Posts Tagged ‘Pip Ballantine’

Today we welcome writing team Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.

Philippa Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order series with Ace- Geist and Spectyr out now, and Wrayth (2012) and Harbinger to follow. She is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series with Tee Morris. Phoenix Rising debuted in May 2011 and The Janus Affair will be out in May 2012. She also has the Shifted World series with Pyr Books, with the first book Hunter and Fox coming in June 2012.

Tee Morris began his writing career with his 2002 historical epic fantasy, MOREVI The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana. He won acclaim and accolades for his cross-genre fantasy-detective Billibub Baddings Mysteries, the podcast of The Case of the Singing Sword winning him the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Audio Drama. Along with those titles, Tee has written articles and short stories for BenBella Books’s Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs, and Killer Muppets, the podcast anthology VOICES: New Media Fiction, BenBella Books’ So Say We All: Collected Thoughts and Opinions of Battlestar Galactica, and Dragon Moon Press’ Podthology: The Pod Complex.

Collaboration: An Art within the Art

By Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

People are fascinated by how the two of us managed to write Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair, as well as pen several short stories for our podcast series, Tales from the Archives. The questions range between “How did you manage to keep your continuity straight?” to “How did you two manage not to kill one another?” Collaboration is a risk for publishers and, sometimes, for readers as the end result can be jarring when switching from one chapter to another. The running complaint for many collaborative works tends to be that the two-featured authors cannot effectively mesh their styles.

Somehow, we manage to avoid that pitfall. Exactly how do we do that?

We begin with an understanding that this book will not be a novel by Tee Morris and not by Pip Ballantine, but a novel written by the both of us. That means the style might have moments of Pip and moments of Tee, but a voice and a style completely different. This hybrid style is born from trust. If you were to talk to other collaborative teams, you will find that alongside communication, trust is an essential ingredient in a successful collaboration. We trust each other, not only in the way we write but in the way we plan and the ways we want to progress our plots forward.

From the trust also comes the faith in giving each other’s work a good, hard editorial eye. This is when the hybrid style matures. After Pip writes her scene, Tee steps in and begins an edit for not only grammatical and typographical slips, but also peppers throughout his own trademarks and touches. The same rule applies for Tee’s work when it comes under Pip’s red pen, and between each of our passes, this new voice emerges and the story begins to unfold.

Communication is also key in a successful shared story. To use a steampunk analogy, harbored grievances between authors are a bit like boilers building pressure. If you don’t release that valve, even slowly, you have a bomb on your hands; and when it blows, the damage isn’t pretty: Plot twists and characters flaws strewn across the furniture, and cliffhangers that — no matter how hard you clean — will never come out of the carpet. Yes, maybe relieving the tension is noisy and uncomfortable but in the end, that essential communication can save a story and (in some cases) a writing relationship. When collaborating with friends, family, and loved ones, keep the communication solid. If your communication falters, your trust soon follows.

These factors are all part of a successful collaboration, but they are also building blocks for any creative endeavor, whether you are sharing a byline or flying solo. How so? At the time of this posting, we are about to head up to Pennsylvania to shoot our book trailer. This time around, our trailer is calling on the talents of a cast of six, the resources of Brute Force Studios, and the filmmaking talents of our friend, Linc Williams. The brainstorming, the writing, and—across four days—the visual creativity of Linc, Thomas Willeford, and the two of us will come to fruition through six actors who have never worked together before and, in a few cases, never worked on camera before. We’ve been swapping emails, tweets, and text messages for weeks now; and in the final two weekends of April, it’s all coming together.




Sound familiar?

Collaboration can yield amazing things, and while you may have a book under one person’s name, don’t forget that within those words, within those chapters of narrative, struggle, drama, and revelation, there is an editor offering an objective look, a proofreader attempting to catch any of the typos that may have missed the editorial passes, a designer that gives the book’s interior a flair and a polish, and a cover artist that makes people stop to look. It may vary from publish to publisher, but we believe that The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels have been—from the beginning—true success stories from the beginning. From our writing, to the editorial and creative staff of HarperVoyager, to the marketing team of HarperCollins, to the amazing writers invited to podcast with us in Tales from the Archives, to the filmmaking talents of Bald Groove, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences may have taken its first steps with us, but became a flash mob of epic proportions through trust, communication, and faith in some truly inspiring individuals. Consider the words of actor, producer, and director Kenneth Branagh when he was asked what his secret was in creating successful films: “Surround yourself with people more brilliant than yourself.”

We did, and now we’re headed up to Pennsylvania to step through a steampunk looking glass.

Shall we dance?

–Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris


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Today is Thursday–and that means we have a special guest. Today we welcome author Pip Ballantine who’d going to dish about her recent trip to Balticon.

Philippa Ballantine is a writer and podcaster from Wellington, New
Zealand. She is a published author, with a supernatural fantasy, Geist
coming out in October this year with Ace Books. She and her co-writer Tee Morris have a steampunk series the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences coming out with Eos in Summer 2011. She also looks great in a bowler hat.

Balticon, Maryland’s premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, is where a good head of steam can be found building up, Gentle Readers.

The steampunk movement at Balticon has been growing for years, but 2010 seemed to be a breakout with plenty of costumes, panel discussions, a new player in the Dealers Room and two big announcements.

Firstly the costumes were out in force, obviously worked on well into the night with the help of gaslight and unbridled creativity. Pith helmets, goggles and brass were in evidence in the hallways pretty much all the time. The New Media party held on Saturday was a fine example. Dragon Moon Press author PG Holyfield came as one of Tesla’s Rangers, a sterling example of the well-heeled gentleman out of the Wild West. Renaissance swashbuckler and author Tee Morris, usually playing the tunes in a privateer’s best, sported a Jared Axelrod original (more on this fine gent later), a pin stripe woolsuit given an incredible steampunk makeover.

A staple of fashion, be it the Victorian Era or Carrie Bradshaw’s contemporary New York, is to accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. Balticon’s Dealers’ Room had a newcomer catering to the steampunk crowd. The Steampunk Funk Bizarre debuted with a rip-roaring trade in top hats, bowlers, a variety of goggles and some really beautiful watches. Lord Montague J Fromage might well have had something to do with it. Sporting a beautifully waxed and curled beard, Lord Fromage had the most delightful French accent (I am still not sure if it was real or an affectation), and really took care of his customers over the weekend. I know a number of my friends bought something from him.

On the literary front, the hot new steampunk author Gail Carriger was in attendance, flying in from San Francisco. If you haven’t read her Parasol Protectorate series, you really should. A fun read, with vampires and werewolves added to the steampunk mix. There were also two stand-out announcements, and one of them involves your Humble Writer, Gentle Readers.

If you don’t know the afore-mentioned Jared Axelrod, then you soon will. This writer, artisan, and podcaster extraordinaire (Voice of Free Planet X, Aliens You Will Meet) is embedded in steampunk (Seriously if you go to Wikipedia, Jared’s face will stare back at you!),, and those attending his high tea party knew he had a new podcast premiering. We were anxious to hear all about it. With wickedly beautiful assistants serving tea and danties to the packed room, we were all treated to the first episode of Tales from the Flying City. Jared (clad in the costume of his Flying Corp), known for being salwart and unmoving in his composure, couldn’t hold onto his announcement. The podcast was actually a prequel for the graphic novel The Battle of Blood and Ink, coming out in Fall 2011 from Tor Books.

Needless to say all decorum was lost as we all cheered for this.

The other announcement was a little more personal. Tee Morris and I hosted a second reading of our co-authored steampunk project. It’s a tale that was originally going to be podcast for pay, but ended up through a series of weird occurrences (please to pardon that pun, Gentle Readers) turning into a novel. Tee topped off his Jared Axelrod original costume with a bowler hat and mad goggles from the Steampunk Funk Bizarre, while I buckled into a corset, hitched my skirt with some skirt-lifters and wore my brand new purple top hat. Our Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels are set in late nineteenth century London, and revolve around a secret agent from New Zealand (rather like myself in some respects!) who has been demoted, after a couple of unfortunate explosive incidents, to the Ministry Archives. Here she butts heads with the Archivist as both of them set out to solve cold cases buried by the Ministry. It’s a huge, fun romp, and as an author it was nice to pack a room and have them giggling along with us.

Even better was to announce our two book deal with Eos coming in Summer 2011.

Yes, I confess, I drank champagne after that.

Balticon’s Steampunk Spectacular ended on Monday with the three of us — Jared, Tee and myself — for the panel ‘What’s Steamy in New Media’- a panel dedicated to steampunk. While this day tends to be the day people pack up and leave, a packed room spoke volumes to us on how much interest there is in this movement. I bought along my ray gun and with it in front of me, had a really good time. The audience interaction made the panel a lively one. We talked about what people love about steampunk—the general consensus was fun, a sense of wonder, being able to have a relationship with machinery, and the joy of messing around with history. We discussed which was everyone’s favourite steampunk story, and though Tee mentioned League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie), he managed to walk out alive.

Jared made a fine point that steampunk is evolving, and that everyone has a different take on it. Soulless is not the same as Boneshaker or Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Some are making romps, some romances, some serious discussions on man and machine. What secures all these works, and the genre itself, is not brass bolts, cogs, or clockwork gears, but a delightful wide-eyed wonder at a world that could have been. I believe this is what fuels the steampunk movement.

That, and men in bowlers. Let’s face it: Nothing says sexy like a dandy in a bowler and goggles.


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