Last month I reviewed The Ghost Rebellion, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. They stopped by The Writer’sKindred Spirit Author: Thanks for stopping by The Writer’s Desk. Your fifth book in your Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series came out on June 17, 2016. Can you tell us about this book and the series?
Pip Ballantine: Well, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is a branch of Queen Victoria’s government that deals with the strange, the unusual, and the bizarre. Eliza D. Braun and Wellington Thornhill Books have been through many adventures in their time in the Ministry, but in this book they are starting to have to face up to their pasts and the consequences of their actions. The Ministry has been called James Bond in a corset.
Tee Morris: In Phoenix Rising, Eliza is the hot-shot secret agent that has been known for making snap decisions in the field. On this one particular mission, though, Eliza fails mission parameters and is demoted to the Archives alongside Wellington Books. Wellington is a by-the-book, clerical dynamo with many, many hidden talents. It is their casual approach to the cold cases of the Ministry that get them rolling along in their madcap adventures.
KSA: Why Steampunk?
Tee: I love the whole idea of steampunk. Modern conveniences and technology with Victorian flair. There is also a touch of swashbuckling adventure with steampunk. It was as if the two settings were made for one another. I have written steampunk both in and out of this universe, and I have so much fun playing in it. Often times, it’s fun to find out what actually did exist and what I have to make up.
KSA: What is your writing process? Do you have a particular time and place to write? And how does it work when two authors collaborate on a work of fiction?
Tee: I know there are authors who insist on being at their home, being on their computer, in their proper study, etc., etc., but deadlines do not always allow for that. I try to make myself portable as possible. I’ve written on iPads, on laptops, and on my desktop here at home. Cloud computing has made sticking with one file insanely easy, but I’m of the mindset it’s not where I write or how I write but making sure I get 1-2K words in. I need to get in that word count. Without it, the book doesn’t get done.
KSA: Pip, you are from New Zealand, as is one of your two main characters, the “colonial Pepperpot” Eliza Braun. Are you like her in other ways?
KSA: What about you, Tee? How much of you is in the character Wellington Books?
Tee: I think Wellington and I are equally nerdy. He’s an awkward sort, even with the time spent partnered with Eliza D. Braun. I would also say he draws a lot of inspiration from Eliza. I whole-heartedly admit I do that with Pip. So while I’m not a super spy, I am very much crazy for my partner-in-crime. Also, I can be a font of knowledge, both useless and useful, now and then.
KSA: What’s been the most rewarding thing that’s happened to you since the books came out?
Tee: For myself, it’s been the reactions to The Diamond Conspiracy, and having fans tell us they went back to Phoenix Rising and re-read/re-listened to all three and discovered the clues we had left behind for them. We had enough for two more books and The Ghost Rebellion will continue a second arc we kicked off in The Janus Affair. It’s been this long-game we’ve been playing and readers enjoying it with us that has been incredibly gratifying. There is also how the world has evolved, somewhat organically. First, there was the podcast where we invited other authors to write in our universe, and these writers up and ran with it. Jack Mangan created the Agents of OSM and Michael Spence with the Mercury Gates. Then there is the RPG from Galileo Games, The Ministry Initiative, that is opening whole new possibilities for gamers everywhere. Watching the Ministry evolve to what it is has been amazing.
KSA: Books in this series have been published both traditionally and independently. Can you talk a little about that?
Tee: The anthology, Ministry Protocol, we knew would be an independent venture as anthologies are a tough sell; but continuing the series was a hard call because we knew it would be a lot of hard work ahead of us. The truth, however, was that we loved writing this series; and with CreateSpace, we knew the publishing process would not be as hard as it had once been almost a decade ago. After what happened with the Kickstarter in 2015, it was also a swift kick for us to take hold of the series and end it on our note, on our terms. So already, yes, all this work has been worth it.
KSA: Have you always wanted to be writers?
KSA: What other books have you written, both together and separately? Do you still write books separately?
KSA: What do you like to read? What are you reading now?
KSA: Can you tell us about what you are writing now or about any new books you have coming out?
Tee: Right now, I need to focus on finishing up the audiobook production, then join Pip in both Operation: Endgame and Curse of the Silver Pharaoh. Then, I need to work wit Pip and a few other wickedly witty people to put together Countless Hues of Crimson in time for Christmas. Then, while all that is going on, I’m hoping to have one of these works-in-progress I earlier mentioned signed and under development. So a lot will be happening this summer, I’m sure.KSA: What advice do you have for young people who want to be writers?
Tee: There are no guarantees. Your first book might be a runaway smash. Your first book might be some of the best literature written, but not earn back its advance. So get some skills in business, because when you write—when you do anything creative—you are going into business for yourself. So run your writing career like a business.KSA: Do you ever give talks or presentations to the public? Do you have anything coming up soon?
Tee: Yes, July is going to be a particularly busy month as we just booked appearances at Escape Velocity, a convention hosted by the Science Fiction Museum, on July 1-3 in Washington DC. Then, we have Motor City Steam Con at the end of July in Detroit, Michigan. Once out of July, August should give us a break and then we start back up with appearances in September.
KSA: Finally, I wonder if you’d share a writing prompt for aspiring young writers?