Michael Rigg lives with his wife and children in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. He’s a social media writer and blognovelist, and self-described nerd. His Steampunk blognovel, Heart of Bronze, can be found at heartofbronze.wordpress.com. He also writes a regular column about roleplaying for the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic video game called “The RP XP with MJ” which can be found at swtor-life.com. If you’d like to learn more about the author or his work, as well as plans for an e-book and audio version of Heart of Bronze coming in 2012, you can email him directly at BronzeNovel@gmail.com. You can follow him @MichaelJRigg on Twitter, or check out his links at MichaelRigg.com.
Do you feel steamy, punk?
A blognovelist’s foray into the world of Steampunk
by Michael J. Rigg
Then I saw glimpses of it. Huge bronze engines, airships bristling with guns, bizarre pistols brandished by roguish men in top hats and brass goggles, beautiful women in corsets and bustles brandishing attitude, biplanes, steam-powered monstrosities, strange and mysterious glimpses of a reality that seemed all too real but not quite right, and I was intrigued enough to allow a seed to plant in the back of my mind.
Good thing. I would need it.
I am a writer and DIY author. My work is all free, mostly rough (because I’m more storyteller/writer than writer/editor), and available to anyone who doesn’t mind reading a novel on a computer screen. I published poetry and short stories way back in my meager beginnings, but the long form had always appealed to me. If I was going to be a writer, I would write novels.
I studied filmmaking and philosophy in college, but it was one professor who pointed out to me that novelists don’t need to hire actors, build sets or pay caterers that steered me toward writing to tell my stories; truly “Do-It-Yourself Filmmaking on the Cheap.”
After several failed attempts and publishing a novel (I had no problems writing them. I wrote in just under three months, another during a mad dash through “NaNoWriMo”), I gave up. I had written a horror story, a science fiction novel, a fantasy set in an age of dragons and heroes, and I had received kudos and accolades from peers and even publishers. “Your manuscript passed our first round of reviewers and has moved on to our editorial board,” came from St. Martin’s Press on a first submission. Holy cow!
But I’m lazy when it comes to publishing persistence. The average number of submissions to get a hook from a publisher used to be 20-25. I’m sure it’s much higher in today’s economy. I didn’t have that kind of money for postage. And I couldn’t find an agent. This was decades ago, folks. We old-timers didn’t have no newfangled Internet Thingy.
Then I realized I didn’t want to be “published” per se. I just wanted someone to enjoy my stories. It had nothing to do with fame, fortune, or being an author. I was a story teller. If just ONE person read my work and it made their day, it would make my day. It would all be worth it.
In 2007 I “published” my first “blognovel experiment.” I started a blog, but—instead of entries about the funny things my dog does—I wrote chapters. I didn’t have an outline or even characters in mind. It was an organic experiment to see what would happen if I just started writing from a premise. It began with this thought: What if a serial killer, on the run, ducked into a fortune teller’s home at the precise moment the fortune teller realized she really could predict the future? Ninety thousand words later: August Winter.
Two years later I took another stab at it. An Angel For Sara Dawn began with a premise and an idea. I followed that up with an outline and some character bios, but I had no idea how it would end. The characters would decide that as the story progressed. The few readers I had collected for August doubled by the time I started Sara. What next?
For my third blognovel, I went back to an old favorite manuscript. I started to re-write a finished book as a blognovel, but stopped dead only five chapters in. Again, I gave up (Yeah, its’ a theme with me).
Something wasn’t clicking. I had written about angels and demons, aliens and mysterious government projects—all topics I loved—but the settings all seemed weak to me, stale.
That’s when my mind wandered to an alternate reality where airships and Victorian lifestyles reigned, where polite English butlers waxed their mustaches and ladies wore tiny hats with veils (and Derringers in their garters), where Nikola Tesla’s visions provided the fuel for a world. What was that called?
Heart of Bronze began the same way as August Winter. I had an opening scene in mind, as well as a few others that would come later in the story, and a conclusion. All I had to do was let the characters connect the dots for me.
As of the publishing of this article, I’m a little more than half way through the story, with a new chapter publishing each Wednesday. Heart of Bronze, forgive the pun, has picked up steam as well as readers. Nearly four times as many people are following Heart than followed August and Sara combined, and I’m dedicated to putting it out as a free e-book and podcast book next year.
What makes the journey fun and interesting is the interactivity with my readers. Three of the main characters were named and designed by readers. Several other items, places or vehicles were named by readers. The book cover and web site banner were created by readers. One reader has even stepped up to create a Wiki for the book. And, as we near the climactic crescendo, I’ll be asking readers to decide which of the story’s two villains will die, and which will live on in book two.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Steampunk. In fact, I’m still a Steampunk virgin. I don’t classify Heart of Bronze purely as a Steampunk novel. I call it my Steampunk-Sci-Fi-Romantic-Thriller-Alternate History-Fantasy because it has elements of all (or most) of the above, though several of my most vocal fans lean toward “Steampunk Romance” and call it a day. Who am I to argue with my readers?
I think I can safely say I’ve come home. I’m learning a lot about this booming genre and can’t wait to create more stories and characters in the clockwork world of brass and steam. Heart of Bronze is a love affair for me. It has given me a playground to call my own, a world frozen in time and reality where anything can happen.
–Michael J. Rigg