Welcome back for the conclusion in our chat with Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., author of Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War, the second book of The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. We first talked with Richard after the release of his first book, Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders on 2 July, 2013.
Read part one here.
Airship Ambassador: There’s a flying kraken attack in this book. Without revealing too much, aside from creating action and tension, what kind of thought had to go into that scene to make it feel real to the readers??
Richard Preston: I think that you have to make it come alive in the sensations and details and in a realistic portrayal of a human being functioning in a life-or-death, chaotic situation. The brain picks out odd things when it’s under immense stress, like a particular color or sound. Actions and choices can occur at the most basic, animalistic levels. And as long as I am prepared to believe the kraken is real and present it that way then I know that my fantasy readers are ready and willing to come along. If I lose the reader then it is my fault.
AA: There’s also some politics and maneuvering going on among groups as they rally, perhaps uneasily, together against an expected and common foe. What are some of the processes you went through to create that kind of intrigue and drama?
RP: I had to create complicated back stories for all of the involved characters and clans. I have developed (and am still developing) pages and pages of genealogical and historical data in my world building. It’s a lot of work but it pays off handsomely. When I know exactly how each clans views the other and what things have happened between them in the past, then I can mine the baggage each brings to the negotiating table in a time of great mutual peril. This obviously adds to individual characters who also bring their own personal baggage with them. People tend not to forget great wrongs inflicted upon their grandparents and that can be a great doorway into a new character as well.
AA: What has become your favorite scene in the book, and why?
RP: I have to say that the kraken battle is my favorite scene. It is an obvious homage to the giant squid battle in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea movie which was (and still is) one of my great favorites.
AA: Are you one of those writers who has people in mind when writing a character, either for visuals or personality type, not just for writing but perhaps also in case the book made it to the silver screen?
RP: Yes and no. I think that I do write cinematically but that is probably due to having been a screenwriter for a decade. Sometimes I do start with a person in mind when I begin with a character but that usually falls away rapidly as that character takes on his or her own life in my imagination.
AA: Now that the first book has been out for awhile, what are the reactions you’ve heard about?
RP: For the most part the response has been pretty good. I’ve received rave reviews, mehs and outright pans. Jeff VanderMeer predicted that it would be a book that people would either love or hate and I think he was pretty much on the nose with that one. Some readers adore the book and some can’t get through it. I think it has been fairly successful for a first novel – I think it has held its own.
AA: With the print version available, are there any audio books, YouTube videos, or other formats on the horizon?
RP: Both books are released in Kindle, paperback, audio books and MP3-CD formats. I don’t think I’d ever do a book trailer even though I have seen some excellent ones. But I do reserve the right to change my mind about that one.
AA: Looking forward, what can you share about the next adventure for Captain Buckle?
RP: In Book 3, which is the journey to Atlantis, I plan to do a lot of opening up of the world history and the characters (along with heavy doses of action, of course) and this one may end with something of a cliffhanger. It’s underwater steampunk!
AA: Aside from writing like a fiend, what have you been up to since the release of the first book? Conventions? Tours?
RP: I attended Comic Con San Diego which was a lot of fun but crowded. I am hoping to make it to quite a few of the local conventions (around Los Angeles) next year. There’s a good one on the Queen Mary (The HRM Steampunk Symposium) in January that I may be on a panel or two. We’ll see. I also did a reading/signing with eight other 47North authors at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Redondo Beach last month and that was my first – and a great experience.
RP: No, no steampunk podcasts yet! I am a little fish. I did do the Reading and Writing Podcast with Jeff Rutherford and that was a great experience.
AA: One step at a time with those podcasts! Thanks again for joining us to help celebrate your latest book! Any thoughts to share while we wait patiently for the next book?
RP: You are welcome and thanks so much for having me aboard! I’d encourage your readers to enter the signed book giveaway! As for thoughts … it’ll be at least a year until Book 3 comes out but I have a suspicion that Book 3 and Book 4 will be grouped close together again. Please drop by my website if you want to follow updates on things like my new books, appearances and maybe some meatloaf recipes. Plus, you can join my newsletter. Steampunk on!
Keep up to date with Richard Ellis Preston, Jr on his website and blog,
and sign up for Richard’s book giveaway, if you haven’t already.