In the steampunk series launch Her Sky Cowboy, Beth Ciotta pairs up explorer Amelia Darcy and airship pilot Tucker Gentry in an alternate Victorian England invaded by 1960s time travelers.
How did you arrive at combining time travel and steampunk for this romance novel?
I’m a visual person and greatly inspired by film and art, such as Verne’s classic Around the World in Eighty Days and the campy 1960s films The Great Race and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. While researching the late 19th century, I noted certain social, political, and cultural aspects that mirrored those of the late 1960s. I’ve always been fascinated by the volatile and artistic aura of the peace and love generation. Something clicked: what if a group of radical “Peace Rebels” traveled back in time in order to prevent 20th-century atrocities? What if their efforts backfired and rogue time travelers shared advanced technology with forward-thinking Victorians? Since time travel was not in my original pitch, I ran the idea past my editor at NAL, Jhantiegh Kupihea. Her mindset was: don’t hold back. So I didn’t.
What do you think is the allure of cowboys of wicked reputation—like Tucker—for today’s women?
Many of us read to escape, to live out a fantasy. Rogues like Tucker tempt us with a dash of danger and a good heart. These heroes are daring and fearless and, in dire circumstances, ruthless. Loving them can be risky, but there’s also the appeal of saving them from their darker side.
Why is Amelia so obsessed with flying and mechanical inventions?
As a little girl I used to dream and fantasize that if I ran across the roof of my house and leapt, pedaling my legs furiously as if on a bicycle, I’d take flight. That was the inspiration for Amelia’s kitecycle. The other parts of her obsession are rooted in the tales she read in the Book of Mods regarding 20th-century aviation, musings on flight as recorded by her hero Leonardo da Vinci, and her eccentric father’s preoccupation with mechanical inventions.
What kinds of romance did you choose to emphasize for this series, and why?
I champion the cliché that love conquers all. The best love stories involve a seemingly insurmountable challenge; if one is determined and passionate and willing to take chances, anything is possible. In Her Sky Cowboy, there’s a gender issue at play. What was expected or acceptable behavior for a woman of that time, and what kind of man would embrace and encourage a lover or wife intent on bucking convention? Also addressed in this novel and upcoming related stories: love as challenged by race, social ranking, political beliefs, and opposing time periods. I choose to explore love in so many extremes because it fascinates me and because I think it makes a positive difference in the world.