This week we are talking with Jonathan Burgess, author of Chasing the Lantern.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Jonathan, it’s nice to chat with you again after seeing you at several recent steampunk events, including Steamcon V in Seattle.
Jonathan Burgess: It was great seeing you too! You have the most amazing coats.
AA: Thank you very much, that’s very kind of you to say. What can you tell us about the basic story of Chasing the Lantern?
JB: Chasing the Lantern is the tale of Lina Stone, a young woman who finds herself embroiled in the feud between two rival bands of sky pirates. As they race after cursed treasure, she has to survive strange magic, diminutive monsters, and the captains themselves; a pair of dire enemies who also just happen to be married.
AA: I dare say there will be some current and former couples who can identify with that last part. What motivated you to create Chasing the Lantern?
JB: There’s a story behind that! I was writing another manuscript a few years ago, which I found myself completely dissatisfied with. No matter how much revision I put it through, I couldn’t seem to fix it, either. Eventually I was ready to give completely up, when I happened to take another look at the scene I was trying to improve. It concerned a group of sky pirates, and I found myself curious what these characters would get up to, all on their own.
So I went ahead and found out.
AA: Interesting how characters can take on a life of their own and tell the author what story to write about. Aside from their input on their lives, what elements from your life made their way Chasing the Lantern
JB: Oh dear. Well, I hope I’m not one of those authors who channel some aspect of their personality into their characters. Captain Fengel and Natasha Blackheart are actually rather horrible people, even if amusingly so. If I had to pick any one thing though, it is the sense of humor. Rapid-fire, acerbic, and occasionally absurd. That’s how I like to laugh.
AA: Humor is always a good trait to have. What kind of back story is there for Chasing the Lantern which didn’t make it into the final book?
JB: Quite a bit. A whole world, in fact. But at its most simple, The Dawnhawk Trilogy is the beginning to a tale about a fantasy setting moving into an industrial age. Though they don’t really know it, the sky pirates of Chasing the Lantern are the last of a dying breed, soon to come into conflict with the ascendant Kingdom of Perinault as it remakes itself into an empire, ushering in a new age of colonialism.
AA: What can you share at this point about the sequels in the trilogy?
JB: On Discord Isle, the direct sequel to Chasing the Lantern, is already in print! The third novel, tentatively titled Across the Burning Sky, is being worked on as I write this. I’m also laying the groundwork for a parallel trilogy as my follow-up project, which covers class struggle and the industrial changes to the world in more detail.
AA: When people read Chasing the Lantern, what would you like for them to take away from the story?
JB: I’m not overly fond of preachy fiction, but if there’s any lesson to be had in my novel, it is simply this; relationships are complicated. Friends, family, and significant others all have diverse opinions and attitudes. Sometimes they simply don’t line up with yours. Sometimes two people can be so similar they end up driving each other crazy. Learning to accept that fact is the first step to dealing with it, and an adventure all on its own.
AA: That’s good relationship advice for everyone 🙂 What kind of research went into creating the Chasing the Lantern world?
JB: While the airships of the Haventown sky pirates are utterly fantastic creations, I did do a fair bit of research into both nautical terminology and how dirigibles are built.
The biggest bit of balance, was actually designing the things in a sub-optimal manner to show how much of an emergent technology it is. For example, the Dawnhawk was built with a grossly oversized captain’s cabin due to Natasha Blackheart’s swollen ego. As well, the helm of the airship is still situated in the stern of the vessel, even though it would make more sense to have it up near the bow where the pilot could actually see what’s ahead. Why? Because for all of their brilliance, the Mechanists who constructed the thing are still operating with many preconceived notions of how a ship should be built.
We’ll take a break here in talking with Jonathan.
Join us next time we he talks about world building and his path to publication.
Until then, keep to date with Jonathan on his website.