Nikki McCormack’s The Girl and the Clockwork Cat thrusts Maeko, a girl from the gritty streets of Victorian London, into a murder mystery and conspiracy that spans the entire city. Maeko’s journey isn’t about finding answers. The urchin girl who lost her family and home is uniquely qualified to understand what others stand to lose – and to find herself in the process.
Despite Maeko’s social position, she’s no damsel in distress. She’s carved out a life for herself on the street as a thief and has managed to get by on her own, a trait that McCormack wanted to be integral to Maeko’s character.
“I want the woman’s personal journey to take precedence over the romantic journey,” said McCormack. “The male lead tends to become [the female lead’s]rescuer and a guiding force, which, in my opinion, detracts from the leading lady’s ability to discover her own strengths and establish herself as a powerful person on her own.”
Maeko encounters things she could never dream of – but she’s not the only one on the verge of discovery. During the time of The Girl and the Clockwork Cat, London was practically bursting at the seams. As an era of great discovery and innovation – a time when electricity, locomotive, and medicine are advancing quickly – it provided McCormack with the perfect opportunity to explore a steampunk Victorian London.
“I wanted the steampunk not to be something greater or less than any of these other things, but rather something that was being explored along with them. One of the characters we meet late in the book is a successful inventor in the realms of clockwork and steam power. He is a pioneer on the forefront of that wave of discovery,” said McCormack, who wanted a careful balance between the fantastical elements and historical accuracy. “Progressing through the timeline of history, when you change something, even something small, it can have fallout later.”
Although some elements of history were tweaked for favor of fantastical elements, McCormack certainly kept her version of Victorian London grounded in reality.
“For the fun of it, I also made a few allusions within the book to the Great Stink of 1858 that prompted the development of a new sewer system in London and to the much earlier Great Fire of 1666,” said McCormack. “By far my favorite reference that I worked into the book is the cat, Macak, named after Nikola Tesla’s childhood cat.”