Spotlight on The Turncoat's Gambit (Andrea Cremer), Plus Guest Post & Giveaway!
Today we're spotlighting Andrea Cremer's novel, The Turncoat's Gambit!
Read on for more about Andrea, her novel, and giveaway!
The Sensory World of Inventor’s Secret
One of my favorite history texts is Peter Charles Hoffer’s Sensory Worlds in Early America. Hoffer argues that to comprehend the past we shouldn’t limit ourselves documents, events, and maps, but that our understanding of history will benefit from exploring the sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of eras before our own. I couldn’t agree more!
The Inventor’s Secret series brings together my twin loves of history and fantasy. Similarly, steampunk as a genre twines two opposing subjects: the organic and the inorganic. Sensory experiences always play a major role in my worldbuilding, but with this series the fives senses had the dual responsibility of evoking not only a fantastical alternate 19th century North America, but also a place that remains rooted in the real landscape of history.
I could write pages and pages on this topic, but to save this post from TLDRs I’ll focus on just a few examples.
Sites beyond sight: I consider locations in my books to be another form of character. A place should both affect and interact with the people on the page. The visual description of sites is obviously important. In this series metal and machinery play a major role. When I thought about what my characters would see, I considered color, quality, texture. Words at play – matte, dull, luster, shine, polished, scuffed, pocked, hammered.
Texture carries a reader beyond the world of sight to that of touch. Is an iron railing smooth or rough, would it be cold to the touch or warm. The latter depends on the location of the railing, is it indoors or outdoors. If indoors is it near a fireplace? Close enough to heat the metal? Outdoors? Is it slick with rain or hot from high afternoon sun.
While it might seem strange at first, texture also relates to sound. The crunch of rough gravel under boots offers a contrast to the echo of heels hitting the marble floor of a ballroom as does the sucking, squelch of shoes sinking into a bog.
What’s left: scent and taste! These two senses should almost always be addressed together because they are so closely related. Ever been told to breathe through your mouth to avoid a stench? Don’t do it! If you gulp air when walking by a dumpster, you are going to taste that garbage. It’s not necessary to describe both taste and odor all the time, but it’s very useful to consider both when writing a description.
Of all the senses, scent has the strongest sense-memory function, which means it must not be ignored. Think about scents like your grandmother’s perfume, your favorite home-cooked meal. What are the scents that you associate with your
favorite place: do you relax when you smell the brine and seaweed of the ocean or do you feel a spike of energy? Does the scent of rain or an approaching storm excite you or make you melancholy?
Scent is so powerful. Since I’ve been touring, I’ve noticed that all schools smell the same. It’s bizarre, but every school I’ve been to from coast to coast shares an antiseptic odor (not unpleasant, just distinct) that sends me right back to my teens. Those same experiences should be true for a book’s characteristics, how do scents connect their present to their past. How do they react to strange, new smells? What appeals to them, what disgusts them?
On this point, world building should always connect directly to plot and character. While it is a pleasure to write descriptions for the sake of lovely prose and beautiful imagery, if those details aren’t adding to the narrative’s momentum or a character’s development, they will simply bog down the stories. Keep them in your notes, collect them in cut scenes, but don’t let them get in the way of pacing.
Tips and tricks: To be a writer is to be an observer of the world – that’s advice you’ll hear a lot. Writers frequently talk about eavesdropping on conversations and people watching to get ideas for their books. I’d encourage taking these observations to the next level. Wherever you are, try to keep a running mental log of your sensory observations. How do all five of your senses respond to your favorite café? What does an airport terminal smell and sound like? Be specific as you catalog your observations. If something smells bad, what in particular is causing the negative reaction? Is it rotting or rancid? Too sweet (the word for that is cloying)? Does something sting or burn your nostrils? Does it give you a headache or turn your stomach? The same holds true for positive responses. What specifically makes your mouth water or causes you to sigh with contentment?
A regular exercise of mine is to create miniature descriptions of places as I’m moving through the world. Sometimes I write them down, but more often I silently recite these thoughts as I’m making observations – like I’m narrating my own experience. It’s a great habit to get into as a writer and it also helps to get you through what might otherwise be boring and tedious episodes we all deal with: waiting in a doctor’s office, dealing with a flight delay, sitting in traffic.
I’ve also taken to collecting scents that remind me specifically of a character, scene, or place. To this day I can take a whiff of Zum Bars Sandalwood and Citrus or Sea Salt soap and be standing beside Ren or Shay (from the Nightshade series) respectively. (And yes, I still swoon a little). If I find soap, candles, sachets, incense, etc. that can transport me into a book I keep it on hand. It’s as useful a writing tool for me as the playlists I create.
To sum up, live your live fully present in all of your senses. You will be amazed at the wealth of details that constantly surround you. Hold your characters to this standard, your world and your readers will reap wondrous benefits!
Meet Andrea Cremer!
Andrea Cremer is the author of the internationally bestselling Nightshade series. She spent her childhood daydreaming and roaming the forests and lakeshores of Northern Wisconsin.
Andrea has always loved writing and has never stopped writing, but she only recently plunged into the deep end of the pool that is professional writing. Before she wrote her first novel, Andrea was a history professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In her books, she strives to bring together her two passions: history and fantasy. Andrea now lives in New York and writes full time.
Meet The Turncoat's Gambit!
Charlotte is on the run. The Empire is hunting her. The Revolution wants her back. And Charlotte has allied herself with pirates, just to stay safe.
But things are not what they seem. There’s a traitor in the revolutionaries’ midst pulling unseen strings, and surprises lurk around every corner. As Charlotte is left to sort out what she truly thinks about the revolution she’s spent her whole life fighting for, she must also battle to keep herself and her friends alive.
The Turncoat's Gambit
By: Andrea Cremer
Release Date: November 15th, 2016
Enter for a chance to win one of five (5) hardcover copies of The Turncoat’s Gambit by Andrea Cremer
(ARV= $18.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 9:00 AM Eastern Time on November 14, 2016 and 11:59 PM Eastern Time on November 25, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about November 28, 2016. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
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