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.
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.
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?
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) ?
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!
You can support Tony and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.