published by Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan,) the series includes the Andre Norton and Mythopoeic awards-nominated EYES LIKE STARS (2009), PERCHANCE TO DREAM (2010), and SO SILVER BRIGHT (2011.) Her young adult steampunk novel TICKER is now available from Skyscape/Amazon. Her picture books, STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS and SISTER DAY!, are forthcoming from Paula Wiseman/S&S. Stay updated with all the fun and glitter at her author website: