Guest Post: Steven Harper on Forming Families

Steven Harper (Blog, Twitter, Facebook) is another Michigan author, with a bunch of books to his name. Names, actually. His latest novel is The Havoc Machine [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], the fourth book in his Clockwork Empire series. You can read a sample chapter here.

He stopped by to talk about the creation of family…


Ah, Friends.  Remember them?  The quintessential show of the 90s.  When Friends first aired, I was immediately drawn in.  We had six (mostly) unrelated people who had formed a family.  They laughed and played pranks and squabbled and dated other people, but in the end, they remained woven together like yarn into socks.  They were so close that they spent Thanksgiving and other holidays together instead of going home to their birth families.

I was a faithful viewer for ten years, and I sniffled hard when the show went off the air.

This image of unrelated people coming together to form a family stayed with me.  My own birth family had undergone a number of upheavals, and however necessary those upheavals were, it still left my family fractured and pulled apart.  What would it be like . . . ?

Eventually I found out what it would be like.  I married, we had a son, and we realized more birth children wouldn’t be an option.  My then-wife and I adopted two boys from Ukraine, and our family grew.  Sasha and Maksim weren’t ours by blood, but they were ours by everything that counted.  Sasha defended his new brother Aran from bullies at school.  Maksim clung to me whenever he felt shy or afraid.  We laughed and played pranks and squabbled and ate Thanksgiving dinner together.  We were a family, pulled together from bits and pieces from all over the world.

When I wrote The Havoc Machine, I set out to explore what it meant to form a family out of nothing.  Thad, the main character, has lost his family, and he limps through life like a dented automaton as a result.  His clockwork parrot Dante is all he has left of this former life, and their relationship is far from healthy.  It’s easier for him to be alone, when he has nothing to lose.  Then he meets Sofiya Ekk and they rescue a boy named Nikolai from the lair of a mad scientist, and Nikolai attaches himself to Thad with ferocious tenacity, and Sofiya comes along for reasons of her own.  Thad doesn’t want attachments, but he finds himself thrust into the role of father nonetheless, and through him, I got to explore what it means to learn fatherhood all over again.