Justin Childress, author of The Steam Punk, was kind enough to drop by the blog today to answer a few of my questions. Justin studied English in Arizona but currently resides in South Korea where he is a university professor.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?Well, I dictated stories to my parents before I knew the alphabet, so that should've been a tip-off, but I didn't actually figure it out until I was in my teens. And even then it just seemed like it could never be anything but a hobby. Like a lot of kids, I was passively told in school that I shouldn't pursue art seriously because I "Couldn't get a career doing THAT," so it never really occurred to me that I could be a writer until a lot later.
How does your everyday life influence how or what you write?Well, I've been a teacher for years, so I mainly write for the young adult (YA) crowd, and my books generally tend to feature young-ish protagonists. Thankfully I have a cushy job as an English professor at a university in Korea, so I have lots of spare time to write.
Are you currently working on any other projects?Always. If I don't have at least one or two books I'm working on now, with another three or four or five in the pipe, something's amiss. My current focus is spent on polishing the final draft of a YA/urban fantasy/action-adventure novel that draws a lot of inspiration from "Indiana Jones," and the pulp serials of the twenties and thirties, and the sequel to "The Steam Punk."
What is your favorite thing about being an author?Taking an empty page and filling it with stuff. First there's nothing, then there's a world filled with cities, characters, stories, all that. The whole writing process is fun, but first starting a new book and setting everything up is a huge thrill. Finishing a book is also very satisfying.
What is your least favorite thing about being an author?
The sometimes crippling self-doubt that plagues the entire process. Especially in the first draft. I write my first drafts in a vacuum, all on my lonesome, and it's hard to be objective about the story and characters and whatnot when you're by yourself. Is it bad or am I being too hard on myself? Is it good or am I being over-confident? What if nobody likes it? What if somebody else is already writing this same type of story? It's a serious bummer and it never goes away.
What was your inspiration for your book, "The Steam Punk"?
I always loved steampunk as a genre, but a lot of the steampunk books I saw were just people with top hats and waistcoats, without any of the gritty, fringe elements that are supposed to be there as well. I also haven't seen a lot of superhero literature. That's probably because that genre lends itself to more visual mediums like comics (where it originates from) but you can never have enough superheroes. So I wanted to make a real steampunk book with characters on the edges of society, fighting against established norms, and superheroes. "The Steam Punk," is the result of that.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?The best advice I can give is Stephen King's advice: "Read every day, and write every day." I'd also add to that a few other things, like "Be critical of your own work, but don't beat yourself up," and "Listen to honest, constructive criticism, but ignore hate," and things in that vein. But most of all, have fun. That's really what it boils down to. If you're not having fun writing it, I'm not going to have fun reading it. Make it a work of passion, not obligation. That's where the best art comes from: passion. I hope that helps. I'm still trying to figure all this stuff out myself.