Q: Today I’m thrilled to sit down and speak with YA urban fantasy and steampunk author Sophia Beaumont. As a bonus, this means we’re also sitting down with historical and Gothic horror writer Sìne Peril as these two are one and the same! (Not a spoiler, a public pen name!) If you can, I’d love it if you can share a little bit about yourself and what types of stories you enjoy writing as well as which genres you write in?
A: Well, you pretty much nailed the genres. I like a wide variety of genres, both to watch, read, and to write. My books typically focus on mental health issues, and regardless of which pen name, it’s usually a young woman coming to terms with the world not being what she thought it was. There’s also usually magic, witches, ghosts, or some kind of alt-tech, like you find in steampunk.
Q: There are quite a few genres you clearly love to write, are there any you are not a fan of creating?
A: Somewhat ironically, I’m not a big fan of “hard sci-fi”, mostly because I’m not good at following rules. I’m also not a romance writer. You might find hints of it here or there, but that is just not my focus. You want to laugh? Want something that will creep you out? I’m your girl. But romance goes straight over my head.
Q: You are the first author who I’ve spoken with that writes under a pen name, at least publically. Can you tell us your reasons for this?
A: First of all, both Sophia Beaumont and Sine Peril are pen names. When I first started pursuing publication, it was back in the W. Bush era, and I was writing queer fiction. It just wasn’t as accepted back then, so for safety and privacy reasons I started using the Sophia Beaumont moniker. I published my first four books (The Evie Cappelli series and All for One), but then my next book, Off the Rails, was a big change. It was almost straight historical fiction, with just a hint of the paranormal. It was written for an older audience, and it’s a lot darker. It deals a lot with grief and loss–the main character finds out on the first page that her husband is dead. By contrast, the last book I’d published, All for One, is a spin on The Three Musketeers. It’s a comedy/adventure. Even the Evie series, which deals with depression, anxiety, and recovery from abuse, has a lot of humor in it because Evie copes with her depression with some very dark humor. I didn’t want the readers who were familiar with my earlier work to pick up Rails and be like, “WTF is this?” The books published under that name are generally a lot more serious than the Beaumont books.
Q: Your most recent release is ‘Magic in the Headlines.’ What can you tell us about the book?
A: Headlines is the first book in a world I created back in 2012. It’s sort of steampunk, if you carried it forward into the 1920s, when the book is set. At the time I’d never heard of Deco Punk (which is a term that’s only cropped up in the past ten-ish years, I think), so I started calling it “Jazz Punk.” Think steampunk, but with more sequins and louder music.
The main character, AJ, is an aspiring journalist, desperate for her big break when she stumbles on an airship crash. The crash leads her into underground Chicago, uncovers a human trafficking ring, and draws the attention of the mob. And because it’s me, there’s also a supernatural element. Magic exists, and AJ can see ghosts. She’s also visually impaired, and there’s a lot of disability, BIPOC, and queer rep. I’m really excited to share more of this world, which has stories spanning the late 1800s all the way up through modern day. AJ’s story is two books, and the next one will be out in 2022.
Q: Where were you born (and/or are you from) and how has that affected your writing?
A: I’m from rural Ohio. Most of my adult life I lived in Columbus, but I moved to Washington in 2019. By the Grace is set in rural Ohio–though not the specific area where I grew up– and is set during the 1918 pandemic. I swear, I wrote that book before Covid happened! It wasn’t meant to be so on point. I also have several unpublished books set in both Washington and Ohio, but you’ll have to stay tuned for those. I wrote most of the first draft of The Spider’s Web while I was doing an internship in Montreal. I fell in love with the city, and in a lot of ways Evie’s books are my love letter to Quebec, which is where my mom is from. That heavily influenced both Evie and All for One.
I learned a long time ago that I’m not great at making up settings. I tried when I was younger. I wanted to write high fantasy. But I could not get the setting right. But when I started using places I’d been, places I loved, it just clicked.
Q: As someone who has widely traveled, what is your favorite spot on Earth so far?
A: Travel is huge in my work. I lived in Italy for a year, and while I don’t think I could spend my life there, it was a massive influence on my work. If I had to pick a place to live, it would either be Montreal or Edinburgh. Those are my favorite cities. Ironically, my goal in life is to live somewhere with a palm tree in the front yard. Weirdly, that does not rule out Washington state or Edinburgh.
Q: When someone asks your advice on who to read, who is your top author and novel to suggest?
A: Oh gosh. It depends on what they like, and what I read most recently. Lately I’ve been on a nonfiction kick. I trained in textile conservation, so I love reading about fashion and textile history. I also love to read biographies. I’ve actually been in a reading slump since the pandemic started, so it’s been really hard for me to get into fiction. If I had to pick one book to recommend, it would probably be Moxie by Jennifer Mattieu. If I could go back in time and give teenage me one book, that would be the one.
Q: Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a series or shared world with your releases?
A: It depends on the book. I’ve thought about revisiting Evie’s world, and she’s part of a universe I share with Missouri Dalton. Rails and Headlines are both series books. It really just depends.
Q: You’ve published traditionally and self-published, what are your thoughts on each?
A: I should probably preface this to say that my trad pub experiences were brief and not particularly good. The Spider’s Web was first published through Torqure Press, who had no idea what to do with her. Then a week after that book came out, we started hearing rumors that all was not well at Torquere. I already had the second Evie book under contract, but when they failed to pay my first royalty check, I asked for the rights back, and eventually had to get the rights for Web back, too, because of non-payment. They folded almost exactly six months after they first published Evie.
My second experience was for a nonfiction book with a different small press. I signed the contract, asked a bunch of questions…radio silence. I could not get my editor to email me back, and a month later my book was dropped without explanation. It turns out that of the five people working at the press, three of them had major health problems at the same time, but instead of being honest they just kept quiet about everything, broke their commitments without explanation, and it was generally just a mess. They’re still around, I still read their books and follow their social media, but I’ll never work with them again.
All that said, I’ve never worked with an agent. An agent is an author’s advocate in situations like that. If you are looking to submit to a small press and they specifically say they don’t work with agents, it’s a red flag. I’ve been around the block a few times with querying and publishing. If you’re going to work with anyone, whether it’s a social media manager, an agent, a publisher, whatever, READ YOUR CONTRACT. Carefully. If you don’t understand it, hire a lawyer. Never sign something you are uncertain about, and always make sure the rights will revert to you if they fail to pay you. Otherwise, the work might be gone forever and you’ll never see a dime.
After getting burned like that, I started self publishing. Partially because I had readers waiting for my books, and partially because even though I’d done everything I could, did the right things, I couldn’t change the fact that my publisher folded, or that they chose someone else who had written a similar book. I like the control of self publishing, but it’s expensive and it’s a lot of work. In the last couple of years I’ve had some health problems. I can’t keep up with the amount of work it takes to do this on my own anymore, and I can’t afford to hire additional help, so now I’m back in the querying trenches because I need the support that comes from working with a publisher and/or agent.
Q: What are your favorite author resources online, from websites to tools?
A: I write a lot of historical fiction and history based fantasy and I’m also working on several nonfiction projects, so I spend a lot of time on Archive.org, Google scholar, and Jstor.org. I’m lucky in that I work for a college in my day job, so I have memberships to some of the academic sites, like Jstor, as part of my job. I wouldn’t be able to afford them otherwise. I also regularly check Thriftbooks.com for out of print nonfiction. And the occasional novel, of course.
I’m a bit weird in that even though I’m a massive introvert, I love talking to people when I’m writing. I loved my Nanowrimo group back in Columbus, but I haven’t been able to connect with any in-person groups here in Washington because of the pandemic. I usually have Twitter, Discord, or the Nanowrimo website open while I’m working so I can chat with other writers. I find it motivating.
Q: Outside of writing, you also provide editing services. Here is the perfect place to share what you can help with!
A: I’m currently taking the summer off because of my health. I was just diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, and it’s really been hitting me hard, energy-wise. I am booking for fall and winter, though. I provide manuscript, query, and synopsis critiques. These cover things from copy editing to market advice and critiques of story structure, character, etc. I also provide sensitivity reading services for chronic illness, aro/ace rep, and mental illness. I usually like to read a sample, and then I can gauge my pricing according to how much work I think the manuscript will need and how long it is.
Finally, if there is anything else you would love to share with our readers, please do so here!
My next book, Colors in the Dark is a Sine Peril book (a stand alone), and will be out in early October. Check out my website for updates, or to sign up for my mailing list. I also have a Patreon, which has memberships starting at $1/month. Once you’re a member, you can see a bunch of early drafts on the website, so you can see how they change from draft one to publication. Headlines and Colors are both up there.
Youtube: Sine Peril
Gumroad.com/Knotmagick (this is for people who want to buy books but don’t support Amazon. I have signed paperbacks, .mobi, epub, and pdf books available.)