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.