and author Q&A with Chris Wooding!
Hey El Moochadores, publisher Titan Books has a fantastic adventure story now out on bookshelves called The Iron Jackal: A Tale of the Ketty Jay! Written by Chris Wooding, the Iron Jackal is the third of four books that follow the high flying adventures of the air ship, Ketty Jay! Here’s the synopsis:
Things are finally looking good for Captain Frey and his crew. The Ketty Jay has been fixed up good as new. They’ve got their first taste of fortune and fame. And, just for once, nobody is trying to kill them. Even Trinica Dracken, Frey’s ex-fiancee and long-time nemesis, has given up her quest for revenge. In fact, she’s offered them a job – one that will take them deep into the desert heart of Samarla, the land of their ancient enemies. To a place where the secrets of the past lie in wait for the unwary. Secrets that might very well cost Frey everything.
Join the crew of the Ketty Jay on their greatest adventure yet: a story of mayhem and mischief, roof-top chases and death-defying races, murderous daemons, psychopathic golems and a particularly cranky cat. The first time was to clear his name. The second time was for money. This time, Frey’s in a race against the clock for the ultimate prize: to save his own life.
Okay, so I thought it was steampunk, but according to the Q&A below, Iron Jackal, and the other books of the series, aren’t really steampunk because very little in the story runs on steam. So there are no steam powered gizmos in these stories, but there’s electricity, daemonism, a gas called aerium, and a hell of a lot of fun, but no steam! Iron Jackal reminded me of why I like Fire Fly. Not that it pulls form Fire Fly, but it has some of the same elements that make for a great story. There’s the misfit crew that is more often than not on the wrong side of law; Fierce combat mixed with comedy; and compelling personal journeys for each member of the crew. Though I’d not yet read any of the previous novels, I did enjoy Captain Frey’s story line and his realization of what it means to be a captain. A good part of this story is Frey dealing with the “mantel of responsibility” and learning to be a proper leader for his crew. However, even that bit of personal growth is weaved into moments of quick action and exciting robberies. I do wish the novel had included a few maps. Many of the character names and places are sometimes hard to keep track of and It would’ve been nice to have had some reference, but all the same Wooding fabricated an incredible fantasy that will keep you turning pages and anticipating what’s next!
Q&A with Chris Wooding
Q. What do you like best about writing steampunk?
I didn’t know I was writing steampunk until someone told me. To be honest, I’m not sure the Ketty Jay books really are: I mean, practically nothing in the book runs on steam. I think steampunk is becoming more like a catch-all term for any kind of science fiction with retro technology. And the thing I like best about that is that it’s science fiction on a human scale. No galaxy-destroying warships or nanoplagues that obliterate civilizations, no drone strikes or weird quantum effects. No automatic targeting systems, no AIs. Everything comes from the characters; they’re intimately connected to the action. I think it makes the whole thing much more immediate.
Q. When creating an epic steampunk fantasy like Iron Jackal, did you have any literary (or film) influences? If so, what were they?
The two things that inspired me the most were Master and Commander (the film, sadly I haven’t read the book) and Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor. I wanted to tell a story about a captain and his crew, and have a varied cast of characters that were all stuck together all the way through the book (instead of splitting up and wandering off in all directions, as tended to happen in my previous series). So basically any story involving a crew got chucked into the mix: Pirates of the Caribbean; Farscape; Star Wars, and Firefly too – though its influence on the Ketty Jay books is not half as much as popular opinion might lead you to believe…
Q. The adventures of the crew of the Ketty Jay span four novels, what are some of the challenges in writing a series on that scale?
Maintaining a sense of progression. There’s only so much you can draw out a character’s story before you have to either give them something else to deal with or get rid of them. I’ve seen too many series degenerate into endless wheel-spinning where the same character does the same thing over and over. I was determined that each character would have a story in each book and that by the end of it they would have changed in some way. That was why I ended it after four books: I had the sense that any more books would just dilute the characters instead of deepening them.
Q. You started writing and publishing books as a teenager and you have now written 16 novels as well as written for television and film. How do you get so much done? That is to ask: do you have any tricks for avoiding laziness and procrastination?
It’s 23, actually. Ahem. And I’ve always been pretty good at making myself write. The thought of having to get a real job and working for a living is a powerful spur.
Seriously, people are always seeking tricks to help them buckle down and get to writing. There’s a lot of advice out there on the subject, but I’m not sure if any of it actually works. Some people write in the middle of the night, some write fairly regularly 9 to 5 (as I do). Some write on trains during their morning commute, others like cafes (me), others need total seclusion. There’s no magic formula; everyone finds their own way. You don’t need to worry about the details. You’ve just got to want it. More than you want to cave in to excuses, more than you want to check Facebook, more than you want to watch that awesome TV show (written by someone else who didn’t procrastinate quite so much). Nobody else can give you the willpower. You have to summon it up yourself.
I write because I want to tell stories, and you couldn’t stop me if you tried. Some days I really don’t want to, but I write anyway, because unless I finish this book it’ll never get done, and then I can’t get on to the next, and the next, etc. There’s not enough time in the world for me to tell all the stories I want to tell. I’m just lucky I get to tell some of them.
Q. Are there any illustrated guides, or fan art, of the Ketty Jay novels, and if so where can we see them? Do you have a favorite pieces of art based on one of your books?
I’ve seen a few works on sites like DeviantArt based on the books, which is very flattering, but there’s no official or collected works as far as I know. The day the Ketty Jay calendar goes on sale in bookstores, that day I’ll have officially made it big.
Q. Any chance that we’ll get to see the Ketty Jay flying across the big or small screen? Also, if it were made into a film, who would you cast as the crew?
It’s a very remote possibility. Heyday Films, who produced the Harry Potter films and Gravity, have maintained an interest in the books for some while, but the budget needed to film them would be colossal so it would require a major studio to fund it and they tend to only bother with already established mega-sellers (which don’t necessarily make good films, but that’s another story). So I’m not holding my breath.
As to the cast, I really can’t imagine. Personally I’d prefer unknowns, so the actor’s media persona doesn’t get in the way of the character. But that’d never fly – without star power a movie this size would never get off the ground. Not without aerium, anyway…