Steampunk and Books that Sing — Ellie Ann

By Piper Bayard

It’s happened again. It starts with a twitch and grows into an irrepressible urge. Then before you know it, Holmes and I are kidnapping another bestselling author and whisking them off to our secret blog prison.

Ellie Ann Steampunk picture

Steampunk bestseller Ellie Ann

Today, our victim guest is bestselling Steampunk author Ellie Ann. Ellie is a creative editor for StoneHouse Ink and produces enhanced books for Noble Beast, LLC. She also writes comic books for Motionworks Entertainment, and contributes reviews for Social In Worldwide news and events sites. She has three children under the age of six, and she home schools them while she works. We are hoping that some day she will write a book about Extreme Time Management for the rest of us.

It wasn’t hard to lure Ellie into our black helicopter today. We simply brought her a British nanny and offered her a glass of wine. She practically pushed Piper out of the chopper in her haste to get in. We get it. We’re parents ourselves.

Welcome to our blog today, Ellie. Please make yourself comfortable.

You’re welcome to remove your blindfold now. If you notice, it’s a pair of blackened motorcycle goggles. We thought they went well with the handcuffs made out of old gears. . . . No, you’re not actually on a cog railway. We borrowed those seats to make you feel at home.

Let’s begin our interrogation conversation. Keep in mind that Intelligence Operative Holmes is overseeing the interview from the tardis in the corner. *waves*

Wiki Dr. Who Tardis public domain

Could you please tell us a bit about the Steampunk genre for those readers who may not be familiar with it? What is it, and how did it originate?

Is that the tardis? Has the Doctor finally come for me? Maybe if I answer these questions right, I’ll get to be his next companion . . .

The short answer is that Steampunk is science fantasy. It’s when engineers and creatives mix. It is expressed in many forms: books, art, plays, film, comics, home design, history, and of course, fashion. Many Steampunk stories re-imagine history . . . What if the Nazi’s had possessed genetically modified monsters, and the Allies had an army of droids? What if the Old West was won by the Chinese? What if airships, instead of trains, were the major form of transportation?

One of Steampunk’s founders is James Blaylock, and he gave the best description of the genre in his article for HuffPo “On Steampunk.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-p-blaylock/on-steampunk_b_2494561.html)

What is it that you personally find so appealing about Steampunk?

These motorcycle goggles, of course. Can I take them home with me?

Why, yes. We did intended them to be your souvenir of today’s abduction visit.

I don’t like to write strictly in one genre. Steampunk gives me the wiggle room to take science fiction and fantasy and mix them all together to form an awesome science fantasy soup. Yum!

Also, it’s such an awesome fandom to be a part of. You’ll never find a more intelligent, welcoming, and passionate group of people, though I may be biased. I’ve learned so much about history and sociology, inventions and fashion, music and mayhem, from being a part of the Steampunk culture.  

The Silver Sickle

You have a bestselling Steampunk young adult novel, THE SILVER SICKLE. What is that book about?

The Silver Sickle is about a girl trapped in a harem who must take down an extraterrestrial regime. It’s like the Biblical book of Esther meets District 9. With robots. 

In THE SILVER SICKLE, you emphasize that your characters have dark skin. What draws you to writing minority characters even though you, yourself, are quite clearly of European descent?

Oh, that’s simple. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When I look down the row of YA fiction at the bookstore, very rarely do I ever see a girl of color. That means something. There’s a sort of symbolic violence in being left out, in never being portrayed as the hero. I wish there was a variety of protagonists to match the huge variety of girls and boys out there. But the story always comes first. She’s just Farissa, the hero, who happens to have brown skin.

You are also a pioneer in writing and producing a new type of media called “enhanced books.” What, exactly, are enhanced books?

This is such an exciting time to be a part of publishing. Ten years ago we didn’t have the hardware—Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.—to produce enhanced books. Now we do.

Enhanced books are multi-media stories. It’s when the text is enhanced with illustrations, audio, interactive maps, author’s notes, music, sound fx . . . anything you can dream up that will immerse the reader in the story.

In my first enhanced book, SLICE OF LIFE, there’s a scene where the queen’s skeleton orchestra is playing a march, and a scene when mermaids sing to pirates to lure them to their deaths. Hezekiah Jones composed those two songs to fit in the story, and now they play in the text. It adds a richness and a tension, and it pulls you right into the scene. Other scenes are heavy on the dialogue, so Theo Love directed some voice actors to speak the lines. I couldn’t believe how much closer I felt to the characters once I heard their voices. Not to mention the pure joy of seeing scenes illustrated. It’s such a phenomenal experience to collaborate with different artists to tell a story.

I urge any writer to consider enhancements for their book. It doesn’t have to be much—maybe chapter heading illustrations, or a song at the end of each chapter. It doesn’t have to be the full nine yards. For THE SILVER SICKLE, I asked Radical Face for permission to include their song, “Always Gold,” at the end of the book, as it was a big inspiration during my writing process. They were more than happy to comply, and the formatter told me it was easy to include.

Now that I’ve started collaborating with different artists to help immerse my readers in the story, it’s hard to go back. I think it improves the reading experience so much. Not every book is right for it, but if you have ideas for enhancements, then go for it.

I’ve heard some authors say they don’t do enhanced books because of their limited distribution, as they are only available for the iPad. How would you answer that, and how do you see the distribution developing?

That’s a very real concern. But the software is quickly changing—getting better and more easily accessible. Not only are there enhanced books for Kindle Fire, but we can do enhanced PDFs, ePubs, and Android apps. Also, there are currently 40 million iPad users, and counting. That’s not a market to sniff at.

Slice of Life by Ellie Ann

Please tell us more about SLICE OF LIFE.

SLICE OF LIFE is a multi-media adventure about a princess who must team up with her unfaithful lover in order to stop the Queen from destroying the earth’s life force. It’s told by a troupe of digital artists, it uses prose (mine), pictures, poetry, illustration, audio scenes, music, and sound effects to provide an immersive reading experience. It was an honor to get to work with such a variety of talented artists—from directors to comic artists to poets—I loved it! 

You can download SLICE OF LIFE at the iPad app store here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sliceoflife-by-noble-beast/id763308689?mt=8

What’s next for Ellie Ann?

I’m currently writing Girls and Boys: A Post Apocalyptic Fairy Tale. It’s about a dystopian backwoods village where the gender roles are switched, and a girl must go kidnap a writer in order to save her village from an apocalyptic threat. It’s a comedy, and let me tell ya, writing comedy has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s been more challenging than any project I’ve tackled.

Do you have any upcoming appearances?

I’ll have a booth at Planet Comicon in Kansas City in March, and I will be a panelist at Denver Comicon in June. Come say hi. I don’t bite. Unless I’ve been turned into a zombie.

I’m afraid that’s all the time we have. The cog railway seems to have noticed that their seats are missing.

I’m going to have to ask you to put on this parachute over your corset. Don’t worry—we’ll remove your handcuffs and blindfold before we push you out of the helicopter deliver you safely to your home.

Thank you for your time. It has been an honor.

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You can find THE SILVER SICKLE, SLICE OF LIFE, and Ellie Ann’s other works, at her website, Ellie Ann: Projects.

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Piper Bayard is an author, a recovering attorney, a belly dancer, and managing editor of Social In. Her writing partner, ‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and pretty much every war since then. He remains an anonymous senior intelligence operative. Piper is the public face of their partnership, and together they write factual fiction spy thrillers.
To follow Bayard & Holmes, sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter, or find them at their site,  Bayard & Holmes. You may contact them in blog comments at their site, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or by email at BH@bayardandholmes.com.
© 2014 Piper Bayard. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

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