Spoiled: Leanna Renee Hieber On Her Upcoming Fantasy Series

Spoiled shares a look at the books you can't wait to read, long before they hit stores. Today author Leanna Renee Hieber gives RT readers a peek inside her just-announced series from Tor. Discover what inspired this historically set "Gaslamp Fantasy" series and when readers can expect to get their hands on the first Eterna Files story!


You have just signed a 3 book deal for a new series with the working title the Eterna Files. These new books are being called "Gaslamp Fantasy." For those unfamiliar with the term, what exactly is this subgenre all about?

It's another term for Historical Fantasy set specifically in the 19th century, generally in the aesthetics of the industrializing Victorian era. It is the genre that all my full-length novels fall into. The term Gaslamp Romance is used for romances set in the atmospheric time period of gaslight, but since I'm using tropes inherent to the paranormal and fantasy genres, Gaslamp Fantasy is more appropos. It's a term that developed because of the rise in popularity of Steampunk, a genre that mixes inherently 19th century aesthetics and properties with science-fiction elements. For those of us who have the historical or alternate historical setting but use fantasy and magic rather than gadgets and technology, it's an appropriate distinction. To give an example. If my Strangely Beautiful saga were Steampunk, my ghost-busters would have had steam-powered gadget-driven packs that would trap the spirits. Instead, I use a magical and sacred holy fire tied to Greek Mythology to trap the ghosts, a far more fantasy than sci-fi approach. It still falls under the wide umbrella of Steampunk.

Your first series, the Strangely Beautiful saga is for adults, while your second series, Magic Most Foul is Young Adult based. Who do you see as the audience for the Eterna Files?

It will be an adult series, though I always write PG-13 rated books and hope to continue my crossover audience. Characters from both my Magic Most Foul saga and my Strangely Beautiful saga will appear in Eterna, and I am so excited for the way these tales organically weave into one another, it's really gratifying to me as an author and I know it will be really fun for the readership to run into familiar characters. The focus of Eterna is a big, quirky, sprawling cast of characters that are all well into their adulthood. So genre standards designate that this will be marketed more to adults with a hope of luring in my YA audience with my crossover characters.

A little birdy told us that this series, like your others, will be historically set. Can you tell us a little about the series' setting and why you chose this time period/place for the stories?

I'm happiest when writing in 19th century settings and so when my editor at Tor and I sat down to discuss possible projects, I sheepishly said: "I don't want to leave the 1880s. Do I have to leave the 1880s?" She laughed and told me that no, I didn't, thank goodness. I can't explain my attraction to the 19th century other than that it's been my great muse and love since childhood, perhaps a past life situation, perhaps it's because all my interests: the Gothic, the spiritual, the mythical, the mystical, the romantic, the horrific, the pseudo-scientific, the imaginative the grand and the passionate all fit so well into this richly conflicted and complex time period. I'll be exploring further themes of Spiritualism, ghosts and spirits, life, death and in between as well as the complex group dynamics of unorthodox people living secret lives and uncovering paranormal mysteries. This saga is set in 1882, before the US Secret Service was established in the way we think of it today, but was in existence for the purposes of prosecuting counterfeit money, and just prior to England setting up what would become Special Branch; domestic investigation. I'm trying to set up two covert offices that still have autonomy and don't work in the way we think of the Secret Service or MI-5 working today, but with imaginative historical echoes of what that environment may have been like if taxed with the paranormal.  

Your two previous heroines, Percy and Natalie, are both quite unusual characters. Can we expect more unique characters in Eterna? Who are some of the people that we will be meeting?

A circus. Literally. This book is a zoo. I'm pushing the envelope in characters and in scenarios like I've never done before. When I was trying to write a blurb for my website, I came up with this: The Eterna Files: a new quirky, character-driven Gaslamp Fantasy saga set in 1882 following a paranormal arms race for immortality between New York City and London. A huge cast of larger-than-life characters fight for hearth, home and the cure for death. Including but not limited to: mediums, chemists, healers, spies, uncanny detectives, royalty, politicians, magicians, sword-fighters, robber barons, mutants, grave robbers, psychic vampires, visionaries, prophets, excellent book-keepers, fearsome civil servants, covert operatives, unorthodox espionage, a circus and one poor skeptic. And that's just book one.

Please, please tell us that we will be getting a great romance in these stories!

*grin* Not easily, and not quickly. You won't even get a kiss until we're at least a few books in, at least not from the main characters (don't kill me, it's what needs to be done). Plenty of romantic intrigue, though, and I have no idea who my heroine on the American side is going to end up with, so that's an exciting ride for me. So if you're game for slow, aching torture, this will be the series for you. But I do promise you that the origin of this saga came from my fury that one of my favorite BBC shows of all time, after 10 bloody seasons, didn't give my two favorite characters a happy ending and I went on a holy tear about it. So if I've any Harry Pearce/Ruth Evershed fans out there, this is for you.

In your writing, you are inspired by all sorts of things — especially mythology and literature. What has been the biggest inspiration for you while you craft your new series?

Thinking about immortality, the idea of past lives, spiritual families, and mysticism in general. Generally I let my characters take me on paranormal journeys where they get to work out some of their thoughts and notions on the paranormal on a grand stage. For me, writing books is as much a practice in divination as in storytelling.

While readers will have to wait until early 2014 to read the first full length Eterna Files book, we will get to meet one of your characters in an upcoming anthology. What can you tell us about your story in Queen Victoria's Book of Spells?

Oh, Mr. Mosley. He is the star of "Charged", my short story set in 1882 New York City, on the same street that my characters in Eterna have their offices, on the same street as Thomas Edison's first power plants. Poor, troubled, fascinating Mosley. He has an interesting... relationship with electricity. It isn't a romantic story but rather fantastical bordering on horror, but it's one of the more powerful things I've ever written. I'll also have a short story up at Tor.Com, an aching, Gothic short about a Victorian hair jeweler with an uncanny gift. The story is called "Too Fond" and it will be up on Tor.Com in October. I also think Eloise from that story will wind up in future projects too. I'm very excited about all my short fiction that's all over the place. In addition to the stories in Queen Victoria's Book of Spells and on Tor.com, I just released "At Will" which headlines Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal and Romance, which is available now, and will also have a story in The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance that features a story from my Dark Nest world, releasing January 2013. And of course, the sequel to Darker Still, releases this November! The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart picks up exactly where Darker Still left off and is an action-packed adventure I can't wait to share with readers.