Interview with Steampunk Author James Calbraith

We go in-depth with Author James Calbraith on Japan, Steampunk, and the Steam-Lit Extravaganza!

Banner-copy21-1024x426As part of our #Steamlit Steampunk promotion, I was fortunate enough to both interview and be interviewed by another steampunk author. You can view my interview here.

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to interview James Calbraith, author of the Year of the Dragon Series, a Japanese Steampunk tale. I should mention, the covers are gorgeous and he’s offering a great deal on his first four books – The Year of the Dragon Series, Books 1-4: The Crimson Robe – Which I think everyone should check out. Before I blabber on unnecessarily, here’s the interview 😉

1.) I love a good alternate history novel, and so far you’ve written several books in The Year of the Dragon series. What inspired you to write book one, and then to keep writing?

12-The-Shadow-of-Black-WingsIt’s all about Japan, really. For many fantasy authors, writing is a way to escape to another world. The world that I want to escape is real, it’s just one that I can’t yet permanently move to for various reasons. So instead, I write about it. Maybe if I could just live in Japan I’d stop having to write the books, who knows 😉

The story I write about is real, too, or at least, inspired by real events – heavily disguised in a fantasy garb. It happened originally at the peak of the age of steam, in the middle of the 19th century, so making it a steampunk world came almost naturally, with very little adjustments.

I have to keep writing because there’s a story I need to tell to the end. I don’t want to leave my readers unfulfilled. Plus, it pays the bills 🙂

2) What’s the most important thing a beginning author should know before trying to self-publish their own book?

They should decide whether they seriously want to earn money from it, or is it just a vanity project or hobby. Because if it’s going to be a serious job, then they’re in for a long, difficult, arduous haul. And if they want to be treated serious as writers, they have to treat their readers seriously, too. That means they will need to keep the quality of their writing, editing and publishing at a top level, always. There will be no slip-ups allowed. This is a commitment not everyone is aware of when they start out.

3) What are your plans from here, book wise?

As I mentioned, there’s still a story that needs telling, and it’s a long one. I have at least four more volumes planned out, but I expect that to grow – as these things do – in the writing, so I can’t tell how much I’ll end up with in the end.

That should take me a good few years. I already have ideas for a couple books, in different settings, after that, and for a few novellas that I’ll try to write in between, during the gaps in publishing process. Eventually, I might return to the world of The Year of the Dragon to write a few sequels or prequels. There are characters in the book whose back stories could use some fleshing out in separate works.

4) What makes your work unique? How does it stand out from other works in the steampunk genre?

I don’t focus on the technology too much. It’s kind of “there”, and while I do mention gears, tubes, valves and all that whenever they come into picture, they are, for the most part, not that essential to the main story. A lot of the book is happening in a pre-Steampunk Japan, too, where modern devices are still few and very precious, which makes their appearance in the story that much rarer. There is only one “ray-gun” used in all four books, for example. Also, dragons. I’m not sure there are many steampunk books that feature dragons (real ones, not clockwork) prominently.

5) Which book and character are your favorite?

Until now, my favourite character was Dylan ab Ifor, the main protagonist’s father. It may have something to do with the fact that I’m closer to Dylan’s age than the main protagonist’s, but also – he’s a character made to be liked. A sort of cross of all the bad-ass good guys in fiction, a Victorian Bond who hurls fireballs instead of bullets. But there’s a new guy in Book 5 that I’m writing now who very quickly overtook Dylan’s spot on my list…

6) You’re going to be appearing in The Indie Steampunk Lit Extravaganza in the end of April. Could you tell us about that?

Put simply, it’s a bunch of indie steampunk authors getting together to promote their books for a week. 13 authors, 50% off, 21-27 April.

I think the initiative is an important one. I’ve been in the indie publishing business for a few years, and I noticed most of the things like bundles, group promos, etc. are organized in just the few most popular genres: romance, thrillers, urban fantasy. It’s the first time I’ve heard of a Steampunk event of the sort and naturally, I had to join. I hope it will be a great success, and will lead to even greater things in the future.

7) You have the last word. What would you like to share with my readers?

A writer is nothing without his readers. That puts a responsibility on the readers, too. If you like a book, any book, don’t keep it to yourself. Share it, spread the word, rate it, do whatever you can to make more people pick it up and read. It’s the only way indie authors can survive, and the only way to make sure there will always be more stories to read.


I’d love to thank Author James Calbraith for such an insightful interview! Read more about him here. Remember to share, like, or tweet this article to your friends and family. And if you want more, click the subscribe button on the left side for more steampunk, alternate history, and self-publishing ramblings!


Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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