Nix Whittaker is a New Zealand based up and coming author. Her new novel – Blazing Blunderbuss – is available in May 2016 and is a heady adventure full of pirates, magic and dragons disguised as mathematicians. I managed to get a few questions over to her by email so I could find out more about this interesting world she’s created.
I’m always curious to know if a new author to the genre has any roots in steampunk. While Nix is primarily a science fiction writer, she was inspired by authors using steampunk themes and by reading steampunk novels, “I grew up reading authors like Mercedes Lackey so Steampunk has always appealed to me. My other series is science fiction. The Blazing Blunderbuss is my first steampunk.” Despite this strong influence in her earlier years, her decision to write something nearer to steampunk actually came from a program on Discovery about Dragons, “It got me thinking that Dragons couldn’t have evolved on Earth as they have too many limbs for an animal that isn’t an insect. If they didn’t come from Earth then where would they come from? Placing these trans-dimensional traveling dragons in a steampunk world it just all fell together.”
Dragons feature heavily in Blazing Blunderbuss and one of the main characters is a Dragon called Gideon who is disguised as a mathematician. Hang on; someone who works with numbers called Gideon who is actually a monster? Could this be a subliminal reference to our own Chancellor of the Exchequer? It turns out no, it isn’t. Shame. The true reason behind this character was far more complex than a dig at a government figure on the other side of the world; “I enjoy having intelligent heroes. I could have just have the dragon use his strength instead of his brains but I wanted to add a geek element. Though to be honest he doesn’t throw jargon around like you would find in tv shows like CSI, instead he is patient. I’ve represented the two major political players with politicians who – though being on different sides – are rather similar.” In fact the name Gideon came from the name of the angel which made sense to Nix because he can fly. The other character names also came from various other written works such as Hara being a corruption of Harimad which is the name that Damarians gave to Angharad Crewe in the novel The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, “When we looked up the meaning of Hara it seemed like the name was just kismet as Hara means ‘To seize’ in Hindi and she certainly catches Gideon.”
Despite steampunk books being set in an alternate reality where the world hasn’t moved past the age of steam, there’s generally some reference to actual events and I wondered how many there are in this book. It turns out that the introduction of Dragons takes the history of the World to a much more far fetched landscape; “Since I added dragons they have changed history because William the Conqueror is a half dragon and with this extra advantage he didn’t stop with just England.” This kind of change gives the book a faster pace which Nix prefers in her novels; “I like a fast paced book. I always write the kind of book you pick up easily and it is hard to put down. By the time book starts we already have a kidnapping, a girl dressed as a man on an airship and people jumping off airships.”
I felt while reading the blurb and perusing the blog on her website (links below) that there’s a hint of humour to the books. It seems like a darker, more subtle humour such as what would be found in a book by the late, great Terry Pratchett. I wondered if she was going for something like that, “Funny is a hard thing to achieve but yes I’ve gone for something amusing and Gideon is a bit like Rincewind. I’d appreciate it if anyone who reads Blazing Blunderbuss and who finds it funny to get a hold of me as I really would love to hear if I nailed that aspect.”
You can follow Nix on her Facebook page by following this link: Nix Whittaker Facebook page
More information about her book as well as her blog can be found here: Nix Whittaker author page