Watch City Readers, May, 2021
Watch City Readers is a literacy program geared to tweens, teens, and families. Produced by Jessica Lucci through a grant from the Waltham Cultural Council and the Mass Cultural Council, its goal is to introduce the vibrancy of various literary genres in an exciting and inclusive way.
The Watch City Readers production is held on the second Sundays of the month at 6PM on Jessica Lucci’s FB page. After the live event, it is archived for future viewers or those who choose to watch again.
May’s theme was STEAMPUNK, to continue the celebration of the Watch City Steampunk Festival that swept the aether this weekend. As a steampunk myself, most known for my books THE WATCH CITY TRILOGY, I was especially thrilled to showcase this genre. After a live reading from “The Brass Queen” by Elizabeth Chatsworth, I was delighted to share an interview with the illustrious author. Following is the interview, and I hope you can feel Ms. Chattsworth’s warmth and sincerity coming through with every word.
May your clocks always chime! And, Be Bold as Brass!
What is your name?
What name so you like to be called by?
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. After college, I emigrated to the United States. I now live in Connecticut with my husband and our rambunctious Yorkshire Terrier, Boudicca (Boo for short!). I work primarily as a voice-over actor in New York City.
Do you have any connection to Waltham?
I have friends who live there!
Have you ever attended the Watch City Steampunk Festival?
What awards or recognitions have you received for your writing?
I recently won the Writers Of The Future contest with a fantasy story set in 1897 Norwalk, Connecticut. In addition, my debut novel, The Brass Queen, won numerous contests including one for Best Banter!
What genre do you write?
I write speculative fiction, mostly within the gaslamp fantasy and steampunk genres.
Tell us your latest news.
I’ve just signed a contract with CamCat Books to publish my second novel, THE BRASS QUEEN: GRAND TOUR. This novel will continue the adventures of blue-blooded Victorian rogue, Miss Constance Haltwhistle & shady US spy, JF Trusdale, as they attempt to thwart an inter-dimensional alien invasion!
When and why did you begin writing?
As my fiftieth birthday loomed, I took stock of my life. I’d always been an avid reader, but somehow, I’d never made the time to create my own stories. So, I decided to sign up for an online creative writing class. The instructor, best-selling author David Farland, encouraged my fledgling efforts, and my first assignment turned into chapter one of The Brass Queen. Five years later, the book I started in class has now been published. The moral of the story is that it’s never too late to start anything!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I held the first hardcover edition of my novel. It was a magical moment!
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was born and raised in the steel-making city of Sheffield, in Yorkshire, England. As a child, I loved the city's Victorian architecture and the Baroque splendor of nearby stately homes. When it came time to write my novel, metalworkers and aristocrats were the first characters that sprang to mind. The rest, as they say, is alternate history!
How did you come up with the title?
The "Brass Queen" is the underworld alias of my heroine, Miss Constance Haltwhistle. She’s the designer and purveyor of illegal exotic firearms. Her fabulous, fantastical weapons are enhanced by decorative brass elements, and are sold to Kings, Queens, and other miscreants!
Why would someone want to read your novel?
The Brass Queen shares a hopeful, humorous adventure set in a whimsical Victorian world. Fans of fantasy, steampunk, and historical romances will all find something to love in this story. If you like to read about strong female protagonists, you’ll appreciate Constance’s bold, fearless take on life. She’s a debutante, an underworld weapons designer, and an amateur scientist who dabbles in inter-dimensional travel.
Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?
My main character, Constance demonstrates that you don’t have to be perfect to be a hero. One person, however flawed, can change the world for the better. Constance starts the novel hosting her own coming-out ball to find a noble husband. This is as close to playing by societal rules as she can manage! By the end of the novel, she’s let go of her family estate and marital ambitions. She risks her own neck when she speaks up for women’s legal rights to a despotic Queen. From this point on, Constance will become a champion for the oppressed and forgotten. I hope this is a path we can all follow in our daily lives.
Who designs your book covers?
The book is illustrated by James A. Owen. James even created a steampunk map of my alternate Sheffield.
Who are your favorite writers, and what is it about their work that strikes you?
As a teenager, I loved The Lord Of The Rings (I still do!) for its fantastical imaginings. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite classic for its wit, romance, and sumptuous settings. Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Neil Gaiman are my perennial favorite authors for their humor and heart.
Outside of family, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Once I had completed my manuscript, I entered The Brass Queen into the Pitch Wars mentorship contest. This free to enter contest helps unpublished writers to find a literary agent. I was lucky enough to win a spot with two mentors who helped me to shape the novel into a publishable format. After three months of revising, my novel was presented in the Agent Showcase. This is where you “pitch” your novel to a selection of agents. If you’re a writer with a completed manuscript, I highly recommend submitting your work to this contest!
Do you see writing as a career?
For me, writing is a passion rather than a career. If I ever sell my movie options, I’ll reevaluate the situation!
What is most surprising to you about your writing?
That I can do it at all, after my late start!
What does your writing process look like?
My favorite place to write is in my home office, with my Yorkshire terrier, Boo, curled up beside me. I start both short stories and novels with an outline that details both the plot twists and the emotional arc of the characters. The two elements mirror and support one another, and the outline helps me to see that relationship from start to finish before I wade into writing individual paragraphs.
In a way, I use the outline to mentally drive through my story. It allows me to feel the potholes in the road, to savor the slow climb toward an emotional moment, and the downhill rush of an action scene. When the story highlights play like a movie in my mind, I know I’m ready to write. There are always surprises that pop up once you begin to put pen to paper, but the bones are there before I begin. My first drafts fly by quickly. Editing, however, can take months, if not years! No project of mine has ever felt finished, but at a certain point, you have to release your story out into the world and move on to something new.
What is your dream writing project?
It would be writing the screenplay for one of my books.
Any advice for young writers?
My main advice is to try and enjoy the creative journey each and every day. I joined writing groups, entered contests, and tried to enjoy the writing process itself rather than focusing on whether I would ever be published. If publication had been my only goal, I’m not sure I would have had the stamina to keep going through the years. By enjoying the creative process, I’ve spent time with my characters in worlds no one else could create, and ultimately, it’s been a fun adventure! I hope you have the same experience.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us? Storytelling is driven by our universal need for human connection. As a writer, I’m creating a world and characters that touch the reader emotionally. You feel what the characters feel – be it pain, love, despair, or joy. You live their lives, deal with their challenges, and become a more rounded person for the experience. In effect, you are widening your own perspective on how to live, how to be human.
What do you hope for readers to gain from your novel?
I hope my readers will truly enjoy this madcap adventure through a steam-powered world. Join flawed characters as they face invisible assassins, villainous royalty, and inter-dimensional telepathic aliens. Escape from the everyday into a fantastical world of wonder and laughter, then close the book with a smile on your face and spring in your step!
Do you have social media links or contact information you would like to share?
I’m on quite a few social media sites, and I also have a newsletter you can subscribe to for exclusive updates and giveaways.