Airship Ambassador: Hi Leonardo, thanks for joining us for this interview.
Leonardo Ramirez: Thank you so very much. Honored to be here. And congrats on your Reader’s Choice Awards!
AA: Ahhh, at least someone still remembers! Thank you 🙂 Readers may know you from your other work, Haven of Dante: The Staff of Moshe and Haven of Dante: The Graphic Novel. Steampunks will know you for the two books of The Jupiter Chronicles. What is that series about?
LR: Geared for young chapter readers, the entirety of the story revolves around young Ian Castillo and his adventurous younger sister Callie, whose father had been missing for five years. Ian and Callie are living in a single-parent family in the poorest of conditions in New York City. Their mother, Camilla, works long hours at Mr. Furlong’s bakery just to make ends meet. And while Callie misses their father, it is Ian who has the harder time coming to terms with his father’s disappearance and their circumstances doesn’t make things any better.
Against Ian’s wishes, Callie tinkers with an old telescope that sits in the attic collecting dust and had been left for him as a present by their father years before. Sensing their presence, the telescope activates and scans the Castillos. It then transforms into a steam-powered ship that rockets them to the Jovian Realm where Skyrockets, Fireflights and Doomslayers fill orange skies with adventure and danger. It is there that Ian discovers the answer to the question he’s been asking himself for five years. Why did my father leave me?
AA: That’s a good mix of real world scenarios which families face, along with the creative whimsy which populates so many childhood day dreams. Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel?
LR: As popular as Steampunk is there are still many who don’t know much about it. Loving to play the part of the underdog, I wanted to reach out to parents who have never heard of the subgenre. This is a genre of Science Fiction that despite what has been done in the past visually, still has so many possibilities and it is that open ocean of untapped imagination that I feel drawn to and the Steampunk feel surely offers that.
AA: How does The Jupiter Chronicles express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to the existing works in the genre?
LR: I’ve always loved the look and feel of the old Flash Gordon serials as well as the movies that birthed classic SciFi. Movies like Forbidden Planet, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Metropolis as well as the later movies like The Rocketeer. Despite these wonderful works, there has never been an origin story (to my knowledge) written as to how Steampunk came to be. In this story I call it the “Steampunk Era”. This story shares with young readers how the Steampunk era began, its effect on Earth and where it stemmed from. I am, by no means, attempting to arrogantly usurp the genre. I am only trying to give kids a possible beginning of it because that’s the first thing that kids tend to ask, “Where did Steampunk come from?”
AA: I grew up watching reruns of those Flash Gordon serials, and I’ve often said how 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the start of my decades long road to steampunk. What was the inspiration and motivation for creating The Jupiter Chronicles?
LR: One late afternoon I was typing up ideas for my next work after Haven of Dante. Because my wife is a children’s librarian, I wanted to reach out to her kiddos and give them something fresh. She mentioned that reluctant readers do not have much SciFi to choose from after Magic Treehouse so that was a gap I sought to fill. My daughter came running down the stairs and said, “Daddy, why don’t you write a story about a boy and a girl who rescue their dad on another planet?” That’s when I got to work.
AA: One simple question can be all it takes to start something new and grand. What are the key themes in The Jupiter Chronicles?
LR: I grew up in a single-parent family and with that there was poverty, uncertainty and lack of guidance from a father figure that I wanted so badly but didn’t know that I needed. Conversely, the Jovian people, having been imprisoned on their home planet by the Martian Lord Phobos, have lost all hope of ever regaining their sense of self having been ruled by a leader who had promised to take care of them but instead ruled them with an iron fist. Because it’s written with kids in mind, fast-paced adventure takes center stage.
AA: What can you share with us about the personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities of the main characters, Ian and Callie Castillo?
LR: Because he was older when his father disappeared, Ian feels the effects of that a little deeper. With that he is the cautious one who does not want to get hurt anymore emotionally than he already has. This tends to manifest itself in the physical realm. He is very careful about his friendships and the chances he takes. He is always internally asking why bad things happen. The only thing that pushes him into action is his adventurous and daring younger sister, Callie who has none of those restraints. I modeled her after my daughter who is just as daring. At the age of five, my daughter rocked climbed 100 feet and at 14 she is now a 2nd degree black belt with weapons training. That may all sound serious, but she is also as silly as I make Callie out to be in the books. That’s who I wanted Callie to be.
AA: How do they change throughout the story, or does the world change around them, instead?
LR: Both. Ian comes to forgive his father for having left and to ‘some’ degree understand. This does not preclude him from suffering the consequences of the decisions his father had made but at least Ian begins to understand why even if there are still looming questions in subsequent books. In the midst of finding forgiveness for his dad, Ian and Callie change the course of the entire Jovian Realm and for its people.
AA: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story?
LR: Yes! Skyrockets play a part and in the first book it’s just the beginning. Each skyrocket has a symbiotic relationship with its pilot. The two become one. There are also jetpacks that strap on to our heroes backs called Fireflights with wings shaped like those of a bat. There are also different orbs that correspond to each planet in the Jovian system. Each planet has its own characteristics and members who will later become part of what is eventually called the Chrono Legion display those characteristics. The Book of Worlds contains the history past, present and future of all the planets in the Jovian Realm and each book contains the secret location of each orb. The orb itself contains the essence of that world. Should there ever be a devastating attack resulting in the destruction of the Jovian Realm or any of its planets, those who can use the orbs can recreate that world. There is also one other use for the orb but we’ll save that for the book.
We’ll pause her in chatting with Leonardo. Join us next time when he talks about regions, races, and back story elements.
You can support Leonardo and our community by getting your copy of The Jupiter Chronicles here.