I have always been of the opinion that the reader chooses the book, a rule that worked this time too. In this case I was also involved by the great enthusiasm of the author, who presented the literary work to me in an intense and ironic way. This last point strongly involved me, never before had I met someone who handled the manuscript in a way that saw it from such a particular and different perspective than usual, giving it that touch of originality and suspense, in a literary genre, that of steampunk, always very noir.
So I asked myself why not have the creator of the literary composition presented directly to the readers of Mondo Japan? Exactly why? I don’t know… but I leave the word, with great pleasure, to the Author Stefano Ottaviani.
First of all, can you introduce us to who Stefano is?
Hello to all readers! I’ll try to give a presentation that doesn’t sound like it came out of an Alcoholics Anonymous style meeting. It’s always difficult to try to summarize in a few words, so I’ll start with the reason for the interview: I’m a debut writer and I’ve just published a steampunk fantasy novel entitled “Much Steam for Nothing”, published by Gainsworth Publishing. Beyond that, I would say that I’m a nerd who is passionate about books, comics and video games. I’m also a microelectronics designer, but for some reason this doesn’t seem to interest anyone.
How the passion for writing was born.
First, reading! If you don’t read and are not passionate about the medium as a user, you can’t even imagine moving to the other side of the fence and becoming a “creator” of content. Reading is essential. Secondly, you must have the desire to tell, to transmit something. Given these two premises, in practice the passion for writing can then develop in different ways. In my specific case, even though it unites a worrying number of fantasy writers, it was born almost by chance, starting from role-playing games like D&D. I liked being a Master, creating settings, writing adventures… it’s a hobby that forces you to read and invent stories and therefore made me take my first steps in the world of writing. Then one day I took one of my favorite adventures and tried to turn it into a novel, and discovered that I enjoyed the process enormously. The first results were perhaps questionable, but from then on I continued to write, gradually moving on to more structured works until arriving at this first publication.
The book in question “Much Steam for Nothing” is a setting How did you fall back into this genre?
It was a gradual process. At the beginning I thought of a different setting, more in line with the “canonical” fantasy, but I was not satisfied with the result and abandoned the idea. Luckily at that time I came across “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”, a uchronic novel set in the 19th century, which convinced me to develop the story in an alternative 1840s London. I began learning about Victorian England, deciding that I would add witchcraft, vampires, and other magical races. And when you start to come across all the steam technology of the Industrial Revolution and you know you want to add magic to it, it’s a pretty short step to steampunk. I already knew it as a genre (thanks, for example, to Wells in literature or Dishonored in video games), so it wasn’t particularly challenging to immerse myself in its characteristics. And, I admit, my engineering background perhaps helped me in building a setting that blended technique and sorcery.
What does Steampunk mean to you?
Steampunk is a subgenre that fascinates me because it combines two aspects that fascinate me and which at first glance might seem very distant: science and fantasy. It urges us to give a rational, mechanical and formal cage to any fantastic devilry that may come to mind. For me it is therefore both a way to free the imagination and to express the love for technology. Plus, let’s face it, the steampunk aesthetic is beautiful!
Without going too far and spoiling the plot, could you mention something about the story?
The novel is set in 1840 London, which however has big differences from the British capital we know: the entire political elite is made up of vampires, there are bloodthirsty demons on the streets and rich industrialists like to insert gears into their bodies. In this tense atmosphere, Lord Webster, an important parliamentarian, is kidnapped by some non-humans. Her daughter Catherine then sets off on a thrilling journey in search of her, accompanied by Harvey Langston, an incompetent and misfit adventurer… soon discovering intrigues and mysteries greater than she expected.
Three adjectives to present your book.
Ironic, intriguing, unpredictable
In an increasingly media landscape, how important is it to present literary works on paper.
An editor or an experienced writer could answer this question with more knowledge of the facts, but I will still try to give my opinion, based on my limited experience. In the literary field, books in digital format are obviously becoming more and more widespread, thanks to the low price and portability… yet I believe it is still very important to also publish in paper format. There is a large portion of the public who still cannot give up the experience of printed paper and who would not buy a work if it was only available digitally. I’m part of this circle too, by the way. Reaching this segment of users is essential, because they are often the most passionate and avid readers who, especially for the more niche genres, contribute to word of mouth and reviews, or give their favorite book to friends at Christmas.
If we then want to base ourselves on the data, ISTAT tells us that the majority of readers still prefer the paper format… so, in short, despite everything the printed book remains very important.
It’s your time… what do you feel like saying to the readers of Mondo Japan.
First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has read this far! I hope this little interview has made you curious about steampunk in general and, why not, also about my book in particular. I would also like to make a final appeal to anyone who is passionate about fantasy: give Italian fantasy a chance! Unfortunately it is a genre in which local authors tend to be snubbed by the public, who associate fantasy only with Anglo-Saxon literature, but try to give it a chance, you won’t regret it. Thanks again to all the readers.