Writer’s Interviews – Katy O’Dowd speaks to Jason Michel

Ladies & Gentlemen …

Welcome to the foggy, cobble streets & blood splattered clockwork world of the sublime Steampunktress Katy O’Dowd.

I had a little chat …


Q1: Some of the frightful night creatures reading this have no idea who YOU are, Madame. Please be gracious enough to illuminate these ignorant scoundrels.

See if Ingrid Pitt and Christopher Lee had a love-child? That. I’d be around the right age, but not as tall as my imaginary parents.

Q2: You mentioned the Prince Of Darkness (or Daddy) there.

Which of his roles was your favourite?

How much has Hammer Horror influenced your writing?

I love the Dracula movies and The Wicker Man, and Rasputin, The Mad Monk. Actually, I love them all. My Imaginary Daddy rocks. Hammer has influenced me hugely, madly, deeply. Such cheese! Such pulp! Such low budget! Bit like me, really. I remember watching The House That Bled To Death with my Granny. Scarred for life after that, seeing as I was only eight at the time. I remember hiding behind her as she waved her cigarette around – she lit one off the other – and drank whiskey and chortled as blood rained down on the kiddies at the party table. After that I used to sneak down to watch the movies on telly, Saturday nights they were on. She was my real Granny too.

Q3: Damn! I remember that bloody (sic) house! & “The Children Of The Moon”, yeah, they gave me the willies way back when.

What other cultural influences have seeped into your writing?

Think of it as a mash-up, where PG Wodehouse would write the script so Dracula and Van Helsing would be terribly polite to each other… ‘So sorry old chap, I’m going to have to suck your blood, it’s in my nature don’t you know.’

‘That’s quite alright dear fellow, but I must inform you that I have a new steam-powered stake with which I shall pierce your fearsome heart. I say! You look a little pale. Shall I fetch the salts?’

At which point (no pun intended) Don Corleone gets into a row with Rossetti and Wilkie Collins who wants to have the busty redhead all to himself; Nick Cave calls for more Earl Grey for Queen Victoria; and Tim Burton gets into a deep discussion with Stephen King about calla

lilies and the merits of cat ownership.

Actually, I could see that last bit happening.

Q4: You mentioned a “steam powered stake”, what is it about the foggy streets of Steampunk that tickles your dark fancy as opposed to other more “conventional” sci-fi?

Where do you see it going, as a genre?

 I love sci-fi, to read and to watch. I stand in awe of writers like Iain M Banks and Neal Stephenson – The Diamond Age is one of my favourite books. But write it myself? I like making stuff up without having to explain how it works in depth, so steampunk suits me for its fluidity. Plus the mannerspunk and bustlepunk aspect of it all fits in very nicely with what I write – as does the creative and adventurous side seeing as I love and use the Victorian period a lot. The foggy streets also suit as I don’t write about supernatural beings of any kind so it’s kinda nice to shroud The Bad Guys in glorious mist and murk.

As to where it goes as a genre?

Much like the adventurers and explorers who are favoured within its pages and pictures, to the stars. Being bigger than life, I think it is very accessible.

Also, that thing above about fluidity? That’s a really vague, shifty way of saying I don’t write sci-fi because I don’t understand how stuff works.

Q5: What are the essential themes of your writing?

Where do you think these themes come from?

In other words, what form does your muse take?

 I seem to centre on one theme again and again, which is the age-old one of good and evil. Except in my case I’m absolutely fascinated by evil and the fact that some really bad people can have good bits to them. Endlessly interesting, in my opinion. I’m not sure where that theme in particular comes from, but it sure as hell is awful fun to write a complete bastard.

Q6: Who is The Lady Astronomer?

The Lady Astronomer was written for son #1 who got exceptionally pissed off that I had used son #2’s name in a book I’m working on. I mean really, who outside of Ireland can pronounce Tadgh? (like tiger with a silent r in case you were interested). Is YA steampunk and is very loosely based on Caroline Herschel (1750-1848). She suffered from both Smallpox and Typhus, was a milliner, soprano, her brother William’s Assistant – he discovered Uranus, then known as George’s Star for the King who funded the build of the ‘Great Forty-Foot’ telescope – and most importantly, perhaps, became the first woman in history to discover a comet. First and last YA – devilishly difficult to write for teens!

Q7: How do you see the Irish Weird/Sci-Fi/Genre scene at the moment?

To be honest, I haven’t been home for long enough to connect much with the scene here, having lived in London for donkey’s years and soon to be splitting life between here and there again. But mostly here, you understand, to reap the tax benefits. What I do see from my time back is that the Irish crime scene is absolutely burgeoning – am very much enjoying Gerard Brennan’s work. Having said that, am looking forward to Octocon 2012 (National Irish Sci-Fi Convention) so I can meet like-minded people in the flesh.


Katy is an arts and entertainment journalist and has worked for Time Out, Associated Newspapers and Comic Relief and her articles have appeared in The Times (London), Metro (London) and many other arts and entertainment publications, paper and online.

Alongside writing under the pen-name Derry O’Dowd, whose first book ‘The Scarlet Ribbon’ was chosen to launch the History Press Ireland’s fiction line, she writes under her own name. ‘The Lady Astronomer’ will be out with Doctor Fantastique Books in May. She also reviews movies for STUDIO magazine, and is currently co-editing ‘Nasty Snips II’ a horror anthology which will be out with Pendragon Press at Halloween.

Katy blogs at www.katyodowd.com

And can be found on twitter @katyod

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