Interview with Author Tony Pi, Part 2

Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk with Tony Pi, author of Our Chymical Seance, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Part one can be read here.

 

Airship Ambassador: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Our Chymical Seance history?

Tony Pi: I put in echoes of the real history of the Banff Springs Hotel, and of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, who was the President of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the founder of the Canadian railway hotels.

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AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

TP: I have a writing group in Toronto, and we help each other with ideas, drafts, and edits. We also work on collaborations, which is fun and a great learning experience. It’s refreshing to see how someone else tackles a story, and comes up with things you haven’t considered.

 

AA: Other perspectives can be very informative and sometimes educational. Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

TP: I’m content to let ideas simmer. I’ve tried staring at a blank computer screen but that doesn’t seem to inspire words. Often it’s a matter of having the right, final ingredient that will spark the story, and that could come from anywhere, so I try to find tidbits that might do that job, be it an article, a musical, a museum visit, or a day trip.

 

AA: How is Toronto for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

TP: Toronto has its strengths, and I was able to found a writing group due to the concentration of F&SF writers in the area. Resource-wise, I am fortunate that I work at the University of Toronto, and have access to the research libraries. I have found much inspiration in the stacks, and would sometimes just browse through the shelves mining for ideas I might not come across in a public library, thanks to the greater range and depth available. For me, then, it’s not a matter of which city but whether the city has the kind of research opportunities that I am familiar with.

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

TP: I enjoy computer games, roleplaying games, and watching television. I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since high school, and currently have a gaming group playing Pathfinder.

 

AA: Ahh, DnD! I first learned about it in high school, too, and a number of my friends play regularly. Despite some of the controversy in the early days, from people and groups who had their own perspective about some game elements, I think the game can be entertaining and educational for people. In a world of make-believe, players can learn more about themselves and life.  There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

TP: I wish I had time to learn and develop apps. I’ve always enjoyed programming, but it’s hard to keep up or find the time. I’d love to do a story at some point where the story’s told partly through an app that the reader would use.

 

AA: What other fandoms are you part of (as a fan or participant) ?

TP: I’m a long-time fan of Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Star Trek. I read a lot of comics (particularly Legion of Super-Heroes and Justice League), but am now more drawn towards manga.

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AA: Excellent interests, and quite close to my own! Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

TP: Many, but on my mind because of the seance angle, I’d say Canadian film director, Guy Maddin. I got to know him during his time as a Screenwriter-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, and I very much admired his fearless and wildly imaginative approach to worldbuilding. His Seances project, where the idea is that lost films have spirits that could be invited to possess actors today to re-tell their story, was definitely another inspiration. Having watched one such re-enactment on stage as he filmed, I saw how spooky and mesmerizing seances can be.

 

AA: Sounds like something to add to the list. What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

TP: Doing my Ph.D. at McGill University was both the most positive impact and the greatest challenge in my life. Living in Montreal and working on my thesis changed my outlook on many things, I don’t think I would have been a writer if not for those years there. It wasn’t just the training I received in semantics and analytical thinking that I’m grateful for, but also friends and mentors that still inspire me today.

 

AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite hotdog condiment, type of movie, and type of casual wear?

TP: Fried onions, superhero movies, and t-shirts.

 

Thanks, Tony, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  We look forward to hearing about your next projects!

Keep up to date with Tony’s latest news on his website and on Twitter.

You can support Tony and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

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Published in: on June 28, 2016 at 7:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author Tony Pi

This week we are talking with Tony Pi, author of Our Chymical Seance, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

 

Airship Ambassador: Hi Tony, thanks for joining us for this interview.

Tony Pi: It’s a pleasure to be here.

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AA: Your work has been published in Ages of Wonder, Abyss & Apex Magazine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies Magazine. You were shortlisted for the 2009 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and have been a finalist (a few times) for the Aurora Awards.  Now, your story, Our Chymical Seance, is part of the Clockwork Canada anthology. What is it about?

TP: Set in a grand railway hotel in Canada Northwest, Professor Tremaine Voss visits his friend Sir Cesar De Bruin, owner of Chateau Banffshyre, who invites him to a suspicious seance in hopes that he could prove it a hoax.

 

AA: Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel?

TP: My adventures featuring Professor Voss are set in a parallel history where magic collides with technology, in an era when the wonders of cinema and paleontology begin to captivate his world. Steam and clockwork work very well alongside magic for the feel I wanted in the series.

 

AA: Sounds like a world where magic and technology could be complimentary instead of in conflict. What was the motivation for creating Our Chymical Seance?

TP: When Dominik told me about Clockwork Canada, I knew I had another story to tell about Professor Voss, whose interest in fossils would have brought him to the Canadian Badlands. My research on Alberta led me to read up on the history of the Banff Springs Hotel. And when I saw Dame Angela Lansbury on stage as a medium in Blythe Spirit, I knew I wanted to write about a seance.

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AA: With those as a foundation, the story is already off to grand start. What can you share with us about the main characters, Tremaine and Madame Skilling?

TP: Professor Tremaine Voss has a doctorate in Aigyptian archaeology and magic, but his fascination with sphinxes and the cults that worship them has also made him an expert in fossilized lion hybrids (such as manticores and merlions). He also has an old injury in his left leg that requires him to use a walking stick. Unfortunately life seems to mirror fiction, as I recently suffered a similar injury as my protagonist, forcing me into a cast and eventually a cane for several months. I suppose the upside is that I now understand Tremaine’s plight much better.

As for Madame Skilling, she’s a spirit medium whose secrets are her own, and it is not my place to divulge them here.

 

AA: Hopefully you healed relatively quickly. Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story?

TP: Madame Skilling’s mysterious seance device, the Ektoptikon, is key to the story.

 

AA: After reading the story, the Ektoptikon might be a fun steampunk item to build! What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Our Chymical Seance?

TP: In this world, fabulous creatures exist. However, lion hybrids are extinct, and only fossil records exist. One such lost species is the calygreyhound (a cat/deer/eagle/lion monstrosity), whose fossils are abundant in the Badlands. The city of Calygrey is named after them.

The world is very much in an era of exciting change. Advances in alchemy have brought film technology from black-and-white to colour, but sound-on-film still eludes them. Other innovations changing the world include clockwork cinema projectors, empyreumatic trains, limbeck lifts and more.

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AA: What kind of back story is there for Our Chymical Seance which didn’t make it into the final book?

TP: Aside from the worldbuilding from my other stories, I had considered what the Canadas would be like in Tremaine’s world. I wish I had time to explore Montraal and Huronto, for example, or to linger in the luxury of Chateau Banffshyre and convey how important these majestic railway hotels were in their heyday to those travelling across the continent.

 

AA: Might there be more stories with Tremaine or Madame Skilling for readers to enjoy?

TP: Definitely. I enjoy returning to Tremaine’s world now and again, and there are already many ideas I have in my back pocket.

 

I definitely look forward to reading those!

We’ll pause here in our chat with Tony. Join us for the conclusion when Tony talks about writing, Toronto, and other interests.

Keep up to date with Tony’s latest news on his website and on Twitter.

You can support Tony and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on June 27, 2016 at 7:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Author Brent Nichols, Part 2

Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk with Brent Nichols, author of The Harpoonist, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Part one can be read here.

 

Airship Ambassador: What kind of research went into creating the The Harpoonist world?

Brent Nichols: My starting point was a vague idea about putting steam-powered superheroes into a Canadian urban setting. I chose Vancouver arbitrarily because it’s a big city that would have been reasonably populous in the Victorian era.

The end result was a story with some neat characters and a solid plot, but a setting that felt generic and unconvincing. I couldn’t figure out how to make the story work, so I set it aside for a long time.

Eventually I encountered another anthology call that specified stories set in Canada, where the setting was integral to the story. That forced me to do what I should have done first, which was to really think about my setting. I started reading about Vancouver in the 19th century, not with any particular goal in mind, just to give myself something to work with beyond my own assumptions.

It turns out Vancouver was an absolutely fascinating place, back in the day. The Harpoonist lives in Gastown, since the story is set in 1885 and the city hadn’t been incorporated as Vancouver yet. The city expanded at a phenomenal rate, and for a time the police force was entirely inadequate. That’s the era where I’ve got superheroes stepping in to fill the gap.

Steampunk is alternate history, so I didn’t want to pin myself too strongly to existing facts. That being said, the actual history of Vancouver is much too interesting to set aside. I read about the city’s origins, looked at maps from before the Great Fire of 1886, and pored over every online document I could find about the history of the Vancouver police.

Some earlier research involved the history of the railroad and the plight of the Chinese who were brought in to build it. I found 19th-century census documents that let me prove that, for instance, there were Chinese women in Canada during that era.

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AA: That kind of research sounds really fascinating, to see the early days of the city, what life was like, knowing how it developed from there to become the city it is today. What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the The Harpoonist history?

BN: The main historical factors driving the plot are the unrest that accompanied the rise of automation in the textile industry, and the explosive growth of Vancouver combined with the much slower growth of its police force. The social woes of the industrial revolution permeate the story. It’s integral. The inadequacy of the police force in 1885 is something the protagonist thinks about briefly as he considers his options.

 

AA: A call to action because of inaction. Perhaps that is something which drives all kinds of people to get involved, to do something, anything, to make life better in some way. Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

BN: Making writing a habit is hugely helpful, although it’s not an easy state to achieve. Once you get there, though, you wake up every morning fully expecting to write, and you don’t quite feel right if you go to bed not having created anything.

I juggle multiple projects, which keeps things fresh. A novel can bog me down for months, so I regularly tackle small projects so I can get a sense of accomplishment and completion. To keep myself out of self-imposed ruts, I look for strange new things to try. It keeps me from always reaching for the same ideas and characters.

Self-publishing can be a way to sample success on at least a small scale while you’re waiting for an editor to finally say “yes” to a submission.

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AA: How is Calgary for writing?

BN: Calgary’s got a thriving local writing scene. I’ve found critiquing partners, and I’m a member of a terrific writing group called IFWA, the Imaginative Fiction Writers’ Association. There is also a fantastic writers’ conference called When Words Collide which I attend every summer. I find myself regularly surrounded by people who inspire me, support me, and collaborate with me. Calgary’s a great place to be a genre writer.

 

AA: That’s really great to have people like that around you. Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

BN: Writing is such a strange, solitary activity. Most of us aspire to full-time writing, but I suspect day jobs are quite good for us. I’m a contract trainer. It’s intermittent work that pays reasonably well, but it gives me a lot of time off, which has helped me to be one of the more prolific writers I know.

 

AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

BN: I keep wanting to learn to draw and paint. Dramatic, vivid, comic-style art fascinates me. I want so badly to create art like that, but my skills fall terribly short of my aspirations, and when I try to improve I get frustrated. Sooner or later the sheer length of the road ahead discourages me, and I decide my time and spirit would be better spent writing. Maybe next year, though….

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AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite tv show, movie soundtrack, and metallic color?

BN: I’m going to go with Firefly, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I have no idea.

 

AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

BN: There’s nothing like artistic creativity. Go ahead and create. Share it with whomever can appreciate it. Those who don’t like it or don’t approve don’t actually matter. Every single awesome thing in the world has people who just don’t like it, and that’s okay. They don’t matter. The ones who appreciate and enjoy what you create are the ones who are relevant. So go create.

 

Thanks, Brent, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  We look forward to hearing about your next projects!

Keep up to date with Brent’s latest news on his website.

You can support Brent and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on June 21, 2016 at 7:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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