E.R. Johnson is the author of the dystopian steampunk novel 'Clockwork Stars'. After reading and reviewing her book, I decided to have a conversation with her.
Alina: First of all, I've got some questions about your debut novel 'Clockwork Stars'. What inspired you to write the book?
E.R.: I don’t recall there being one individual thing which inspired me to write Clockwork stars. At the time the concepts came to me I had been reading and watched lot of dystopian fiction, and so I naturally leaned towards that genre. The desire to write steam punk elements was inspired by studio Ghibli’s: Howl’s moving castle. Most of my ideas also start as images in my mind which play out a bit like a little movie and I had this very clear image of a butterfly which was half realistic and half clockwork and also of the scene which first introduces Flynn.
Alina: While reading the book I had an impression that trauma played quite an important role in it. There is also a dedication to people who feel trapped by mental health in the beginning of the book. Is there a reason you decided to explore these particular subjects?
E.R.: Yes. I have to say when I first began, trauma wasn’t something I planned to include in such a large scale, but with the scenario and setting it slipped into the story quite naturally, partially with Flynn. I’m glad it did, having experience some difficulties around mental health myself, as well as knowing people who have suffered with PTSD and panic attacks, it’s definitely something I wanted to explore. I do feel that it is still a misunderstood subject which needs more awareness bringing to.
Alina: I also had an impression that the government played a sinister role in the story (though I wasn’t completely sure if it was the government after all, so correct me if I’m wrong). Is that a reflection of some real-life issues?
E.R.: You aren’t wrong. In hindsight I do wish that I had explored a bit more deeply into that as all the reader really sees, through the perspective of the protagonists, is the outcome. The government certainly had some disturbing secrets as explained by one of the characters and without revealing too much, there were a lot of different motives working against each other.
Yes. I think, sadly, the aspects of a government’s control over society aren’t too far from reality in some countries.
Alina: Is there a message that you wanted to convey through your book?
E.R.: Alongside the mental health awareness I wanted to convey a message of hope and never giving up in difficult times. That’s something we all need reminded of, particularly right now.
I like to think that things got a lot better on New Earth after the final chapters.
Alina: Thanks for clarifying all that. Now I’ve got some questions about you. If you could travel to a world described in one of the books you’ve read, what would it be and why?
E.R.: What a question! It’s not exactly a world but I’d love to go to the Night circus, Erin Morgenstern paints such a vivid picture that you can’t help but feel like you want to be there. With all the illusion magic it just seems so whimsical.
The inner child in me also wants to say either Narnia or Lyra’s Oxford. These worlds are so vast and feel like places which you could spend months exploring.
Alina: Who are your favorite authors?
E.R.: Probably a very popular answer but Neil Gaiman and Cassandra Claire are two writers who really inspire me. I’ve also recently discovered Kiran Millwood Hargrave and am very much enjoying her work.
Alina: What are your favorite things to do for fun?
E.R.: If I’m not reading or writing, I’m usually doing something else creative like dancing (contemporary), painting or playing guitar or piano. When I can I love to travel and visit new places. I’m a pretty keen landscape photographer so I’m often seeking out new places to photograph.
Alina: Is there a technology or trend (existing or emerging) that scares you? Why?
E.R.: I think we live in a world where anyone can be anyone, and also anyone can potentially gain access to your details and identity. I think that’s a really worrying thought. The whole ‘Big Brother’ concept that you could be watched and heard at all times is very unnerving.
Alina: Is there a technology or trend (existing or emerging) that you are enthusiastic about? Why?
E.R.: Any technology related to medical science is really fascinating. I read somewhere recently that things such as smartwatches may be able to detect health issues before symptoms even appear. You can’t believe everything you read but if that’s true that’s amazing!
Alina: Thank you so much for the interview!