8 Reasons Why I Wrote a Dieselpunk Romance

My lesbian dieselpunk romance Johnny’s Girls is out today! Find it in all major stores.

#1 Majoring in Art History screws you up for life

What it says on the tin. I’m not even sorry. But the funny part is, I didn’t even notice it until I started putting architecture (and, occasionally, visual arts) as an important point in almost every chapter in Johnny’s Girls. The title itself—though you might not believe it—is an homage to one of my favourite Croatian painters of old. The minds of Kunsthistoriker work in mysterious ways.

#2 Croatian historical literature is misogynistic

Apart from that One Writer (who, luckily, wrote a lot—but, also, a long time ago), past Croatian historical fiction is abysmal. If you, perchance, wished to read about women and/or queer folks in a local historical context, tough. And there’s the other side of the coin, too—if you still wanted to brave fictionalized stories from our local history (and face male writers whose self-centeredness didn’t age well), as I did as a teen, you pick up lovely tomes with awesome covers, just to open them and see this—I don’t even know how to describe it—huge walls of text with no dialogue whatsoever and with so many archaic (and, also, out-of-use) terms you can’t even read without a dictionary in the other hand.

That’s not how I like my fiction. I like my fiction—and I know it’s going to come across wrong, but that’s what I grew up with (and I only read Croatian until 2005)—with love, adventure, secrets and thrill, which, more often than not, meant Zane Grey, Karl May and Emilio Salgari in these parts. (I’m gonna stop whining right now because there are too many bullet points to write, below, but you get the picture.)

#3 Stocking seams (not kidding)

I love listening to real-life stories from ages ago, and one of my favourite tidbits of all time is the practice of painting one’s stocking seams down one’s legs when there were no stockings around. I might or might have not put it into the novel.

#4 I’m in love with my hometown

The professional pastime in Croatia is not, as one would think, watching bad daytime TV (although that is increasingly popular), but whining about the country and the government and the public healthcare system and, basically, anything you could imagine. (Especially the state of our historical fiction! Yay!) Even so, there are a lot of us who are so stupidly in love with this stupid little country with its stupid little cities and the only problem is, around here, when you lable yourself as a (local)patriot, you’re basically saying, statistically, that you’re a extreme-right conservative religious person who hates any and everyone who doesn’t share the exact same census stats as you. Guess again—or, have a taste of what queer feminist atheists think of (a possible version of an alternative) Croatian history.

#5 Captain America: The First Avenger

Am I losing all my noveling cred here? Don’t really care. TFA is one of my favourite movies ever, and one of the characters in Johnny’s Girls was loosely based on pre-serum, Brooklyn Steve. (Whatever gets you through the night, right?) Emulating TFA’s particular brand of general goodness and mouth-watering WWII aesthetic is what got me through this novel.

And, coincidentally, the novel starts around the time Steve went under. As I was finishing the edits, I finally connected the dots, which made me watch the V-E day scene once more, with lots of crying (which is the only way I’m able to watch that scene).

#6 To use my own wartime memories in a fantasy context

This is going to sound heavier than it actually is, but as it happened, in the last week of editing JG (truly editing, not just line edits), I rewrote the first few paragraphs to include something rather weird. When I was just starting kindergarten—and how the hell do you even frame something like this?—the Croatian war of independence (we call it domovinski rat, something along the lines of homeland war) had just begun, too. I was lucky, but I do have a few memories to draw on, and one of them got used in the novel in a semi-funny way. (That is to say, I find it funny.)

I think my unhealthy fascination with historical wars in Europe, mostly WWII (because of Steve and my fashion history taste), started as a way for me to frame the past quarter of a century in Croatia. Because, as stories like this go, it’s not the war that interests me—it’s the aftermath. (Or you could just blame it on The Beekeper’s Apprentice—or, more notably, A Monstrous Regiment of Women and call it a day.)

#7 The BENCH in The Amber Spyglass

I’m not one for spoilers, but I guess it’s safe to say I hate that fucking stupid awful scene with the passion of a sixteen year old who waited for years and was so happy to finish one of her favourite fantasy series ever just to land on that. stupid. scene. That shit needs fixing.

#8 Agatha Christie

Last, but in no way least reason I wrote Johnny’s Girls is my college love for Agatha Christie’s novels, and my post-college appreciation for UK crime dramas. Simply put, I’ve had enough of young females getting hurt in exploitative ways for several lifetimes. A few times each year I seem to give up on the crime genre altogether because I’ve had enough, but, sometimes, good shit happens. Shari Lapena happens. Sarah Phelps happens. Gregory Ashe, after all, happens.

I do plead guilty to killing female characters in Johnny’s Girls. I intend to kill even more in the upcoming Girls in Black, set to publish March 3rd, 2021. (Hey, it takes place in an all-female community, I guess I get some leeway.) But I’ll never make it about rape, that’s for fucking sure.

Well, now that we’ve got the whine out of the way, I’m just gonna go and enjoy this book birthday, my first ever in English. It’s a strange feeling.

I plan on enjoying my stupid little writer’s heart out.

Get Johnny’s Girls or read more at my publisher’s site, Shtriga.com.

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