Today the spotlight is on Jessica McHugh and her novel The Sky: The World. Jessica is an author of speculative fiction that spans the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer and member of the Horror Writers Association, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, poetry, and playwriting. Jessica has had twelve books published in four years, including the bestselling Rabbits in the Garden, The Sky: The World and the gritty coming-of-age thriller, PINS. More info on her speculations and publications can be found at JessicaMcHughBooks.com.
What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
People crave answers to the unexplainable, and speculative fiction grants us the power to not only answer those questions, but to provide many different answers. Anything is possible. With stories that can range from bizarre and horrific to boundless romance, I find that speculative fiction liberates in ways literary fiction can't.
Why do you write in this genre?
Alternate history is delightful madness. Traveling back in time and throwing a wrench in the works is empowering and addictive, but it's a lot of hard work. Luckily, I'm in love with hard work when it comes to writing. Hard cleaning work is another story, however.
How did you come up with the idea for The Sky: The World?
There were several inspirations for The Sky: The World. I didn't have more the basic idea of pilots and a neo-Victorian setting at the start, and because I wrote much of the book out of order, the story tumbled out in wonderful and surprising ways. The Egyptian elements in the novel came late in the writing process, inspired by my favorite poem, "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I haven't written a book using this process since TSTW, but it seemed very natural at the time.
There is a complex backstory to The Sky: The World, so much of this book was written by drinking a few beers and brainstorming. "Stretching my imagination" might be a good way to describe it. I let my mind run wild on the idea of a complex science called "picoepistemology" and all of the ways it had altered Victorian England. Like I said before, it was delightful madness. :)
What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
Since I wanted to include explanations for Doctor Azaz's origin, picoepistemology, and as much character development as possible, I encountered difficulty in keeping my exposition from turning into an info dump. Other than that, this book was very enjoyable to write. I wouldn't say it was easy, but it didn't have as many ARG!! moments as some other books I've written.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on several projects. I'm revising my bizarro sci-fi novel The Green Kangaroos, revising my historical fiction novel Verses of Villainy, and writing the 2nd book in my Darla Decker YA series. I'm also working on extending an alternate history story about the Titanic's maiden voyage into a novella, while continuing to write short stories for various anthologies.
I will also be venturing into self-publishing for the first time. Followers of my official Facebook and Twitter know that I post silly witticisms called #DeepThoughtsys and #McTruths. After a bunch of people mentioned that they'd love a book of compiled posts, I decided to put something together. It will be a book of quips, illustrations, and fun writing prompts. I hope to release it within the next few months, and I'm really excited.
Who is Doctor Azaz?
It is the 19th Century, and Azazian England is at it's pinnacle. Aeroplanes rule the sky, and crystalline technology has transformed life itself. But for stunt pilot Jack Racine, life is little more than an endless tailspin into liquor, laudanum, and loose women. But all that is about to change. Jack Racine is about to have an audience with the architect of the age: the mysterious Doctor Azaz....
"This book is the very reason that it’s a good thing for readers that indie publishers exist, otherwise we might not get the chance to read great stories by great authors like 'The Sky: The World' by Jessica McHugh." - Book Reviews Weekly