For Steam and Country – an interview with Jon Del Arroz

TW: Your debut novel, Rescue Run made the top ten in Space Opera books on Amazon. I’m a big fan of Space Opera, so I’m always curious what books stand out above the rest. Why do you think Rescue Run has been such a hit for Space Opera fans?

JDA: The feedback I’ve been getting is it’s just fun. It’s got action, romance,adventure, a little of everything. People really connect with Joan as a character, and love her AI companion that she named G.O.D. People want fun space stories that don’t go too dark and dreary. That’s what made people love the original Star Wars films.

TW: Your bio states, “reading and writing Space Opera is his life!” What tropes annoy you the most, and which are the hardest to do well?

JDA: I’m sick of the over the top darkness in characters. Trying so hard to be “edgy”, to create shock situations for readers or viewers to gasp about and then post about online afterward. While that works for a one time view, it’s not rereadable. It doesn’t connect you to people — because real life isn’t that dark for most folk. If you look at what stands out over time, it’s characters who are grounded in something people can connect with, characters that readers want to win. If you lose that, you lose your audience over time.

TW: If you could pluck out a super ability of a favorite Space Opera writer, what and from whom would you pluck it? What is your super ability?

JDA: Lois McMaster Bujold’s sense of prose. She is just so incredible I don’t know how she does it. Her words read like poetry. I think my super ability is being able to make protagonists that people can connect with. That by itself makes stories work for a lot of people and is something to focus on.

TW: Do you have any advice to Space Opera writers on what to bulk up on for research prior to plotting their next series?

JDA: Work hard on the world. Work hard on the characters. Know your universe like the back of your hand. What happens in 10-50 years, 100 even. Babylon 5, one of my favorites, the writer knew the fate of his universe a million years in either direction. It may seem extreme as the show itself was a 5 year span, but it helped bring so much wonder and detail that that’s why it stands as one of the best film works of all time.

TW: Rescue Run is the first novel set in the Star Realms universe, which is also a deckbuilding game. What made you decide to pick that opportunity for your debut novel?

I love Star Realms. It’s the most fun card game/app out there (there’s a free version to try it too — but warning, it’s addictive!). I love the space ships, the bases, the battle competitive element. It’s super engaging. And it made me think of deeper stories with the world almost immediately. I still play this game almost every day after 3 years.

TW: Your newest book, For Steam and Country is steampunk. What elements of that genre inspired you to begin writing, and how did you mold your passion for steampunk into your unique world and characters?

Steampunk’s always intrigued me since I saw the Steampunk ball at Dragon*Con in 2011. The costumes really inspired my imagination, and I love the concept of airships from playing the Final Fantasy games as a kid (and now). Those two things made me realize there’s a lot of space to tell fun adventure stories. I joked with someone last night “the entire reason I wrote this book is because I wanted an airship with propellers, not a blimp, and there’s not many books with those. That’s it.” And… as much as that’s a simplification, it’s half true. It’s so fun to dream of cool gadgets and technologies that never were.

TW: I have to admit, I have only read a few steampunk books…and by few, I think I mean one (shoutout Matt Betts)…but I hope yours gets an audiobook so I can check it out. Reading the synopsis, it sounds like a cross between Space Opera with air ships and a fantasy adventure for the heir to a kingdom. How do those elements blend together, if I’ve pegged it correctly?

JDA: Yeah that’s what I’m feeling with For Steam And Country exactly. A lot of what’s released in the genre so far is alt-history that adds airships and gears and steam-contraptions, but not a ton of straight fantasy Steampunk. I tooked what I love out of Space Opera, and dialed the scale down to fantasy exploration in the sky, the fantasy adventure I’ve always dreamed of. It’s actually very similar conceptually, which I’ve talked about on my blog a couple of times. Both are extrapolations of science and technology that aren’t real, may not be physically possible, but give a cool sense of “what if?” wonder that is super exciting.

TW: What are your developmental plans for the next year in your budding author career?

JDA: A ton planned out. Right now I’m about 50% on a third draft of my own space opera novel which will be a world I’m going to tell a LOT of stories in. Drafting another space opera while doing that, which is at the beginning stages. I’ll of course let everyone know how these progress. I have a short story in the anthology A Fistfull Of Credits edited by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandry coming out June 30th — which is my best short I’ve written to date, you won’t wanna miss it. I’m editing my own anthology for later in the year, Mars Planetary Fiction through Superversive Press. And then by the looks of how popular it is from the buzz I’m getting, I’m going to have to write a sequel to For Steam And Country in short order.

Thanks for having me, Tim! Always an honor.

Amazon link: http://bit.ly/ForSteamAndCountry
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35378932-for-steam-and-country
Del Arroz blog: http://www.delarroz.com
twitter: @jondelarroz
gab: @otomo

Synopsis of For Steam and Country

For Steam And Country is the new novel from Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic author in Science Fiction and author of the top-10 Amazon bestselling space opera, Star Realms: Rescue Run!

Her father’s been pronounced dead. Destructive earthquakes ravage the countryside. An invading army looms over the horizon. And Zaira’s day is just getting started…

Abandoned at an early age, Zaira von Monocle found life as the daughter of a great adventurer to be filled with hard work and difficulty. She quickly learned to rely on only herself. But when a messenger brought news that her father was dead and that she was the heir to his airship, her world turned upside down.

Zaira soon finds herself trapped in the midst of a war between her home country of Rislandia and the cruel Wyranth Empire, whose soldiers are acting peculiarly—almost inhuman. With the enemy army advancing, her newfound ship’s crew may be the only ones who can save the kingdom.

“FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY is a rousing girl-powered fantasy tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed airship adventure!”
– Laurie Forest, author of The Black Witch

“Well written… those familiar with the genre should find it excellent.” – Peter Grant, author of the Maxwell Saga and the Ames Archives

“Witty, charming and downright thrilling! Del Arroz nails the feel of good old fashioned Steampunkery with wit, aplomb and of course… panache.” – Nick Cole, author of the Dragon Award winner, CTRL ALT Revolt

Bio: Jon Del Arroz began his writing career in high school, providing book reviews and the occasional article for a local news magazine. From there, he went on to write the weekly web comic, Flying Sparks, which has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as “the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with early Marvel comics.” He has several published short stories, and has worked in gaming providing fiction for AEG’s weird est card game, Doomtown Reloaded, and settings for various RPGs. His debut novel, Star Realms: Rescue Run went on to become a top-10 bestselling Amazon space opera. For Steam And Country marks his first foray into fantasy.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former executive producer and Hugo Nominee of Adventures in SciFi Publishing. He has been broke and lost on the other side of the world and now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer, he released his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant, and a new series that begins with Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up for his newsletter for news, sales, giveaways and more: http://www.timothycward.com/newsletter/.

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