Shelley Adina is the author of 24 novels published by Harlequin, Warner, and Hachette, and more than a dozen published by Moonshell Books, Inc., her own independent press. She writes steampunk and contemporary romance as Shelley Adina; as Charlotte Henry, writes classic Regency romance; and as Adina Senft, writes Amish women’s fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and is currently at work on a PhD in Creative Writing with Lancaster University in the UK. She won RWA’s RITA Award® in 2005, and was a finalist in 2006. She appeared in the 2016 documentary film Love Between the Covers, is a popular speaker and convention panelist, and has been a guest on many podcasts, including Worldshapers and Realm of Books. When she’s not writing, Shelley is usually quilting, sewing historical costumes, or enjoying the garden with her flock of rescued chickens.
We interviewed Shelley in March, 2020. Here’s what she had to say:
What is the inspiration for the Mysterious Devices series?
I had finished my 12-book Magnificent Devices steampunk adventure series, but readers wouldn’t accept that the series was over. So I had to come up with a logical way to continue it without doing the same thing over again. I read mysteries for enjoyment (I blame Nancy Drew in the sixties), and by some prescience had planted an amnesiac in Books 10–12 who could be the “Maguffin” for a mystery series, so my decision was made! The amnesiac character became the father of my sleuths, and the spinoff became a 6-book road trip to find him, with my two young ladies from Bath solving mysteries in the Wild West as they go.
What is it about the setting of the Wild West that made you want to set your series/novel there?
I live in California and have spent many holidays in Four Corners country (New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah). Historically, that territory used to belong to Spain, so in my steampunk world, it became the Texican Territories, a place rife with danger and adventure. Each location is real (Georgetown, CO; Santa Fe, NM; Bodie, CA; San Francisco, CA; Port Townsend, WA; Victoria, BC) but given a steampunk twist. For instance, Bodie was a real gold mining town with the worst reputation for murder in the West. Its stamp mills were also very real, but in my world, the “stamps” are massive automatons with huge feet that stamp the ore for processing.
Tell us a little about your most recent story.
That would be my earthquake book 🙂 I lost my house to the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 (half of it went over a cliff into a ravine) and I’ve always known I’d write an earthquake story to incorporate in some way what I saw and felt then. The Engineer Wore Venetian Red is that story. Here’s the cover copy:
An earthquake strikes. A prince and the engineer who loves him are missing. But is it disaster—or foul play?
Hot on the trail of their missing father, Daisy and Freddie Linden step off the airship Iris in San Francisco de Asis. At the moment they discover their best clue to Papa’s whereabouts, an earthquake levels the city—and a disaster is the best time for a political coup.
The forces of evil have two targets: May Lin, the river witch, and Carlos Felipe, the country’s handsome young ruler. She is sucked alive into a crevasse, having never told the prince she loves him. Carlos Felipe is abducted—with Freddie the only witness. The kingdom will descend into chaos unless someone can find them both—and Daisy and Freddie seem to be the only ones left standing.
Imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?
Ha! Both kidnapping and natural disaster occur in Venetian Red. But any of the women from my steampunk world would be very capable of coming to my aid. I create them that way on purpose; no female in my books ever stands around wringing her hands and waiting for a man to rescue her.
Do you belong to any writer’s groups or communities? Do you think these types of social interactions are important for writers?
Besides Sisters in Crime, I belong to a number: Romance Writers of America, the Jane Austen Society of North America, the Western Literature Society, and the Independent Book Publishers Association. I feel it’s very important for writers to be a part of these communities of practice, not for the social aspect, but to be up to date on trends and best practices in our business.
Have you written any series characters? What’s their appeal for you?
Yes, my character Lady Claire Trevelyan has 12 books, Daisy and Freddie Linden will have 6 books, and I’ve spun off a 4-volume novella miniseries featuring minor characters. In my Amish women’s fiction novels, all 9 books take place in one township, so there are several series characters. If I can create a person whom people really like, readers will follow her through thick and thin. And I have the opportunity to delve deeply into her past, her motivations, and keep her learning from her experiences, which makes it fun both for me and for readers.
You’ve moved into the independent publishing world from traditional publishing. What has that been like?
I sold my first book to Harlequin in 2002 and wrote 6 romances and one single title for them. I moved to Hachette in 2008 and did 15 single titles with them. I began indie publishing in 2011 with Lady of Devices, my MFA thesis and the first book in the Magnificent Devices series. Ten publishers had turned it down because “we don’t know how to market steampunk.” Well, I did! By 2012 the third book had come out and between indie work and my contracted novels, I was literally too busy to go to my Silicon Valley day job. I quit to write full time and by 2015 had crossed the six-figure income threshold. I was hybrid with Hachette until 2015, and then when my option book was turned down, I went fully indie and published it myself 🙂 There have been ups and downs, of course, but this is what I was born to do.
Do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?
Silence. There is a movie running in my head and having another soundtrack in addition to the mayhem already going on in there would make me crazy.
Many writers also put their creativity to use in ways other than writing. Do you consider yourself a “creative person?” What other creative outlets do you have?
Besides writing, I sew historical costumes (Mum taught me to sew when I was five), quilt, play piano and Celtic harp, and paint in watercolors. Well, I’m learning that last one. There is a reason that my sleuth, Daisy Linden, is a watercolorist. Painters really do see the world differently.
Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview.
So many things on the horizon! Besides work on my dissertation for my PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in the UK, I have a number of books coming out this year. My rights for my 6-book Amish series reverted from Hachette, so those will be coming out every month or so. The Engineer Wore Venetian Red comes out May 27. I’m in a Kickstarter called Shapers of Worlds that will hopefully be funded and come out this year. This is why I don’t get out much.
Wait—a PhD in Creative Writing? Tell us about that.
Well, down the hill from my house is an old ghost town called Holy City. It was founded by a religious con man called William Riker a century ago, and in the 1920s was raking in $100K a year, which back then was unheard-of wealth. But by 1969, the prophet was dead, and the town was gone—burned to the ground.
My husband came in one night and plunked a big cardboard box on the table. A deputy sheriff had given it to him because it had been kicking around in his attic for 25 years and he was tired of it. It had been part of an arrest years before. Lo and behold, the box was filled with original, never before seen documents from Holy City, some handwritten by the prophet and dated 1919! There were photographs, radio broadcast scripts, letters, sermons, and booklets of poetry by the prophet’s wife Lucille. “Wow,” I said. “This box is a dissertation waiting to happen.” And then the light bulb went on over my head.
At Lancaster, the dissertation is 100K words, divided into two parts: 80% is the novel, and 20% the exegesis, or the nonfiction accompanying work. My novel is a historical women’s fiction called The Comforter, both because that was how the inhabitants referred to the town, and because Riker believed he was the modern incarnation of the Holy Spirit. It’s told from two points of view: Clara, a young woman who comes to Holy City seeking a place to stay, and Lucille Riker, who was a prolific though unpublished poet and songwriter. My research website is here: http://rikersholycity.com .
For more about Shelley, find her online: