Interview 109, The Guns Above Author, Robyn Bennis, Part 2

Welcome back for part two of our talk with Robyn Bennis, author of The Guns Above.

Read part one here.


Airship Ambassador: Let’s talk about what went into creating the airship battles. It cannot be an easy feat to make the attack by two fairly slow moving objects engaging and riveting, but that’s what I thought of them. How did that play out for you while writing?

Robyn Bennis: Saying it wasn’t easy is an understatement. I can still recall pacing back and forth in my apartment, or fretting in the coffee shop down the street as I toiled to make those scenes work. I’m honestly not sure how I did it, except that, on several occasions, it involved giving up completely and then having an epiphany in the shower.


AA: Never underestimate the power of the shower! Was there any beloved scene that you ultimately just had to cut?

RB: I would say no. Many scenes from the original draft were cut, mostly for pacing reasons, but when I have to cut something I really love, I usually find a way to sneak it back in somewhere else.


AA: Clever! What background history or elements are there for this world which we didn’t see in The Guns Above?

RB: There’s quite a bit, but I’m not telling. I have to leave some surprises for the sequels, right?

AA: Yay for sequels! Are there any thoughts you would like readers of The Guns Above to recall later?

RB: I hope they take away the idea that they can endure and survive in a hostile environment, and not that they can solve a lot of their problems by shooting a cannon at them.


AA: But … cannons! Did you have any laugh out loud or cry in the corner moments during the course of this book?

RB: I had a moment that was both, actually, when my salaried day job disappeared in a puff of cancelled government contract. Suddenly, I was paying Silicon Valley rent with no income. In the end, it turned out great, though. I switched to consulting, which allowed me the flexibility to finish the book, edit it, and start agent-hunting in just a few months. All that would have taken a year or two, if I’d been working 60-80 hour weeks at my old job.


AA: It can be difficult sometimes to create a believable world without dumping a lot of new information on the reader, but I think you did a great job in creating the world, the people, and the events. What kind of research and balance went into creating all of that?

RB: More research than balance, to be honest. I acquired every resource on airships I could find and picked over them until the pages were worn. I also picked the brains of my engineering-inclined friends, to the point that some of them must have gotten tired of me, though they never showed it. Thank you so much, Lou, Anne, Ryan, and Nimisha!

AA: Hope those friends stick around for more books! How long did it take to write, and rewrite, The Guns Above?

RB: The first draft took about a year and a half, and initial edits about six months. Once I nabbed an amazing agent, it took just a few months to sell. From sale to publication took another year and a half. Luckily, the flexibility of consulting allowed me to hit all of my editor’s deadlines without much trouble.


AA: That’s great! Now, how about a sequel?

RB: Absolutely! I’m happy to report that you’ll soon get a sequel titled By Fire Above. It’s currently scheduled for a May release, and will delve deeper into Ensign Kember and Josette’s mother. We’ll also get to see how the people of Durum—adored by Bernat and reviled by Josette—react to enemy occupation.


AA: Excellent! If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like The Guns Above. What is “X”?

RB: Awesomeness?


AA: Can’t really argue with that. If The Guns Above were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

RB: It’s funny, because I have such crystal-clear images of what my characters look like, I can’t imagine any Hollywood stars in the roles. So, for my own sake, I hope they keep me far away from the casting office if they ever do a movie.

AA: Nice problem to have! What has your overall experience been like to become a published author?

RB: There’s no usual way to be published, but if there were, it would be mine. I cold-queried a bunch of agents, got a rockstar in Paul Lucas of Janklow and Nesbit, and he took things from there. A few months later, Diana Pho at Tor picked it up.


AA: Diana does have excellent taste! How was it getting and agent and editor onboard?

RB: As far as feedback goes, it’s the same advice I give to critique groups: chill out and listen. Even if your agent and editor fails to see the genius vision behind some aspect of your novel, take a day to think about why they failed to see your genius vision. I mean, you want your genius vision to shine through, right?


AA: Taking a moment to let that first reaction pass is always a good idea. Now that you are published and writing more, how has that affected your ratio of reading to writing?

RB: Paradoxically but perhaps not surprisingly, becoming a pro writer has really cut into my reading time. I’ve bounced back a bit since moving to a cheaper city, where I can get by on less real work, but I’m still only reading a book every two weeks or so, or a ratio of about twenty pages read to every one written. Whereas, as an amateur writer, I used to read a book or two per week. That’s what I’d recommend for amateur writers looking to step up their game, if possible. Read everything you can, in every genre, as long as it’s well-written. Prioritize reading over writing for as long as you can get away with it.


You heard Robyn – get to your reading!

Let’s take a break in our chat with Robyn to pick out that next book.

Join us for the conclusion when she talks about reading, growth, and role models.

Until then, keep up to date with Robyn’s latest news on her website.

You can support Robyn and our community by getting your copy of The Guns Above here.


Published in: on March 27, 2018 at 5:54 pm  Comments (1)