Hey everyone! The wait is almost over – MECHANICA releases tomorrow and I’m so excited for everyone to get their hands on a copy of this wonderful and imaginative book with its gorgeous writing, its fascinating and adorable characters, and its absolutely brilliant take on the Cinderella story.
I’m also thrilled to be able to share an interview with MECHANICA’s incredibly talented and amazing author, Betsy Cornwell, in which I ask her about reinventing the classic fairytale, about Nicolette’s mechanical menagerie and favorite inventions, and who her favorite secondary characters were, along with a few quickie questions.
The interview follows below the book’s details, so be sure to check it out. And be sure to check out Betsy Cornwell’s website – and other social media sites – to learn more about the author and her writing.
The tour continues through the end of the week. So if you’d like to see what other bloggers have to say about MECHANICA or to read a few guest posts and interviews, scroll down to the tour schedule at the end of the post which has links to all the stops.
And if you’d like the chance to win some fab prizes, including a copy of MECHANICA, enter in the Rafflecopter.
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Release date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.
But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.
Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.
Q&A with Betsy Cornwell
Q. What did you enjoy most about reinventing the Cinderella story? What did you find to be the most challenging aspect?
I first wrote Mechanica as part of a collection of fairy tale retellings for a senior project at Smith College, back in 2009. I was thinking a lot about how restrictive fairy tale structure actually is: they’re these elegant, perfectly plotted stories, but they all pull inexorably toward one narrow definition of happily ever after. Cinderella in particular is like a well-oiled machine, such a compelling story that some version of it exists on every continent where humans live (and hey, probably where we don’t–it’s that universal).
A steampunk Cinderella, I thought, would want to reach into the machinations of her own story, revamp and repurpose her fate. She’d force her way out of any restrictive ending that wasn’t quite right, and she’d build something new, exciting, and entirely on her own terms. That’s when I fell in love with the idea of a steampunk inventor Cinderella with an unconventional ending, and my protagonist, Nicolette, was born.
It was supposed to be only a ten-page short story, but six years and 300 pages later, here we are! Sometimes I thought I’d never actually finish writing it; that was probably the hardest part. But now I’ve actually held the book in my hands, and I can’t tell you how amazing that feels.
Q. Nicolette is an inventor – what are some of her favorite or most interesting inventions?
There’s no fairy godmother in Mechanica (she’s absent from lots of older versions of the tale, too), so Nicolette does for herself: when she decides she wants to go to the royal Exhibition of Art and Science and its accompanying ball, she builds her own mechanical carriage, and even crafts working shoes from glass and interlocking gears, in order to get herself there in style.
Her mother was an inventor as well, and she left behind a whole menagerie of mechanical insects, spiders and other animals. Nick adds to that collection, too, and I loved writing about tiny steampunk creatures.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for a mechanical menagerie? And who are your favorite creations?
Modern-day versions of Cinderella sort of live in the shadow of the 1950 Disney movie, and those mouse and bird helpers are (of course) seriously adorable. But older versions of Cinderella have animal helpers, too: birds help her with her stepmother’s litany of impossible chores, and sometimes they even take revenge against the evil stepsisters by pecking out their eyes! Many versions also include the influence of Cinderella’s late mother, who even speaks to her daughter through animals.
So giving my Cinderella a menagerie was a natural part of creating the story. I made them mechanical beings powered by magic Ashes as a homage to those ‘cinders’ that gave Cinderella her name, and as a way to combine steampunk elements with fairy tale magic. There’s also a mystery tied to the Ashes that I hope to explain if I get to write a sequel!
My favorite member of the menagerie by far is the tiny clockwork horse Jules, who leads a host of mechanical insects in helping Nicolette with her chores.
Q. Who was your favorite secondary character to write about in MECHANICA – and why? And who was your least favorite secondary character to write about – and why?
My favorite has to be a tie between Jules, the mechanical horse I mentioned earlier, and Caro, Nicolette’s new best friend. Like Nick, Caro’s a maker: she builds intricate music boxes and sells them at the city market to help support her sick mother and her abundance of younger siblings and cousins, all of whom work at the royal palace. I loved writing Caro because she is extremely warm, effusive, and affectionate–exactly the traits introverted, lonely Nick needs in a best friend. I didn’t know she would be in the story at all until she just popped up when I wrote the first Market scene, but in some ways she’s now the heart of the whole book.
I don’t think I have a least favorite. Even the evil Steps were fun to write!
Q. Fairy-tales: Disney or Grimm?
- Grimm! Disney is fun, but give me unsettling and eerie any day.
Q. Prince Charmings or Evil Queens?
- Evil Queens 5ever!
Q. “And so they lived happily ever after” or happily never after?
- HEAs are cool with me, as long as they’re not limited to marrying a prince.
Q. Snow White or Sleeping Beauty?
- Snow White, for her forest creature employment skills and mori-kei style.
Q. Glass slipper or awakened with a kiss?
- Glass slipper! No dubious consent + they’re magically comfortable and made to order. (Mechanica’s are custom-engineered by the inventor herself.)
About Betsy Cornwell
Betsy Cornwell is an American writer and teacher living in a stove-heated cottage in west Ireland, together with her horse trainer spouse, a small herd of dairy goats, and an increasing number of other animals. She writes fiction and nonfiction and blogs about Irish folklore, travel, wild food, goats (of course!), homesteading, and growing up.
There is a tour-wide giveaway for…
- ONE (1) winner will receive a finished copy of MECHANICA + a beautiful watch necklace from this etsy shop – US only
- TWO (2) winners will receive a finished copy of MECHANICA – US Only
Enter in the Rafflecopter below…
The Tour Schedule
- August 17th | Fangirlish – Interview
- August 18th | Uncreatively Zoey – Review
- August 19th | Two Chicks on Books – Guest Post
- August 20th | A Backwards Story – Review
- August 21st | Dark Faerie Tales – Guest Post
- August 24th | Fiktshun – Interview
- August 25th | Bookish Lifestyle – Review
- August 26th | Supernatural Snark – Interview
- August 27th | Bookhounds YA – Review
- August 28th | Me, My Shelf and I – Guest Post