I wrote about this a little bit when The 7th of London first came out because Jack Midnight changed the path of Seven’s journey in that book a great deal, despite what I’d had in mind for the book. It’s happened to me on several occasions. I’ve written characters that have gotten away from me a bit, usually with pleasant results. No complaints here. With the sequel, The 7th of Victorica, it was a little different. Many of the characters used once Sev and crew arrived in the states were real people. Though my history is slightly skewed I still wanted faithful portrayals of the figures involved, which meant research. In this case the research took my characterization of these people in different directions. Figures that I had intended to be villains and not much more suddenly presented a challenge because history isn’t quite black and white. While it didn’t completely hijack the story like our friend, Mr. Midnight did in the first book, it did present some interesting challenges for me as a writer. I had to re-evaluate my preconceived notions of events and people that have been familiar (I thought) since grade school.
As a result, writing this, or more accurately editing this, in our current climate has given me an interesting perspective on what’s going on in our country today. Reading through this again after having written it many months ago, before the current state of things, made me really think about other people’s opinions and views in certain situations. It’s a strange time we live in. It also gave me a new appreciation for our country during the Civil War. Though no war took place in this alternate history, the conflicts and interests still exist and play a major role in this book. While I’m sure there were villains back then with only their own best interests in mind as there certainly are today, not everything was so cut and dry.
I’ll be very interested to see how people react to this book. At the heart is the issue of slavery and a country divided. But the characters may not play out exactly the way people would expect. They certainly didn’t play out the way I expected when I began writing this. Although you can rest assured that anywhere someone isn’t able to stand up for themselves, Seven, Silas, and Rat will be there to stand up for them. At least in that we can all take solace. Also know that I have one more story to tell with Sev and his mates before this whole thing wraps up. For now, enjoy an excerpt from The 7th of Victorica, Book 2 of Gadgets and Shadows:
Sev fidgeted in the lift as it ground past the tower floors. He straightened his crisp, charcoal-colored shirt and smoothed down his black waistcoat with the crimson pinstripes. He knew he didn’t have to get this dressed up to eat at Murry’s, but because it had been a while since he’d seen Silas, Sev wanted to look his best. He’d even tried to comb his hair, to no avail. He settled for tucking his slightly too-long locks behind his ears. Passing one of the lower workshops, Sev noticed a number of glass reservoirs crackling with electricity: Tesla bulbs. Copper wires ran from the glass batteries to various and sundry projects scattered throughout the workroom. The workshops and laboratories looked much the same as they had when Sev came here the first time to meet Heph. His nose registered a delicious smell as he passed the kitchen, but what he saw in the shop above the kitchen stole his breath.
Sev’s mouth dropped open as he rose to and then past the next level. He was half tempted to stop the lift. He could have sworn he’d just seen a giant set of clockwork wings. What on earth could Silas be planning with those? And how would he get them into the air? Sev was lost in thought, pondering the physics and viability of the wings. So much so, that he didn’t realize when the lift lurched to a halt in the room at the top of the tower.
Instinctively, without looking up, Sev wandered over to the desk that was once Heph’s but now belonged to Silas, all the while rubbing his chin in thought. When he reached the desk, he leaned against it. “Sev,” Silas said, his voice sounding slightly tinny.
Sev turned to respond and was shocked once again. Silas wasn’t in his chair. “What th—”
“Sev. Over here,” Silas said, or rather his voice emerged from a small box on the wall near the desk. “It’s an overwire communication device. I’m calling it an overcom. It carries voice vibrations along a wire connecting the boxes. It’s based on Carrington’s voice-amplification device.”
“Wow.” Sev remembered the stories of Carrington addressing all of Undertown during Fervis’s siege. “That’s pretty interesting.”
“I assume you’re speaking to yourself?”
“I—” Sev began. Am I? he thought.
“If you want me to hear you, walk over to the box and press the red button while you talk. The button engages the wire. Try it. When you’re finished talking, pause so I know you’re done.”
Sev walked cautiously to the apparatus. He pressed the button. “Um, h-hello.” He paused with his finger on the button and waited. Nothing. “Silas?” Sev took a step back and frowned at the little wooden box.
“Did you take your finger off? Can you hear me again?” Silas asked. “When you’re done talking, take your finger off the button. It will disengage the wires so I can talk.” Sev assumed the pause was for him.
“I think I got it,” Sev said, pressing the button, then releasing it. Waiting.
“I knew you would,” Silas answered, and Sev could hear the smile. “I’ve made us dinner. You don’t mind staying in, do you?” Pause.
“No,” Sev responded. “Not at all. I’ll be right down.” He didn’t wait for Silas’s response, just turned and headed for the lift.
“Good,” Silas’s voice said, following Sev’s departure. “I’ll show you those wings after we eat,” he added. Sev smiled. Silas knew him too well.
When Sev stopped the lift at the kitchen level, his heart jumped. Silas turned with a warm, spectacular smile. He wore a frilly white apron that Sev had a hard time imagining Heph using before him. Silas stirred a pan, holding the hot handle in his metal hand and stirring with his other. “Pretty convenient.” He must have noticed Sev’s gaze lingering on the metal appendage. “I only need half the pot holders as everyone else.” He returned the pan and the spoon to the stove before closing the space between them. Silas wrapped Seven into a firm embrace, and Sev returned it, pressing his cheek to Silas’s shoulder.
“It’s good to see you, Silas,” Sev whispered. He leaned back to look at Silas’s angular, handsome face. A lock of his normally coiffed dark hair had slipped away from its peers. Sev swept it back with one finger. No sooner had he dropped his hand than Silas swooped forward and caught Sev’s lips with his own. Sev felt the heat on his cheeks first, and then contentment spread throughout his whole body down to his toes.
Silas released his mouth and stepped back. “You look smart.” He gave Sev’s waistcoat a little tug.
Sev grabbed the lace at the edge of Silas’s apron. “So do you. This little number is quite fetchin’.”
Silas slapped Sev’s hand away playfully. “Very funny. Make yourself useful and pour us out some wine.”
“Aye, aye captain.” Sev tipped Silas a half-assed salute and rummaged about in the cupboards for glasses. Everything was mismatched. “Why don’t ye buy some new furnishins? Ye’ve access to proper shops now. Ye don’t have t’settle fer all this scavenged junk.” He found two cups that looked like they’d hold the same amount of liquid.
“It’s not junk.” Sev thought he sounded a little offended. “It belonged to Heph. Using it makes it seem like he’s not all the way gone. Does that make any sense?”
Sev pulled the cork from the bottle and nodded. “Aye, Silas. That makes perfect sense.” He poured the wine. “So what are we eatin’?”
Silas beamed with what Sev could easily tell was pride. “Roasted rosemary potatoes, mushy peas, braised beef loin and gravy.”
“Sounds delicious.” Sev sipped his wine. It was dark, dry, and complex. He looked at the bottle, unsurprised to find it was from Bordeaux. “I didn’t know ye could cook.”
Silas shrugged. “Murry showed me a bit.” He took a deep breath. “I’ve been working quite a lot lately, and I know I haven’t been as attentive as you deserve.”
“Silas,” Sev said with an admonishing edge to his tone. “Ye don’t have t’worry about all that nonsense. We’re both of us big boys. I know ye’d see me more if ye could. I’m not a weepy little lass who’ll wilt if she doesn’t get constant attention. Ye know that.”
Silas sniffed a laugh. “Oh, I know just how tough the Seventh of London is, and make no mistake. But that’s not my point. I just wanted tonight to be special.”
Sev stepped over and rested his forehead against the back of Silas’s neck. “Ye’re a fine one, Silas Kettlebent, and any time I get t’spend with ye is special to me.” Sev pressed his lips to the skin just above Silas’s collar.
“Hungry?” Silas asked.
Sev wasn’t sure if he was trying to change the subject and didn’t care. “Starving.”