What was your process like for writing this story? Did you have a specific idea for the ending or a theme you wanted to write around?
This story actually began around the character of Hanzou, who is based on the original fairytale's "faithful Hans," the prince's manservant. Aspects of that character sounded perfect for a steampunk setting. Then I added in an unusual Japanese and Eastern European twist, including a hint of history, and a lot of magic, and voila!
The themes of love and devotion emerged along the way.
What was your favorite part about writing this story? Was there anything challenging about it?
I think my favorite part was imagining what a clockwork/ninja/assassin frog would look like, how he would move, what weaponry he would have, etc. One of the coolest bits is how my kaeru, Masami, carries and uses shuriken. But that's spoilers, so I can't say more!
Do you have a favorite sentence or quote or paragraph from the story?
I have a few parts that I like a lot, but they're mostly from the later section, so I can't share them!
But here is a nice exchange, that reflects the original "Frog Prince" but also introduces the characters of Masami and Countess Stasya:
She screamed again, jumping back. “You—you said something! I thought you were just an automaton. A toy frog!”
If he’d had teeth, Masami would have ground them. Frog. That’s all he was—a frog automaton. “I can retrieve the orb for you, Countess Stasya.”
Can you tell us about one character in the story? Any insights into who they are as a character that we didn’t get to see in the story?
Seki Yamato is the villainous mechanical sorcerer who transformed Masami and Hanzou into automatons. Seki is ambitious, and not pleased with the political situation in Japan. He's primarily interested in advancing his own cause by using the magic he's skilled in as well as Western inventions--but also he manipulates others by exploiting their honor and allegiances.
I would have loved to spend more time exploring Seki.
Can you briefly share about your other works? Where can people find you if they want to read more?
I write fantasy with a realistic edge and science fiction that incorporates the fantastic. Some of my work can be a little dark, but I keep it clean and fun (and often funny). I love to write short fiction and have multiple stories across genres published in various anthologies and online. My current novel-in-progress is an epic fantasy about three modern young-adult siblings who find themselves caught up in an ancient magical war. And I have a book out in another ongoing series: "A Time of Mourning and Dancing" is a early-medieval fantasy retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
Your setting is fascinating, seeming rich and opulent even in this short story. What inspired you to blend Japanese Shogunate intrigue with an Imperial Russian environment?
I decided on steampunk first, and then thought it would be really fun to have a Japanese setting and main characters. That setting meant a specific time in history to me (late 1800s), at which time there was a lot of conflict between Japan and Russia. This was more than enough to spark my imagination!
Kaeru-sama feels like it has a lot of lore behind it. Do you plan to explore more fairy tales or plots in this world?