Guest Post by Emilie P. Bush: A Steampunk Bedtime Story

It’s been a month of firsts, here. A love-fest give­away, and now our first guest blog­ger!  We’re thrilled to have author Emi­lie P. Bush in the 2.0 Fac­to­ry.  She has writ­ten two Steam­punk nov­els and a brand new children’s book, HER MAJESTY’S EXPLORER: A STEAMPUNK BEDTIME STORY, which she’s here to talk about, and you can see the book trail­er over at Coal City Press’s blog.  In a genre flood­ed with all man­ner of tales for grown-ups and young adults, graph­ic nov­el read­ers and even poet­ry lovers, this gen­tle tale is one of the first of its kind – a pic­ture book for the small chil­dren. The book is about a young automa­ton that march­es and explores for coun­try, cause and queen [my synaps­es have always fired for a bot in uni­form]. His trav­els make him tired and very dirty. Upon return­ing to his home base, he pre­pares him­self for the adven­ture of going to bed.

Also in this book is a bonus sto­ry, “Three Cheers for Steam­duck,” the tale of St.John Mur­phy Alexander’s plucky bath­tub duck­ie who ven­tures out into the wider world. You can see reviews of the book here and here:

But S. J. asked Emi­lie to call on us today to tell us anoth­er sto­ry, the sto­ry behind Her Majesty’s Explor­er, in which col­lab­o­ra­tion with illus­tra­tor William Kevin Pet­ty was born and raised through the won­ders of com­mu­ni­ty and its mod­ern-con­ve­nient acces­si­bil­i­ty via social net­work­ing.  Thanks to Emi­lie for being here.

Thanks to S.J. for hav­ing me as a guest blog­ger. A lit­tle back-sto­ry for your read­ers is that she and I met some time ago on the Steam­punk con­ven­tion cir­cuit, and we sat side-by-side at a group book sign­ing. We’ve been in sev­er­al “same place at the same time” sit­u­a­tions since then, but there’s rarely time to talk. So it’s real­ly won­der­ful to be able to take my time and tell my tale here on her blog.

As most of us can guess, there’s more to mak­ing books than writ­ing and print­ing. Espe­cial­ly with pic­ture books, which usu­al­ly require col­lab­o­ra­tion between writer and illus­tra­tor, and dou­bly so in the 21st cen­tu­ry, where one has the ben­e­fit of tech­nol­o­gy, mak­ing things faster, more world­ly and, sad­ly some­times, even  more imper­son­al.

And to tell the truth, if you’d asked me a year ago about me hav­ing a children’s book, I would have laughed. But then came Face­book. This project start­ed back in May of 2012 when I got a bit of fan art inspired by my first Steam­punk nov­el — CHENDA AND THE AIRSHIP BROFMAN. What came was the draw­ing of an air­ship with a note ask­ing me if I thought it looked like the Brof­man as I pic­tured it in my mind. It was close, so I replied with what was right with the image, and what was miss­ing. The next day — a new draw­ing arrived — all of this through Face­book.  The speed at which a sec­ond draw­ing came impressed me, and I gave more feed­back. One more day went by and a third draw­ing turned up, and it was bang on.

This was my intro­duc­tion to William Kevin Pet­ty. MORE remark­able than the draw­ings them­selves was that he sent them from Kuwait — where he was deployed.

Short­ly after he sent the Brof­man sketch­es, I start­ed the sum­mer book tour (I went out to pub­li­cize book two of the Brof­man series:  The Gospel Accord­ing to Ver­du). As I am a soldier’s daugh­ter myself and was flat­tered by Kevin’s love­ly draw­ings, I showed them off to a few com­ic design­ers when I was doing sign­ings in Port­land. They looked at his work and said, “Not only is he good, he’s VERY good. If he wants to do a project — you should prob­a­bly do one.” And no one need­ed to tell me twice. I looked through his Allied Aeth­er­nau­tics images and found one that caught my imag­i­na­tion, the pic­ture of a sol­dier in the REGEMENTAL MECHANICA. I wrote the sto­ry of Her Majesty’s Explor­er based on this guy, and emailed it to Kevin.

He loved it, and start­ed adapt­ing his orig­i­nal draw­ing. He soft­ened the look of the automa­ton, took away his vent-like mouth, enlarged the eyes and swapped the giant gun for a hobo bag and a tele­scope and we start­ed sto­ry board­ing. Then, we set some goal dates.

Keep in mind –this has been total­ly arranged in the most tedious way pos­si­ble — through Face­book and email. It felt like we were very good friends – just friends that lived inside the com­put­er.

The sto­ry­boards start­ed well, then Kevin got sent from Kuwait to Bagh­dad. That slowed the project down a bit. Infra­struc­ture — like inter­net and access to pen­cils and a qui­et place to draw – are hard to come by in Iraq.

I start­ed to feel like a pest at that point. Just to make con­ver­sa­tion I would send a mes­sage like, “So, how’s the draw­ing com­ing?” and get a reply that went, “I’m still deployed.” (which I trans­lat­ed into, “Don’t nag me, woman.”) Over time and many texts back and forth, I came to real­ly know what that meant. His time in Bagh­dad real­ly was the worst. His emails hint­ed that get­ting the job done sucked out loud: lit­tle sleep, rot­ten work­ing con­di­tions, co-work­ers who are armed AND on edge AND liv­ing right on top of one anoth­er. There was no place for him to work on what he loves — draw­ing. It is a tes­ta­ment to his tal­ent and his char­ac­ter that, even when he couldn’t put pen­cil to paper, he could still be think­ing of delight­ful, hap­py and child­like things of beau­ty in what was the ulti­mate in ugli­ness. I would ask him some­times — “How has your day been?” and get an answer that went, “It’s a war: the height of man’s inhu­man­i­ty to man. You?” Even when I had a crap­py day, it nev­er com­pared.

Fur­ther­more, the time zone issue gummed things a lit­tle — we were 8 hours off. So I would wake up and get work­ing, at the time he would be fin­ish­ing up the “day -job” por­tion of his day, and he would be on his way to din­ner and his cot. Some­times at mid­night here — I would be say­ing good morn­ing and shar­ing ideas that I’d had dur­ing the day when he hadn’t got­ten his cof­fee going yet. Strange way to work.

But send­ing mes­sages at odd times was bet­ter than NOT hear­ing. Kevin’s job involved being at the tail end of the US pull-out of Iraq. A few weeks into his time there, I got a mes­sage that read: “Hey — I may be total­ly out of con­tact for a while — just a heads up.” I replied (know­ing he was not allowed to give me any details), “You must be going to a place less civ­i­lized than Bagh­dad. Should I wor­ry?” He said, “It won’t help,” and I didn’t hear from him for a week.

I took up check­ing Face­book for Kevin sight­ings. I felt like a kid look­ing for East­er eggs under the same leaf over and over again. There comes a point where it seems ridicu­lous. “Back in Kuwait,” was the best mes­sage ever.

In short order, he was back to the U.S., where we were back in busi­ness, if just a lit­tle rushed. In the end — we hit our dead­lines.  We cut it fine get­ting the book to the lay­out design­er and onto the print­er — but we are on sched­ule to launch on the 28th.

Remark­ably, we did so much and became very good friends, with­out any “real” con­tact. Oth­er than a cou­ple hours in the Atlanta air­port (where Kevin was in uni­form and real­ly still on the job tak­ing care of the folks in his unit trav­el­ing with him) the first time we spent real face time was at the end of Jan­u­ary when we went to Chat­ta­con in Chat­tanooga, TN. He drove into Atlanta on the way to the event, and we sat down to din­ner. He looked at me across the table and said, “Can you believe we’re sit­ting here?” It real­ly was a lit­tle weird.

If you want to know about me — read my books, and the kind of per­son I am is in there. You want to know about Kevin — look at his draw­ings. They are quin­tes­sen­tial­ly HIM. We’d spent months exchang­ing ideas, work­ing strange hours, and cre­at­ing some­thing – we think – is real­ly some­thing new. Then meet­ing face to face, well, it was odd. We knew all about the oth­er and then met for the first time. Back­wards, no?

BUT — face to face or inside the com­put­er — we work well togeth­er. We have a shared fold­er called “the idea bin” and it’s over­flow­ing. We have a lot of Coal City Sto­ries planned, and we will con­tin­ue to work in the Aether, as Kevin will be deployed to Ger­many in a few weeks, and we will start the avalanche of idea e-mails all over again.

Meh, it works for us.

The Launch Page:  http://www.facebook.com/events/347525985265865/

The Her Majesty’s Explor­er Face­book Page: http://www.facebook.com/HerMajestysExplorer

The blog:  http://coalcitysteam.wordpress.com/

The Video Book trail­er: http://youtu.be/kHb3Wpe3F2o

The Tease Read by Cap­tain Robert of Abney Park: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2931604900935

“Guest Post by Emilie P. Bush: A Steampunk Bedtime Story” was published in 2.0 exclusive material, Guest Post, Interviews, Literature.

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