A two-sentence summary:
In an alternate Emirate of Granada that never fell to Christian Spain, a great mechanized library has for centuries peacefully guarded the wisdom of three faiths. But as the spirit of the Enlightenment starts to reach Al-Andalus, Chief Curator Pilar—a woman who has her own secrets—finds herself at the center of a battle for the library's future.
How did your characters come to be?
I knew that I wanted to write about an established couple who were very secure and comfortable with each other, because that’s something I always want more of in fiction than I get. From that point, I started to develop Pilar and her lover Zainab, older women in positions of authority who know each other very well and can communicate with each other very well, and whose duties and responsibilities play an important role in their relationship.
Why this setting?
The golden age of al-Andalus provided an incredibly rich and exceptionally tolerant intellectual atmosphere for philosophical and scientific development, with scholars from all over the world taking inspiration from the work being done there—and that was circa the year 1000. Once I started to wonder what would have happened if the Reconquista had played out differently and that culture had lasted through the Renaissance and into the Enlightenment, it seemed to make perfect sense that al-Andalus would have managed to develop sophisticated clockwork technology before our Europe ever did!
You’re in an antho of lesbian steampunk stories. Obviously you are writing about lesbians. How does lesbianism fit in your setting?
I wanted my characters to feel comfortable in their sexuality without having to angst about it, so I set up the library as an almost entirely-female space in which the existence of homosexual relationships is a fairly open secret. Nobody in this context is going to particularly care if two librarians develop a “special friendship,” although it isn’t something they could be public about in the wider city.
What was the funnest, or most hair-tearingly frustrating thing in writing your piece?
I have a total weakness for stories about THE REVOLUTION, so I had a lot of fun taking the kind of idealistic young revolutionary women that normally I would be all over in fiction, and then showing them from the perspective of older women with completely different priorities who are really uncomfortable with all these excitable teenagers running around trying to pull their world down around their ears!