Madeleine D’Este – Terrific Person and Terrific Writer

I have a guest today! Madeleine D’Este recently released the third episode in The Antics of Evangeline novella series, Evangeline and the Spiritualist. She is here to talk about parasols, séances, weight loss and when beta readers collide.

Inspired by local history and romps with parasols

While reading awfully fun Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and writing a serious dystopian novel, I heard a statistic that my home town of Melbourne was the second largest city in the British Empire in the 1880s. Inspiration struck! Steampunk set in Melbourne! (Side note: steampunk is a type of science-fiction set in the Victorian era but with anachronistic technology usually steam powered.) Thanks to the gold rush, Melbourne was loaded with cash around the 1880s and every day I walk past sandstone buildings constructed during the boom time. Steampunk allows me to mix up real history (I’ve included references to real events and historical figures) with my own imaginary inventions. It’s more fun if I don’t have to strictly stick to the facts.

Once I had a setting and genre, the feisty character of Evangeline emerged. This time Anne of Green Gables inspired me to build a vibrant character like Anne. Evangeline is a seventeen year old ex-urchin and acrobat who is a recent arrival in Melbourne, reunited with her long-lost father, the Professor. The Antics of Evangeline world features a diverse group of secondary characters. Mei – her kung-fu teacher and best friend, her one-armed famous inventor father, the disapproving Scot – Miss Plockton and her two Uncles.

At the moment, there are three episodes of The Antics of Evangeline series. Evangeline and the Alchemist is all about mysterious fake gold, Evangeline and the Bunyip introduces a mythical Australian monster and the latest Evangeline and the Spiritualist features séances.

A former Prime Minister & Melbourne’s Spiritualist Tradition

Evangeline and the Spiritualist is inspired by mysticism in Victorian times and the fashion for spiritualism and séances. Melbourne has a long history of spiritualism and is home to the world’s longest running Spiritualist organisation, the Victorian Spiritualist Union. Back then, Spiritualism was part of the mainstream and one president of the Spiritualist Union, Alfred Deakin, went on to be Prime Minister of Australia. In Victorian times when science was evolving, there was not the same distinction between normal and paranormal as we have today. Before advancements in medical science, mortality rates were high and deaths were unexpected and sudden. Evangeline lost her mother at an early age, so when a spiritualist moves into her street, she jumps at the chance to take part in a séance.

Getting serious and my process

I always wanted to write but only started taking this writing stuff seriously about 2-3 years ago after many years of half-baked ideas and procrastination. Like Marty, I’m a big fan of Steven Pressfield and I decided to stop the excuses, do this properly and “turn pro”. Now thanks to the Twitter Monthly Challenge I have a daily writing habit and it’s the best part of my day.

Before I begin, I start with a one-page outline (see Steven Pressfield’s foolscap method) then I do a ‘vomit draft’ where I type away ferociously without editing until I’ve written the whole story. It’s terrible but it’s on the page. Then after letting my first draft ‘marinate’ for a month or two, I analyse the draft and start editing (over and over again). When I’m close to “finished”, I use the speech function in Scrivener to read my work aloud. This helps me to spot errors and clumsy sentences before I go to beta readers for feedback and eventually my editor. See. Easy.

Clash of the beta readers

With Evangeline and the Spiritualist, I experienced my first clash of beta readers. I sent the manuscript out to my support crew and while most were positive, one reader (who has been integral to the whole series) said he wasn’t feeling it and suggested wholesale changes. This caused a real delay in finishing the novella while I battled with what to do. In my heart I felt this one was my best yet but I really respect my reader who didn’t like it. In the end I went with my gut and published. My advice is trust your intuition.

Things you may not know about me…

I grew up in Tasmania and spent some time in London before heading back to Melbourne where I work as a project manager. You should see my book launch plans (Gantt charts and everything – not really). I write all across the speculative fiction genre from steampunk to dystopia to horror to fantasy but always led by female characters. I’ve always been a big fan of the weird and the unusual: sci-fi and fantasy books, movies and TV shows. My dad first introduced me to Dr Who in the late 1970s and I’ve been a life long fan. Yes, I am that old. I’ve also undergone my own type of regeneration. About 10-15 years ago, I decided to take control of my health. I ended up losing over 25 kgs (55lbs) and have kept it off ever since. Losing the weight proved to myself that I could achieve my goals and now I’ve switched my focus to pursing my writing. Something I’d always wanted to do but procrastinated over year after year. Not anymore!

And next up…

Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights (Episode 4) is in progress (published later in 2017) and a paperback collection of the first four novellas. I’m also plugging away at a feminist fantasy novel, not yet ready for human consumption.

Madeleine D’Este is a speculative fiction writer from Melbourne. Her latest novella, Evangeline and the Spiritualist is available now on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. This is the third episode in The Antics of Evangeline series.

More About Madeleine’s Writing:

Evangeline and the Spiritualist

Evangeline is a seventeen-year-old ex-urchin and aspiring world-famous inventress, recently resettled in Marvellous Melbourne with her long lost father, the Professor. When the infamous spiritualist Madame Zsoldas moves into Collins Street, Evangeline is determined to attend a séance to unravel her family secrets.

Mystery, mysticism and gadgets, Evangeline and the Spiritualist is another romp through 1880s steampunk Melbourne. With plenty of tea and crumpets, of course.


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Author: spottedgeckgo

Writer. Making my living on my pen, and working to turn a raw chunk of land into a future homestead.