Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Toru: Wayfarer Returns by Stephanie R. Sorensen - Guest Post and Giveaway

Toru: Wayfarer Returns
by Stephanie R. Sorensen


Today I have Stephanie R. Sorensen as a guest.  She will tell us about how she discovered and made use of steampunk in her new novel Tour: Wayfarer returns.

Guest post: Pushing the Boundaries of Steampunk by Stephanie R. Sorensen

I stumbled into steampunk as a movement and literary genre purely accidentally, when I Googled “Victorian dress” to find something to wear to a local Victorian dress ball here in Leadville, Colorado. Up came these amazing outfits, with gears and goggles and corsets. I was entranced. One thing led to another and I wound up giving an hour-long presentation to my neighbors on Steampunks, Neo-Victorian Futurism and the Maker Movement and shocking and/or offending them by informing them they were accidental steampunks, as it is our local custom to dress up in full Victorian gear several times a year for local festivals.

Along the way, I read several dozen steampunk novels, from the works by the “founding fathers” of steampunk literature like Tim Powers, K.W. Jeters and James P. Blaylock to more recent works like Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century. I dabbled in gaslight romances, steampunk action-adventure and steampunk alternate histories. Along the way, I came to a couple of conclusions about steampunk as literature.
First, most was set in Victorian England or the American Wild West. While this is perfectly understandable, I found it confining as a writer, for it was very well-trodden territory. One of the first questions I asked myself was “Why does a steampunk novel have to be written from the point of view of the British and Americans? What about the rest of the wide, wide world?”

Once that thought sprouted in my brain, my personal history took over. Years ago, I spent several years living in Japan, learning to speak and read Japanese, living with Japanese families and working with Japanese colleagues. I love Japan, and with a passionate but clear-eyed love that sees both faults and virtues in their unique and fascinating culture. Once I thought of setting my story in Japan, I grew very excited. The latter half of the nineteenth century was also a period of tremendous change and transformation for Japan, so a great setting for a steampunk novel, with lots of room for adventures and battles and all that good stuff.

Second, steampunk as a literary genre has evolved into something very diverse and increasingly hard to categorize. Steampunk romance, steampunk action-adventure, steampunk fantasy, steampunk alternate history…all these different flavors create very different reading experiences. This is liberating in one sense, for one might suppose that “anything goes.” It’s a treacherous liberty, though, because the writer needs to ensure the reader gets what they hope for when they open the pages of a new story. Where is that line between steampunk and something else?

I attempted to define the boundaries of steampunk literature, and came up with the following elements and conventions. Steam technology, whether realistic or fantastical. Mechanical beings and devices and gadgets, the more the better. An emphasis on a more formal and class-defined time, where formality and manners were part of the culture but could be subverted and rebelled against by putting modern female and non-white players into roles they could not have played during the real 19th century. Cool outfits and gadgets and furnishings of course, retro-19th century fashion with futuristic elements. Optimism, too. As mentioned above, a British or American setting. Adventurous derring-do. An elusive quality of concreteness, tangible materiality, social and formal constraint and simplicity that we long for and cannot find in our modern world with its virtual realities, shifting social mores and lack of rules to live by. Even the “Dress for Success” bibles of the 1980s seem hopelessly outdated and silly to us now; the constrictive corset is a wonderful metaphor for the opposite of “anything goes” that we live by today. I could list more, but these are some of the main elements in steampunk novels of whatever sub-genre.

I wanted to bring something new to steampunk, to renew these conventional elements. One could imagine, for example, inverting steampunk’s optimism to write a dystopian steampunk novel, where all the lovely technology and gadgets are used to oppress and enslave and brave freedom fighters must overthrow the oppressors. Great idea—for another writer, not me. I’m an optimist, so dystopian steampunk must be left to another.
I found my opening in changing up the setting and the culture, putting my heroes on the other side of the steampunk technology-and-imperialist divide. My heroes are neither British nor American, but Japanese samurai, who must build their steampunk technology from ideas and plans. They are constrained not so much by corsets but by courtesy and class and tradition, and their lives and freedom depend on breaking through the constraints that have held their country in stasis for 250 years.

As a new author, I must admit it was scary going out with a steampunk book that lacked the American or British setting and culture that most steampunk books share. Who am I to tear down the boundary walls of steampunk?!!

After it was too late to retreat, when the book was already published, I was overjoyed and relieved when I came across other fellow pioneers at the multicultural boundary, authors who were also building steampunk stories set in Asia or with Asian characters, leaving behind the British and American settings. These authors include famed science fiction novelist and translator Ken Liu’s “silk punk” epic fantasy “The Grace of Kings” series, set in a mythical Asian-flavored past and featuring marvelous gadgets and dirigible battles. See also award-winning historical romance novelist Jeannie Lin’s foray into steampunk “Gunpowder Alchemy” set in the same time and battling many of the same imperialist adversaries as my Tōru, but in a Chinese rather than Japanese setting. I also enjoyed discovering fellow Colorado indie novelist Quincy J. Allen’s “Blood Ties” which features Asian characters in a Weird Wild West steampunk setting. I can heartily recommend these as well-written steampunk novels that test the boundaries just as my “Tōru: Wayfarer Returns” tests the boundaries of steampunk literature. So do a little boundary-busting and try something different today, steampunk with samurai heroes in Tōru: Wayfarer Returns.”


GENRE:  Historical Steampunk Fiction



A nation encircled by enemies

A noblewoman with everything to lose

A fisherman with everything to prove and a nation to save.

In Japan of 1852, the peace imposed by the Tokugawa Shoguns has lasted 250 years. Peace has turned to stagnation, however, as commoners grow impoverished and their lords restless. Swords rust. Martial values decay. Foreign barbarians circle the island nation’s closed borders like vultures.

Tōru, a shipwrecked young fisherman rescued by traders and taken to America, defies the Shogun’s ban on returning to Japan, determined to save his homeland from foreign invasion. Can he rouse his countrymen in time? Or will the cruel Shogun carry out his vow to execute all who set foot in Japan after traveling abroad? Armed only with his will, a few books, dirigible plans and dangerous ideas, Tōru must transform the Emperor’s realm before the Black Ships come.



“Omae wa dare da? Who are you? Whose ship is that? Why are you here?”

They forced Tōru to his knees.

He bowed down to the sand and spoke in the rough unhewn Japanese of a fisherman.

“Noble sirs, I am Tōru, of the village Iwamatsu, some days’ travel north of here. I was fishing with my father. A terrible storm destroyed our boat and cast us all into the sea. My father gave me a piece of wreckage to cling to as everything sank.”

Tōru struggled a moment, the words and flow of his native language catching on his lips after more than two years without a soul to speak with in Japanese. The memory of the storm and his last memory of his father that night rose up before him.

He steadied himself as the men listened intently, their swords never wavering from his throat, nor their gaze from his face.

He chose his next words carefully.

“That night was the last I saw my father. I was picked up by an American ship and taken to America.”

He bowed down to the sand again, easing between the blades.

“This night I am returning, to look after my mother. She has no other child to care for her, and no husband to feed her. The Americans brought me home, so I might do my duty by my mother and my people. I beg you, forgive me any crimes I may have committed by landing on your lord’s shore, and allow me please to return to my home.”

As he looked up into their eyes, he saw they would permit no such thing.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Stephanie is a writer based in the Victorian mining town of Leadville, Colorado, where she lives at 10,251 feet with her husband, five chickens, two bantam English game hens and one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. After a former life in big cities-New York City, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Boston, Mexico City, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Santa Fe-she now enjoys the birdsong and quiet writing time she finds in Leadville. Her first novel draws on her experience living and working in Japan; her next historical novel is set in Mexico where she also lived for several years. As a Leadville local, she likes her Victorian attire spiced with a little neo-Victorian futurism and the biggest bustle possible.

Recognition for "Toru: Wayfarer Returns"
-- Finalist, Fantasy category, 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
-- Bronze Medal Award, Multicultural Fiction category, 2016 eLit Book Awards


Author website                        http://stephaniersorensen.com/
Author Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011148014463
Publisher website            http://palantirpress.com/
Publisher Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/people/Sassa-Margot/100010457895534
Publisher Twitter            https://twitter.com/SassaMargot
Sell sheet PDF                        http://palantirpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Toru-Sell-Sheet.pdf
Kirkus review                        https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephanie-r-sorensen/toru/



One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit the other tour sites for additional information and chances to win.

January 30Welcome to My World of Dreams 
January 31The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
January 31Lampshade Reader
February 1Unabridged Andra
February 1Author Deborah A Bailey
February 2Edgar's Books
February 3Christine Young
February 3T's Stuff
February 6Reviews by Crystal
February 7Kit 'N Kabookle
February 7Mixed Book Bag
February 8Megan Morgan
February 9Book Giveaways
February 10Book Lover Promo
February 10Fabulous and Brunette
February 13CBY Book Club
February 13Rainy Day Reviews
February 14The Avid Reader
February 15BooksChatter
February 15EskieMama and Dragon Lady Reads
February 16Author C.A.Milson
February 17Queen of All She Reads
February 17Illuminite Caliginosus
February 20Cafinated Reads
February 21bookworm1102
February 21: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
February 22Sapphyria's Book Reviews
February 23Lorana Hoopes 
February 23Reader Girls
February 24Long and Short Reviews


JC Jones said...

I enjoyed your post on Steampunk and how you decided to use it.

Anonymous said...

Steampunk definitely intrigues me!


DanieX said...

I love Steampunk! I can't wait to read this!!

Unknown said...

congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

Victoria Alexander said...

Really great excerpt, thanks for sharing :)

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for hosting my tour today and letting me share my discovery of steampunk with your followers. Good luck to everyone who is entering the giveaway!


Unknown said...

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to let you know I'm putting "Toru" on a $0.99 price promotion through the end of my book tour, so pop over to Amazon and snag your copy now. I am working on getting the price dropped on Nook, Kobo and iBooks as well. I hope you'll read it, and if you like it, post a review!