This is another post in my monthly author interview series. If you’re an author and are interested in being featured in this series, please email me: amanda (at) amandabretz (dot) com.
1. Can you give me a synopsis of your newest release?
Sure thing! “The Sauder Diaries: By Any Other Name” is a Steampunk pirate-adventure/ romance novel set in Europe and the Mediterranean region in the spring of 1888. It starts with the main character, Hans Sauder, waking up in the sick bay of one of the most infamous pirate airships of the time, The Bloody Rose.
Hans Sauder is the son of a German industrialist. The grandfather had moved the family and its fortune to England during the Crimean War period as things started to fall apart in Europe. He’s led a pretty sheltered life and so the entire world of airship piracy is pretty outside his space.
The Diaries follows Hans’ travels with the Bloody Rose; first, a diary entry written by Hans, followed by a hidden-camera view of what really happened. From a furious air battle with a French air-frigate, to an escape into hiding in Egypt, followed by larceny and hijinx in the skies of Europe, Hans is tossed head long into the life of an airship pirate.
Hans decides early on that his plan is to escape from the pirates of the Bloody Rose and return to his family and his quiet, normal life. That plan gets complicated when the woman in charge of the pirate ship’s gunner marines takes a fancy to him.
The stakes get upped to the limits when the Bloody Rose undertakes a dangerous and daring mission into the perilous skies of the Russian Empire.
2. What’s your creative process: Do you use an outline, write to certain type of music, use document maps, etc?
All of the above. My listening music tends to be based on my mood. I either listen to Steampunk music from groups like Abney Park, Vernian Process and Vagabond Opera, or I listen to trance/ electronica from Tiesto or Armin Van Burren.
I do a lot of research as part of my writing. Steampunk is about “Victorian science-fiction”, so I am always trying to see what they theorized, knew of or had working examples of in the late 1800s. My estimate is that research is about 3/8 of my total writing time.
I’ve got the entire three-book outline done… its pretty fluid, because I write the outline in catch-phrases. So, for example, from Book 2:
Chapter 1. New Expendable Best Friends
1. Setting the record straight
2. Camilla on the Docks
3. For the Queen, Country and Stirling
4. Dangerously Legal
… each one of those catch phrases reminds me in general what I want to write about. But how it comes out is very dependent on what has been written before it. It’s important to me that the characters shape the story, based on what makes sense for them to do.
I also have about a dozen supporting documents, including a glossary of “Sauderverse” terms, a complete list of every character ever mentioned and notes about everything from what they look like to how they like their coffee, a complete day-by-day chronology of the first two books, and stuff like that. When I am writing, I have an average of 8 documents open and six tabs on my web browser.
I use the Web pretty extensively, and because some of the places in the book are real, maps figure into the process of my writing. One of my favorites is http://www.emersonkent.com/map_archive/europe_1871_1914.htm
My “authoring tool” is a program called “OmmWriter” that works in full screen and covers up everything -but- the story. So, inspite of all the support-document chaos, the actual writing space is completely spartan. Its a bit of a contradiction, I suppose, but it works.
3. If you weren’t a writer what do you think you would be doing instead?
Well, as I commented on my blog site, I’m not a writer the way most people think of writers. I’m a story teller that happens to be telling Hans’ story via the printed word instead of an oral presentation. Also, writing isn’t yet my full time gig. Its something I do in my spare time as a creative outlet.
That having been said, if I wasn’t writing stories like this, I’d be playing them. I’m a long-standing table-top roleplayer. I’ve played in about a dozen different gaming systems and campaigns since my teen years. I’ve got two campaigns I’d love to run right now, and that would be where my writing focus would be.
4. Personally, I hate formatting, just the term “header/footer” makes me want to run and hide! What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?
**laughs** I’m the opposite, actually. I get so caught up in formatting and presentation sometimes that it kills my productivity as a writer.
What do I hate? I’d say it would have to be my own lack of self-confidence in that what I am doing is cool/ good. I’ve literally had a hundred people tell me -before- the book got published that they thought the story of Hans Sauder and the Bloody Rose rocked. I’m still having a hard time having it sink in that what I do is something special.
5. Do you have a mentor or another writer you look up to?
Absolutely. Anne McCaffery and Robert Heinlein are my literary heroes. When I tripped over their works in my ‘tween years, they literally changed my world and got me writing.
As a mentor, Chantal Boudreau has been amazingly encouraging and open about her own experiences as an author and a trail breaker. She’s been there for me to talk to, compare experiences with and she’s the one that first really got it through to me that The Sauder Diaries was a publishable work.
Another person that really got me where I am now was my grade 10 English teacher. She gave me a love of Shakespeare, and refused to accept anything but my best effort. That’s carried over in anything I do in writing.
6. What advice do you have for someone who wants a career in writing?
Love your work, trust your friends, and if a career happens, cheer.
I personally cannot stress enough the value of goals in my own writing. I didn’t start out to be a published author. In fact, I didn’t start out to write a novel, as odd as that might sound. I started out wanting to expore a world I had in my head, and I need a foil that would ask the questions I wanted answered.
From there, I set another goal: write the first chapter, put it out on social media, and find out if others were interested. The answer was yes. Next goal was get it to three chapters.
The point was not make money. If it does, I’ll be thrilled. The goal was to write good Steampunk fiction that was as true to the genre as I understood it, and entertain the folks that wanted to share in the story.
Set a goal, get there, celebrate, and then set the next goal. You can do it.
7. It’s been said that to be a good writer, one needs to be a voracious reader. What are your favorite types of books to read and what are you currently reading?
I’m primarily an SF/ fantasy fiction person. Recently, I’ve been reading some historicals set in the 1800s such as “Electric City – The Stehelins of New France” and another one about the “Russian War”.
I get caught up in other people’s worlds, so for now I’m avoiding reading anyone else’s Steampunk fiction until I get Book 2 done. After that, I’ve got Westerfeld’s “Leviathan” series to read, and then I’m going shopping by Meyers’s “The Hunter” and Priest’s “Boneshaker”.
8. What other interests or hobbies do you have outside of writing?
As I said above, I’m a big fan of RPGs. I also play MMORPGs online. I’m a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I love going to Steampunk conventions; Steamcon is a favorite right now. I love hanging out with my friends, either over a pool table or in a coffee house and just talking about anything and everything. I also love watching documentaries and concert videos.
9. What’s your next writing project?
I am currently working on the second book of “The Sauder Diaries”, tentatively subtitled “A Bloodier Rose”. From there, my most likely route is straight into the third book, but I’m not sure. I’ve got an SF near-future called “Marshal Station” I want to write and a couple of short stories that are bugging me to get out.
10. How can people reach you online?
http://about.me/michel.vaillancourt is the cosmic clearing house for every possible way you can find me online.