(Pssst. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m currently incognito in the universe of Mollie E. Reeder’s new steampunk novel The Electrical Menagerie, posing as a reporter so I can interview her characters. In order to avoid breaking interdimensional law and blowing up the multiverse, I’ve got to maintain my cover. So for heaven’s sake, don’t tell anyone who I really am. Otherwise we might all turn to dust or something. And yes, I’m wearing a fake mustache. Try to ignore it. Be sure to read to the end of the post to find out how to enter a very cool giveaway!)
*ahem* Good day. I’m…er…Lyle Herbert Stoltz, a reporter for the…um…Talesend Times. I’m writing from the isle of Halcyon, where an impressive array of performers are competing for the chance to perform before the Future Queen of the Celestial Isles at her birthday celebration. As if the tension in the air were not palpable already, there are whispers of danger drifting amongst the entertainers here. It is rumored that someone is attempting to gain an advantage in the contest by nefarious means. To find out more about this intriguing situation, I’m interviewing Arbrook Huxley and Sylvester Carthage. They are, respectively, the manager and the showman of The Electrical Menagerie.
Gentlemen, I’ll cut right right to the chase. Why, in your opinion, should you be the ones to win this contest? What sets you apart from the other impressive acts assembled here?
Huxley: You’re a real straight-shooter, I like it. I’ll be just as frank: our opinions don’t really count, do they? We’re not here to judge this competition — Palace Administration is. And Palace Administration is clearly of the opinion that the Electrical Menagerie is something special, or we wouldn’t still be here. Should we win the contest? I could tell you what I think… or you could come see the show and decide for yourself. The Electrical Menagerie is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and that isn’t an opinion — it’s a promise.
Indeed? But aren’t you a little unnerved by the skilled performers you’re up against? Lady Skyhawke, for example, puts on quite a dazzling display. Not to mention Lior Bonaventure’s impressive equestrian act.
Huxley: Unnerved? We’re flattered by the caliber of our competition. Miss Skyhawke, since you mentioned her, is incredibly talented. Dazzling, you said? True. She’s highly charismatic, very fetching, I mean, you know, one might even say alluring —
Carthage: (clears throat)
Huxley: … And the same goes for Mr. Bonaventure, of course.
Carthage: He’s very fetching?
Huxley: No… he’s… I was trying to say that he’s charismatic.
Carthage: Charisma, talent, dazzling lights — those are all things on the outside. But what will decide the outcome of this contest is what the winner has inside. You asked why I should win, and I’ll tell you. Underneath any costume, or effect, or flourish: I know what I have inside.
Hmm. I’d like to delve into your backgrounds a bit more, starting with you, Mr. Huxley. I understand you come from Fallsbright? Perhaps you’d care to tell us a little more about your upbringing there and how you came to choose this path in life.
Huxley: Oh, what gave me away? I was born and raised in Queens County — that’s the southwestern belly of the isle, for you Imperials. Coffee and citrus country. If you’ve ever had a lemon, it was probably imported from Queens. But the Huxleys grow oranges. Sweetest oranges on Fallsbright. And you, Mr. Stoltz? Is that a… northeastern accent? Or… the straits? I can’t quite… it’s very eclectic.
Accent? What accent? I don’t have an accent. No accent at all. Moving swiftly on, what about you, Mr. Carthage? Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to dig up very much about your past. And given the rather suspicious atmosphere surrounding this contest, such mystery could be detrimental to your chances. Perhaps you’d care to enlighten me and my readers?
Carthage: I’m not sure what you’re asking. I’ve never committed any crimes, and I had an uneventful upbringing.
How very…informative. Maybe you’ll be more forthcoming on the subject of your inventions, Mr. Carthage. How do you go about designing these acts? And just how reliable are your machines? They seem quite complicated. Are they likely to, say, explode, or perhaps rebel against humanity and try to seize control of the Isles?
Huxley: Oh, no no. Mr. Carthage’s machines are perfectly—
Carthage: Oh, aye, we kill patrons in accidental explosions almost nightly.
Huxley: For the benefit for those reading along at home, the inflection to Mr. Carthage’s remark was one of jesting… not that we would ever jest about killing patrons.
Carthage: I’ve been building electricals for the better part of twenty years. Science is not so complicated and frightening once you understand it, Mr. Shultz.
Huxley: (coughs into sleeve) Stoltz.
Huxley: I didn’t say anything.
Carthage: My machines are painstakingly designed and finely tuned. Malfunctions happen only very rarely. I’ve only blown something up once or—
Huxley: Anyway! I think what people should take away from this is that The Electrical Menagerie is fully bonded and insured. Can any of the other acts say the same thing? Who knows. You’d have to ask them.
How very reassuring. Let’s talk about the dynamic between the two of you. Would you describe yourselves as friends, or merely business partners? Have the traveling, rigorous schedule, and long hours of preparation taken a toll on your relationship? Not to mention the pervasive suspicion that someone in your midst is engaging in sabotage?
Huxley: Sure, we’re… I mean, of course we get along. Can you imagine how disastrous this would be if we didn’t?
Carthage: I personally enjoy the traveling and the rigorous schedule.
Huxley: As for what you said about sabotage, that’s just tabloid fodder — no offense to present company, of course.
None taken. Moving on from the concerns about a potential saboteur to a completely unrelated topic, would either of you care to comment on the current political situation? Specifically, the Terraformists’ displeasure with the monarchy? What are your own opinions on the current system of government? Please, don’t be diffident, gentlemen. I assure you I won’t twist anything you say out of its intended context.
Carthage: Terraformism is nothing new or revolutionary. Look at history. The same anti-monarchist ideas come around once every century or so, always with a different name — and they never last. What has lasted, for many centuries, is the monarchy. Through revolution, famine, starfall and war, the ideals of the Empire have never shifted.
Huxley: Speaking of shifting. Mr. Stoltz… your mustache… it… (gestures vaguely)
Carthage: It appears to be getting away…
*feverishly straightens mustache* For the last time, my mustache does not have an accent! I mean, I don't speak with a mustache! I mean…it’s real! Completely real! Growing right out of my face. The mustache, not my accent. My accent is real too, it’s just not growing out of my…oh, never mind. *AHEM* Thank you, Mr. Huxley, Mr. Carthage—I wish you well in the competition. I do hope your show isn’t beset by any…mishaps.
Whew. I think that went well! They didn’t suspect a thing. I am an interviewing, dimension-hopping ninja.
In case you haven't heard, this is the release week for Mollie E. Reeder's amazing steampunk novel, The Electrical Menagerie. It's the first book in the Celestial Isles series. You can read my review of the book here, and find out more about it below.
The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.
Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively — but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially — but none of the scruples.
To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, a shot at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians —but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize.
Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide… and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.
“Dazzles from start to finish. In Carthage & Huxley, Sherlock & Watson fans will find another dynamic duo whose ready wit and sizzling banter (and inevitable personality clashes) never fail to delight. You'll be calling for an encore performance.“ Gillian Bronte Adams, author of The Songkeeper Chronicles
“The stuff that fandoms are built on.” Kyle Robert Shultz, author of Beaumont & Beasley
Mollie's author bio:
Mollie’s first job was with a major theme park, where she operated a roller coaster, fixed parade floats, and helped Scooby-Doo put on his head. Now, Mollie is a movie producer and the author of character-driven science fiction/fantasy novels for adults who never outgrew imagination. Her favorite things include Jesus, dinosaurs, and telling cinematic stories that blend glitter and grit.
As promised, here's more information on the exciting giveaway for The Electrical Menagerie!
Explore the world of The Electrical Menagerie by entering to win this Celestial Isles prize pack, which includes: “High Victorian” playing cards by luxury playing card company Theory11, handmade galaxy mug by DeVita Designs, Science & Engineering Themed Pocket Notebook Set by CognitiveSurplus, and a tin of Electrical Menagerie themed tea (over a $50 value)! (US only.) Click here to participate!
Thanks for reading, everyone! Don't forget to pick up your copy of The Electrical Menagerie!
(Character portraits were drawn by the amazing Randi Lynn Jackson. Check out her work on Instagram!)