Read Part One here.
Airship Ambassador: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story? Ships, devices, etc?
Peter Bunzl: The Cogheart – It’s a mysterious perpetual-motion-machine that was invented by Lily’s father ten years ago, it was thought destroyed, but now silver-eyed villains are searching for it. They think Lily’s father has hidden it somewhere in their home.
AA: Secret map or no, it will be interesting to find out where the team thinks it is. What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Cogheart?
PB: I have great affections for the mechanical characters – Mrs Rust, Captain Springer, Miss Tock and Mr Wingnut – they’re proper clockwork robots, like automatons, except they can think and feel like real people. You wind them up with a unique winding key and on that power they can run all day. When they wind down it’s as if they’re sleeping and only re-winding them will wake them up. Other mechanicals work, not only as servants in the houses of the rich, but also as porters for The Royal Dirigible Company, Hansom Cab drivers, and they help run various services for humans.
AA: We definitely need a steampunk world like that! Not that I’m saying I could use help around the house and yard … OK, yes I am. Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?
PB: I adore the airships in the story. In the world of Cogheart zeps are the main mode of transport over distance. There are all kinds of different airships floating about, from patchwork dirigibles to massive weaponised zeppelins. Plus there are steam-wagons – which are steam powered horseless-wagons, like the very early petrol and electric motor-cars. Robert and Lily use all these modes of transport – and shanks’s pony – to make their way to London and find out what’s happened to Lily’s father.
AA: What passage, paragraph, or scene was really memorable to write?
PB: “We’ll help the fox, won’t we?” Robert said. “I’m afraid if we don’t it might wind down for ever.”
Thaddeus thought about this. “Men were chasing it you say? And John’s airship is missing. It…crashed? I wonder if this is something we should get involved with…? It sounds dangerous.”
Robert sat down on the stool beside his da. “It’s something that needs fixing, and you always say, ‘If something needs fixing…'”
“‘…we should try our best to fix it, no matter the cost.’ You’re right, of course.” Thaddeus gave his son a weary look. “Such terrible things happen in the world, don’t they? Violence against mechs and humans. And sometimes it feels easier to give in, or not to get involved. But, I suppose without those evils there’d be no chance for us to do good, and doing good is what matters. Though it can sometimes be very frightening…” Thaddeus paused and tapped the workbench thoughtfully with his screwdriver. “No one conquers fear easily, Robert. It takes a brave heart to win great battles.”
He peered at the fox. “Now, can we repair this, d’you think? Or has it ticked its last tock? Let’s have a look…”
AA: Was there anything that you loved but which just didn’t work and had to be cut?
PB: There was a whole storyline that was cut from the manuscript early on which involved the mechanicals fighting for their rights. I don’t want to say too much more about that in case it gets another shake in a future story!
AA: What kind of back story is there for Cogheart which didn’t make it into the final book?
PB: Pretty much the whole of Lily’s backstory is in the book. She’s only thirteen years old after all! Robert’s backstory and more about his family features in book two. As to the backstory of the mechanicals, as I said above, I think that might be part of a third book, if that happens.
AA: When people read Cogheart, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
PB: Try and enjoy this moment, this day, because in the end that’s all there is. As Robert say’s in the book; ’Life’s about the living of it, that’s all you have and all you can do: live and be happy.’
AA: That’s so true, and sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t come. How did elements of your own life play into Cogheart?
PB: Everyone has dark times and things that cause them grief or that they battle with. In a children’s adventure story it’s often an external thing they’re fighting, bad guys , etc. But for Robert and Lily it’s also about gathering wisdom and learning to face their fears and demons. I can relate to all that. I read some stuff by Alan Watts and similar writers when I was writing Cogheart and some of those philosophies about life and living fed into ideas about the characters’ growth in the book.
We’ll break here in chatting with Peter. Join us next time when he talks about research, memorable moments, and further adventures.
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