With the Kickstarter for Flintlock #5 up and running, I had the chance to ask writer Steve Tanner some questions about his long running creation. If you want to support Flintlock and get a bunch of bonus prints and rewards you can check out the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/timebomb/flintlock-book-five
Q: This is the fifth volume of Flintlock- what are you excited about bringing to the title this time?
A: The story of Lady Flintlock was conceived as being 6 chapters, and right from the start I knew what the cliffhangers would be at the end of each chapter. Book Five brings us the final cliffhanger, after being in my head since 2015. I thought the cliffhanger at the end of chapter three would be the most exciting, and the end of chapter five the most shocking. Feedback suggests I got it right for chapter three, so I’m excited to find out if if I’m also right for chapter five. But I’ll apologise in advance, because artist Gareth Sleightholme took what I thought was shocking to write and turned it with his brilliant artwork into something dreadful to see.
Q: It’s always great to see Lady Flintlock herself, but which of the backup characters are you most excited to write?
A:The Clockwork Cavalier is the easiest to write, his stories just seem to come together really quickly. I liked revisiting 1790s Australia with Peg Sparrowhawk again, as that to me really drives home what Flintlock is about for me creatively: an unusual character in an unusual situation. With Peg, it’s about having a lead who is the antithesis of how a female lead is presented: she’s plain featured, she’s middle aged, she’s big and imposing. In my head when creating her it was an older Miranda Hart type of physique. Very often fictional women of that stature are presented as these happy go lucky, clumsy, bumbling, comedy relief characters. Peg is far from that.
Q: The Clockwork Cavalier is the most ‘fantastical’ of the Flintlock characters. Do you think you’re likely to introduce more as time goes on?
A: I think how the Cavalier is presented in Flintlock pushes him as far as he can in the context of the series, so that’s where the Clockwork Cavalier Special came in, which I felt allowed me to really ramp up the clockpunk aspects of him because of its standalone nature. I know I’m pushing my luck a bit with the notion of the Cavalier in the first place, but the stories in the main Flintlock series I see as being more grounded with the wilder stuff existing outside the main book, even though the stories themselves take part in the same Flintlock timeline. It’s the same with the Dick Turpin stories: his tales absolutely take place in the 1730s Flintlock timeline, but the supernatural elements of his stories don’t belong in the main series. They work well presented separately, though.
Q: Has your idea of the characters changed at all since you started writing them?
A:Not really, but some of them ended up being tweaked from what they were when originally conceived as 6 years ago to what they were when they actually debuted in the book. Onna’s a good example of that. I knew I wanted to have an onna-bugeisha character but she was only fleshed out once I started writing her story for Book Three. At the same time some characters came into being much later – female bow street runner Tilly Quickstep, for example.
Q: One of my favourite things about Flintlock as a title is how it takes such classic character types and adventure stories and makes them feel fresh. For me, a big part of that is the protagonists being women, but what else do you do to keep the stories new?
A: To be honest, I think part of it is that there’s not really an anthology like Flintlock out there. It’s not as if I’m trying to write a superhero story where there’s literally thousands of superhero stories that can be used as a comparison. The stories come from the real history of the 18th Century, and many things happened through those 100 years that I can tap into for inspiration. The first Molly & The Trickster Thief story in Book Three is a perfect example of that: the story was centred around an extravagant party held by Teresa Cornelys, a real historical figure who was notorious for throwing wild parties in 1770s London.
Q: What are the chances of a cross-story team up where Shanti and Lady Flintlock form a semi-criminal world saving team?
A: Absolutely none. By the time Lady Flintlock appears in the 1750s, Shanti and her 1720s environment are both things of the past.
Q: Time travel would be a little bit more fantastical than Flintlock goes for! Is there anything else you want to share about making Flintlock?
A: Flintlock has turned out to be the most creatively rewarding thing I’ve done, on pretty much every level. I was really nervous launching Book One regarding how it would be received – was the concept something that only reall interested me? Five books later I still get nervous – but now because I don’t want to disappoint a readership that seems to love the Flintlock characters as much as I do!