Posted on May 29, 2011 in Fantasy
with 8 Comments
Welcome to Day 7 of My Favorite Things: Steampunk Week!
Today on the blog I have Andrew Mayer, author of the steampunk adventure The Falling Machine! He’s here to talk about Steampunk, Bioshock, and some exciting upcoming projects! Also up for grabs is 3 copies of The Falling Machine to 3 winners (please see giveaway details at the end of this post).
**GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**
*Don’t forget to check the My Favorite Things Event Schedule to see what’s going on not only here, but at Candace’s Book Blog!
Please welcome Andrew to the blog!
Your Steampunk adventure, The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam Book 1), is due from Pyr in May. Why Steampunk? Why do you think Steampunk is so popular?
I had the idea for a Steampunk Superhero series back when I was trying to break into comics around 2005.Then, when I went out to Burning Man in 2006 I saw the Neverwas Haul (http://www.neverwashaul.com/) and the amazing devices that Kinetic Steamworks (http://kineticsteamworks.org/) had built. I’d been hanging around the San Francisco metal-art scene a few years earlier, and it all just clicked. I realized we’d reached a point in our culture where small groups of people were now capable of producing what it had taken an entire factory to build a century ago, and that it was allowing us to reach backwards and forwards at the same time.The Victorian Era is really the last age of genuine craftsmanship before we were overwhelmed by mass production. But a lot of their legacy is still with us today, both in terms of building and machines, and the structure of our society. In many ways we’ve inherited their world, and when we reach back for some truth in our culture I think that it’s easy to discover a kind of kinship with the people from the previous turn of the century, and we can resonate with their successes, their excesses, and their failures.I also think that sense of connecting with the current creators is a big part of the appeal, along with a cultural hunger for some kind of authenticity.Superheroes and steampunk really let me bring all those ideas together into a story with lots of insane characters, madcap inventions, and over the top storytelling.
Can you tell us a bit about The Falling Machine?
I’d be more than glad to:The Falling Machine is the first book in a series of stories about steampunk superheroes that live in 1880′s New York.The lead character is a young woman named Sarah Stanton. Her father is a powerful hero named the Industrialist. He’s a member of the Society of Paragons; New York’s greatest team of gentlemen adventurers. Sarah has wanted to be a superhero ever since she was a child, although obviously that’s an impossibility for a woman of society in 1880.Then tragic circumstances conspire to make her dreams come true, and she finds herself forced into a terrifying adventure when her mentor (Sir Dennis Darby, the leader of the Paragons), is killed in front of her on the top of the (unfinished) Brooklyn Bridge.Sarah now finds that she’s at the center of conspiracy that most of the Paragons either refuse to acknowledge, or may actually be a part of. Helping her to uncover the mystery is a mechanical man created by Sir Dennis called the Automaton.The first book is a bit of a mystery story, with characters crawling around secret passages and the like, but there are also some major battles, burning mansions, and some good old fashioned Father/Daughter drama.
You have an extensive background in video game design. Was writing a natural progression for you?
Amusingly, it was the other way around. I’d spent a lot of time in the early 90s trying to break in as a writer. I’d actually gotten into the Clarion West writer’s workshop, and a few weeks before I was supposed to go I got my first job in the games industry.It was a real crossroads moment for me. Up until that point I’d spent most of my adult life working all day and writing all night, but I was feeling like most of my stories were simply pastiches of things I’ve read by other writers.I decided that video games was going to be a good place to express my creative skills without having to work 24/7 to do it, and that I might get me a chance to go out and experience a few more things in the world that I could bring to my writing.In the end it all seemed to work out, but it turned out to be a much longer detour than I’d intended.
How did you celebrate when you found out Pyr would publish The Falling Machine?
It was three months after I submitted the manuscript that I got the call from Lou Anders at Pyr telling me that he wanted to publish it. And up until then I’d really tried to put the whole possibility of him saying yes out of my head.You can’t break into any creative business if you don’t tamp down your expectations. That’s because you’re always going to face a lot more rejection than success. The ability to put your head down and keep going is a big part of what it takes to make it. But once I got that call, it was like someone has pulled the cork out of the bottle.As I remember it, the actual moment was pretty much what you’d expect: Jumping up and down and yelling “woo hoo!”, calling everyone I knew, going out to a fancy dinner, feeling stunned.I think it’s hard to give these moments the actual sense of occasion you think they deserve when they actually happen, even if you want to, but it was a milestone in my life.
What’s the best advice you ever received about writing?
Reading Robert McKee’s book on screenwriting called Story was probably the one thing that turned my storytelling from being just okay into something I could actually try and sell.I’d been really resistant to the idea that all drama is built around conflict, and it left my writing feeling a bit flat. As I went through the book I realized that all my favorite movies came out of a place of conflict, and that every single great scene in any media always has an emotional turn.He also helped me improve my craft by pointing out that you should plot your story first. McKee says that dialog is the reward once you’ve plotted the story. I thought I’d try that out, and I forced myself to start doing all the plotting before typing a single word of the actual prose. It’s not easy, but there’s no such thing as “writer’s block” if you know what it is you’re going to be writing next. When you have the plot you just write it, and then you go back and clean it up later.
I read that you’ve wanted to be a writer since you were 12. What were some of your favorite novels or authors as a child?
I started with a copy of Asimov’s Foundation that my dad had on his shelf, along with James Blish’s Star Trek collections. From there I dug through as much Bradbury as I could find on the Library shelves, starting with his young adult book. Runaway Robot by Lester Del Ray was also a huge book for me, and I’d guess that if I went back and read it now I’d see a lot of Rex in the Automaton.But I was a huge comic book fan as well—I loved all the epic nerd stuff Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did in the 70s.The thing that really opened my eyes to the potential of that kind of world-shattering genre stuff in novels were Michael Moorecock’s Incarnations of Immortality books, which include Elric, Count Brass, Hawkmoon, Erokose, and all those other tragic heroes.In terms of pure writing style I’d say I was a huge fan of Stephen King’s early books, with Hemingway leading the way in terms literary fiction.
Do you have any contemporary favorites? Any particular influences?
I feel like I owe Brian Michael Bendis a tip of my hat. He brought a fresh set of narrative sensibilities to comics, and showed me how you can mix together the ridiculous and the sublime to tell a cracking story with a heart. What he did in the first 80 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man is really a masterpiece of modern genre storytelling.I took a writing class with him in 2010, and surprisingly it really cemented my desire to be a prose writer rather than a comic writer. I’d still like to do comics, but I think that making a good comic has far more to do with the art and the production methods than most people realize, so it’s kind of a crappy arena in which to be a writer because you need to be doing 20 things well at the same time to make it really sing. With prose you can get down and focus on the story.I love George Martin no matter how popular he gets. I actually found the Songs of Ice and Fire books around a decade ago when I was working on a fantasy based videogame project, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of the genre.Jay Lake, Gail Carriger, and Cherie Priest are also doing some astounding work in the Steampunk genre and I feel honored that they’ve all been so wonderful to me as well as being genre defining authors.
What’s your favorite video game?
Bioshock. There’s things going on there with interactive narrative that really have changed the nature of the industry, and the fact that Ken and have been friends since High School means that I got an inside look at the process of that game from the earliest days.
Can you tell us something about yourself that not a lot of people know?
Did I mention that Ken Levine, creator of Bioshock, is one of my best friends, and has been since high school?
I read in your blog that The Society of Steam will be a duology.
It’s now a trilogy. I always tell people that you know you’re a real novelist when your writing starts to grow out of control, so I’ve unlocked that achievement.
Is there any news you’d like to share with us about that or other upcoming projects or events?
Hearts of Smoke and Steam, book 2 of the Society of Steam is already up for pre-order on Amazon, and is going to be out before the end of the year. Book 3 should be out in less than a year from now. Making that happen is what I’m going to be focusing on for the rest of this year.Meanwhile I’m planning to do a bunch of merch featuring Society of Steam characters including t-shirts, buttons and prints. I hope to be rolling those out by Dragon*Con at the end of the summer. I’m going to have some name comics artists working on that, with a bit of luck.I’m also planning prequel novella featuring some of the characters in book 2 that I plan to put out between Volume 2 and Volume 3. That’ll be a free download with some kind of limited edition print-run as well.If you want to keep up with what I’m doing you can visit andrewpmayer.com or societyofsteam.com, but the easiest way is to like my Society of Steam page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/societyofsteam).Thanks for the interview!
*Giveaway is for 3 copies of The Falling Machine to 3 winners
**GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**