February Grace is a writer, artist and poet who lives somewhere that is much colder than she would like most of the time. She sings on key, plays by ear, and is more than mildly obsessed with colors, clocks, the Perseids, and science fiction.
She's done a few more or less interesting things in her life, not the least of which include working for Disney, getting kissed by a Klingon (it was unprovoked) and going blind, though she wouldn't personally recommend the latter. She would however highly recommend the doctors who helped partially restore her sight after a long series of surgeries between 2009 and 2011.
Her poetry, prose, and/or flash fiction have appeared in The Rusty Nail Literary Magazine, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rose & Thorn Journal. Her work can also be found in the recently released anthology Poetry Pact Volume 1.
IAN. Please tell us about your latest book.
FG. Godspeed is the story of a courageous doctor who risks all by breaking the law to use his technological inventions to help special patients. It is told through the eyes of one of those patients, a young woman with a failing heart that he snatches from the jaws of Death after his oldest friend, Schuyler, finds her collapsed on the street.
She is a curiosity to them both; refusing to reveal her name or where she’s come from (something the reader understands but the characters do not.)
The book is, at its heart, a love story; as the young woman falls for her savior even as she tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding him and his covert practice. At the center of that mystery is a secret beyond her imagination.
Godspeed’s true intentions and motivation for his work come into question as we meet his other patients, all of whom are teenagers. The question of the value of prolonging, or ‘improving’ life at great cost and suffering to the patient is one that is raised by the book but not answered by it.
IAN. How long did it take to write Godspeed?
F.G. Almost two years.
IAN. What inspired you to write your book?
F.G. I had been very ill and was actually recovering from surgery at the time (I had fifteen surgeries between 2009 and 2011, six of which were to restore some use of my eyesight, which I had lost.) I was awakened in the middle of the night when my pain medication wore off, and I was trying to focus on something, anything, that could anchor me in the moment until I got my bearings and could get some help.
I was in a room that held my favorite clock; one with three faces. The only sounds I was aware of in that room were that of my heart racing and the ticking of those three clock faces in perfect unison. The thought, ‘What is a heart if not the ultimate clockwork’ came to me, along with ideas for a story much darker than Godspeed turned out to be. I was so weak all I could do was grab a pen and the notebook where we’d been keeping track of my medication doses and jot down a few lines, then somehow I fell back to sleep.
From there on came the thought of a doctor using technology beyond his time to save lives…merged with comments my own doctors had made about how my body had set back what they could do for me, medically, by about a hundred and fifty years, and the story went from there. I had wanted to write something with Steampunk influences for a long time, and this book just demanded to be written.
IAN. Talk about the writing process.
F.G. I used to do all of my writing at night and during the day (meaning I didn’t sleep much) as my health has changed over the past few years everything about my schedule is different, and now the answer is I write when I can. I am hoping that one day soon I will be able to return to a much more everyday schedule.
IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
F.G. I am hopeless with outlines, because my writing is all character driven. It’s not like I’m creating the story or the characters, to me it’s like being introduced to people who already exist and being told a story that already happened. I am merely taking their words down, and crafting them as carefully as I can to be sure to present their story in the best possible way. Of course there comes revision and revision and more revision until it’s as perfect as I can make it.
IAN. How is Godspeed different from others in your genre?
F.G. This is a difficult question to answer because I consider Godspeed to be a hybrid: a literary romance with what I call ‘Steampunk embellishments’. It’s not as mechanical or fantastical as other Steampunk books, but then it’s not without that something extra that makes it more than just a literary romance. All I can ask is that people check out the sample chapters on Amazon, and decide for themselves what sets it apart. I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.
IAN. Did your own struggles with your health impact how you portrayed Doctor Godspeed’s patients in the book?
F.G. Definitely. I am a stroke survivor, among other things, and have spent years going through unthinkable amounts of medical testing and surgeries for other conditions. That gave me a lot of experience to draw from to authenticate some of the experiences Godspeed’s patients went through. Additionally of course my struggles with my vision were drawn upon to describe Marielle’s loss of sight in the novel.
IAN. So would you consider any part of this book to be memoir?
F.G. A few people have commented that it must be, but I truly don’t consider it so. It is a work of fiction, and I just did what any writer tries to do; to use their personal experiences and hardships to their advantage when it comes to getting the right words down onto paper.
IAN. You had six eye surgeries between April of 2009 and March 2011. How did you actually write the book if you couldn’t see for long periods of time during its creation? Did you dictate?
F.G. I am sadly not a writer who does well dictating. I certainly used my iPod to make a few voice memos when a thought would occur to me about a plot inconsistency I needed to fix and didn’t want to forget or a quick plot turn would come to my mind and I didn’t want to lose it. But I did a great deal of typing for this book with my eyes closed.
When I was unable to see at all after a surgery in 2011 but couldn’t get the book off my mind, I got giant Sharpies and sticky notes and I would blindly scrawl notes down that I wanted to add to the book later. I stuck them all in a giant notebook then later when I could read them I laid them all out and took stock. To my surprise, I used almost every single one.
IAN. Writing the book in bits and pieces over time between surgeries like that must have been frustrating, especially when you weren’t working to an outline. How did you pull it all together in the end?
F.G. I wrote most of the book in two segments, in fall of 2010 and fall of 2011. By the end I’d started using Scrivener when I could see to put down scenes, and I organized them as best I could in there. Then I printed the entire thing out, every scene, every line, and I assembled them all, deleting what was not needed and streamlining.
What amazed me was how it fit so well together, seamlessly, as if written from beginning to end without stopping. I can only put it down to the strength of the voice of the narrator character, Abigail, and how consistent, and insistent, the personality of my hero, Quinn Godspeed was. He demanded to be heard, his story had to be told and there was only one way to do it. Looking back, I don’t think that it could be the book it is if it hadn’t been written exactly as it was. I fought for this book; I put every ounce of my love, heart and soul into it through all the surgeries and pain and other setbacks that tried to prevent me from finishing it.
I am grateful to my amazing copy editor, Jennifer Gracen, my cover artist Paul Brand and my best friend (who formatted the book for me) Matthew Irvine. Without them, Godspeed would still be a file on my computer.
IAN. Is Godspeed published in print, e-book or both?
F.G. Both. I almost went exclusively with e-book but I wanted print for myself and had enough people request copies be made available in print that it was worth doing. The book is beautiful in print, the back cover always makes my own heart skip a beat or two.
IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Godspeed?
F.G. An appreciation for life, and their health, if they are healthy. If they face disabilities as I do or other health problems I hope it will help them feel that they’ve been heard and perhaps even understood. I’d like them to fall in love with the characters, as I did, and hold a little piece of them in their hearts ever after they’ve finished the last page.
IAN. Where can we go to buy your book?
FG. It is available as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and in print from Amazon and Lulu.com.
IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
F.G. I have always considered Godspeed a stand alone, so there is no sequel planned. I’ve been working on a collection of short stories, and would like to complete a book of poetry at some point as well.
IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?
F.G. If you’re looking for me, you can most often find me on Twitter (@FebruaryGrace). I also have a page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/FebruaryGrace) and a personal blog www.februarywriter.blogspot.com where you can find out a lot more about me and also read some of my short stories and things.
Godspeed by February Grace
I studied him with rapt attention for some time, thinking that he had no idea until the moment he turned to me, loupe still in place, and nodded in my direction.
“My father was a clockmaker,” he declared, without my having to ask. “He was… sort of a business partner of Schuyler’s father. He built timepieces, restored antiques for the shop on a regular basis. I learned everything I know about clock repair and watch making from him.”
He closed the case on the back of the watch he’d been working on and set his tools aside. Last of all, he removed the loupe and put it away. “I find concentrating on the task of repairing such a thing helps me to think.”
I marveled that work so intricate, requiring such meticulous attention, could help anyone think about anything else. It just served as evidence again of the unusual mind at work here, someone so brilliant that clockworks were no challenge at all, and only in the mysteries of the inadequacies of the human body could a true challenge be found.
“Your mother?” I asked softly. Hearing how dry my throat was, the doctor rose from his chair and brought me a glass of water.
“I do not remember.”
He did not elaborate as to whether she left him by choice or by chance, taken in death or had abandoned him when he was a boy. “Before you ask, no, I have no siblings. Well, none that are not… convenient fabrications.”
I left the comment alone for now; I did not want to stop him talking. If I risked asking the wrong question in this moment he may never be willing to approach this topic again.
I wondered that he was willing to approach it now. Again, I was too afraid of breaking the spell to question too mightily.
“Schuyler’s mother, I remember. She was a very kind woman. Gifted,” he continued. “A musician. All the musical instruments you find around this place originally belonged to her. She tried to teach me them; violin and piano, but I had no natural talent for music.
“So off to my father’s workshop I went, usually ferrying back and forth from it the items from Ruby Road that needed to be repaired. Very early on he had me assisting him, handing him this tool and that, never once behaving as if he believed I didn’t understand. No matter how young I was, he always used the proper terms for things and explained to me exactly their purpose inside the clockworks.” He got a distant look in his eye, and shook his head as he paced past his workbench and moved toward the cabinet across the room.
He opened up a panel, procured a bottle and glass, and poured himself a drink. “I didn’t realize then that the greatest gift he would ever give me was faith in my own mind.”
He downed the dark, pungent liquid in one long gulp and nodded approvingly at the taste. He pivoted on his heel and turned back toward me. “Still, you refuse to tell me about yourself.”
I looked away.
“Even so much as your name.”
My eyes remained focused on the opposite wall.
“I am a fairly resourceful man, you know.”
I felt the urge to laugh at the magnitude of his understatement. To say he was fairly resourceful was to say that the sea, roaring and endless with advancing and retreating tides, was vast and tasted slightly of salt.
“I’ve done some investigating,” he said, pacing again as he spoke. “There have been no reports of a young woman your age, anyone even close to your description, going missing in the last year, and I highly doubt you were on the street more than a day before Schuyler plucked you from it. Otherwise you would not have survived.”
He looked me over with carefully critical eyes, almost as one considering purchase of a piece of used merchandise. “Why is it a girl with such… who has been at least somewhat carefully kept and cared for over the years, would not be reported missing?”
I summoned all of my strength to speak, because I was driven to answer. “To be reported missing, sir, one must first be missed.”
He inclined his head, accepting my explanation. He clearly understood how much speaking those words, words tied to such difficult emotions, took out of me. He pressed me no further.
He returned to the workbench behind the surgical table, where I now sat with my legs dangling over the side.
He opened the top drawer, procured a small wooden box, and held it up on display.
My eyes widened when I saw what at first appeared to be a brilliant silver-tone locket; antique, and fashioned in the arcing shape of a heart.
“This, like most things in life, is more than it first appears.” He removed it with one hand and set aside the box with the other before moving within reach. “This is the means by which we will free you from the torment of harsher treatments.”
I watched with absolute amazement as he unlatched the clasp on the charm and revealed its complicated interior. Gear upon gear, lever upon lever, all churning and clicking away in musical, clockwork time. He leaned in so close now that I could feel the warmth of his cheek against mine.
“Here.” He dangled the necklace in front of me, where it danced and flickered in the light. “This is your new heart. It’s rare, and young, and made of pure white gold.” For an instant he looked upon me with an expression I could not possibly put emotion to. “Exactly, I am certain, like the one it will repair.”
He lowered the chain around my neck, and as he did so, tears I could not deny wound their way down my cheeks and onto his gifted, powerful hands.