by KJ Kabza
Are you stuck?
(Artistically, I mean.)
Try a prompt. A theme. A sentence you picked at random from a book. An open anthology call. “But I never in a million years would have thought to write a Chupacabra Princess space opera revenge story,” you say, to which I say–how do you know you can’t?
Originally, I wrote Heart of Brass in 2009 because I was stuck. I was newer to writing than I am now, and I was eager to not only make sales in whatever genre I could, but also build relationships with editors and publishers. To that end, when I saw a call for submissions for another, different sexy steampunk anthology on the website of another, different publisher (who had published me before), I thought: There. A story that features steam-powered sex machines is my new destiny.
My destiny, as it turned out, was not a pleasant one. I wrote Heart of Brass on a tight deadline. I had written some erotica before, and was now coming to realize that it wasn’t my preferred genre. The story became much, much longer than I expected. And in the end, the publisher didn’t even want it. (“Sorry. We already bought a piece for this anthology that had steam-powered sex machines in it.”)
Ordinarily, I brush rejections off and just take the work elsewhere, but a sexy steampunk story is much harder to sell than a regular steampunk story. While Beneath Ceaseless Skies (for example) has published several of my fantasy stories, including a steampunk one, I do not think that the venue that bills itself as a home for “literary adventure fantasy” would enjoy a story with on-screen depictions of a nymphomaniacal 19-year-old getting fucked by an automaton. (Call it a hunch.)
For a long time, I felt conflicted about Heart of Brass. I hadn’t enjoyed the writing process, but I stood by the final product. I liked it. I emailed it to a few friends, at their request, and they liked it. Like both my story’s protagonist and his love interest, I felt I had something valuable to share with somebody, but the quest to find that somebody would be long and lonely.
But much like finding the right romantic partner, finding the right publisher can take time–and it’s okay when it does. In 2012, FFP bought Heart of Brass and published it as a stand-alone story, and now, I’m thrilled that they’re reprinting it in “Of Passion and Steam,” in the company of many other stories that no doubt struggled to find the right partner, too.
As the character of Duke Gallantine says to the protagonist in Heart of Brass, “You and she are a match. Understand?”
It’s been a great partnership. I hope you enjoy Heart of Brass and think so, too.