Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Interview with Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., author of Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders, and Giveaway - July 3, 2013

Please welcome Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders was published on July 2, 2013. You may read Richard's Guest Blog - Romulus Buckle, Steampunk and the Female Swashbuckler - here.

TQ:  Welcome to the Qwillery.

Richard:  Thanks, Sally! This is a great site for readers and writers and I am thrilled to be here.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Richard:  I am a late bloomer in every conceivable way, I suppose. I always loved to write but I did not make the decision to dedicate my life to a writing career until I was almost thirty years old. I’d had a lot of jobs at that point and bailed out of several careers. I realized that I was unhappy unless I was writing, so I took the plunge and moved back to Los Angeles from Canada, where I had lived for twenty years. I started writing screenplays while I worked in a bookstore on Ventura Boulevard (where I met my future wife) and later read scripts at Universal studios for a year or so. After a decade of writing screenplays for low budget action movies and episodes for family television (which was a lot of fun) I realized that I wanted to write books. Screenplays are difficult and rewarding to write, but they are not a finished thing (the filmed movie is the finished thing) and the collaborative process of filmmaking makes you take on other peoples’ concepts and ideas. This can be a great creative synthesis, but I was tired of it and attracted to the form of the novel, where every inch of the story would be my own construction. And if the book failed, it was all my failure—I’d rather go down swinging my own sword, anyway.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Richard:  Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t think that I am a quirky writer. I am silly, but not quirky. I probably have some quirks but I can’t see them.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Richard:  I am a plotter—a big time plotter—and then I spin into a pantser, of sorts. I work out all of the major story scenes and character arcs on index cards and thumbtack them up on bulletin boards—the walls of my office are packed with big bulletin boards. This is an interesting process because of how many times the cards get rearranged in the early stages. Once I have the skeleton of the story set, I start writing, which tends to blow the whole thing up almost immediately, turning me into something of a pantser. But it is a safe place to careen around in, because I already know where I am going (I know how it ends) and I know what major story elements I need to accomplish. Much of this will change – even the ending, sometimes, but I have (and need) a well-established spine that I can look at and see how my new ideas might enrich or detract from the entire structure, and how profoundly any new change might alter the story from beginning to end.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about your writing?

Richard:  Dialogue, especially early on in the story. I love world-building and structure and that comes easy for me. Characters emerge and flesh out over time, and I come to love them and know them intimately, but their actual voices form very slowly for me—it takes me a while to hear them talking. Because of that, much of my first pass dialogue is an exploration of the moment—often I just state what the character wants and how they might be trying to get it—or do they even understand what it is they need as opposed to they think they want—so my subconscious can stew on their state of mind until the next pass. Dialogue is the most heavily reworked thing in my books, but when the characters finally do start talking to me it is insanely rewarding, and then they won’t shut up. All I have to do is listen. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that sometimes wipes out all of the first dialogue I had worked so hard to generate.

TQ:  Describe Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders in 140 characters or less (like a tweet).

Richard:  “Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders”—a steampunk Pirates of the Caribbean! A post-apocalyptic sky adventure #steampunk Coming July 2. (I just tweeted that)

TQ:  What inspired you to write Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders?

Richard:  Once I decided to tackle novels, I lunged into a massive trilogy project set in Russia during the Second World War. This involved an immense amount of research. I took a trip to Russia and toured the battlefields, and even interviewed several surviving veterans with an interpreter in Moscow. The project is very big, and I am nearly finished with the first book at this point. But two summers ago I was bogged down in the trilogy, and I thought it would be refreshing to tackle something else I loved—something I could do in six months—so I could return to the Russia monster fresh and have something I was proud to peddle in the meantime. My beloved dog, Kellie, had just passed away, so I was inspired to put her in it in some small way, so I could hang out with her again. I wanted to create something that was the opposite of my tragic and weighty Russian books, so I plunged into my love for Indiana Jones, Star Wars and the old Saturday afternoon matinee and created the story of a swashbuckling zeppelin crew soaring across the skies of the future. It was a blast to write. Luck was on my side this time, and an agent and publisher picked it up very quickly.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders?

Richard:  The Snow World is of course a fantastical environment but it is anchored in the real world. I had to research all of my major story elements so I could speak on them with some familiarity and authority and also so I would know exactly when I was taking these elements out of the realm of reality. People reading speculative fiction are ready for you to transport them into the fantastical, but in order to maintain their suspension of disbelief the author has to make good on the “real” elements and then carry that authority forward into the fantasy part as well. I researched everything that appears in the book, including zeppelins and the properties of hydrogen, steam engines, 18th century muzzle-loading cannons, Victorian/Edwardian clothing and hats, Victorian culture, Darwinism, bustles, baggywrinkle (I love that word) and a myriad of other infernal devices, large and small.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Richard:  Romulus Buckle and the two female lead characters, Chief Navigator Sabrina Serafim and Chief Engineer Max (a half-Martian woman) came to me quickly and they tend to be easier for me to understand and write for. They live in my soul and normally I find them accessible although sometimes I really have to dig to discover their true feelings and attitudes about things. Buckle can present a problem in these early books because he starts our so confident and capable—I have to fight to keep him from falling completely into a one-dimensional zone. The hardest character for me to write is probably the father, Balthazar, mainly because he is older and central to the story history and his experiences and motivations are so layered and complex.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders?

Richard:  I can think of two scenes that stick out for me right now: the first is a huge action sequence where Buckle must lock swords with enemy steampipers as they breach the cavernous envelope of the burning airship; the second is the intimate moment when Sabrina realizes that Max is in love with Buckle, and Sabrina is suddenly unsure of her own feelings toward him. One scene is big and the other is tiny, but both are vital to the story.

TQ:  What’s next?

Richard:  The second book in the Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin series, Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War, is finished and slated for release on November 19th, 2013. The first book in my Russian WW2 trilogy should be polished up and ready to submit to publishers soon, but the submission-purchase (if I am very lucky and it is sold)-marketing-printing-release process takes a long time, so even if lighting strikes that one won’t surface anytime soon.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Richard:  The pleasure is all mine, Sally. I hope to be back.

TQ:  We'd love to have you visit again!

About The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin

Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders
The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin 1
47North, July 2, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 456 pages

In a post-apocalyptic world of endless snow, Captain Romulus Buckle and the stalwart crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must embark on a perilous mission to rescue their kidnapped leader, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the impenetrable City of the Founders. Steaming over a territory once known as Southern California – before it was devastated in the alien war – Buckle navigates his massive airship through skies infested with enemy war zeppelins and ravenous alien beasties in this swashbuckling and high-octane steampunk adventure. Life is desperate in the Snow World – and death is quick – Buckle and his ship’s company must brave poisoned wastelands of noxious mustard and do battle with forgewalkers, steampipers and armored locomotives as they plunge from the skies into the underground prison warrens of the fortress-city.

Captain Romulus Buckle must lead the Pneumatic Zeppelin and its crew of never-do-wells on a desperate mission where he must risk everything to save Balthazar and attempt to prevent a catastrophic war which could wipe out all that is left of civilization and the entire human race.

Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War
The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin 2
47North,  November 19, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

The frozen wasteland of Snow World—known as Southern California before an alien invasion decimated civilization—is home to warring steampunk clans. Crankshafts, Imperials, Tinskins, Brineboilers, and many more all battle one another for precious supplies, against ravenous mutant beasts for basic survival, and with the mysterious Founders for their very freedom.

Through this ruined world soars the Pneumatic Zeppelin, captained by the daring Romulus Buckle. In the wake of a nearly suicidal assault on the Founders’ prison city to rescue key military leaders, both the steam-powered airship and its crew are bruised and battered. Yet there’s little time for rest or repairs: Founders raids threaten to shatter the fragile alliance Buckle has risked everything to forge among the clans.

Even as he musters what seems a futile defense in the face of inevitable war, Buckle learns that the most mysterious clan of all is holding his long-lost sister in a secret base—and that she holds the ultimate key to victory over the Founders. But rescuing her means abandoning his allies and praying they survive long enough for there to be an alliance to return to.

The gorgeous covers for the Romulus Buckle novels are by Eamon O’Donoghue.

About Richard 

Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. is fascinated by the steampunk genre, which he sees as a unique storytelling landscape. Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders is the first installment in his new steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. Richard has also written for film and television. He lives in California.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @RichardEPreston

Richard's Giveaway

Follow the rules in Richard's Rafflecopter below. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I have never read any of your books. I think I need to change that sorry state of affairs.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  2. Sounds awesome! Congrats to Richard on the new release and thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Erin! I am thrilled you took the time to comment and enter, too!

  3. The books sound interesting

    1. Thanks - I can't take credit for the great cover but I am responsible for the story - thanks for commenting!

  4. As soon as I saw the cover of this book I had to find out more about it. Of course, it immediately went on my wish list and I'm really looking forward to reading it, as well as the second book. :D

    1. Barbara thank you for your kind words and interest - I hope I don't disappoint!

  5. I need to read more Steampunk. This book looks incredible!!

    1. Wow, Mary - a wonderful compliment! And yes, we all need to read more steampunk!

  6. Sounds like a fun read. I can't wait to try it out. Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Hey, Josh - thanks for your kind words. And if you don't win a book this time please keep an eye on my blog - there are several more giveaways to come this week, I think.

  7. Who could resist a steampunk Pirates of the Caribbean? Plus the name Romulus just kicks ass...isn't that a Star Trek planet also dudes?

  8. I have seen these around and have become very curious about them. Sounds really good.