Guest Post with Author Kate M. Colby #Desertera

perf5.250x8.000.inddToday I’m very pleased to welcome author (and author-y friend!) Kate M. Colby to my blog. Kate has just released The Courtesan’s Avenger, the second book in her Desertera series (and if you haven’t read her first book, The Cogmsith’s Daughter, get yourselves a copy now!). Set in the steampunk world of Desertera, The Courtesan’s Avenger is a tale of murder, intrigue and justice – I can’t wait to read it 🙂

Today, Kate’s written an excellent post about character motivation, something she feels is key to good story-telling. There’s a lot of useful information here, so read through and let us know what you think in the comments. Take it away, Kate!

As an author, the question I get asked more than any other is: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” or some variation of it. With the release of my second novel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, I finally feel like I’m in a place to offer some solid advice (without feeling like an imposter!). So, here it is: if I had
to give just one tip to budding writers, it would be to give your characters, both major and minor, a strong motivation.

Why? Because every person (or magical being or animal) you meet has a goal that drives them, influences their actions, and shapes their personality and worldview. Even a motivation as simple as getting through the work day, or as pure as surviving an apocalypse, can have huge impact on a character’s part in a story. For me, motivation is the core of a character and absolutely essential to creating well-rounded, complex, and relatable individuals. It’s also an aspect of my writing on which I really pride myself and I always love to see mentioned in reviews.

In my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, Aya Cogsmith is driven by revenge. More than anything, she wants to obtain justice for her wrongly executed father and resume her rightful place as heir to his workshop and trade. Aya’s vengeance is the guiding light of the novel and the vessel that influences her decisions (and therefore the plot). The goal makes her relatable to readers – who hasn’t felt wronged before? – and also leads to mistakes and stumbling points that give her further depth.

The sequel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, features a new leading lady with a similar motivation. Dellwyn Rutt wants to obtain justice for a fellow courtesan who has been murdered. However, unlike Aya, Dellwyn’s motives are not self-interested. She simply wants to see a wrong made right. Therefore, the path she takes is entirely different and far less dangerous. Instead of political turmoil, Dellwyn must face conflicts in her own sense of morality, strained friendships, and her inability to fully trust others.

Keep in mind, motivation shouldn’t be exclusive to your main and supporting characters. Know the motivation of everyone in your world. In The Cogsmith’s Daughter, there’s a scene in which Aya goes to a bakery. It’s early morning; the baker has been up since before dawn baking. She wants to get rid of Aya as quickly as possible, but she also wants to show a little kindness to the crestfallen young woman.

Because I know these short-term goals, I can express them through the baker’s actions and words. Will the reader identify them exactly? Maybe, maybe not. But the baker seems all the more real for having these goals.

On a similar note, feel free to give characters secret motivations. For example, Dellwyn’s employer has intimate connections to two of the other employees that I never tell the readers. These affect her aspirations for their careers, what she expects of them, and how she treats them. If I told the readers the full truth of these relationships, there would be a “lightbulb moment,” and the relationships would take on even greater depth. As it is, the employer’s motivations remain appropriately hidden (They’re not key to the plot, after all!), but her relationships to those two employees are complex, interesting, and feel real.

Motivation can make or break a character. It gives readers a way to empathize with, love, or love-to-loathe a character and creates a necessary depth within the character and story. In the case of minor characters, motivation is a simple way to take them from “good” to “great.” If you like character-driven novels (particularly starring strong females), complex relationships, expansive worldbuilding, and a dash of intrigue and romance, I think you’ll like my novels. If you liked the tips in this article, you’ll probably
like what I have to offer on my blog. Links to all this and more below.

Before I sign off, I want to extend a huge thank you to Helen Jones for hosting me. I really appreciate your authorly friendship and the opportunity to share more about my novels and writing process with your readers. If anyone reading hasn’t read Helen’s Ambeth series (What are you waiting for?!), I highly recommend it. It’s another great example of complex, motivated characters.

Wow! Thanks, Kate 🙂 So, what do you think? Like Kate, I agree that knowing the motivation of every character, even the minor ones, is key to presenting a well-rounded story. Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.



Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.


Book links:

The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1)

The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2)

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Take A Tour Of Desertera with Guest Author Kate M. Colby

TCD Blog Tour Banner

Today I welcome guest author Kate M. Colby to the blog. Kate recently published her first book, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, a steampunk dystopian story set in the fictional world of Desertera. Today she takes us on a tour of the world she’s created…

The world of my novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, is Desertera. I call it a post-apocalyptic, steampunk dystopian wasteland—which is a mouthful…and not exactly that helpful to those who aren’t familiar with these genres. So, today, I want to give you all a little tour of Desertera and teach you more about this world that I’ve cooked up. But first, we have to start with a brief history lesson.

Roughly two hundred years prior to the start of my novel, the world of my characters looked very similar to our world from two centuries ago. They had an organized government (monarchy), cities with electricity, vehicles, and advanced technology (though steam-powered), and oceans and rivers and all the other standard geological features we have. Essentially, it was a world much like ours, just with steam as the primary power source. Fans of the steampunk genre can probably envision it rather
easily—I picture “the world before” much like a traditional steampunk universe.

However, the world before ended. A flood of apocalyptic proportions (think Noah’s Ark) wiped out the world and most of its inhabitants. The ancestors of my characters survived by building a steamship (the Queen Hildegard) to carry them through the flood. After years of rain, the waters eventually dried up, and they were left in a desert wasteland. Without an excess of water, they are unable to power their steam technology, and thus, we have a world of “steampunk without steam.” What remains is the steamship and four villages that have emerged around it. This is the Desertera we
see in The Cogsmith’s Daughter.

The Queen Hildegard, or the palace:

This is the steamship that carried the ancestors through the flood. It is named for the mortal queen who ruled during the flood, and it is the center of noble life in Desertera. The royal family and the higher nobles live within the palace, but it also holds libraries, specialty shops, a greenhouse, the courtroom, and the ballroom. Most of the “steerage” section of the palace has been gutted—the materials used for building houses and other objects—but one area, the Rudder, remains occupied.

The Rudder:

The Rudder is the brothel of Desertera. It is located in the back of the ship, with an entrance near the propellers (hence the name). While the citizens of Desertera know the Rudder’s location and what occurs there, most turn a blind eye to the activities unless forced to admit them. The Rudder is run by Madam Huxley, the longest-standing female business owner in Desertera, and is where the novel’s protagonist, Aya, currently works.


Starboardshire is a village to the east of the palace and is home to the lesser nobles and their servants. The most beautiful of the villages, it contains artisan-crafted homes, desert wildflowers, and even a bit of grass for horses (a major status symbol for noble families).


Bowtown lies to the north of the palace and holds the agricultural district. It’s inhabited by farmers, who manage to grow basic crops like wheat and corn. The farmers also have livestock—the descendants of the animals taken aboard the steamship—mainly pigs, chickens, goats, and sheep.


Portside is the economic hub of Desertera, situated to the west of the palace. It is home to merchants and local businesses—everything from bakers to cobblers to blacksmiths. Aya, grew up in Portside, as her father used to have a shop in the village. However, when he was executed, she could no longer pay the rent and had to turn to other means to support herself.


Sternville, to the south of the palace, is the most impoverished village and is where Aya currently lives. The homes are little more than tents or dirt-floored hovels, and its residents either work at the Rudder or as wellmen. The wellmen are responsible for going to the wells each morning and pumping water for the villagers to use. An important job, it is also dirty, dangerous, and viewed as “unskilled” labor, hence
its low status in the society.

The palace and its four villages make for a complex and starkly divided society. There is tension between the five locales, the four villages especially, and most people tend to stick to their “own kind.” In The Cogsmith’s Daughter, Aya spends most of her time in Sternville, the Rudder, and the palace. Despite her connections to each place, she doesn’t feel like she belongs in any of them. This helps her to see the good and bad aspects of each, as well as allows her to challenge the status quo and make others
question what they have always accepted about their homes. I think world travelers, or even just sociology/culture geeks like me, will really enjoy watching Aya dissect her surroundings.

If you think you’d like to take a trip to Desertera, you can enter my Goodreads giveaway for your chance to win one of three signed copies HERE.

Don’t like leaving things to chance? Me either. You can purchase your copy of                     The Cogsmith’s Daughter at any of these online retailers:

Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon AU, etc.

Barnes & Noble



The Cogsmith's Daughter - Ebook Small

Two-hundred years ago, the steam-powered world experienced an apocalyptic flood. When the waters dried up, the survivors settled around their steamship in a wasteland they named Desertera. Believing the flood and drought were caused by a scorned
goddess, the monarchs demanded execution for anyone who commits the unforgivable sin—adultery.


Today, King Archon entraps his wives in the crime of adultery, executing each boring bride to pursue his next infatuation. Most nobles overlook King Archon’s behavior, but when Lord Varick’s daughter falls victim to the king’s schemes, he vows revenge.


When Aya Cogsmith was a young girl, King Archon had her father executed for treason. Orphaned and forced to turn to prostitution for survival, Aya dreams of avenging her father’s death. When Lord Varick approaches Aya with plans for vengeance, she agrees to play the king’s seductress—even though it puts her at risk for execution.

Packed with high-society intrigue, dappled with seduction, and driven by revenge, The Cogsmith’s Daughter is a steampunk dystopian novel with the perfect mixture of conspiracy and romance.

Kate Colby Photo

Kate M. Colby is an author of cross-genre fiction and creative nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk dystopian novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children. You can learn more about Kate and her books on her website: