A Guided Tour Through My Novel – Part 1


Long before and throughout the writing of The Mechanician’s Apprentice I’ve been gathering images from across the interwebs. Both photos and illustrations that capture the mood and essence that I’ve been aiming to recreate. These are nearly all vintage. I have a collection of several hundred now but wanted to pick out a select few and explain a little about how they reflect upon the story – here’s some for Part 1.

Ideally I would be giving credit to the sources of all of these but during my frantic searching and saving I never collected this information. I’m sure someone will forgive me. Also the images have been picked for the most part for what they show, not who they show, there I don’t always know who the image is actually of or if they were someone of importance or not.

Here we go…


This is the toolset of a 19th century cabinet maker. This represents one of the earliest sparks of this setting for me – what sort of a man who need such specialised equipment? Look at how perfectly everything fits together – this is not the belongings of a man who would leave anything to chance.


Victorian factories. A perfect example of the setting I have aimed to recreate, the landscape is dominated by factories – they are unbelievable in scale yet not impossible, these places existed and they were built by ordinary men. The chimneys I feel are also of particular significance – they are both taller than, and outnumber the church spires in the distance. Here industry is more powerful than religion.


A group of early pioneers experimenting with an early version of the radio. These are an example of what would be classed “Mechanicians” in the novel. They are inventors, intellectuals and treading unknown ground. I love the way they are all immaculately dressed and preened but there’s also a hint of fear in their eyes. Anything could happen next.


An illustration of Londoners at the turn of the century. There is such a variety of people here, different classes, professions and wealth. London represents a melting pot of people but, as with the girl in the foreground, clearly not all of them are happy.


This is of course the famous photo of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Again if the profession of Mechanician had existed, this man would have been one. He built bridges, ships, tunnels and genuinely transformed the world around him. I love the swagger he has here, such cocky confidence – he is clearly a man who knows what he is and the power that he holds. The size of the chains behind him also catch my eye, they are so enormouse – how on earth are such things even made?


An early 20th century automobile. Although my setting is based more on the late 19th century, vehicles liek this exist albeit steam powered. There is such elegance about these old cars with the long hood and raised lights on the front, you can almost hear the engine purring away. The location here is almost of importance – these are clearly extreme circumstances and that’s something I wanted to explore, how men and their creations can be tested by nature.


A large proportion of my images collections is of early inventions like this as this what the Mechanician’s are all about – inventing crazy-ass machines. I chose this one in particular though because this if of course a stair-lift, an invention far ahead of its time. I find a lot of steampunk is far too over the top when really it doesn’t need to be, therefore with technologies that I’ve dreamt up a lot of them are either things that were just created ahead of their time or which could exist in the near future.


One important setting within the novel is the Mechanician’s Guild – a bastion of this profession located within an affluent area of London. This photograph could easily be from there – the shelves filled with books convey the huge wealth of knowledge and the busts show that this is a place of wealth and power. There’s almost something about this room that says “not everyone is welcome”, even the statues are scowling.


I have no idea who this young man is but I think there’s something fascinating about him – he’s handsome, well groomed and looks very friendly but that smirk… there’s something very wrong there. Half his face is light whilst the other lurks in shadow. I certainly wouldn’t trust him and neither should you. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the villain of our piece.


So there we have, a quick tour through some of the themes and ideas behind Part 1 of the novel. I hope that you’ve found this interesting and might even like to find out more.

Where do you find inspiration for in your settings and stories?

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Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 3:45 PM  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The cabinet maker’s tool kit is amazing! I wonder what particular use each small tool has!

    • It’s incredible isn’t it? And that is all handmade! There’s at least five different lathes in there – a different shape and size for different jobs.

  2. That’s a pretty interesting and evocative collection of images. And a pretty great way to find inspiration for your writing. Methinks I might need to do the same – and perhaps to expand my project bible to include images… Great idea.

    • Thanks Stephen – I was wanting to try and create a mood wall like designers use but got carried away! I’m particularly lucky in that I’m using a setting inspired by history so I have already several hundred years worth of a source material.

  3. That toolmakers kit musta cost a fortune.

    And I like your inspiration for the villain. Is he a young sort of codger?

    • I suspect the toolkit didn’t cost that much because it was probably the man who used who made it.

      Yes the villain is a young(ish) man – he’s certainly the youngest in his profession and has grand ambitions…


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