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.
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