Interview with John R. White, Part 2

Welcome back for part 2 of our talk with John R. White, author of Airship Neverland and the sequel, Captain Hook and the Pirates of Mars.

Read part one here


Airship Ambassador: What kind of research and editing balance went into creating the Airship Neverland world?

John R White: I had to first determine what portions of Barrie’s works were in the Public Domain. I had several people try to tell me that the Disney Corporation owned the rights; they do not. However to be safe, I only used characters from His seminal work ‘Peter and Windy.’ There are significant differences in UK and US copyright laws. In the UK the property is owned by the Great Ormond Street trust.

I also had to find maps of Victorian London to correctly explain where Peter lived as an adult. There was also an intensive crash course in the way fine watches work.

As far as Pope Joan, she is a mytho-historical character, and I brought her into the Victorian Era, and

I openly admit I completely ignored any sense of historicity withTesla’s life, and ran amok with it.


AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Airship Neverland history and world?

JRW: I try to make people real. You can have all the window dressing and world building you like, but if it is not populated by compelling characters that seem real to you, go home and learn plumbing.

My goal has been, and my readers can tell me if I succeeded, to make each character seem like somebody you could or might know. Windy is a professional woman, has emotions and desires and makes mistakes. Alistair is a man of duty, who is haunted by failures; Tink is a young genius with an innocent view on the word. In Volume II she becomes an adult woman with adult concerns.

Peter is actually the shallowest character, because in Book I he doesn’t know who he is himself, and then tries to live up to all these expectations.

And as a person of faith, with Joan and Michael I wanted to depict a faith centered married couple, with real family problems.


AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Airship Neverland which you’ve heard about?

JRW: There are several, but two stand out the most.

1) The book were not even published yet, but I had done a hard viral marketing campaign, and had yet to even attend my first convention beyond a one day blitz at World Steam Expo 2011 when I got an email from a Facebook friend that told me that Airship Neverland was a topic of conversation at Dragon Con and people wanted to know when it was going to be released. That was a good sign.

2) When we finally got to selling the book at the following years WSE, a girl bought the disk on Friday (due to some failures with our business manager, we could only sell them as EBook files, on CD at the con.) came down Sunday, had successfully loaded it to her E-reader and spent two days in her hotel room reading the book. She said she couldn’t stop. I was very humbled, but grateful.


AA: You’ve been at several steampunk conventions and events, promoting and talking about Airship Neverland. What have those experiences been like you for you?

JRW: Life changing, to be honest. For many years I had been in an unhappy marriage, one that ended in a spectacularly gutting divorce. I had been demolished as a person, felt unwanted and useless. I then existed solely for my kids. I went through another relationship, got engaged to find that my fiancé was hiding a violent temper, and after ending it quit dating and became a hermit essentially. It was in a self-imposed 2 year ban on dating that I wrote the Trilogy, in one 18 month sprint. All three, back to back. After that moratorium ended, I met Mary and we married. I say all that to say this, I had to explain what steampunk was to Mary, Introduce her to my books and then enter the steampunk scene as a rookie author. This was a daunting process.

What made it a joy was having the support of people and friends like Morgan Kollin, Michael Shea, and Thomas Downey at World Steam Expo. Then came friendships with Eric Jon Larson, Aloysius Fox, you and so many others. I was welcomed as a friend, a professional and an equal.

What was most rewarding was to be considered a peer by the likes of Jay Lake, Karina Cooper and other writers. If peer is a stretch, one of the team.


AA: Thank you for the compliment. New friendships and connections are one of the best strengths of the steampunk community. What kind of attention has Airship Neverland generated?

JRW: Well, we are developing plans to film with Mike Zawaki, director of ‘Wars of Other Men.’ We have made 4 audio episodes, and are now working with Jim Trent of Mad Raven productions to produce an RPG. It was really cool to talk with Barry Bostwicke, sell him a book and hear from Thomas Willeford that Barry liked it.


AA: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like?

JRW: This side of Hell. First off, I’m not only dyslexic, but also have dyscalculia. I’m bad with letters and numbers. I have issues with formulas and processes, so my grasp on basic writing mechanics is shaky at best. But, I’m a decent story teller. So I know I need an editor.

Editor 1) Took 6 months of my life, and $800 and handed me back an unprintable mess. I had a contract, but the money was gone. I wrote it off as a learning mistake.

Editor 2) His name is on Book 1, so that’s that. He edited the book, threw it back to me. He didn’t take my calls and barely answered my emails. There were, and still are editing issues with it. This we know. I was beyond disappointed with him, as he has a name for himself in the publishing world.

Editor 3) Mandy Alyss Brown. Her I will mention by name. Lovely lady, and wonderful to work with.

Perfect as an editor, no. But it was her first novel she edited and she did her best. Mistakes? Some, and Mary policed them very hard to the point I gave her co-editor status.

I would recommend Mandy, provided (and she knows this) she stays on focus. She is a good egg.

Mary is getting her editing certificate and will most likely be my primary editor in the future.


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

JRW: Editors? Have a very specific contract, and pick one that works with you, not just for you. Pick a hardass and not a yes man/woman.

Agents: I need one.


Let’s pause here in talking with John R. White. Join us next time as he talks about his writing process and other interests.


Published in: on April 30, 2014 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with John R. White

This week we are talking with John R. White, author of Airship Neverland and the sequel, Captain Hook and the Pirates of Mars.


Airship Ambassador: Hi John, thanks for joining us! It was good to see you again last year at Teslacon IV.

John R. White: Teslacon was amazing for Mary and I. It is always a pleasure to come, and we consider it our steampunk home. We were blessed to stay at a friend’s house, had a blast debuting the book and had front row seats to the immersive show. Couldn’t have had a more wonderful time.


AA: There are two books now in your series, Tales of the Airship Neverland. What is the journey about in each?

JRW: Technically there is two and a half. Tales of the Airship Neverland is volume I, Fairy Dust Never Rusts is Volume 1.5, and now Captain Hook and the Pirates of Mars is Volume II. Fairy Dust was released last Christmas as a free download, but is canon.

Volume I is of course the introduction to my reimagining of the Barrie legend. It has to deal primarily with the fall of Admiral James Hooker into piracy, and his overthrowing of the Nation of Bryton. His rival Admiral Windy Darling rescues 4 year old Peter, Prince of the Air Nation (The PAN) and hides him away for 18 years with the aid of some machinery of Nikola Tesla’s. (Tesla has a huge role to play in the series.)

Volume II picks up 3 years into the war as it has spread into the aether. Captain Hook ~as Hooker is now known has enlisted the population of Mars to help in his war. There is also the subplot of great upheaval on the Airship; marriages going south, deaths occurring and monsters from the past arising.

All of that will be resolved in Volume III: Dust and Ash.

Fairy Dust is a self-contained adventure that takes place 2 years before they retrieve Peter in Airship Neverland, but after the revolution. I call it a ‘midquel.


AA: How did you come to create Airship Neverland?

JRW: I was introduced to the term steampunk by the artist Tess Fowler (Creator of the Apocalypse Princesses illustration.) We had a very long talk, I mentioned that peter Pan would be fun to steampunk as a story. She said ‘Go do it.’ The rest is history. As to the success of the work, I give credit to God. I’m just and idiot with a keyboard.


AA: Why choose steampunk as a world aesthetic for Airship Neverland?

JRW: Pirates, Fairies, Mermaids… it’s seemed a logical progression. I added Tesla to explain that it was an alternate dimension.


AA: How did elements from your own life play into Airship Neverland?

JRW: Well it’s not really a shadow biography, but there are elements that I explore as a survivor of childhood abuse. I explore how noble people can allow themselves to darkness, and the damage that comes from making that decision. Hook is very influenced by my own father who was a naval officer.

Elspeth is really the mirror of him, and perhaps even more than that, as you will read.


AA: What kind of back story is there for Airship Neverland which didn’t make it into the final books?

JRW: None really; in fact Fairy Dust was written to provide backstories that didn’t exist. I created this heroic character in Winifred Darling and of course she has two brothers. Some dynamics were hinted at, but not explored. Why was Michael a priest? Why does she run to John first when she discovers she’s pregnant? Where are their parents? This family needed to be defined, and in doing so to explain why Windy/Winifred was who she was. Also, I needed to explain how Tink learned to fly.


AA: Are there any plans for the journey to continue?

JRW: Yes, probably. The prequel series ‘The Tinker Belle Chronicles’ is plotted and about 30K words written. It will be at least 2 books. However, when it comes out I don’t know. I have a cyberpunk novel that was written between 1990-95, and it needs rewrites. It will be the book that follows Volume III. There is also a Christmas Book that will be illustrated, non-steampunk.

In 2015 I will have been working on Airship Neverland for five years straight. I have plans to release a 5th year commemorative version of Volume I. It will have all new expanded scenes and material and will be at least 25% longer. It will come out after Dust and Ash, and then I will step away from steampunk for a brief hiatus, and will come back with the Tinker Belle Chronicles. If a pressed for a date, I would say by my schedule that will in 2017 at the earliest. Lord willing.


AA: As people read Airship Neverland, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

JRW: Man plans, God laughs. That you cannot really plan your life and that’s not a bad thing. I have seen so many people live miserable lives because life does not go as they planned. Thinking you can control your future is a conceit at best, and a delusion at worst.

This is not to say don’t have dreams and aspirations; far from it. We are given one life to live, and a toolbox of talents to use. Make what you will, but if things collapse on you try again, or try something new.

At 17 I had my life planned down to my old age and death. It all was based on my career in the USAF I was starting. That plan lasted precisely 29 days, and ended with me walking out of basic on a cane, and my right knee having been destroyed; God Tonya Harding-ed my knee and plans.

For the next quarter century I wandered around being everything that others told me to be. It wasn’t till 2010 I found myself.

That’s the other thing; you cannot be what others tell you to be, be who you wish to be.


Let’s pause here in talking with John R. White. Join us next time as he talks about research and editing.


Published in: on April 27, 2014 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Jim Trent, Part 3

Welcome back to the conclusion of our chat with Jim Trent, creator of steampunk card game, Twisted Skies, from Mad Raven Productions

Read Part One here

Read Part Two here


Airship Ambassador: How is Texas for this kind of work? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

Jim Trent: I’m originally from a small college community in Oklahoma and moved to Dallas, Texas two years ago but the difference has been noticeable. You really need to be within access of one or more large urban areas for maximum productivity when getting a product like this out. Overall Texas is a surprisingly great place to be an artist. There are a lot of friendly creative people down here and it’s fairly easy to conduct business. While someplace on the coast may have more folks in this business, the cooperative nature of southerners makes them good collaborators on projects.


AA: Most of the people I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that their steampunk work is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered working on the game?

JT: This really is my day job (outside of being a dad). I do some freelance writing, designing, and editing for other publications but mostly I focus on my little game company (Mad Raven Productions) and getting it to where I’d like it to be. The freedom to do this after years of retail work has really allowed my creativity to express itself and the time to develop games folks will enjoy without worrying about a 9 to 5 grind has been really helpful. My last business was a start up as well so I’m no stranger to entrepreneurship.


AA: Do people outside the regular gaming, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Twisted Skies? What kind of reactions have you received?

JT: As the game is still very new I don’t always get recognized for it but when I do I’m always very humbled. Usually people are more familiar with the game than me as the designer. If thousands of gamers had their game in their homes and never knew my name I would still be flattered. People actually recognized my character (Capt. James Fisk) more then they do me; the game designer. I’ve had people run up and ask to take a picture with me or to sign a card with my character’s picture on it and that’s always nice.


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

JT: My biggest past time is Historical Reenactment and it requires me to travel and leave the office behind which means I get regular chances to clear my mind. I love not only participating in large battle reenactments but I also just talking to tourist about the history of wherever I am volunteering, especially school kids, they have the best questions! I also really love to draw maps and do a small amount of fantasy cartography when I can for friend’s games and popular settings.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

JT: History gives me constant ideas for cool alternate time lines. Traveling a lot exposes me to other cultures and ideas on art. I enjoy meeting gamers in other parts of the country and hearing about their world settings. Drawing maps for other games always introduces me to new perspectives on settings. I really believe that an active mind that is constant seeing and hearing new things stimulates greater creativity for my own projects.


AA: Who or what do you count as your influences, motivators, or role models?

JCV: In game design I’ve always been influenced by the work of Steve Jackson (Munchkin,Illuminati), his ability to design games that play simply but have great depth of storyline is impressive. I’m also a big fan of John Wick (7th Sea, Legend of the 5 Rings) who has great story and worlds in everything he does. As a businessman I admire the work of independent minded innovators like Walt Disney and Henry Ford for their self confidence in the face of tough odds. In Steampunk I’m impressed by the work of people who encourage an open and accepting Steampunk community such as Eric Larson of Teslacon and my good friend Cedric Whittaker of the Airship Isabella.


AA: Three quick fire, random questions – what is your favorite vehicle, dinner food, and historical event?

JT: Vehicle- I love tall ships from the age of sail, Dinner food- Cajun seafood, so spicy so good, Historical event- The battle of Honey Springs 1863, on a frontier plain the American Civil War experienced it’s most diverse battle with combatants who were black, white, and from multiple native tribes battling over one of the most important questions in our nation’s history.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

JT: A big thank you to all who have supported Twisted Skies so far. It’s been a labor of love for a community I cherish. To support small press games is to take a leap away form the big publishing house sources and that’s a leap of faith. I really appreciate it.

I’d also like to invite all Steampunks to consider joining the Twisted Skies experience by talking with me about a card expansion based on your local Steampunk community. There’s nothing I’d like better than to produce a card for every Steampunk out there over the next ten years. There’s no limit to how many expansions we can produce with time and great people willing to work with the product.

Keep enjoying Steampunk, whatever it is you do it’s awesome!


Thanks, Jim, for joining us and sharing your experiences with game creation and steampunk.

Thanks to all of you, readers, too. Get your copy of , Twisted Skies today!

Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 7:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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