OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I'm privileged to have Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris back on the video show to talk about their latest book, Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel. We discuss the genre of steampunk, some tips on writing a series as well as co-writing and then we discuss the pros of traditional publishing. It's a really fun interview available in video and audio below, so please have a listen as the conversation is pretty lively!
Here's the audio version in mp3, right click to download => Steampunk.mp3
- Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is an adventure romp set in steampunk London featuring New Zealand's first steam-punk heroine, Eliza Braun, who could be called James Bond in a corset. Wellington Thornhill Books is the archivist of the Ministry who gets dragged into adventure. When Eliza is demoted to the archives, the unlikely pair have to work together on some unsolved mysteries – and action/adventure ensues.
- What is steampunk anyway? It's already in the culture but perhaps you don't recognize it . Steampunk is about technology and the way people interact with it. It's brass and airships and goggles. It's retro-futurism. It's steam gadgets in the Victorian era. James Bond powered by steam. The industrial age was an innovative time and steampunk is kind of alternative history with an emphasis on what technology of the time might have been as powered by steam. Any of classic works of HG Wells or Jules Verne are steampunk so 20,000 leagues under the sea fits into the genre.
- On planning a series. Pip has another series, Books of the Order as well. Each book has to have its own story but there needs to be an over-arching theme. There needs to be dangling plot threads that show there is a bigger plot going on. One needs to lead into another. You can also allude to what you covered in the first book but you don't have to spend time explaining all the detail. You need to have the same feel and the same fun of the first book, but it also needs to be different – but the same. It's a balancing act. The characters have to develop in each book as well. Harry Potter is a good example of a set of books with an overarching story and mini stories. Tee uses Transformers as an example where the characters DON'T develop!
- Is the current trend with publishers to sign for a series? Publishers generally sign for 2 books at least, and you need to have ideas for more in a series. They might sign for 2 but want more in the future. But don't pitch a 9 book series as that won't get picked up. Having vague ideas for more books is worth planning.
- On the balance between being a professional author and the day job. Tee balances part-time pro writing with the security of a day job (like me!) and Pip is a full-time writer. It's important to set your priorities. If you have a family, a mortgage, you need to keep paying the bills. Make time for writing and you can produce but it just takes a little more time.
- On writing with a co-author. <<sound effects!>> Communication is critical, openly and freely, even across distances. Skype is the magic for writing across the world. Pip was in NZ and Tee in the US as they wrote Phoenix Rising. You need to give and take and be honest with writing and editing. There are ups and downs. You have to be ready to say you don't like something. It's great to have someone else to brainstorm with so it is fun.
- How much of Pip & Tee is in the characters of Eliza and Wellington. The dialogue was easy to do! (Pip & Tee banter a lot). The snark is there. Wellington loves gadgets. Eliza is homesick for NZ and Pip has had some similar feelings lately. But there are lots of differences!
- On the comparison between indie publishing and now big publishing. Pip likes to experiment and is bringing Erotica a la Carte to independent ebook, but she has experiences with all types of publishers. We talk about the “hybrid writer” who spreads risk and the “portfolio writer” who can spread books across different areas. Tee talks about how great it is to have a large publisher and how different it is to indie. Don't be too quick to dismiss traditional publishing – look at Amanda Hocking who wanted a trad deal in order to actually write instead of marketing all the time. Going indie means doing a LOT yourself. There is a fine line and authors should consider both sides. The joy of finding your book at the airport which you only get with traditional publishing. We all conclude “Live and let live” as there are pros and cons on all sides.
You can find the Ministry books in bookstores and online as well as at MinistryOfPeculiarOccurrences.com – you will also find a related short story podcast.