More Steampunk Conspiracy With The Immorality Engine

Geek Culture

Interview with George Mann

GD: Newbury and Hobbes remind me of The Avengers — John Steed and Emma Peel. Were they ever in the back of your mind when you were creating the duo for the series or are they based on any other characters or persons you know?

George Mann: I certainly didn’t have anyone in particular in mind when I created Newbury and Veronica. I think it was more that I was drawing on that rich literary heritage of British detectives and heroes, people like Sherlock Holmes, Thomas Carnacki, Doctor Who, James Bond. And yes, absolutely Steed and Peel. I suppose I wanted Newbury and Veronica to be a bit like the Doctor and his feisty female companion, going on lots of wild adventures together. When I started writing, though, and particularly as the stories have gone on and developed, I’ve realised it’s very much Veronica’s tale.

I’m a huge Avengers fan, though, and while it was never at the forefront of my mind, I’ve realised latterly what an influence Steed and Peel have played on Newbury and Veronica. Particularly Mrs. Peel on Veronica.

GD: In television shows, the kiss of death to a series is when the lead male and female characters fall in love — it changes everything. Were you ever worried about moving these characters to the next (chaste) level?

GM: Yes! I did worry about that scene in The Immorality Engine. But then I realised what I wanted to do with the characters next and decided it would only add to their relationship and the tensions between them. So now that they’ve finally admitted they want to be together, they can’t be, as there are things that are keeping them apart. I like playing with the irony in that. The whole situation becomes even more apparent in the next sequence of books, when you find out exactly how much Newbury is willing to give up for Veronica.

GD: The Immorality Engine closes quite a few sub-plots that started with The Affinity Bridge and built up in The Osiris Ritual. Had you plotted out all three books before starting on Affinity Bridge or did the story arc develop over time?

GM: Mostly over time. When I first began plotting Newbury & Hobbes stories they were going to be a series of linked short stories, a series of short cases with some character arcs going on in the background. It was my friend Michael who persuaded me to write a novel instead, and as a consequence I took one of the ideas I’d been working on and developed it into a novel length story. So I already had some of the character arcs planned, particularly Newbury’s descent into opium abuse. Then, by the time I was plotting The Osiris Ritual I was developing more in the way of themes and overarching story threads. It was about this point that I realised Amelia had a much more significant role to play, and that we’d already met the real villain of the piece…

So, yes, with The Immorality Engine I really wanted to bring a sense of closure to some of those arcs and have some stuff come to a head, while at the same time setting up threads and themes for the future. Now, looking forward, I have a lot more planned.

GD: I was worried that I was nearing the end of a trilogy, but now I see that you’ve left Newbury and Hobbes in a bit of a tight spot and dropped some major plot twists regarding the Monarchy. Please tell me you’ve got many more tales to tell for this team and feel free to share any hints or clues about the next story.

GM: Ha! Yes, there’s going to be at least three more novels. That’s definite. The next book is called The Executioner’s Heart, and sets up lots of stuff for the second trilogy. I’m writing it at the moment, and I’ve plotted the story arc for the next two as well.

Ooh, hints and clues. Well, Veronica’s going to find herself in a real fix, Newbury is doing something terrible – but for the best of reasons – and Bainbridge has got himself mixed up in something suspicious. Oh, and Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, starts sticking his nose into Newbury’s business…

GD: You’ve introduced The Fixer, then Dr. Fabian, and now The Physician. We know a lot about Dr. Fabian now and have a name and a bit of background for The Physician (after reading Immorality Engine) but very little on The Fixer. Will we get to know a bit more about The Fixer in a later story?

GM: Indeed we will! The Fixer plays an absolutely pivotal role in the next three books. Lives hang in the balance, and the Fixer will be needed!

GD: One great scene in Immorality Engine had me recalling a stand-off between Ripley and the Alien Queen. You had Miss Hobbes leave a particular device in a not-so-hidden location — any chance that device will show up in a later story?

GM: Never say never! Although, as we’ve learned in previous books, technology like this tends to find itself appropriated by the Crown if it’s left hanging around.

GD: The supernatural played a large part in Osiris Ritual and has its place with Immorality Engine — will the fact that Newbury dabbles a bit continue to be developed or will he step back from it, and will either choice be based on his current health issue?

GM: Oh, he’s got to get deeper and deeper into it. And it’s inextricably linked to his health issue, as well as the health of others that are dear to him. In one of the short stories, The Sacrificial Pawn, Newbury steals a very particular book from a strange cult. It’s called The Cosmology of the Spirit, and the rituals it contains will see him dabbling in things he doesn’t really know how to control. That book turns up in The Executioner’s Heart, and is key to what happens between him and Veronica over the course of the next three novels. He’s going to cause Veronica to have to make a terrible choice.

GD: I love Bainbridge — he’s definitely one of the most well-developed secondary characters in your books. You put him into Immorality Engine more heavily than previous books — has he become more of a primary character for you? Given his dedication to Queen and Country, I’m sensing some building tension between him and Newbury and I’m a bit nervous that this friendship may be on shaky ground.

GM: Absolutely! Bainbridge is now one of the principal characters. He’s developed so much as the stories have gone on, and it just seems natural for him to be sharing a bit of the limelight now. He’s got lots going on in the next three books, some of it a bit suspect. And yes, that tension is going to have to come to a head at some point. But Newbury and Bainbridge have a very strong bond of friendship. It might flex and strain, but fundamentally, they know they can trust each other. Now, whether Veronica feels that way remains to be seen…

GD: I’ve grabbed the handful of Newbury & Hobbes short stories from your website — any plans to release some more? Hobbes dropped the name of a couple of new cases in Immorality Engine that sound interesting.

GM: Definitely a big yes. There are seven Newbury & Hobbes short stories already, with more to come. I have plans to fill in a few of the gaps between novels, and also to tell the story of Templeton Black, Newbury’s first assistant who died a horrible death during a botched investigation at Fairview House. I’d like to pick up on some of those seeds I’ve sown in the novels, too, where I’ve left dangling threads. I also have plans for a sequence of linked stories featuring a new female nemesis for Newbury, the mysterious Lady Arkwell. She gets a brief mention in The Executioner’s Heart, but there’s a whole story to tell there and I’d like to do it episodically.

GD: Given the glut of Hollywood remakes these days, I can honestly say that The Immorality Engine could easily be turned into a two hour feature film or even a mini-series. Any discussions in those areas or will Newbury and Hobbes remain as literary figures for the time being?

GM: There are talks. I’d love for it to happen, but you never know with this sort of thing. I try not to think about it too much and let it bubble away in the background while I focus on the books. And there are certainly plenty more of those to come!

I’d like to thank George Mann for providing more information about the Newbury and Hobbes series as well as the new trilogy.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!