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Author Spotlight: Ef Deal

Ef Deal

Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.

Today: Ef Deal is a musician,a poet, an editor, a video editor, and an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She began writing at the age of 9, teaching herself to type on an Underwood Royal typewriter. Her short fiction has been published in numerous online zines and print anthologies including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and most recently in A Cast of Crows from eSpec Books, Dangerous Waters from Brigid’s Gate, Chris Ryan’s Soul Scream Antholozine, and two anthologies from Speculation PublicationsShe is currently public relation coordinator for eSpec Books, assistant fiction editor at Abyss&Apex magazine, video editor for Strong Women ~ Strange Worlds. Her novel Esprit de Corpsefrom eSpec Books isthe first in a steampunk paranormal romance series set in France, featuring the gifted Twins of Bellefées, who tend to show up in other eSpec Books anthologies.She lives in Haddonfield, NJ, with her husband and her chow chows. She is a member of SFWA and HWA. Her website is Follow her blog Talespinner at

Thanks so much, Ef, for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?

Ef Deal: I started writing when I was nine. I was reading before I was three, and I had read everything in the two library’s horror and science fiction collections. By 7th grade I knew I was good at writing. I wrote sci-fi, horror, and a spy novel, along with poetry, and a few pieces got put into our school paper when I was in high school. I set two goals: write a book, and write a story for F&SF.

JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.

ED: The first published work, technically, was the spy novel I wrote as a Man from UNCLE fan about the kids of two whose parents are kidnapped who join up with the kids of the enemy spies to rescue them. It was “published,” so to speak, when my 7th grade Reading teacher read it aloud to the class. They loved it; or at least they thanked me, maybe for getting a week off to do nothing but listen.

But as an adult writer, my first story published was a horror piece called “Blood Calls to Blood.” My brother-in-law had been doing a lot of genealogy work, and based on his stories, I created a sort of reverse vampire story, a woman who is the last of her line of, unbeknownst to her, creatures who breed like mad and then feed on their offspring until the last of the line, who then becomes the embodiment of the monster. It made it to an online zine that is long gone.

ED: My first professional publication came about as a result of attending one of those “ask the editors” panels at Philcon. Gordon Van Gelder said F&SF needed more comedy and more zombies. I gave him “Czesko,” a shaggy-dog tale set in Philly, where Czesko calls his buddy to get him baptized at a bar; then things get weird. It made it to Gardner Dozois’ Honorable Mention that year, 2006, and fulfilled the first of my writing dreams: a story in F&SF.

JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.

ED: I spent a year in France in college, so I lived my research for the most part, but when I got into my steampunk novel in earnest, my husband and I planned a trip to France to visit the Catacombs and 3 train museums. We landed in Paris on Saturday, March 14, 2020. Macron closed the country the next day. We couldn’t even get a cup of coffee! We did manage to get one locomotive museum in as well as a stroll down the Boul’Mich from the (closed) Catacombs to the Luxembourg Gardens, passing through the ateliers where Delacroix did some of his work. It was good for atmosphere, but I had to move the great battle from the train to the Catacombs.

JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

ED: With a real name like Ef Deal, what better could I come up with? I have a friend who urges me to use my birth name, Etheljean Deal, but someone once told me to use a name that I would respond to naturally, and I’ve been called Ef since I was 15.

JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

ED: “Lester DelRey will tell you you’re a good writer with sparkling dialogue and deep characterizations. Thank him!”

JSC: How did you choose the topic for Esprit de Corpse?

ED: Esprit de Corpse came about from a trip to France in 2008, when we stayed at a château where I said “I need to set a story here.” I began to research periods of history that I enjoyed reading about as a French major, and I came across a quotation from Eugene Delacroix riding the Paris-Orléans rail for the first time: “It is a blessing to my rheumatic bones.” That was the springboard; I knew it had to be set that year, that day, and so I began to focus on what all was going on in 1843.

JSC: What was the hardest part of writing this book?

ED: Dredging up the memories of sexual abuse by someone who was revered by so many, and still is today.

JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?

ED: Mike McPhail did the cover, and it’s really special. He captured the osseous wall of the Catacombs in the Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp perfectly, and his depiction of Monsieur Claque is spectacular. As he tells it, the cover is done in layers. Those bones stretch across to the back cover.
Fun Questions:

JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?

Ancestors Day. A day to celebrate our forebears, gather as a huge family and share stories of our parents and grandparents and beyond.

JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!

ED: Book 2 of the Twins of Bellesfées series is with the publisher now, Aéros & Héroes. It’s an exciting mix of political intrigue and vampires. King Louis-Philippe suffered so many assassination attempts that one of his ministers said something along the lines of “It’s always open season on kings.” In this book, the King takes refuge at Bellesfées at the urging of his personal security agent, de Guise, just as Jacqueline is preparing a huge celebration for Angélique’s wedding reception and a Sapphic vampire sets her fangs on Jacqueline as a mate. This was a lot of fun to research because there were no vampire novels before 1843, so I got to make up the rules for this one and, at the same time, poke holes in the ones that come after. It’s based on LeFanu’s novel “Carmilla,” about a lesbian vampire preying on young girls, which came out twenty-some years later, so this is kind of a backstory to that novel. Once again it addresses the subjugation and abuse of women, and it throws the issue of homosexuality under the light of Jacqueline’s understanding (and mine) of the philosophies of the day and her own (and mine) theology. I’d like to think it’s uplifting. But at its heart, it’s the story of a naive Jacqueline coming to terms with who she is apart from her lover. She’s full of self-doubt of her place in de Guise’s life and the vampire offers her power; but Jacqueline is an engineer, and if there’s one thing she understands, it’s power and what to do with it.

But what’s coming out next is a couple of side stories featuring the Twins of Bellesfées. Other Aether features a story of a very young Jacqueline helping to subvert one of the assassination attempts on the King, and A Cry of Hounds, an anthology of stories inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, in which Jacqueline prevents disaster for Doyle’s grandfather on the Night of the Big Wind, which is a fantastic historical event that’s well worth the research—go check it out! In that one, Angélique is once again in trouble and Jacqueline has to rescue her. Those come out in April.

Esprit de Corpse - Ef Deal

And now for Ef Deal new book: Esprit de Corpse:

What secrets lie beneath Parisian Streets? And who will kill to keep them?

When a malfunctioning automaton runs full force into their locomotive on the new Paris-Orléans railway, Jacqueline Duval and her bohemian twin sister Angélique Laforge become embroiled in a mystery deeply rooted in their tragic past.

A polytech and famed engineering prodigy, Jacqueline is fascinated by the metal man, even more so when she discovers that it is powered not by steam, but by the supernatural. Her investigation puts the sisters on a path both dangerous and mysterious as they must foil a plot to employ the dead to power a mechanical army aimed at international conquest.

Aid comes from unexpected sources as the twins rush to avert this engineered war, but will they be in time?

“A wild, steampunky adventure with laugh-out-loud moments and a perfect set of heroines. Hold on and enjoy the ride!” -Gregory Frost, author of Rhymer and Shadowbridge

“A meticulously-built world awaits readers in this delightful steampunk mystery.” -A.C. Wise, author of Wendy, Darling and Hooked

Publisher | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


“JACQUELINE MARIE-CLAIRE DUVAL DE LA FORGE-À-BELLESFÉES.” Jacqueline ducked her head to avoid the Paris prefect’s cynical gaze as he examined Jacqueline’s papers. The platform of Gare d’Austerlitz teemed with travelers anxious to board. They glared at Jacqueline, blaming her for the delay. Even the shiny green locomotive’s blasts of steam accused her with each passing minute.

She reached down to scratch behind the ear of the she-wolf beside her. The wolf’s eyes closed in delight. Jacqueline squatted down to whisper, “This is the third time this year I’ve had to rescue you from your own indiscretions, Angélique. Next time, I’ll let you sit in jail.”

“What was your business in Paris?” the prefect asked.

Before she could answer, a man stepped between Jacqueline and her inquisitor and addressed the prefect too quietly for Jacqueline to hear. Angélique snorted a laugh. Her lupine sense of hearing must have caught the exchange. The man strode away, and the prefect offered Jacqueline a hand to help her rise.

“I apologize, Madame Duval. I did not realize who you were.” The prefect returned her papers, spun on his heel, and left.

The conductor blew his whistle. As second- and third-class passen-gers boarded their coaches, he opened the door to Jacqueline’s first-class carriage and lowered the steps for her. Angélique leapt in and Jacqueline followed. The conductor closed the door, only to quickly open it again to allow another man to join them. The man removed a silk brocade fez and set it on the seat beside him, then opened the sketch pad he’d brought and lost himself on the page.

Once again Angélique snorted her amusement. Annoyed, Jacqueline turned her gaze out the window, chewing the inside of her cheek. Her sister seemed to know every man in Paris: artists, musicians, writers, expatriated nobles, owners of all the bar-tabacs and taverns in the Latin Quarter, and purveyors of opium along the Boul’Mich.

With a soft whine, Angélique lay her head across Jacqueline’s lap, one paw on her knee. Jacqueline stroked her sister’s tawny brow until the amber wolf-eyes closed, then tucked herself deeper into the corner of the carriage further from the strange artist and leaned against the window, staring out over the farms, brick factories, and slaughterhouses of southern Paris. Once the train chugged away from the station, she could breathe a sigh of relief. Angélique was safe. Again.

“Your dog loves you,” the artist said.

“She is not a dog, monsieur,” Jacqueline answered.

Peering closer, he slowly grinned. “So I see.” He twisted his thin mustache. “Intriguing.”

She wanted to scream, ‘She’s my twin sister who is determined to destroy herself, body and soul, because she despises the beast she’s become through no fault of her own, leaving me to clean up her messes, bail her out of jail, collect her unconscious body from some hashish den, or smuggle her out of town before the police track her down.

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