Interview with Author Peter Bunzl, Conclusion

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Welcome back to the conclusion in our talk with filmmaker and animator Peter Bunzl, who is the author of Cogheart.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.

Read Part Four here.

Read Part Five here.


Airship Ambassador: Many authors have a day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you ?

Peter Bunzl: I don’t have another job at the moment, currently I’m writing book two. I used to do freelance animation working on TV shows and commercials. I think it would be a bit crazy-making to work on a Children’s TV show over a long stretch and try and do your own creative work as well. I did it for a time when I was creating short films and it drove me up the wall. Doing shorter commercial jobs and working on your own thing is not so bad, because you can switch between the two projects.


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

PB: I’m obsessed with film. I see tons of films in my spare time. Not so much the Hollywood stuff, but old movies, indies, or foreign films and docs – films with a bit of quirk and style, rather than the hackneyed blockbusters. And I still enjoy going to the cinema over watching something on TV.


AA: How do those older films influence your work?

PB: Learning about screenwriting and editing and filmic storytelling at college, and from watching movies, influenced the way I tell stories. I want them to be cinematic and visual and packed with action and strong images, and I try my best to get those qualities into the writing.


AA: Films are a great hobby – what interests don’t you have time for?

PB: I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore. I do watch box sets though. Recently I binge watched Peaky Blinders and Penny Dreadful, both of which I loved. And Game of Thrones is ace too!


AA: Are there other fandoms are you part of ?

PB: I love animation – especially the old Disney and Studio Ghibli movies. As a kid I was a complete Disney nerd, back then you could’ve asked me anything about Disney and I would have probably known the answer, now, not so much.


AA: The Witches by Roald Dahl is one of your favourite children’s books. What is the appeal and attraction in it for you?

PB: The stunning way it’s written. The style is completely different from my book. It’s a first-person memoir. Those kind of book – told in retrospect by a character – always have a cracking opening line and The Witches is no exception: “I myself had two encounters with witches before I was eight years old.” It’s the sort of opener that makes you want to read on.


AA: What is on your to-be read or watched pile right now?

PB: The Uncommoners by Jennifer Bell which is a children’s book that sounds a bit like Unlundun or Neverwhere. Plus the second season of Penny Dreadful, which I’ve just downloaded to watch.


AA: Penny Dreadful is grand, isn’t it? Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

PB: My mum has been an artist all her life, she’s done commercial work and worked for herself and she’s always striving to create new things, whether it be textiles or painting or sculpture. She keeps going creatively, making things no matter what. She’s a big inspiration for me as an artist when it comes to maintaining your creative practice day in day out – through ups and downs – and ensuring your work is as good as it can be.


AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

PB: Getting into film school – I learnt so much about creative storytelling and gained confidence there. Fear of failure – but the truth is you have to fail at a few things before you find one you succeed at.


AA: What is the best advice you’ve been given?

PB: Do what you love.


AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favourite food with tea, next location to visit which you haven’t been to yet, and which book would you like to see made into a movie?

PB: Chocolate Hobnobs for dunking. California. Riddley Walker.


AA: When you do interviews, what is something that you wish you were asked about but haven’t been?

PB: I can’t think of anything. This interview has certainly been quite thorough! About the only one you haven’t asked which I sometimes get is: “If you could have a clockwork mechanimal what would it be?” And the answer would probably be a dragon.


AA: Dragons are definitely cool! Any final thoughts to share with our readers

PB: If you read the book and enjoy it please let me know on Twitter @peterbunzl I am also available for school visits via my website. And I’d love to hear about any steampunk events happening around the country.


Thanks, Peter, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about the next book in this series!

Keep up to date with Peter’s latest news on his website, Twitter, and YouTube.

You can support Peter and our community by getting your copy of Cogheart here.

Published in: on October 21, 2016 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author Peter Bunzl, Part 5

Welcome back to part five in our talk with filmmaker and animator Peter Bunzl, who is the author of Cogheart.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.

Read Part Four here.


Airship Ambassador: What do you consider your first real writing experience? Was it a school assignment or something you just did on your own?

Peter Bunzl: When I was a kid I used to write and illustrate my own stories and comics, my dad kept them all in a folder and gave them to me a few years ago. I adore them, they are far more fun than my school writing assignments, none of which I kept. Then, when I was a teenager, I got into animation, I used to write ideas for short films, storyboard them and animate one or two scenes.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

PB: When I used to write animated shorts, my ideas were always very visually oriented and cinematic. And they still are – I love magic realism and weird quirky story ideas – that’s the animator in me. Those things are essential to sustain a short story or film. But for a novel you need to learn to write stronger plots, dimensional characters and dialogue. It takes work, but I hope I’ve improved at those skills over the years.


AA: In your experience as a writer, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?

PB: When to take criticism onboard, and when to ignore it! If it’s from your editor or a writing buddy – people who care about your growth as a writer – it’s probably worth listening to. If it’s from some random person on Goodreads, you should probably ignore it, and let it go (as the song suggests).


AA: Isn’t the first lesson as an author “Don’t read the comments!” ? What story would you like to write but haven’t, yet?

PB: I want to write a contemporary story about kids with magic powers, but I don’t want it to be like Harry Potter – the world would be quite different. I’d also like to write a third book with Robert and Lily set in the Cogheart world


AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

PB: Procrastination is my biggest sin – thanks broadband! I have an internet blocker programme for when I desperately need to write. So I put that on, find a good music soundtrack and try and hammer through the scene that I’m stuck on. I try not to read back what I’ve written on a first draft because it won’t be pretty, and it’s best to get to the end before you start editing things or doing drastic rewrites anyway.


AA: You are speaking to the choir about procrastination. It’s a lifelong fight. How is London for writing?

PB: It’s good to be in London for events and publicity, you meet a lot of other writers and can build up a network and contacts. There’s tons of writing groups and talks and festivals and things going on. Sometimes writing at home can be noisy and distracting, but there’s always the library. Libraries are a superb place to go and write or do you edits, also to find books you’d never think of reading.


AA: In your experience, does it seem like readers prefer a print or electronic format?

PB: I think most children still read paper books. I prefer them too, because the artwork and design is such a contributing factor, plus a real book feels tangible and special – especially as a writer – there’s a joy of seeing your words on the printed page.


AA: It’s nice to have an ereader while traveling but I, too, like a good solid book when I’m reading on the couch of by the fireplace. Have you been affected by electronic piracy of your work?

PB: I haven’t yet, but I know other writers who get this a lot. Some of the stories I’ve heard about piracy are very depressing. Some internet platforms seem to make it quite difficult for authors to report piracy of their work, and I don’t think that’s helpful at all in the long run.


AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Cogheart?

PB: Nope. I’m not that famous!


AA: What? Say it’s not true! How was school for you growing up?

PB: I enjoyed primary school a lot more than secondary school, it was a much more creative environment and there was less pressure to work and to conform. I think that’s why I’m a little more comfortable writing for that age group. I don’t think secondary school encourages creative thinking, or at least it didn’t when I was at school, which is a shame, because that’s what will be of value in the future. Learning things by rote, retaining facts and figures – it’s not so useful nowadays, is it?


AA: Memorization only gets one so far. Your mother was a costume designer working on television shows and movies, and you were able to visit on set sometimes. How did those experiences help with story ideas and storytelling?

PB: My mum made the costumes for the animated series Postman Pat, and I remember as a child the director bringing the puppets round in little shoeboxes, with a drawing of what their outfits should look like and notes about their personality. One day we went to the studio and he showed us the sets and then ran some film through a Moviola – which is like a tabletop projector – and I saw all the characters moving. I think that started me off on my obsession with animation, and bringing my own characters to life in whatever way I could.


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

PB: I would be doing film and animation, which is what I trained in at art college and film school.


We’ll break here in chatting with Peter. Join us next time when he talks about interests and inspirations.

Keep up to date with Peter’s latest news on his website, Twitter, and YouTube.

You can support Peter and our community by getting your copy of Cogheart here.

Published in: on October 20, 2016 at 9:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Author Peter Bunzl, Part 4

Welcome back to part four in our talk with filmmaker and animator Peter Bunzl, who is the author of Cogheart.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.


Airship Ambassador: What do you think puts Cogheart on someone’s must read/have list?

Peter Bunzl: It’s an exhilarating and astonishing adventure filled with action and imagination, danger and daring, airships and automata, murder, mayhem and mysterious machines, dastardly deeds and devilry, and an over-opinionated mechanical fox. Plus it’s a story with heart… what more could you want from a children’s book?


AA: And a fox! If Cogheart were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

PB: I would want it to be an animation made by someone like Laika or Studio Ghibli, I so admire their quirky characters and design aesthetics.


AA: If Cogheart had a soundtrack, what would it be like?

PB: There’s an excellent soundtrack for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events by Thomas Newman, also the soundtrack for Oliver Twist by Rachel Portman is delightful, I listened to both a lot while I was writing the book. Film soundtracks are brilliant for creating an atmosphere and mood while you’re writing, whereas I find any music with words becomes distracting.


AA: I have to say that while I was formatting this to post, I listened to both of those soundtracks, and really enjoyed them! Two more on the favorites list. What are some memorable fan reactions to Cogheart which you’ve heard about?

PB: Kids are the best readers because if they enjoy your book they’ll tell you so in no uncertain terms. They say things like: “You’re my favourite author of all time!” “Better than Roald Dahl!” “One of the best books I’ve ever read!” …Those kind of comments are ace, especially if they tell you personally.


AA: What kind of attention has Cogheart generated?

PB: Cogheart was in The Bookseller’s top ten children’s pick for autumn 2016. It was Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for august, which was a spectacular start for the book. It has also hit the top ten children’s chart in WH Smiths, and is Book of the Month in Blackwell Oxford for September. Booksellers have been fantastic – creating all sorts of buzz through beautiful windows and point of sale displays. I’ve been round dozens of shops and met them in person, and they’re so lovely and enthusiastic, telling me how much they enjoyed the book, and how they’ve been hand-selling it – which is what you want! It’s been a pretty stupendous reception really!


AA: That really is very rewarding, and quite the accomplishment. How are new readers finding you?

PB: Through word of mouth recommendations from booksellers and librarians, and through written reviews from bloggers and on book sites. My website is: and you can find out more about the book there, as well as some of my other projects.


AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?

PB: Editors and agents want to help you make your book shine, so consider all their suggestions and if you think those things make the book better, take them on board. If there’s something you’re not sure you agree with have a chat. They love your book and want to hear your thoughts and discuss them. They’re your first loyal readers and supportive fans, and with their help you can hopefully clarify all the plot issues as you edit, because if you don’t your readers down the line might misunderstand something about the story.


AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?

PB: I have done a book tour around primary schools. You get great reactions when you meet the kids, they’re so excited to hear about how you wrote your book and where the ideas came from. If you can make the presentation interactive and fun and talk to them about themselves too that draws them in. It’s so cool when they come up to you at the end and say they loved your book, or talk about their favourite stories, or what mechanimal they’d like; tell you who’s the best Pokemon, or ask about animation.


AA: That sounds like a great opportunity where kids get excited about trying it for themselves. What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?

PB: Probably not enough. I love writing, but at the moment it seems to be taking a back seat to promotion, so I need to balance that out. I also need to cut down on the social media a bit – that starts to take over your free time. I’m a little bit addicted to Twitter at the moment.


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers about writing?

PB: Over the years I have been a member of three different writers groups. It’s an awesome way to get feedback on your work, and also to join other writers in celebrations, commiserations, learning and support.

The other thing I did when I was trying to get an agent was join SCBWI – the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – it’s a fabulous organisation that supports published and pre-published children’s writers and illustrators. They have events and socials and a conference. Through SCBWI I’ve met so many friendly writers who’ve given me wise advice about the publishing industry.


AA: Some people might say that writers need to be readers, too. What do you think about that and what would you say your ratio of reading to writing is/was?

PB: Writers definitely need to read. A lot! I’ve no idea what my ratio of reading to writing is. I would say I read more than I write, and across all genres – I think that’s so important when you’re searching for ideas. So I read Victorian novels, children’s books, YA, science fiction, steampunk, fantasy, literary fiction, screenplays, poetry – an eclectic mix.


AA: As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it? How do you try to avoid that issue in your own writing?

PB: Info-dumping annoys me more than anything else, especially at the start of a novel or short story. I will put up with it for a while, but if there’s reams and reams in early chapters, that makes me want to stop reading.


We’ll break here in chatting with Peter. Join us next time when he talks about his writing process.

Keep up to date with Peter’s latest news on his website, Twitter, and YouTube.

You can support Peter and our community by getting your copy of Cogheart here.

Published in: on October 19, 2016 at 6:37 pm  Comments (2)