Interview #103 – Author Adam Dreece

This week we are talking with Adam Dreece, author of The Yellow Hoods series.

 

Airship Ambassador: Hi Adam, it’s great to finally have a chance to talk with you!

Adam Dreece: Thank you for having me!

AA: There are four, soon to be five, books for The Yellow Hoods.  As a whole, what is the series about?

AD: The Yellow Hoods takes place on Eorthe: a world right at the point of emerging on the steampunk from, with the invention of the first steam engine and airships. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes are real, from a secret society called the Tub led by a butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, and two master inventors in their twilight years: Nikolas Klaus and Christophe Creange.

Book 1 – Along Came a Wolf opens the series with a seemingly innocent beginning, and introduces us to the teen trio of Tee, Elly and Richy, and a strong supporting case. We get to watch as their sheltered life in a small mountain town is shattered, and they learn that the world’s infinitely more complicated and intimidating than they could have imagined.

The series gets a lot more intense as it goes, always balancing poignancy with cheeky humor. My inspiration, in many ways, was Good Omens. That special Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett mix, with a touch of Richard Asprin thrown in.

 

AA: Sounds like a good mix, and isn’t that how life can be, too? What was the seed for creating The Yellow Hoods?

AD: One night when my nine-year-old daughter couldn’t sleep, I told her a story about this wolf who was being teased by these three little pigs, and he knocked on a granny’s door for help. A girl in a red hood came out and helped, and then I had one fairy tale crash into another, resulting in a whole band of girls in various colored hoods. She laughed, a lot. No problem going to sleep after that.

A few weeks later, when I was stuck writing another book, my daughter asked me if I could write down that story. So I went to do that, and my natural multi-layered self took over. You can still see the footprint of that simplistic tail in the beginning, and then see how it transforms and builds in intensity as it goes.

I wanted to write a series that my daughter could enjoy now as a tween, later as a teen, then as an adult, and then one day as a parent, and connect with it on different levels.

AA: There are works of various kinds that I thoroughly enjoyed as a child, then as a teen, then as an adult. It’s fun to discover the multiple layers of meaning, content and context to keep the same story being new each time. That’s quite an accomplishment and I hope your daughter, and all of your readers, appreciate that ongoing gift. What can you share, spoiler free, about the upcoming fifth installment, The Day the Sky Fell?

AD: Book 5 releases in April 2017 and I’m SUPER excited about it. The story arc that really kicked off in Book 2 – Breadcrumb Trail comes to an end, and we see the “grand game” come to a conclusion. We have grand airship battles, the plans dashed, and an enemy vanquished which will leave a horrible scar on one of the Yellow Hoods.

I decided to make it an end to the series, as our heroes have been through a lot in about a two-year period. But, fans should not despair, as I’ve always promised that I’d be writing a sequel series. The better news? I’ve got a few other things planned in this world.

 

AA: Whew! Readers can easily get caught up in an engaging fictional world, and while each story can satisfy the need to know what happens next, there’s always that craving which remains to know and experience more. In one of the write ups about the series, you mention that it was” emphasizing teamwork and family connections as well as empowerment and self-esteem.” Why are those underlying key elements in the overall structure, and how did those rise to the top of the list for you?

AD: One of my reviewers wrote that, and I thought it was really neat that she picked up on that. I wanted the books to have positive role models. I have strong and smart female characters that are reflections of the amazing women who’ve been in my life, and not the typical “pretty pink princess” or “boy characters with a wig and female name.” I also wanted to show that people can be stronger together, rather than reinforcing that reoccurring them in many books that people are at their best when they go solo. Lastly, I also get a lot kudos for having gay characters where I just treat it as a character trait, and don’t make it a story-telling flag pole. Again, I just looked at the people in my life and wanted them represented.

I don’t consciously sit there and ask myself how I reflect these positive elements, but I do take the time to think through my characters and their actions. How do I challenge them versus their beliefs, and how do they fight back, or in one case, come back to them. Having led teams for years in the software world, I might have learned a few things about how to bring people around, and how to identify when someone’s breaking away from the values of the tribe.

AA: You have experience with the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game since high school, and then you wrote a D&D supplement for a contest being run by Wizards of the Coast back in 2000. How did that start your path down the steampunk road?

AD: You really, really do your research don’t you? WELL, back then I decided to create a Victorian-style world that had taken a sci-fi approach on magic. Meaning, they had levitating carriages, and were using mana to power machines. I play tested it with several of my friends, and it was pretty solid and well balanced, giving you that magic and bullets feel with an inventive feel.

Unfortunately, UPS screwed up and the submission was rejected. I was a few months into my new job at Microsoft after several months of unemployment (dot com bust), so I decided to put it aside and focus on my career. But it didn’t go to waste.

When I was writing Along Came a Wolf (Book 1 of The Yellow Hoods), I came to a fight scene and had to make a decision about what to do so that a twelve-year-old girl could have a reasonable chance against a middle-aged man with a gun. Magic? That felt like cheating. Super-powers? Worse. Nothing but realism? Ah, no. Steampunk-it-up? Yeah! I took the basic ideas, kept them very grounded, and away I went.

AA: Some of those early ideas are now part of your free online serial, The Wizard Killer. What is that story about, and why share the early free preview?

AD: Yes! When I sat down to write The Wizard Killer, I decided to use the heart and soul of that setting I’d made in 2000, but give it a post-apocalyptic twist, giving me a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting.

I wrote The Wizard Killer in an episodic serial style, and used a binge-worthy TV show as a model. That meant every week, I’d write an episodic. Each episode had to have a mini-arc, a reason for being, that kept the tension and moved the story ahead. It was a complete experiment, and worked out really well.

Part of that experiment was deciding to release the raw (unedited, unrevised) episodes as I wrote them. I wanted to see if I could build an audience for it, and I wanted feedback as I went. Well, the response was awesome. I’m currently writing Season 2 and posting raw episodes, though this time because of the added complexity of what I’m striving for, I’m posting episodes a bit after I’ve written them.

 

We’ll break here in our chat with Adam. Join us for the conclusion when he talks about characters and the various steampunk elements in the books.

Keep up to date with Adam’s latest news on his website.

You can support Adam and our community by getting your copies of The Yellow Hoods series here.

Published in: on March 14, 2017 at 7:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017 – Wrap Up

shaw-2017-xpkImage Courtesy of Mr. XPK

As we wrap up the fourth annual Steampunk Hands Around the World, it is worth looking at all the reasons we’ve read and heard about this year’s theme, Making Life Better, more importantly for you, dear reader, to think about how steampunk has had a positive impact on your own life.

We’ve heard about the effects of stories, art, music, and fashions. How we’ve learned, and taught. How our walls were broken down, and our personal horizon extending further.

Perhaps all of this could be summed up with this: Steampunk makes us happy.

We see it in the smiles, and hear it in the laughter. It’s there as people make new friends and join in new groups. We have fun, and show others how much enjoyment it all brings us.

We are the music makers,:

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

– English poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy, 1873

Not everyone in the world will learn about steampunk, or care to. They may deride it, or be aggressively defensive against something they don’t understand. That is their choice for themselves.

For those of us who participate in the steampunk community, we can make the most of it, and help it grow and thrive. We can make the most of what our community offers, individually, locally, regionally, and globally.

Here are just some of the comments left on Facebook about how steampunk makes lives better:

–  It gives me a creative outlet I didn’t really know I needed, and has introduced me to some amazing people from all across the Country!

– I’m new to it, but I love the non-judgemental atmosphere. No thread-counting, no “that’s not period”, and no body shaming.

–  There’s a certain satisfaction of being perpetually on the hunt for interesting things to add to one’s persona. There’s a creative outlet in learning new skills and applying them to Steampunk projects. You meet lots of new people with whom you already have much in common. It’s easy to adopt the Victorian manners and mores, so we are a very polite and courteous society, making interactions far more pleasant.
All in all, I love being around people who “get” me.

– It has given me an outlet to express my personality and creativity in a way I hadn’t been able to before, and it has given me the opportunity to meet interesting people

– I have met so many wonderful new friends through Steampunk and have been having so many fun adventures that I never imagined having otherwise

– It gives me an opportunity to focus on my own designs rather than following someone else’s, and a much needed reason to hang out and relax instead of working 24/7.

– Love how it’s inclusive and does not have an exclusive feeling. Instead of skirting the edges every one is welcome! Plus we can camouflage in the regular world

– Steampunk adds a sense of belonging. You have a community that is welcoming and inclusive that seems to say “come and sit a while, have a cup of tea”.

 

With every story and song, every artwork and outfit, and every friend and event, steampunk makes a positive difference in our lives, and it would be selfish for us not to share that happiness with others.

Be who you are.

Do what you do.

Support each other and the community.

– Kevin Steil, Airship Ambassador, 2014

Now, go forth and share the positive differences with others.

We’ll see you here next year as we take a Steampunk Road Trip around the world!

 

Read all of the entries for this year on the Official Link List and people’s personal updates on the Facebook event page.

 

Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 6:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017 – Collaboration

steampunk-hands3-2017-xpk

By Madame Askew

Months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with the dear Airship Ambassador about one of my most favorite aspects of the steampunk community: collaboration! Being a gracious and forward thinking gentleman, The Ambassador suggested the topic for Steampunk Hands Around the World. Of course, such a suggestion led me to ponder the topic and to consider what I might come to write for such an illustrious event. I considered and tossed away more ideas than I could ever fit comfortable in a such an essay.

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At last I realized that at the heart of the collaboration and its deep importance to me in this community is the simple fact that teamwork and partnership in the Steampunk community has been at the heart of leading me to a happier and better life.

Those who know me as Madame Askew will know that I spend most of my time collaborating, facilitating, and, I hope, inspiring all manner of frivolity around tea, costuming, and a variety of special events. I never do these activities alone, however. I am always surrounded by those joining me in the activities, lovely humans who quickly become compatriots and collaborators and dear friends. Often we are making performance art in the form of improvisation together. Sometimes it hardly seems that anyone realizes that we are creating these magic moments until later, and yet, to be in that moment with a friend of long standing or a soon to be friend is the most exhilarating and affirming instance imaginable. I never feel so absolutely good about life as I do in those moments. It is shared and impossible to create without the act of sharing. Without collaboration, I could never enjoy this experience of creation and never realize that particular joy though, of a certainty, I know many joys in life. This collaboration, however, is transcendent, an alchemy of humanity that is certainly greater than the singular participants, most especially greater than myself.

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This is the experience for me as a performer and event organizer, as Madame Askew, but while on stage and in the public eye, I am Madame, it is myself for whom life has improved. Madame Askew, after all, is a fictional character. What many who know me as Madame Askew may not know is that 4 years ago, my personal, private life took an abrupt and distressing turn. My world as I knew it turned upside down and all of my future plans were asunder. My marriage of 12 years was coming to an end. While the ending was not acrimonious and while I have nothing but respect for my former partner, at the time I was deeply devastated and I had no idea how I would go forward or with whom or as who. Really everything I knew about myself and my life was in chaos. I had never lived alone until that moment. I had long been focused on a certain road map to life and I had built my support and community around that particular road map.

Adrift, bereft, heart broken, devastated, and really desperately askew in my own personal life, I discovered the very strength of that warm support, that endless collaboration that is the very essence of the shared world of Steampunk. As alone as I thought I would be in that first instance or loss, I quickly discovered that my partnerships and collaborations with my performing companions, with my many artist friends, with other dear friends who adored event planning as much as I meant that I was most assuredly neither as alone as I felt nor was I bereft of direction. My life took a new shape, one with a road map that was constantly in flux and sometimes precarious, but a road map that was also always shared with companions traveling the same roads whether it be for a short time on the journey or long term collaboration.

Since that fateful change in my life, I have collaborated with my friends in the Tucson Steampunk Society to produce yearly fantastical parade entries in the Helldorado days parade, I have shared the grand adventure of improv with my dear partner in tea and frivolity, Glenn, and I have met so many amazing humans all across North America who are willing to allow me to join them in their vision of the Steampunk world for an hour, a day, even a few moments.  I have enjoyed so many different varieties of collaborative and shared art that too list them would take the entire length of the essay. My sheer happiness and pride in each of these collective moments has filled my life and cured my heartache.

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Certainty and singularity of purpose, sole control of a project might all be more predictable and more easily managed, but I would never trade the shared joy, the partnership with so many fellow travelers in Steampunk, nor the creative alchemy that comes with collaboration for that predictable singular control. I am at the end of the day so incredibly delighted by this life experience that grows from my adventures in Steampunk and so much happier because of that wonderful collaboration with others in our community.

 

Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 6:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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