Stars and Steampunk

Please welcome novelist, journalist, all round good egg and writing buddy Katy O’Dowd. Katy’s here today to talk about writing Young Adult Fiction and her Steampunk YA novel, The Lady Astronomer.

Ok, hands up, I’ll confess and come quietly, The Lady Astronomer is my only young adult book. And quite possibly the last (but don’t quote me on that).

It came about for a couple of reasons:

My oldest son was jealous that I had used my youngest son’s name for a central character in something else.

I was doing some research for another novel with the help of an astronomer and he recommended a book that was so good that I read another one by the same author that sparked off a few ideas which led to The Lady Astronomer.

Yay! Thought I, this will be a piece of cake, after all, do I not have two children of my very own? Was I not a teenager once upon a time?

Well, friends, how very wrong was I.

And of course as soon as The Lady Astronomer was published I discovered that there is a book in the Dummies range called ‘Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies’. Some of it is on the internet, so I thought I’d check myself and my writing off against the helpfully provided list. Here we go, let’s see how I got on, if somewhat retrospectively.

1                    Embrace your inner drama queen – no problem, darling

2                    Relax your grammar – no

3                    Embrace immaturity – no problem

4                    Don’t preach – wouldn’t dream of it, now pick up your socks

5                    Exaggerate – moi?

Not entirely sure if I passed that or not. One thing I would add, on a more serious note, in other advice sprinkled here and there the writer is told that young adults like dark things. At which point I was silently screaming at the computer a la Edvard Munch’s painting, ‘my baby! Nooooo!’ Never mind that the baby in question is now 14 years old and six foot. Or that at his age I had already seen ‘The Exorcist’, most of Hammer Horror’s back catalogue, and was an avid reader of Stephen King, Poe and Lovecraft.

To say that I admire writers of young adult fiction would be putting it lightly after my own experiences.

The Lady Astronomer is inspired by the life of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848). She suffered from both Smallpox and Typhus, was a milliner, soprano, her brother William’s Assistant – he discovered Uranus, then known as George’s Star for the King who funded the build of the ‘Great Forty-Foot’ telescope – and most importantly, perhaps, became the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet. Not to mention the first woman in the UK to receive a working wage, from the King if you don’t mind.

The blurb: Lucretia’s life as an astronomer is quickly turned on its head by her eldest brother when he is commanded by the king to build the grandest telescope in the land. Her nights spent on rooftops gazing at the stars are replaced by adventure as the family move to be nearer the king. In a race to build the Forty-foot telescope on time, misfortunes take their toll. The lady astronomer finds court life to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Can she find the strength inside to overcome the obstacles threatening her destiny? Only the stars will tell.

Buy a paper copy here: The-Lady-Astronomer

or the e-book here: The-Lady-Astronomer-ebook

Katy is an arts and entertainment journalist and has worked for Time Out, Associated Newspapers and Comic Relief and her articles have appeared in The Times (London), Metro (London) and many other arts and entertainment publications, paper and online.

She reviews for the Historical Novels Review and the British Fantasy Society, is a commissioning editor at Pendragon Press and is co-editor of the Nasty Snips II Project for that press.

Alongside writing with her Dad under the pen-name Derry O’Dowd, whose first book ‘The Scarlet Ribbon’ was chosen to launch the History Press Ireland’s fiction line, she writes under her own name.

‘The Lady Astronomer’, a YA Steampunk novel, is out with Untold Press now. She is currently writing a Steampunk adult series because writing for tweens and teens is damnably hard work.

Katy blogs at

And can be found on twitter @katyod

Many thanks for coming over, Katy, and good luck with the book.


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