Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Read Part Four here.
Airship Ambassador: What do you consider your first real writing experience? Was it a school assignment or something you just did on your own?
Peter Bunzl: When I was a kid I used to write and illustrate my own stories and comics, my dad kept them all in a folder and gave them to me a few years ago. I adore them, they are far more fun than my school writing assignments, none of which I kept. Then, when I was a teenager, I got into animation, I used to write ideas for short films, storyboard them and animate one or two scenes.
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
PB: When I used to write animated shorts, my ideas were always very visually oriented and cinematic. And they still are – I love magic realism and weird quirky story ideas – that’s the animator in me. Those things are essential to sustain a short story or film. But for a novel you need to learn to write stronger plots, dimensional characters and dialogue. It takes work, but I hope I’ve improved at those skills over the years.
AA: In your experience as a writer, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?
PB: When to take criticism onboard, and when to ignore it! If it’s from your editor or a writing buddy – people who care about your growth as a writer – it’s probably worth listening to. If it’s from some random person on Goodreads, you should probably ignore it, and let it go (as the song suggests).
AA: Isn’t the first lesson as an author “Don’t read the comments!” ? What story would you like to write but haven’t, yet?
PB: I want to write a contemporary story about kids with magic powers, but I don’t want it to be like Harry Potter – the world would be quite different. I’d also like to write a third book with Robert and Lily set in the Cogheart world
AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
PB: Procrastination is my biggest sin – thanks broadband! I have an internet blocker programme for when I desperately need to write. So I put that on, find a good music soundtrack and try and hammer through the scene that I’m stuck on. I try not to read back what I’ve written on a first draft because it won’t be pretty, and it’s best to get to the end before you start editing things or doing drastic rewrites anyway.
AA: You are speaking to the choir about procrastination. It’s a lifelong fight. How is London for writing?
PB: It’s good to be in London for events and publicity, you meet a lot of other writers and can build up a network and contacts. There’s tons of writing groups and talks and festivals and things going on. Sometimes writing at home can be noisy and distracting, but there’s always the library. Libraries are a superb place to go and write or do you edits, also to find books you’d never think of reading.
AA: In your experience, does it seem like readers prefer a print or electronic format?
PB: I think most children still read paper books. I prefer them too, because the artwork and design is such a contributing factor, plus a real book feels tangible and special – especially as a writer – there’s a joy of seeing your words on the printed page.
AA: It’s nice to have an ereader while traveling but I, too, like a good solid book when I’m reading on the couch of by the fireplace. Have you been affected by electronic piracy of your work?
PB: I haven’t yet, but I know other writers who get this a lot. Some of the stories I’ve heard about piracy are very depressing. Some internet platforms seem to make it quite difficult for authors to report piracy of their work, and I don’t think that’s helpful at all in the long run.
AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Cogheart?
PB: Nope. I’m not that famous!
AA: What? Say it’s not true! How was school for you growing up?
PB: I enjoyed primary school a lot more than secondary school, it was a much more creative environment and there was less pressure to work and to conform. I think that’s why I’m a little more comfortable writing for that age group. I don’t think secondary school encourages creative thinking, or at least it didn’t when I was at school, which is a shame, because that’s what will be of value in the future. Learning things by rote, retaining facts and figures – it’s not so useful nowadays, is it?
AA: Memorization only gets one so far. Your mother was a costume designer working on television shows and movies, and you were able to visit on set sometimes. How did those experiences help with story ideas and storytelling?
PB: My mum made the costumes for the animated series Postman Pat, and I remember as a child the director bringing the puppets round in little shoeboxes, with a drawing of what their outfits should look like and notes about their personality. One day we went to the studio and he showed us the sets and then ran some film through a Moviola – which is like a tabletop projector – and I saw all the characters moving. I think that started me off on my obsession with animation, and bringing my own characters to life in whatever way I could.
AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?
PB: I would be doing film and animation, which is what I trained in at art college and film school.
We’ll break here in chatting with Peter. Join us next time when he talks about interests and inspirations.
You can support Peter and our community by getting your copy of Cogheart here.