Anthony Francis talks about Jeremiah Willstone

By day, Anthony Francis builds intelligent machines and emotional robots; by night he writes science fiction and draws comic books. He’s best known for the Skindancer urban fantasy series featuring magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost, beginning with the award-winning Frost Moon and its sequels Blood Rock and Liquid Fire. He’s published over half a dozen steampunk stories, including “The Fall of the Falcon” read by Sage and Savant. All these stories are woven into a universe of adventure that continues in his new novel, Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine.

JeremiahWillstoneQ: In your story “The Fall of the Falcon” the main character is female, but she has a male name, Jeremiah Willstone. Why is that?

AF: It’s more than just gender bending: it’s an outward sign of their society’s aggressive approach to women’s liberation. I wanted to tell a steampunk story about a young Victorian female soldier, but the Victorians didn’t have women soldiers – we’ve only recently started to allow them in our military. So I imagined a world where that wasn’t just a little bit different, but comprehensively different – a world where women’s liberation came a century early, and with twice as many brains working on hard problems, they were more advanced in 1908 than we are today. But I needed a way to communicate that in the story, and decided that the women in Jeremiah’s family took male names to try to achieve gender equality. With her history written into her name, I now had the storytelling power to discuss that issue as much as I wanted to – or let it slide into the background until someone innocently asks the question, “So, Jeremiah is female, but has a male name. Why is that?”

Q: Your novel Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine is set in the same steampunk alternate history multiverse. What inspired you to start writing steampunk, which is a departure from your Dakota Frost urban fantasy series? Where can listeners find out more about your new book?

AF: I was inspired first by the modern-day maker community and all the wonderful gadgets they create, and then by steampunk costumes at science fiction conventions and all the creativity they express. I started to put these together in my mind and found that I now “got” steampunk – the style, the gear, the adventures – and after sketching a few notes I dove right in and started a story in the middle of the action with Jeremiah taking a tumble down some stairs, firing rayguns two-handed with abandon. Some of the scenes that I wrote that day even found their way into the final novel! While this is a departure from Dakota Frost, Skindancer, it shares much of the same DNA – a concern for the sanctity of human life, for women’s issues, for egalitarianism, and for finding good food in Atlanta, all things near and dear to my heart. Also, despite one being about tattoo magic and impossible weretigers and the other being about steampowered rayguns and improbable airships, both Dakota Frost and Jeremiah Willstone are secretly hard science fiction universes, filled with real science tidbits about the conservation of mass, the formation of the solar system, the negative energy constraints of Lorentzian wormholes and the nature of consciousness as expressed in the structure of the human brain. But the most important thing is, both Dakota and Jeremiah know how to have fun, and I hope you have fun reading them!  You can find out more about Jeremiah at!

Q: In addition to being an author, you’re also one of the co-founders of Thinking Ink Press, a small press located in Silicon Valley. What led you to a role in publishing and what kind of steampunk books have you been involved with at Thinking Ink?

AF: I’ve been involved in the creation of books since I was in college – I even self-published a small volume of my science fiction short stories under the title The Centaur Eigenclosure. But when my friend Betsy Miller decided to self-publish one of her books, my friends Liza Olmsted and Keiko O’Leary started talking about a small press, and my friend Nathan Vargas and I started working on comics, I thought it would be a great idea if we all joined forces! Creating a business from scratch is a challenge, even if as authors, artists and editors we had experiences with part of the process, but we’re really starting to get our groove. We’ve published three steampunk anthologies, Twelve Hours Later, Thirty Days Later, and the forthcoming Some Time Later, all of which have Jeremiah Willstone stories in them, though I try to keep my role as an author working for the editors (whom I know independently) strictly separate from my role as a publisher. Thinking Ink Press did publish Jeremiah Willstone and the The Sorting of the Secret Post, a chapbook which is a prequel to The Clockwork Time Machine, and we’re considering more steampunk publications in the future.

Q: What’s next for Anthony Francis?

AF: Well, I’m doing a blog tour and a book tour for Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine, and hope to be bringing more Jeremiah stories to audio starting with “A Choir of Demons” which I’m working on with the creators of the Harry Strange radio dramas and the Atlanta Radio Theater Company. But my next full length project is Dakota Frost #4, SPECTRAL IRON. I’m actually working on the next three Dakota Frost books and the first three Cinnamon Frost spinoff books in parallel, so Dakota’s story in SPECTRAL IRON, PHANTOM SILVER, and SPIRITUAL GOLD will smoothly interweave with Cinnamon’s story in HEX CODE, BOT NET and ROOT USER. The first few books in this series are already in rough draft form, so I hope we’ll have a sequence of them coming out over the next few years. And, back at the day job, I’m starting to have luck teaching robots to learn, and have not run one into a wall in at least the last 24 hours, so I hope to now teach them more interesting things.

Q: Where can we learn more?

AF: Jeremiah Willstone’s adventures are chronicled on the Adventures of Jeremiah Willstone site, – or you can follow her on social media at her Facebook page Dakota has a website and Facebook too, at and . You can also follow Anthony directly at his blog The Library of Dresan at

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