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.