Airship Ambassador: Hi Jay, thanks for joining us for this interview.
Jay Noel: Hi Mr. Ambassador. It’s so fantastical to be here.
AA: What is your new book, Dragonfly Warrior, about?
JN: It’s about a naïve prince who is sent out into a very dark and dangerous world in order to save his people. Yes, there’s fun steampunk elements in my book, but really, it’s about the loss of innocence in a world where those with the most powerful machines rule.
AA: What was the motivation for creating Dragonfly Warrior?
JN: I grew up reading H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and lots and lots of mythology. I wanted to create a world and a story that combined all of the things I love most.
AA: Why choose a steampunk world to tell this story?
JN: Honestly, I didn’t know what “steampunk” was until I had finished my very first draft. A fellow blogger had made a steampunk gun to sell on ebay, and I Googled “steampunk.” The whole world opened up to me, and it was incredible to finally put a word to the kind of things I loved so much. Several of my book’s themes aligns very well with the “punk” aspect of steampunk. Questioning the morality of technology, questioning authority, and fighting against oppression…these are some of the deeper aspects of the steampunk genre I explore.
AA: Authors often talk about how elements of their own lives, the reality and the dreams, make their way into their stories. How did this play into Dragonfly Warrior
JN: The two main characters, Zen and Enapay, sort of represent my own internal struggle between my idealistic self and my realistic self. I’ve wrestled with that whole yin-yang aspect of my personality. I think it’s about finding balance, and these two characters are great foils for each other and represent two completely opposite ends of personal philosophies, but together, it works.
AA: What kind of back story is there for Dragonfly Warrior which didn’t make it into the final book?
JN: My initial draft was just WAY to long. It was two-and-a-half novels big. So I broke it up into three books. Originally, my novel began with my main character as a child, so you got to see him grow up to become a renowned soldier and hero. But I had to cut all of that. Maybe I’ll make that into a novella or short story to give to my readers.
AA: It’s nice to see that all that material won’t go to waste or be unavailable. Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?
JN: The second book, Shadow Warrior, will be released on August 8th (I hope). Iron Warrior, the third and final book in this first trilogy, is planned for a January 2015 release. Many readers have asked me to do a spin off of some other characters, and there is definitely something beyond this first trilogy that I’m planning.
AA: That’s great to see this world expanding with more stories and perspectives.What would you like readers to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
JN: I believe that everyone is on some kind of journey, a journey of self discovery and growth. Life is filled with all kinds of tragedy and pain, but I do believe in the end, it’s all for a reason. I hope my readers can see that message in my story.
AA: What kind of research, and then balance, went into creating the Dragonfly Warrior world?
JN: I do consider Dragonfly Warrior an alternative history book, so I did lots of research on the technological, sociological, and political struggles of the 19th century. My book also includes a really fun steampunk submarine (my nod to Jules Verne), so I did lots of research on how submarines work. Of course, I also studied steam combustion. But I do take the technology beyond conventional limits. My playground is speculative fiction after all.
AA: What elements were included so readers could feel the Dragonfly Warrior history?
JN: Readers who love world history will see tidbits from various time periods. They will see parallels to the Roman Empire, Japanese-Sino conflicts, European wars, and an interesting spin on Native American history. I know, there’s a lot in there, but it’s not as confusing as it sounds. I promise!
AA: What kind of attention has Dragonfly Warrior generated?
JN: It’s been a real interesting mix of readership that’s been drawn to Dragonfly Warrior. I’ve had readers that told me straight up that they actually “didn’t get” steampunk at all, but enjoyed my book. I think the story and characters are pretty universal, so I took that to be a big compliment. I would really love to have the steampunk community give my book a chance. It hasn’t happened yet, but I feel like I’m working to gain acceptance by steampunks.
Because my characters are very diverse, it’s also been great being featured by several multicultural blogs and websites.
AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Dragonfly Warrior which you’ve heard about?
JN: I had one reader applaud my world building and said that my book was Nebula Award caliber stuff. That really took my breath away. Another complimented me on my ability to make the words flow so well, that reading my book was effortless. That’s huge, because I work very hard to make that happen. Mostly, readers want that second book out right now. And that’s a good thing.
AA: Being very readable, especially with an involved storyline, is always a huge attractor. Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like?
JN: That was an adventure in and of itself. I was offered a contract by my first publisher after pitching it to them in person. It was an amazing high to finally get that contract. But just as it was about to go to editors, that publisher went out of business. I got my rights back and was able to get another publisher to offer a contract for Dragonfly Warrior and the sequel, and just as it was it the later stages of editing, the publisher announced that it was either going to shut down or be sold to someone else. So I requested my rights back and I resolved to get this book out into the world. I started my own publishing company and hired some great people to help me publish Dragonfly Warrior. It all worked out in the end, but it wasn’t easy.
AA: That does sound like quite and an adventure and emotional rollercoaster, getting a book deal but losing it through no fault of your own or the book, twice! For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?
JN: Find editors and beta readers that are willing to tear you to shreds. Nothing is wrong with having a family member or your significant other give you feedback. But objective help is always best. I tore down and built up Dragonfly Warrior four or five times until I felt it was as close to perfect as I can get it. Also, don’t rush the process. These days, self publishing makes it easy to just hit “publish” and get a not-so-clean product out there. Take the time to find professionals that might hurt your feelings, but will help you become a better writer.
We’ll break here in our chat with Jay Noel.
Check back in the conclusion where Jay talk about his writing process and influences.
Until then, keep up to date with Jay on his website.