Interview with Steampunk Game Designer, Liz Spain

This week we are talking with Liz Spain, creator of steampunk game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis, where players lead a steampunk expedition to explore fantastic places and face otherworldly horrors in a deck building strategy game for 1-5 players.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Liz, it’s great to catch up with you and talk about your projects.

Liz Spain: Hi! I’m really excited that we’re so close to revealing the final product of the project I’ve been working on for the past two years.


AA: Before we talk about your current game, which is definitely not your first, what can you share about your background as a games designer?

LS: I started in game design creating Lovecraft-inspired live-action mystery games. My husband and I ran these modules in our hometown and at Gen Con (the largest tabletop gaming convention in North America). Eventually, we added steampunk elements to our games which enriched the worlds of our games and gave everyone an excuse to costume to the nines.

I worked a lot on Marshal Hunter’s steampunk live-action roleplaying game Rise of Aester. In addition to writing world material and helping to develop the rules, I also wrote the original modules for the game. Several of the characters I wrote for those modules became very popular and their stories became part of the world’s canon.

I’ve also playtested, costumed, modeled and demoed for a number of Flying Frog Productions board games. The Something Wicked expansion for A Touch of Evil is the first game I worked on there, but you can find my name in the credits for a number of Flying Frog games. I’ve also did consulting on the steampunk aesthetic and costumed over 100 people for Harebrained Scheme’s Crimson Steam Pirates on the ipad.


AA: Wow, all of those games sound interesting, and it’s great to hear about the various roles you’ve played in creating and bringing those games to life. For your current game, what is the premise of Incredible Expeditions?

LS: A slightly-unhinged scientist, Professor Pendergast, was kicked out of the Royal Academy of Sciences for his wild theories on the fate of the lost city of Atlantis. After discovering that the sunken city drifted and became trapped in the ice shelves off the coast of Antarctica, he announced to the world that he was forming an expedition. Other notable explorers the world over jump in on the challenge and the race is on to be the first to uncover the ancient city.


AA: What was the motivation for creating Incredible Expeditions? How did it all come about?

LS: Incredible Expeditions is my attempt to put the world of my Lovecraftian steampunk mystery games in a box. I really wanted to see the creative imagination of steampunk in a board game and decided the only way that was going to happen was if I did it myself.

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AA: Completely understandable, and sometimes the only way to get something done, or to get just the item we want, is to do it ourselves. Why a card game?

LS: I wanted a game that would be easy for anyone to learn to play and would be dripping with a steampunk aesthetic and world.


AA: Why use steampunk as the game’s aesthetic?

LS: Incredible Expeditions is more than just a board game. I designed it to showcase the imagination and creative maker skills of the steampunk community at large. By starting with a steampunk aesthetic, I’ve been able to bring in friends to contribute to the project who are illustrators, prop makers, costumers, musicians and even a dancer and a calligrapher.


AA: That’s an interesting range of skills to bring into creating a game. Who are the other people who are part of the team to create this game?

LS: The biggest contributor to the project has been my husband, Austin. Throughout this project, he’s been there as a strong voice of criticism and helped immensely with organizing the Kickstarter campaign and playtesting. Incredible Expeditions owes the depth and balance of its strategy to his constructive skepticism at every step in development.

Jade Cheung (of Arctic Phoenix Studios) is a friend and artist who helped me develop the distinctive art nouveau style for the graphic design. The card frames are her design and she also made costumes and modeled for different characters in the game.

Beyond that, there are simply too many wonderful people to name. Over a dozen artists worked on the illustration and graphic design and there were dozens of models, most of whom made their own costumes and props. There’s hardly a steampunk in the Seattle area who hasn’t contributed to the project in some way.


We’ll take a break here in our chat with Liz Spain, talking about her newest game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis/

Check back for part 2 where Liz talks about research, artwork and the kickstarter experience.


Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with author Lev AC Rosen, Part 3

Welcome back for the conclusion of our talk with Lev AC Rosen, author of All Men of Genius.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.


Airship Ambassador: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

Lev AC Rosen: Yes – I’m part of a writing group. We get together every other week and critique each others work. It’s great for keeping you writing and for getting steady feedback. I think it’s a must for any serious writer.


AA: How is New York, one of the major centers of publishing, for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

LR: Not really. I know people think New York is where all the gatekeepers are – but agents and editors communicate primarily by email and phone. You don’t need to see them. Is it nice to be able to meet an agent or editor in person before signing with them? Sure, but it’s not a requirement. And even if you do live in the city, there may not be time to meet them. That said, it’s a great place to meet other writers and go to lots of readings.


AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

LR: I teach creative writing. They go hand in hand – being able to answer my students questions lets me think about my own work in new ways.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests and topics fill your time?

LR: So so many: noir, screwball comedy, spy stuff, hippos (my husband and I love hippos), YA and Middlegrade books, I watch way too much TV, and we got a kitten recently who pretty much takes up all of our time. Which is understandable, I think.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

LR: Well, the kitten makes it a lot harder. But I’m working on a bunch of stuff that relates to my interests. I think when you’re fascinated by something, you set out to explore it in writing, which is why my books jump around a lot. I have a middlegrade book – Woundabout – coming out in June with some steampunk influence and some noir and some spy stuff and a cute capybara, which isn’t the same as a kitten, but which also isn’t as different as you might think.


AA: Quick random questions – what is your favorite dinner, painting, and historical figure?

LR: Um, well, pasta, pretty much any sort of vegetarian pasta. Painting changes all the time, but I love Tamara De Lempicka’s portrait of Madame Allan Bott. Historical Figure also changes a lot, but lately I’ve been fascinated with Caterina Sforza. I have a perpetual obsession with Lauren Bacall.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

LR: Well, thank you, for reading and such, and if you have any questions, I try to answer everything asked of me on twitter or tumblr or my blog (that was pretty shameless). And thank you, Kevin, for interviewing me. It’s been fun!


Thanks for joining us, Lev!

Get your copy of All Men of Genius today

Published in: on July 10, 2014 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with author Lev AC Rosen, Part 2

Welcome back for part two in our talk with Lev AC Rosen, author of All Men of Genius.

Read Part One here.


Airship Ambassador: How did elements of your own life make their way into the story?

Lev AC Rosen: Every character is a reflection of me – even the nasty ones. I think that holds true for every writer, though. More specifically, I’m queer, like Ashton, and Jewish, like Miriam, and I think those are important things to talk about in Victorian London – the disenfranchised. In fact, one of my favorite moments in the book, and one that feels a lot like me critiquing myself, is when Fiona tells Violet that what she’s doing is a boon for rich, smart girls everywhere – the idea that Violet is fighting for acceptance based on her sex… but there are people who have a lot more to prove than she does.


AA: One thing you’ve mentioned in other reviews and interviews is that this is not a YA book, although one would understand why people would think that. What have people’s reactions been when they knew that, versus those who didn’t?

LR: Well, those who don’t know often send me emails saying that my book is inappropriate for children. I think it’s fine for high schoolers, generally, but YA can sometimes reach younger than that, and I don’t think the parent of a 7th grader wants their kids reading about vibrators. In fact, I’m fairly sure of it, because of those emails.


AA: What kind of backstory is there for All Men of Genius which didn’t make it into the final book?

LR: I have some deleted scenes up on my website, but you have to earn the passwords – maybe you can figure them out, though. But I can tell you, in brief, two of them were alternate versions of each other – a scene which was just totally cut by the end – wherein Jack pulls a prank. One with bees, and one with bunnies. I just felt like Jack hadn’t earned his reputation as a prankster. My editor disagreed, and once we cut the scene, everything worked much better. The other two scenes were Fiona based. I love Fiona, but these two scenes made her seem borderline insane, one where she climbed down a chimney, and another where she plays with matches. They weren’t really moving the plot forward, and while they were sort of funny, they were also, like I said, insane. And Fiona is strange, but not a pyromaniac.


AA: Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?

LR: Not right now. I mean, I wouldn’t rule it out, I love the world, I have ideas, but it’s not my focus right now.


AA: When readers finish the book, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

LR: I’d like them to take away a certain open-mindedness – the idea that everyone has a story which maybe you can’t see and is making them who they are at the moment. Also the idea that not everyone is equal and that if you want something you have to fight for it.


AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to All Men of Genius which you’ve heard about?

LR: There’s been a lot of great fan art. I try to post it all on my blog or tumblr or twitter. That’s pretty exciting. And I’ve been told that there’s some slash fanfiction involving Dr. Who, which is sort of beyond my wildest dreams.


AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?

LR: Architect, maybe, if I were better at math.


AA: What do you do to keep a balance between book, art, and tour life, and the rest of your life?

LR: I keep a fairly precise schedule – right down to the day. I have a daily to-do list, which has stuff like “write scene with motorcycle” or whatever, right alongside “groceries” and “interview with Airship Ambassador.” Just keeping organized, and making sure you know what you can accomplish in a day – that’s the important part. That, and keeping to it.


This is the end of part two in our chat with Lev AC Rosen.

Join us next time for the conclusion when Lev talks about his other interests and influences.

Get your copy of All Men of Genius today

Published in: on July 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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