Welcome back to the conclusion of our interview with Thomas Willeford.
Part 1 can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: In addition to creating wonderful steampunk items, you are also an author. What is Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos all about?
Thomas Willeford: It’s essentially a makers guide on how to create your own steampunk accessories. It’s quite easy to understand and follow, but without being condescendingly simple. You will be using real tools and materials, and be creating some truly neat gadgets.
AA: How did that project come to be?
TW: McGraw-Hill called us and asked if we wanted to be a published author, and I told them to piss off because I thought it was a scam. Then they called back to clarify the offer rejection, and I realized they were legitimately offering me something here. So, after groveling and apologizing profusely, I obviously took the deal!
AA: There are two more books due out soon, Steampunk Adventurer’s Guide and Cosplaying Lantern City. What can you tell us about those? Spoilers?
TW: SAG is an all-ages collection of more projects, this time using easier to work with materials and tools. The tagline is “projects that anyone can make!”, so it’s geared more towards those who don’t have access to power tools, preferring instead to utilize scissors and foam. It also features a storyline throughout with illustrations by Phil Foglio (best known for webcomic Girl Genius). CLC we can’t reveal too much information yet (as the show is still in production), although it will continue in the same vein as the previous books, but with the focus on how to create some of the props and costumes from the show.
AA: Speaking of Bruce Boxleitner’s steampunk tv series project, Lantern City, how did you get involved, (what are you doing) and how much fun has it been?
TW: We received an email from Matt Daley, the writer, last July stating that he was a huge admirer of my work. He mentioned he was working on a new tv series with Bruce Boxleitner, and we met up at SDCC last year establishing an ongoing working relationship. Bruce met Matt Daley, Trevor Crafts, and I for dinner with the lovely Gail Carriger during SDCC last year. It’s been incredibly fun working with them; the only restriction is this HUGE non-disclosure agreement that keeps getting in the way of telling you how much fun I’m having.
AA: Without giving too much away, what can you share with us about the series?
TW: The jist of the story is that three people from modern day San Fran via a Magic Lantern to an alternate steampunk universe, specifically Lantern City. It is ruled by a fictional dictatorship, known as the Grey Empire, and the travelers need to get back to their own time as well as navigate the social and political drama of Lantern City. The entire cast has not yet been confirmed or announced, but we can say that John Rhys Davies, Gigi Edgley, and Mira Furlong have confirmed leading roles on the show. The plan is to start filming next year in Northern Ireland, and a good way to find out a lot about Lantern City would be to read the illustrated novel Rise by Matthew Daley through Section Studios, also available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1aXechC .
AA: I often see you at the steampunk conventions, both in the vendors room and as a panel speaker. How many conventions do you wind up attending in the course of a year?
TW: We average one convention a month. Anything from regional steampunk conventions to large scale events such as DragonCon and SDCC. We’ve also been doing museum shows and the occasional University lecture.
AA: What are some of the highlights of conventions for you?
TW: Meeting people who have made projects from the books, making connections with the industry, and talking to people about their own personal projects. I do love to give advice where I can, and am always happy to answer any questions people may have about their own ideas.
AA: The conventions are a great way for people to meet you in person and see your work up close. What are some memorable fan reactions to all of that?
TW: The most memorable fan reaction would be an 8 year old boy at Steampunk World’s Fair came into my booth, looked up at me with the utmost sincerity, and said “Are you Lord Archibald Feathers Featherstone?! I’m a great admirer of your work!” It was possibly the cutest thing to ever happen to me. <laughs> Having Sir Richard Taylor of Weta Workshops come up to my booth to “see what I was doing lately” and discuss small scale steam locomotives (along with his father) was also extremely cool.
AA: If you weren’t an artist-maker-author-speaker, what else would you be doing now?
TW: Either working in a sign shop or as an independent contractor in a laser cutting shop. Or, pumping gas while asking if you’d like fries with that.
AA: What do you do to keep a balance between books, business, art, conventions, and the rest of your life? Is there a balance or is it more like a time share amongst all the interests?
TW: BALANCE?! What is this balance of which you keep speaking?? You keep using that word…. I am still working as hard as when I started 20 years ago. The way I achieve balance in my life is, almost everyone with whom I associate is part of what I do.
AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you? What kind of reactions have you received?
TW: Yes! We had several people at Comic Con recognize us from Oddities and Odd Folks Home. Some people have even recognized me from Castle. The reactions have been almost universally positive. The one minor exception is, people keep saying “You got ripped off on Oddities! They sold that for so much more!” We laugh, and say “Don’t worry, we knew they were going to make money off of it. That’s the whole idea.”
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests and topics fill your time? Do you have any time?
TW: There’s no such thing as free time in my world. I do enjoy Legos and Bioshock, however. Tabletop gaming…..but there is very little free time in which to indulge.
AA: What other fandoms are you part of in some way? (as a fan or other participation)
TW: None. I have no time. What would I LIKE to do? Here’s how sad that is: I would love to have a weekend where I got to sit around and play Dungeons and Dragons. Or Call of Cthulu. One whole weekend.
AA: How do those interests influence your work?
TW: I make the things I would like to see made. It’s like my writing: I write the story I want to read. I’m just lucky that, occasionally, others want to see the stuff made and read the story as well.
AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers
TW: I talked to other writers and actors and such, and often hear some horror stories about dealing with their publishers or being in the public eye. My publisher has been incredible and easy to deal with. All the film crews have been absolutely charming. Even on my bad days of too much work and things going crazy, I get to have a really absolutely incredible life. Who gets to make costumes and gizmos from a once completely and utterly obscure fandom that they happened to be involved with, for a living? AND, more often than not, there are hot women involved!
Thanks, Thomas, for your time! Best of success on all of your projects.
Keep up with Thomas on his website.