A storm was brewing and the clock in the square was striking midsummer when Thorsten Mackinder arrived in the village of Finster …
For over a hundred years, the village of Finster has been cursed to eternal darkness. The only relief is a single lamppost, which the villagers worship as the light of the Divine. But all is not well in Finster …
When curse-breaker Thorsten Mackinder arrives to try to free the village from its endless night, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will stretch halfway across the world. A clockmaker beset by magical ‘time flies’, a bank manager who has accidentally erased his own memories, a sentient ventriloquist’s dummy that literally puts words in its owner’s mouth, and a toymaker searching for her missing daughter—all are connected in ways Thorsten could never imagine…but which may just save his life.
Perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Ursula Le Guin, this whimsical collection of interconnected short stories is a wondrous journey through magic and mystery, family and fantasy, where nothing is ever quite as it seems.
Finding beauty in the ordinary. Although this book is fantasy, I didn’t want it to become high fantasy, full of political machinations – I was interested in the everyday lives of people living in this world, the way these intersect, the problems they face, and the relationships they develop.
Let's talk about it
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
I love steampunk cosplay. Most of the time I’m a jeans-and-t-shirts girl, but I do love a fabulous corset.
Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?
I didn’t start out with particular themes in mind – I initially wanted to write a book of fairytale-style stories that, on the face of them at least, were quite simple. But this book was written over three years, and I had a lot of big life changes in the meantime, including moving interstate and having my first child, so those things unconsciously influenced the story. As a result, the stories developed themes of family, relationships (especially mother-daughter ones), and finding the extraordinary in the ordinariness of everyday life, because this mirrored where I was at in my experience.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
This book was three years in the making, which is the longest of any of my novels so far, because there was a lot going on in my life. Between first having the idea for the book and publication, I moved interstate due to my husband’s job, got pregnant and had my daughter (who is now 2), dealt with all the sleep deprivation and craziness that went along with that, and bought a house – and that was before COVID threw another spanner in the works. But I feel like all the upheaval was also a period of growth, and a lot of that made its way subconsciously into the book. So it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – but I’m glad that things have calmed down for now!
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
I describe my books as ‘Victorian tales with a twist’ – I like to write stories inspired by the Victorian era, but the genres vary a bit. My first two novels are Gothic mysteries; this one is Victorian-inspired fantasy; and I’ve also written two steampunk romance novellas under the pen name Elizabeth Wren. My next project is probably going to be a gaslamp adventure series, which is like steampunk but with supernatural and Gothic elements.
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
I like to write longhand if I’m feeling creatively blocked, or if I just can’t stand staring at a screen any longer. A couple of years ago I bought a digital paper tablet, which feels like writing on paper (it uses similar technology to the Kindle) but connects to the cloud and automatically transcribes my handwriting into text. I love it and it’s made it a lot easier to just write in whatever small pockets of time I have. If I get a longer writing stint, I use the ‘writing sprint’ method, where I set a timer for 20 minutes and just write without editing, and I’ve found that really effective at turning off my inner perfectionist and getting the words down.
What would you do differently next time?
Possibly plan things out a bit more. I’m still trying to find the right balance between ‘plotting’ and ‘pantsing’ – I like to outline and have structure, but I don’t want to crush the creativity that comes with flexibility. It’s a work in progress.
With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?
Learn the craft. For many years, I had a lot of inspiration but struggled to finish anything because I didn’t have the right tools to get it done. Once I started learning these from more experienced writers, things got a lot easier. This is why I now run a lot of workshops for young and/or beginner writers – because I want to teach them what I wish I’d known then.
If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?
Excellent. I worked with Maxine McArthur, who is a Canberra-based editor, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had with an editor. I’m a professional editor myself, so I’m really picky – so that’s high praise indeed. She really got stuck into the nuances of the story and challenged me to look at things differently and to push myself creatively. Great editing is about so much more than fixing typos.
What’s next for your writing?
I have a production plan as long as my arm, so it’s really just about finding the time. First on the list is finishing my next Elizabeth Wren steampunk romance novella, then my next two projects are a sequel to Greythorne and the first of a new gaslamp adventure series, which is tentatively planned to be five books. So that should keep me out of trouble for the next few years at least.
L.M. Merrington was born in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in media and communications and Chinese, and a PhD in international relations. A former journalist, strategic analyst, and university communications manager, she currently runs her own editing and writing business, Pure Arts Communications. She is the author of two Gothic mysteries, Greythorne (2015) and The Iron Line (2017), as well as a non-fiction book, Communications for Volunteers: Low-Cost Strategies for Community Groups (2017). She has also written two steampunk romance novellas, Tea Dreams (2020) and Flying High (forthcoming) under the pen name Elizabeth Wren. She lives in Queensland with her husband and daughter.