Today I’m chatting with author and podcaster, Madeleine D’Este. I met Madeleine through a mutual writer friend at last year’s Genrecon event in Brisbane. We got chatting and have stayed in touch ever since. I recently read the first book in her YA Steampunk novella series, so I thought I’d invite her onto the blog to chat. Before we do, here’s a quick introduction:
Growing up in Tasmania, Madeleine D’Este now lives in inner city Melbourne surrounded by books. After studying law (and never practising) and travelling the world, Madeleine now lives a double life, immersed in the corporate world by day and writing female-led speculative fiction by night. Madeleine hosts a weekly speculative fiction review radio show/podcast on artdistrict-radio.com as well as the podcast for writers Write Through The Roof.
When not writing, Madeleine enjoys podcasts, knitting, forteana, indie films, kettle bells and likes her coffee as ‘black as midnight on a moonless night’.
So, Madeleine, how did you come to be a writer? Was it always something you were interested in or did you ‘fall’ into it?
I was always interested in books and stories, but I ignored my need to write for many years and was subsequently miserable. A few years back, I finally decided to give this a proper red hot go and now I’m happy and hooked.
What were your favourite books/films growing up? What kick-started your creativity?
I’m the product of a mishmash of Enid Blyton, LM Montgomery, Doctor Who, the Goodies, Monkey Magic and watching Poltergeist far too young.
Can you tell us a little bit about your novella series ‘The Antics of Evangeline’?
The Antics of Evangeline is all about Evangeline, a seventeen year old new arrival in colonial Melbourne. A former urchin and street acrobat, she’s recently reunited with her long lost father and is now learning to be a lady and an inventor. After life on the street, she’s finding her new comfortable life a little dull and looks for any excuse for an adventure.
There are four novellas in the series (so far) with Evangeline sticking her nose into situations with a swindling alchemist, a man-eating Bunyip, a spiritualist and mysterious lights in the sky. It’s all set in 1882 Melbourne and can be described as a bit steampunk, a bit cosy mystery and a bit paranormal, and with inventions and cake. The Evangeline series is available on all good ebook platforms.
I recently read the first one, ‘Evangeline and the Alchemist’, and enjoyed it! I’m going to recommend it to my niece. I love that it’s set in Melbourne. What inspired you to write this series?
The idea was sparked by a historical fact – in the 1880s Melbourne was the second biggest city in the British Empire after London. Hmm…why not set a steampunk story in Melbourne?! Then other influences and inspirations rolled in; from Anne of Green Gables to Buffy to ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’ classic episode of Doctor Who.
I was working on another manuscript at the same time which was dystopian grim and serious, and Evangeline became a bit of silly fun on the side.
You host a weekly speculative fiction radio show/podcast on Arts District Radio. Can you tell us a little bit about these that?
‘Madeleine’s Speculative Fiction Review’ is available on www.artdistrict.com as a podcast archive. In 2018 I changed the show into ‘Dark Mysteries’ and focusing on crime fiction, mysteries and thrillers. Mainly because I noticed my own writing was drifting more into ‘mystery’ territory. And I only talk about books I like, not to sound like a big hippy, but there’s already enough negativity out there on the internet.
Now, because you’re clearly not busy enough, you also host a podcast for writers called Write Through The Roof (and recently had me on as a guests!). Can you tell us a little bit about that? What drove you to start it?
I started the podcast for my own learning. It’s a way for me to probe other writers and get answers to my own questions about writing. It’s pure selfishness. But then I’m pretending to be altruistic and sharing it with the rest of the world. I also got sick of listening to podcasts hosted by American white men and decided to step up and put a female Australian voice out there. It’s great fun for me and I hope the listeners get something out of it. You can listen to Write Through The Roof on my website, iTunes or Stitcher.
According to your bio you have an interest in forteana, which to be honest, I had to go and look up. Can you tell us a little bit about this? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve come across exploring this area of fascination?
I’ve always been interested in the strange and unusual, especially folklore, the paranormal and magic. I love #FolkloreThursday on Twitter where you can get a weekly dose of strange stuff and I’ve recently completed a ten part series for FolkloreThursday.com on the origins of common superstitions. My favourite piece of folklore at the moment is – it is bad luck to meet a nun or a priest in the street first thing in the morning, in fact the looser the morals the better the luck. Anyone doing the walk of shame is actually doing a public service.
If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be? Do you have a secret passion that we don’t know about?
I still dream about being a full-time writer. But I also daydream about being a Victorian era sleuth with a gothic spooky manor house and an armchair by the fire in the library, for general chin-stroking and mystery solving.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when starting your writing career? What do you know now, that you wished you knew then?
It’s hard work, really hard work, but every day you get a little better and closer to your goal. Oh, and everyone has days when they think they’re shit. Even JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman. Go for a walk, laugh at yourself and try again.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m querying a historical feminist fantasy novel, polishing a horror novel set in a high school production of MacBeth and vomit-drafting a paranormal mystery. No firm dates for releases…yet. But in the meantime you can hear me on my podcasts or find me fooling about on Twitter.
Thanks for your time, Madeleine!
Readers, if you’d like to know more about Madeleine and her books and podcasts, follow her here: