Welcome back to part three of our talk with Henry Walton, author of The Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket.
Part one can be read here.
Part two can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: What kind of attention has Thaddeaus Shockpocket generated?
Henry Walton: I am amazed at the diversity of readers it appeals to and the variety of attention it is getting. While we say the book is geared to young readers, it appears the strongest following is twenty and thirty-somethings. I think they get the tongue-in-cheek humor and absurdity of the stories. At the same time, I have met many younger fans at book signings. Several of these I would categorize as reluctant readers and I think this is a group that I would like to promote to further. The stories are a quick read and easily accessible to readers with short attention spans.
I am also pleased to say that Thaddeaus Shockpocket has generated attention on both sides of the ocean. A significant proportion of fans/followers are from the U.K. in addition to Canada and the U.S. and I have been interviewed by blog sites in all three countries.
AA: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like?
HW: As I was completing the first of the Shockpocket books, I did what most writers do and sent inquiries out to loads of agents and publishers. And like most, I received tons of rejections. A friend suggested I contact a local independent publisher that was just starting to build his business. We met and he liked what he read. With his coaching and editing, I completed Albion 77 and it was published in 2013. In the period since then, Calumet Editions has grown to publishing fifteen authors, several of them international best sellers. I have enjoyed the experience of working with a smaller independent publisher. He is very accessible and easy to work with but also holds my feet to the fire to meet target dates.
AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Thaddeaus Shockpocket? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?
HW: As far as the writing process, about one fourth of the time is writing the first draft of each book and three-fourths is fact checking, and then playing with language and pacing to ensure the stories move quickly and take the reader where he or she does not expect. The Shockpocket books are relatively short at around 25,000 words, so the initial drafts go fairly quickly. Then I spend endless hours chopping things out and mapping events against the master calendar to ensure continuity. This is becoming more challenging as Thaddeaus begins to use the time wave synchronization device. As far as deadlines, they are a necessary pain. Without my publisher hounding me for material, I would probably be doing fifteen other unrelated activities at any given time and never complete the series.
AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?
HW: Feedback is invaluable. As a writer, you can’t see the forest for the trees. You have ideas and back stories in your head that the reader is unaware of. Only an outside reader can bring a clean perspective to how the story reads. I think all authors tend to over-write. Editors are great for showing where there is unneeded content and refining your focus on the story.
AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?
HW: I have attended several steampunk conventions over the past several years and love the experience. Now that book two is out, readers of book one are coming up to buy book two and pressing me to complete book three. The positive feedback provides me with the energy to return to the desk and create more stories.
This summer my wife and I embarked on what we coined the Shockpocket Mustaches across America tour and took the Amtrak train from Minneapolis to Seattle. We communicated where we would be ahead of time and promoted the book, not only during the two-day train ride, but in several towns in Washington. We had a blast and sold books everywhere. Along the way, we took pictures of fans holding Shockpocket mustaches up to their faces. I think my two favorites are of the Amtrak train attendant standing next the train coach and of the barman at an Irish Pub in Ocean Shores.
AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?
HW: Not as much as I would like. Last summer I attended the Association of Writers and Writing Programs national conference and found that to be very educational. I also belong to the Society of Children’s’ Book Writers and Illustrators and attend their conferences to meet with other writers and learn the latest trends in writing. My publisher has periodic conferences for his writers and those events are good opportunities for sharing ideas and critiques with each other. And, of course, I take the opportunity to compare notes with other steampunk writers whenever I can at conventions.
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
HW: I have become more disciplined in my writing and I think the story telling is evolving and developing more depth. As primarily a short story writer, my focus in book one was primarily on creating several humorous vignettes that occur within the larger arc and how to make each one funny on its own. Book two has more layers and intrigue, as it were. It is still a collection of hilarious events, but there are additional factors driving the story and the introduction of suspense that make it a more compelling read.
AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
HW: Loud music and lots of coffee.
AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Thaddeaus Shockpocket? What kind of reactions have you received?
HW: That is not happening yet but I must say that recently as I entered the main gate of a renaissance festival dressed as Thaddeaus, I heard someone announce, “The professor has arrived.” To be recognized in the non-steampunk setting was absolutely brilliant.
Ahh, cosplay talk is a good way to end part three of our chat with Henry Walton.
Check back for the conclusion!
Keep up to date with Henry’s latest news on his website.
Also, check out his exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.