A two-sentence summary:
Alt-western silver-mining tall tale. Midwife vs. Pinkertons!
How did your characters come to be?
I don’t remember when or how I realized I wanted my narrator to be a midwife. I know I wanted her to be a Strong Female Character who specialized in something that’s traditionally very much women's work. I don’t see enough of those so I thought I’d try making my own. As for Deal, she’s a rabble-rouser and a would-be revolutionary because those tend to crop up in almost everything I write. Together they fight crime. Not really. But they’re fantastic at pissing off the Pinks.
Why this setting?
Well, earlier this year, I wrote a poem in a similarish setting/voice (“The Witch’s Heart” in Issue 21 of Apex) and had an absurd amount of fun with it. I wanted to get back in there and play a bit more. Also, Claire Cooney read my mind and reminded me—though she hadn’t known—that I’d always wanted to write a Western. And then I got to thinking how much fun it would be to write a Western steampunk story using traditional tall tales as a framing device. Somewhere along the line, the story decided it wanted to take place in a failing silver mining camp. After I got all that squared away, the rest pretty much wrote itself.
You’re in an antho of lesbian steampunk stories. Obviously you are writing about lesbians. How does lesbianism fit in your setting?
The story takes place in an alternative California in the late 1800s, where it seems that what with race, gender, and class issues running high and none-too-subtly, lesbians were probably lumped in with the rest as “secondary” citizens and didn't really stand out as much more or less “inferior.” To write “Deal,” I did a lot of research into the time period in that part of the country and didn’t really come across anything suggesting otherwise. I’ve been meaning to read more into this topic, actually—I’m curious as to what the actual answer for real!California might have been, but I couldn’t find much on it at the time. Now I’m extra-curious.
What was the funnest, or most hair-tearingly frustrating thing in writing your piece?
Oddly, there was nothing frustrating about writing this one. I loved playing with the narrator’s voice, with the language I picked up in my research of 19th century mining towns, with writing my own tall tales. Really, it was the most fun I’ve probably ever had writing anything ever. I hope it shows!