We are delighted to share the following interview Sharon Barber had with author Brooke Johnson. Brooke’s first novel, The Clockwork Giant was published on December 13, 2011. Brooke Johnson is a self-published author, who lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband Aaron and dog K.K. She writes fantasy and science fiction.
“I first met Brooke in the summer before her senior year in high school when she worked making Sharon Barber Purse parts. She is very talented and creative in many ways. I loved the The Clockwork Giant, read it and you will too.” ~Sharon Barber
Sharon: Being from the baby-boomer generation, I must say that I had to google “steampunk” to begin to wrap my brain around the style. How do you define it?
Brooke: A lot of people—writers, filmmakers, etc.—seem to think that to make something steampunk, you just have to put some gears and goggles in it. And while the visual qualities of steampunk are key to the genre, it goes so much deeper than that. For me, steampunk is a celebration of Victorian science, more than the aesthetic veneer of clockwork, steam machines, and brass. It’s a reflection of the Victorian ideology of a future ruled by science, appreciation of intellectual pursuits and scientific progress, and recognition of the engineers, inventors, and scientists behind it all. It’s a romantic notion, maybe, but that’s what I think steampunk should be.
Sharon: Your novel is fantasy, but you are obviously familiar with some of the technical terms used in engineering, patents and machinery. How much research did you have to do?
Brooke: I spent about two weeks researching the Victorian era—the science, social structure, language, living conditions, philosophy, and every other aspect of their culture. For the science alone, I read several books on steam machines, clockwork, electromagnetism, and electricity, including study of steam boilers, steam engines, batteries, gears and gearboxes, linkages, valves, radio waves, and much more. I’ve always had a fascination with how things work, so the research was not daunting to me. I loved all the research I did. Of all the research I did, maybe half of it made it into the book.
Sharon: Petra, the main character in your book is a woman in a “man’s world”. She takes a job knowing that she may never get credit for her own work because she is female. Would you?
Brooke: When you’re that passionate about something, I don’t think anything could stand in your way. I would like to believe that if I lived when Petra did, I would have the same sort of defiance and determination, but I can’t say for sure. I admire Petra for her tenacity. She’s someone worth looking up to.
Sharon: What is the message you hope people receive from reading your novel?
Brooke: I’ve always believed that you can do anything if you put your mind to it and don’t give up, and I think that comes through in the novel. Petra faces astounding adversity, but she is determined to follow her dreams anyway. It didn’t matter to her that she was living in the slums of the city, that she had never had proper training, or that she was an orphan. She saw herself as an engineer, despite all that, and I think it’s important for people, especially young adults on the verge of making lives for themselves, to pursue their dreams, to dream bigger and bolder, to be unafraid of failure, and do what they love. And I hope that Petra inspires that in someone.
Sharon: I don’t think most people can imagine what it’s like to be an artist of any kind and that it is “your job”. What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
Brooke: I write Monday through Friday, usually from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, when my husband gets home. I blog three days of the week, so sometimes, I don’t get started until after lunch. However, I try to write as much as possible in a day, usually averaging 500 words an hour. On a good day, I can get about 750 words an hour. On rough days, I won’t write a word, or I’ll want to chuck my keyboard across the office, but those are few and far between. At this pace, I can easily complete the first draft of a novel within four months. I would like to think I could write like this forever, but I know that life has a way of ruining productivity. Watching my four month old goddaughter comes to mind.
I try to treat my writing as much like a job as I can, while still wearing pajamas. I listen to music while I write, usually techno or film scores. Sometimes, I change things up and write longhand—pen and paper and everything!—or I’ll move to the living room and work on my laptop. Sometimes, a change of scenery can spark the creative juices, but most of my writing days are spent in my office. And I’d like to share the quote above my monitor: Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it. I have often times looked up at that quote (spoken by Dumbledore in the final Harry Potter film), and it has reminded me why I write.
Sharon: I read that you have been interested in writing since you were a little girl. That is truly a gift to know where you want to go early in life. What was one of your first stories?
Brooke: My very first stories were told orally, usually stories about myself that I thought would impress my friends, but my first written story was a book about a zombie boy who took revenge on the person who killed him. I still have it somewhere, the lengthy six page tome, with illustrations and everything. I wrote it in second grade. After that, I’d write stories about me and my friends, my family, and sometimes I would make characters up, but it wasn’t until high school that I really started taking it seriously. I’m just glad I stuck with it.
Sharon: What’s next?
Brooke: Well, at the time of this interview, I’m working on the sequel to The Clockwork Giant, titled The Chroniker Legacy. Once the second book is finished, I’m going to take a break from steampunk and try my hand at a literary science fiction novel that I can’t seem to get out of my head. Once the steampunk series is finished, I think I’ll write a Norse epic or some other single novels. We’ll see when the time comes.
Sharon: Anything additional you would like to add?
Brooke: For anyone who wants to make a career as a writer, you can never start too early or too late. I know a girl who signed a book contract at nineteen and another woman who didn’t write her first book until she was fifty. If you really want it, don’t give up. Learn everything you can. And read. Read a lot. Books are good for the soul.
Thank you, Brooke for being our guest! You have accomplished so much already, at such a young age, and we wish you much success in your future.
Visit Brooke Johnson at her website: Brooke-Johnson.com
Purchase The Clockwork Giant from Amazon.
Purchase The Clockwork Giant from Barnes and Nobel.