Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with author Mr. Pete Ford, which occurred during his visit to my little corner of the etherverse. Ford is an up and coming novelist and acquaintance of mine through Xchyler Publishing. Enjoy:
J. Aurel: Welcome Mr. Ford! Have a seat good sir, make yourself comfortable. I trust you found the place well enough?
Ford: No trouble finding you whatsoever. I am adept at navigating the currents of cyberspace, it seems.
J. Aurel: A necessary skill in this day and age, for certain. I understand that you have a new work of fiction. Can you tell us a little about your story?
Ford: It’s called Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, and it’s a steampunk novel about a journalist who finds that a series of robberies he’s been reporting are much more than they seem. He uncovers a conspiracy, draws the attention of the conspirators, and gets himself and his wife into very hot water.
J. Aurel: Marvelous, where ever did you find the inspiration for such a charming tale?
Ford: I’d just finished another novel—a science-fiction story with a steampunk overtone, which I’d self-published—and I decided that for my next story I wanted to get back to something more “traditionally” steampunk, set in an alternate-history version of Victorian London. So part of the inspiration came from answering the question of what things might have been like if Charles Babbage—the inventor of the ill-fated Analytical Engine, an early mechanical computer—had succeeded in creating a working machine. That led to the idea of a world with steam-driven mechanical computers a century earlier than in our own history. On top of that I wanted to layer a story involving action and adventure. Rescue the lady, stop the bad guy, save the world. You get the idea.
J. Aurel: It sounds marvelous, and I am intrigued; how is it that a man of your years of wisdom came to be interested in the burgeoning fantasy world of cogs and clockwork that is called ‘Steampunk’?
Ford: The starting point for that goes back a long way—before the term Steampunk had even been uttered, in fact—and stems from an immediate fascination when I encountered alternate history stories. I can even tell you the first brush I had with that genre; it was a British TV series shown in 1978, called An Englishman’s Castle, set in a Britain in which the Nazis won WWII. That led me to books like The Man in the High Castle and Fatherland (based on the same premise), and others like Pavane. The switch (if you can call it that) to steampunk was so gradual that I can’t even say precisely when it happened, but I suspect it began with The Anubis Gates—not to say that I’d consider that book steampunk, but it’s on that path, I think. And there’s another factor, which is that I’m a software engineer by profession, and I suspect that many people in that field, at some point or another, think about computers in the setting of the industrial revolution—and that kind of idea is the essence of steampunk.
J. Aurel: How is it that you came to be published by Xchyler Publishing?
Ford: It was a matter of fortuitous timing. The self-publishing experience had been, to be frank, pretty disastrous, and I decided that I was better off not trying that again. I’d been following a couple of dozen independent publishers on Twitter, and I took a particular interest in Xchyler—they know steampunk, and I liked the look and feel of their website and blog. And they were open for submissions just at the perfect time. It felt like destiny. So I submitted the first couple of chapters about a year ago, then a couple of weeks later they asked me to send the whole ‘script . . . then a few weeks after Christmas they told me they wanted to publish. It took about a week for it to sink in that the work had been accepted.
J. Aurel: Publishing excellence aside, I agree that Xchyler excels in optical appeal. Good on you sir. Have you had works published elsewhere?
Ford: I mentioned the self-published novel; that was done through Smashwords. Until I met Xchyler, I’d never had a story published by an actual publisher.
J. Aurel: I’ll certainly have to search that out. Can you tell us about some of your most favorite authors?
Ford: Don’t bother looking for it—working with the editors at Xchyler I very quickly realized that the earlier book should never have been published without some major revision work. I unpublished it, and it’s no longer available. But it still has a place in my heart—I think it’s a good story that readers would like—so there’s a possibility that I’ll rework it at some point.
J. Aurel: For shame, it is a story I have heard many a time. Though I am sure you are glad for the experience; ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ as they say.
Ford: Oh, absolutely. It was my first full-length work, and as such a formative experience, and one that set me on the path to writing more. I don’t regret writing it, or self-publishing it—even though I subsequently removed it, going through that whole process was an education.
On the favourite authors, though . . . in the steampunk genre, Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century books have been required reading, as have George Mann’s Newbury and Hobbes stories. I’m also a big fan of sci-fi; Iain Banks, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, and John Varley come to mind, but I have many favourites.
Ford: That’s not easy to answer. I think what makes me want to keep writing is the pure joy of invention—starting with just the barest seed of an idea for a story, and having it grow in your mind as you play with it. It’s like pulling at strands of smoke and having them solidify in your hands, then moulding them into something that takes a concrete form with a complexity you never imagined you could create. It’s a marvelous feeling.
J. Aurel: Well put, and I couldn’t agree more. Do you have any words of wisdom for the burgeoning authors reading this interview?
Ford: Now, there’s a question, indeed . . . over the last year, thanks to the editors at Xchyler, I’ve learned enough wisdom to be able to write a fair-sized volume. But if I have to boil it down to one overriding phrase, it would have to be: don’t stop trying.
J. Aurel: Brilliant, and on the assumption that you are in the habit of following your own advice, what is next on your docket?
Ford: Right now I’m working on a sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, building up the story piece by piece. That’s coming along, slowly but steadily. After that, I have another story that was put to one side a few months ago, which I’d like to get finished; that’s another steampunk tale but with a twist. And then I have another full-length story that was completed to first draft, but needs some fairly heavy editing and reworking before it’s ready for the light of day. My dance card is full for the next couple of years . . . after that, who knows?
J. Aurel: Fantastic, I shall be greatly looking forward to all of it! Lastly, if you had the choice between Atlantean Aqua Polo, Warp Gate Croquet , or a Automaton Chess, which would you choose?
Ford: Oh, Warp Gate Croquet, without a doubt. The tricky part is getting the planets through the gates without stripping away the atmosphere. The natives tend not to like that.
J. Aurel: No they never do . . . Shall we?
His debut novel, Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, can be found on: