Not sure what steampunk is? Let “Demon in the Machine” author Lise MacTague explain the genre

If you haven’t heard of steampunk, you’re not alone. The sci-fi/fantasy subgenre can be a bit of a mystery to people. Part of that is because the genre can is incredibly flexible and difficult to categorize. Generally speaking, and there are exceptions and elaborations, steampunk has a 19th century setting and is further embellished by anachronistic and retrofuturistic inventions. Think Victorian England with mechanical parasols that double as flying machines or America’s Wild West with cowboys in small zeppelins instead of horses. (Oh, that’s a good one, I’m writing that down for later!) It’s a fascinating blend of historical fiction and science fiction or fantasy, depending on the author and which way they want to take it.

One of the reasons I love steampunk so much is that it’s grounded in things that actually happened, but has a twist on the time period that allows for so much more. The historical aspect is important, but when I apply it to steampunk it’s a jumping off point rather than a set of constraints. Steampunk has room for any character you can imagine.

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Demon in the Machine is steampunk, the first such novel I’ve written, and I had so much fun with it. The main characters are Isabella: a cat-burgling debutante who tinkers with machinery when she isn’t being forced to go to balls, and Briar: a half-demon archivist who battles her succubus heritage by adhering to the rigid strictures of high society. There is plenty of room in the genre for two unusual female characters who break the molds of society, but in different ways.

Steampunk is also fertile ground for breaking across genres. Briar is half demon and uses magic as easily as she speaks. When creating my world, I decided to add some extra kick to England’s Industrial Revolution through the pervasive use demonic magic. Technology gets them so far, then magic takes them the rest of the way. Paranormal was so easy to weave into my steampunk universe. Of course, there’s also a romantic subplot as Isabella and Briar have to learn to work together, even though they’re about as different as it’s possible to be. Finally, my characters have a mystery to solve and time is running out. The various threads weave around each other, and the versatility of steampunk as a genre allows them to exist together.



There’s a phenomenon authors talk about when writing a novel, it’s called “the mushy middle.” I frequently suffer from this authorly disorder. The beginning of a story is so exciting, but somewhere around the middle of the writing process, momentum slows and it feels like you’re trying to write your way out of the La Brea Tar Pits. Demon in the Machine is the only book I’ve written so far where I didn’t have to contend with that problem. It was so much fun to write all the way through. I credit that to a combination of the genre, the setting, and the characters. I guarantee I’ll be making another foray into steampunk at some point in the future.

Demon in the Machine is available now in paperback and ebook. Lise MacTague is also our featured author and you can get 30% off her backlist titles for a limited time.

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