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To Science or Not To Science
When I set out to write a science-based steampunk novel with an engineer protagonist, I knew I would need to insert a certain level of technical detail into the story. The main plot of The Brass Giant centers around the design and construction of a clockwork automaton, and I wanted there to be a sense of plausible realism to the mechanical aspects of the story. I wanted my main character to appear knowledgeable about the machines she is so passionate about, and the only way I knew how to make that come across was to pepper the story with various mechanical engineering terms and the occasional in-depth explanation of a certain mechanical system.
There is a scene in the second chapter of the novel, when my main character’s knowledge is challenged by the Guild engineer who has just asked for her help. She claims she can’t help him with his project, but then he asks:
“What’s the difference between spur and helical gears?”
Before she could stop herself, the words spilled from her mouth. “Spur gears are simple, having teeth parallel to the axis of rotation, while helical gears have teeth inclined in relation to the axis, ensuring smoother action and better load capacity. But with helical gears, there is the disadvantage that the teeth build up side pressure which causes thrust on the …” The realization dawned on her, and she met the engineer’s eye. “That’s what was wrong with the automaton’s gear system, why the gear train kept throwing itself off balance. You tried to balance the thrust with opposing rotations, but you miscalculated.” Her fingers twitched toward the screwdriver in her pocket, and she flexed her hand into a fist, her mind racing with possible adjustments she could make to the gear train. If she knew the weight and gauge of the gears inside, and the corresponding systems, she could—
She glanced up at him. “Why are you smiling?”
“You spent no more than a minute with the automaton, and you figured all of that out without even removing the plating or reading the schematics.”
This is one of my more technical descriptions throughout the book, and multiple times during the revision process, I wondered if I should delete it or not, worried that the technical details would put some readers off.
Finding a balance between the many engineering terms and explanations was something I struggled with for most of the book. Too much, and the book might come across as a technical manual. Too little, and I felt I was doing a disservice to the story and the characters. I needed to find just the right amount of technical flavor to make the characters, the science, and the machines seem believable without bogging the story down with paragraphs and paragraphs of description.
Will the level of scientific detail in the book put some readers off? Maybe. For some readers, I think the technical descriptions will enrich the story, make it seem more believable, more realistic. For others, it might seem like too much, and some of them might skip the mechanical explanations altogether or decide that this just isn’t the kind of book that they want to read. I have to accept that fact.
I wanted to write a story that focused on the mechanical aspects of the steampunk genre, a story about engineers and their inventions, about impossible machines, about a city and a culture that thrived on mechanical technology. To that effect, I did what I set out to do, and at the end of the day, as readers decide for themselves whether The Brass Giant is a book that they want to read, I’ll know that I stayed true to the story, to the characters, and to the world that I created. I can only hope that a few readers feel the same passion for the story as I do.
Title: The Brass Giant
Author: Brooke Johnson
Publisher: Harper Voyage Impulse
Sometimes, even the most unlikely person can change the world
Seventeen-year-old Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, wants nothing more than to become a certified member of the Guild, an impossible dream for a lowly shop girl. Still, she refuses to give up, tinkering with any machine she can get her hands on, in between working and babysitting her foster siblings.
When Emmerich Goss–handsome, privileged, and newly recruited into the Guild–needs help designing a new clockwork system for a top-secret automaton, it seems Petra has finally found the opportunity she’s been waiting for. But if her involvement on the project is discovered, Emmerich will be marked for treason, and a far more dire fate would await Petra.
Working together in secret, they build the clockwork giant, but as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy from within the Guild council … and their automaton is just the beginning.
You can buy the Brass Giant on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Be sure to add The Brass Giant to Goodreads
Brooke is a stay-at-home mom, amateur seamstress, RPG enthusiast, and art hobbyist, in addition to all that book writing. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she adventures through life with her fiercely-bearded paladin of a husband, their daughter the sticky-fingered rogue, and their cowardly wizard of a dog, with only a sleep spell in his spellbook.
They currently reside in Northwest Arkansas, but once they earn enough loot and experience, they’ll build a proper castle somewhere and defend against all manner of dragons and goblins, and whatever else dares take them on.
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- By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
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- This giveaway begins April 27 and ends on May 15.
- Winners will be contacted via email on May 17.
- Winner has 48 hours to reply.
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