Today I was interviewed by Twitter friend Claire E. Smith (@smitheclaire on Twitter) as part of her new Celebrity Saturday interview series for her blog, Life, Muse and Coffee. Last week she debuted her new Celebrity Interview series with the talented writer and poet Peter Wesley. You can check out my interview right here. Claire is one of the most supportive and sweetest writers I’ve met on Twitter. Our interview discusses my writing process for Monogamy Sucks, my loves and hates about writing and other intriguing topics. This is my 24th interview on my blog tour with many more to come. Enjoy.
Today my blog tour in support of my novel Monogamy Sucks continued on the blog of Twitter friend Alex Lieberman. I am very grateful for her generosity in hosting me on her blog for the second time. Alex, whose blog is entitled “Alex The Reluctant Escort,” featured my novel’s second chapter in December. In sexy chapter 6, my novel’s character Jake Dalmas meets a naughty nurse through a sex ad and has a hot affair with her fulfilling a long-time fantasy.
Alex writes about her funny and provocative adventures working as an escort in Atlanta. It is more than worth checking out.
Today I want to introduce you to Jack Hessey, Lazy Day Publishing author of Steam Queen and On Angels Wings. In this following interview, Jack touches the growing popularity of the Steampunk genre, his inspiration for his books, and his upcoming projects. Enjoy
Tell us about your books “Steam Queen” and “On Angels Wings?”
Steam Queen is a Steampunk novel, set in a world where steam has evolved as the world’s major source of power and where steam trains are used as weapons of war. It follows a young girl with severe emotional problems as she joins up with a mercenary team. She gets caught up in the middle of a war between two factions, a group of steam-using traditionalists trying to defend their way of life and a city trying to convert the world to diesel power.
On Angels Wings is a children’s fantasy book. It follows a young Guardian Angel in her attempts to protect a girl from a rogue angel who is out to get her. It’s a pretty light-hearted tale for the most part. the main antagonist, Cassidy, had been more a nuisance early on. Over the course of the book, however, Cassidy develops into quite a nasty character and carries out quite an evil need at the end in her attempt to get revenge on Jill and Susie.
How did they develop? Were they part of earlier books?
I’m not sure really. I just got the idea for the stories and wrote them. No interesting story about them developing because of a dream or past experiences I’m afraid.
Tell us a little about yourself. (Where are you from, what is your background, how long have you been writing or anything we might find interesting about you.)
There isn’t much to tell really. I was born and still live in Mansfield, which is a fairly large mining town in Nottinghamshire, England. Went to school, tried working, hated working, quit working and went to college and university instead. Now I’m part-way through the first year of my Zoo Biology course.
I’ve been writing for a few years now. I started off with joining a few online role-play sites where you pick a character and sort of play out the role of them. They were usually X-Men/Marvel Comics and Buffy websites. They were surprisingly useful in developing my writing skills. Sometime in 2009 I decided to try writing a novel, that novel was Steam Queen, which was then published by LazyDay Publishing!
On Angels Wings was my second book, I wrote that whilst submitting Steam Queen to publishers and agents. It didn’t take me as long since it is a much shorter book.
What inspired you to write a Steampunk novel? What is about the genre that appealed to you?
I’ve always enjoyed Steampunk books, specifically the settings and the fun, quirky characters that appear in many of them, and I felt like writing something like that. I wanted to move away from the Victorian era, however, and try something different.
Does the location depicted in your novel “Steam Queen” have an impact on the characters and your book’s overall theme?
I’d say they do. The main settings are a Belgian city called St Vith and a German city called Winterscheid. There is a bit of a culture clash between them since Winterscheid Kaiser seeks to convert all the surrounding towns and cities to using diesel power because he claims it will lead to a better lifestyle. That is the main reasons for the eventual war between the two cities which leads to the books main theme about war and how both sides in a conflict are capable of doing bad deeds to try to win.
What do you think is unique about your book particular compared with other Steampunk novels? What are some of the more interesting themes you explore in this novel?
There are quite a few things that make it unique. For starters, it’s set in a more 1920′s combined with the wild-west setting instead of the traditional Victorian period although, there are a few Victorian era influences in this world. In the world of Steam Queen, mainland Europe is an almost lawless wasteland, full of mercenaries, bandits, thugs and normal people trying to scrape out a living in such a harsh environments, which is different from most Steampunk settings.
I’d also say the main character, Erica, sets the book apart from other Steampunk and YA books. She isn’t really your typical protagonist and has a lot of serious, negative flaws. She’s pretty selfish, arrogant, rude and obsessed with punishing people in cruel ways for the slightest thing, even going so far to kill people. Despite this though, most people who have commented on the book have said that they loved the character which I’m pleased with since I was unsure how folks would react to a character who isn’t all that heroic or likeable.
The main theme of Steam Queen is war and how in every conflict there are two sides to the argument. The main war in the book is between the steam-users of St Vith and the Winterscheid Diesel Empire. Even though Winterscheid are the aggressors, the leaders of St Vith do their own fair share of nasty deeds and dirty tactics like conscripting people into the army and sending a deadly superweapon to destroy Winterscheid without a care for the people living in the town.
Who are some of the fantasy or science fiction authors that have influenced you as a writer? Did they have an impact on the writing of either of your books?
Philip Reeve, author of His Mortal Engines is the main one. I loved his books, partly due to the unique world that they are set in and just felt like I wanted to try to create a cool, unique world of my own.
My writing style is I guess influenced by the books I read. I tend to read YA fantasy/Sci Fi and I think my writing style reflects that.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
With Steam Queen, I always liked the name Erica. It just seemed fitting for the character and so, I went with that name for her. Steam Queen features a large cast of characters from different nationalities. The main antagonists are from Belgium and Germany. For those names, I just googled names from different countries and picked whichever ones sounded cool.
On Angels Wings I tried to give the book an old, traditional English setting and style and so gave the main two characters traditional, old-fashioned English names (Susie and Jill) For the third main character (Susie’s cowardly Angel-Dog Sir Biter), I just wanted something a bit quirky but also the complete opposite from what his character actually is since despite his name, he is actually a coward.
Was it difficult creating new worlds for your characters to explore? Did you create new laws or rules for them to abide by?
It wasn’t all that difficult. For Steam Queen I used a combination of 1920′s Europe and the Wild West. Very few laws really needed to be added to my world for the characters to abide by, largely because a lot of the places they travel to in the book are borderline lawless anyway.
On Angels Wings is set in our world which I left pretty much the same as it is and also in Heaven. For Heaven, I did add a few things in, rules and regulations for the Guardian Angels, an academy where angels study etc and guidelines that Guardian Angels have to follow when protecting someone. It was all fairly easy to do though.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I’ve always enjoyed reading and always fancied writing. I just never thought I’d be any good at it though. In 2009 though I just had an idea hit me for a book and so decided to try writing one. It was easier than I thought. Once I started writing the ideas just started flowing.
Do you have any writing rituals? Ever experienced the dreaded writer’s block?
If so, how did you break through it?
I got writer’s block a few times. When it hit I just did something else until it went away. Usually I just played a PS3 game, watched a DVD or read a book and eventually creativity hit me and I could start writing again.
I haven’t got any writing rituals. I just open my laptop up and start to type.
What did you learn from the writing and publishing of your book?
First of all that promoting your own book is important. When my books first came out I didn’t do any promoting (stupid mistake I know) believing that they would sell anyway. Well other than a nice spell of sales on the opening week that actually got Steam Queen up to reaching #12 bestselling book in the War Category on Amazon UK at one point, they didn’t. Once I promoting the book with a few interviews and reviews, however, the book sales shot up in January and February.
I also learned that writing a query letter is a nightmare and is 10 times more frustrating than actually writing the book itself. I hated it.
Are you thrilled to be part of the e-book revolution? What has been your experience with a new digital publisher?
Yeah it’s pretty exciting. I wouldn’t have bothered with e-books myself since I’m a traditionalist. Getting published however has persuaded me to buy a Kindle and now, I don’t really buy hard-copy books unless they’re ones not available yet on the Kindle device.
Working with Lazy Day has been great, they’ve been really helpful and stuff, especially with the pressure of getting 21 books ready for December 1st, 2010 launch.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing really. I’m satisfied with how things have been going. However, I would have only submitted one book at a time though to give me more time. Much of my promotion has been centered on Steam Queen. With Uni work, working on my current writing projects and promoting Steam Queen, I have neglected On Angels Wings a bit although some reviews are lined up now.
How have you used Twitter and Facebook to promote your books? Have those social networking proven useful?
Twitter is not so useful, maybe it’s because I don’t know how to use it properly, but I’ve noticed it takes like 10 seconds for any tweets I make about my book to get bunged down to the second page where nobody will see it. Seems kinda useless for new authors since A) very few people will pay attention to tweets and B) The posts get bunged away from the first page quickly, at least in my experience.
Saying that, Twitter can be useful for authors with an established fan base I suppose. For me though, it has seemed pointless and I’ve had much more success with review websites, blogs, etc.
Facebook doesn’t seem all that good for promotion to other people ,although it is good for letting friends/Facebook friends know about my books and stuff, people who otherwise wouldn’t know since I haven’t seen them for years.
Now though I’m finding it much more useful with the fellow writers group on Facebook that I was added, too.
What are you working on now? Will there be a sequel to either of your novels? What can you tell us about it?
Got a few projects on my plate at the moment.
1) A third novel called True Hero? It’s a superhero novel that I finished a few weeks ago. At the moment I’m submitting it to agents and have also entered it in a few writing competitions. If none of them pay-off then I’ll send it to Lazy Day Publishing to give them first dibs on it if they wish since they’ve been great to work with so far.
2) A sequel to Steam Queen called Steam Princess. I’ve paused it for now while I worked on True Hero? and short stories but I am about three-quarters of the way through. I think I’m gonna rewrite it though to give Erica more of a role since she is pretty popular.
3) Short Stories. I’ve written three or four short stories lately that I’ve submitted. Two for anthologies and two for fantasy magazines. Fingers crossed they’ll get published.
4) I’ve also got the workings of another novel forming, a more Sci-Fi type one based on the whole Dulce Facility conspiracy theory.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
I guess write what you want to write and not what you expect readers to want. Maybe it’s bad advice, maybe it’s not but I’d rather see folks trying to write new, unique books than read the thousandth vampire novel (sorry to any vampire writers!!! I mean no offense !!!)
Also, promote your book leading up to the release date! I made the mistake of not doing that and sales for December were awful other than the first week.
I’ve got a nice promotional plan lined up for True Hero? With what I hope are some unique ideas to get interest for the book so hopefully, I’ve learned from my own mistakes there!
Recently, you mentioned on Facebook that you were contacted by a couple of agents about your writing? What can you reveal about that?
They were all for True Hero? I won’t mention the agents names since I’m not sure if I’m allowed or not. Would hate to scupper my chances of them accepting me if they want folks to keep quiet that they’ve accepted the full manuscript.
I’ve had 3 full requests from 3 pretty big agencies (ones with best-sellers to their name) a full request from a small agency and three partials to a mixture of large and small agencies. One of the full requests I got a rejection from although they did have a lot of great things to say about my manuscript, the character and the storyline.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I also have a twitter but don’t tweet often. http://twitter.com/jzeffy