Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Rise of YA Steampunk (and Book Giveaway!)

I am working currently on a novel with a lot of steampunk elements. Yet, when I tell people this, most ask, “What’s steampunk?” Since steampunk is rising in popularity and has been consistently present in the market for the past several years, with books such as Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare, 2010), The Girl in the Steel Corset (Kady Cross, 2011), Incarceron (Catherine Fisher, 2010), and Boneshaker (Cherie Priest, 2009), I thought it would make sense to answer that question for YA Fusioners.

I usually tell people steampunk is written as if the Victorian world were thrust into the future. H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Jules Verne were the original science fiction writers, and their works about fantastic adventures to other worlds and times have inspired modern-day steampunk, which is filled with airships, mad scientists, corsets, brass goggles, air pirates, and lots of gears and cogs. Steampunk worlds tend to be darker, and as an off-shoot of science fiction, they are filled with amazing gadgets and gizmos that use Victorian materials and resources. Often, there is a paranormal or fantastical element to these stories, as well.

What attracts writers to this genre is its versatility. Steampunk can be set in the future, in the past, all over the globe or even on another planet. Because of this, the characters may have extremely Victorian traits or they may seem more contemporary than their Victorian-like surroundings. Whatever weapons, vehicles, or machines they use can be wildly creative and fantastic as long as they are gear-, steam-, or natural gas-driven.

Suzanne Lazear

Suzanne Lazear is an up-and-coming YA steampunk author whose book, Innocent Darkness, Book 1 of The Aether Chronicles, was released in August of 2012. The Aether Chronicles Series mixes the airships, weapons and wardrobe of steampunk with the paranormal darkness of faeries. Suzanne is also a part of the steampunk group blog, Steamed!, at, which has tons of information about writing steampunk and immersing yourself in the very cool elements of the steampunk world.

Suzanne has been kind enough to answer some questions about YA steampunk and share a bit about her own work. Thank you, Suzanne, for talking to us on YA Fusion!

How did you get into steampunk?

I have liked steampunk books for quite awhile, but I didn't know that it had a specific name until I discovered steampunk clothing.

You are currently working with Flux for The Aether Chronicles series. When you began pitching your first book in this series, did you find steampunk was a tough sell?

Yes, when I first started pitching steampunk, I spent more time explaining steampunk than pitching the book. I got rejections because people "just didn't understand this steampunk stuff." I also got some pushback because I'm not just writing steampunk, but steampunk faeries, and some people didn't understand why I needed to have both in the same book. Fortunately, my editor at Flux liked the idea just fine.

What are your favorite YA steampunk books?

My favorite YA steampunk book is Kady Cross' The Girl in the Steel Corset.

What do you see as steampunk’s future in YA?

Steampunk is such an incredibly diverse genre and there are so many places it can go. Like YA, steampunk is often about grey areas and pushing limits. I think not only is YA steampunk here to stay, but we're going to see a lot more steampunk mash-ups as authors continue to get creative and push boundries of their own.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book in The Aether Chronicles?

Yes! Charmed Vengeance continues to follow Noli, V, Kevighn, and James. I love this book even more than Innocent Darkness -- there were a lot of scenes that were super fun to write. Also, most of this book takes place on an airship. There's plenty of adventure -- and air pirates. (Yes, one of them is Noli's brother). I can't wait for you all to read it when it comes out next summer.


To find out more about Suzanne’s The Aether Chronicles series, visit


Leave a comment below with the title of a YA steampunk book you’ve read that we haven’t mentioned in this post or with an explanation of what you think readers love about steampunk. Leave your email in the post so I can contact you if you win. A winner will be randomly drawn and announced on YA Fusion on Saturday, November 17. Good Luck!!

I am happy to annouce that YA Fusion reader Nuzaifa has won the drawing for Suzanne's book, Innocent Darkness.
Congratulations, Nuzaifa!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Query Hell

I did a post several months ago about queries and how difficult they can be. Since then, I've gotten a lot of emails from people wanting help with their queries, I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about queries again, as I know there are a lot of writers obsessing over that dreaded query right this second.

One of the hardest things to do other than writing a query, is actually critiquing a query without reading a story, so whatever advice you get, keep in mind that without someone reading your novel, they don't know the ends and outs like you. Does that mean you should discount their feedback. Absolutely not, but you should be able to take their advice and tweak it with you own extensive knowledge of your book.

During my writing career I’ve probably sent well over 150 queries. Yep. You read that correctly. Some of those queries were for agents, others for the agent to submit to editors. I’ve written a total thirteen, unique queries for different books. Each of those thirteen has been rewritten so many times I cringe to even think about it. Out of all those rewrites, there’s only one query that I’ve ever been truly proud of and that was CURSED.

Here is some advice I can give you on writing the query.

  • Start off with your synopsis. And trust me, that sucks worse than a query, but typically you can pull a query out of a synopsis. Also, if you can’t write a synopsis for your book, you’re not going to be able to write a query. Why? Because you either don’t know your book well enough yet or there’s flaws in your book that still need to be worked out.
  • Make sure your query has your character’s voice. You query should read like your book.
  • Write your query in first person. GASP.  That was the Internet gasping at that suggestion. Keep reading. Writing your query in first person can help you get into your character’s voice. Once you have your query finished, go back and change it from first person to third person. Now the Internet can calm down. It’s a trick that’s worked for me.
  • Have unbiased, complete strangers reader your query. Not your beta partners. There are forums like Query Tracker that is a great place for this.
  • Rewrite your query until your eyes bleed. Don’t be like me and submit the very first version of the query you’ve written. It’s embarrassing.
  • Once you’ve written and rewritten your query and submitted your query, the next thing you need to do is prepare yourself for rejection because it’s going to happen. Some of the most popular writers have been rejected dozens and dozens of times. It’s just the nature of the process. 

      There isn't one perfect way to write a query and no one person can tell you how to do it. I kind of compared queries to the Big Mac sauce. No one knows quite what's in it, but they have their theories. In the end, it taste damn good. So it's a bit talent, bit timing, and a bit luck.