Today, with 10 days left until LAUNCH DAY, William Kevin Petty is taking over the Coal City Steam countdown blog. To which I say YEA!. Finally, dear reader, you get her the story of out project from his perspective. Take it away KEVIN:
In early January of 2011, I was one of roughly 300 soldiers of the 230th Sustainment Brigade setting off for what turned out to be a year in Kuwait. I’d done two such deployments before, to Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, and while each is undoubtedly different, one must plan for the inevitable patches of inactivity while deployed. To that end, I packed a sketchbook and pencils among my copious detritus, as deterrent against monotony. You expect to be busy with duties, without a doubt, but downtime away from the comfortably familiar can be tough to face – ask any soldier.
There were a few other reasons I packed the art supplies. Being able to draw is dead useful in the military, by the way. Among these was a preoccupation to do something with all the sketches and drawings I’d built up in my portfolio over the last decade or so since I’d been pulling the camouflage gig. I confess, here to you today, that I had not one pixel of a plan for the pictures.
By May a routine had settled in and I’d figured out when I could draw and not get yelled at. I’d finished a few and showed them around. Folks said they were Steampunk, or reminded them of such. Worth looking into, I thought. To the interwebs, then.
After a few days of snooping, I ran across some helpful folks on Facebook, namely the Sacramento Steampunk crew and the League of Proper Villians crowd. After lurking around there, I was asked to do some illustration work for Penelope Dreadfulle – work that turned out to be loads of fun. I built a website and called myself in business.
California being a bit of a commute from the Louisiana homestead, I checked things out a little closer to home. After a few tentative Facebook messages, I made friends with Emilie P. Bush, of Chenda and the Airship Brofman fame and wondered if I could illustrate an existing Steampunk work in such a way that anyone would know what they were looking at. I did some fan art of the Airship Brofman and got a little bit of a squee. An encouraging squee, to be honest.
I was still ascertaining whether or not this Emilie P. Bush person was serious. I’d read both Chenda books and knew that when she talked about putting a book together she meant it and meant doing it well. In the end, I figured it was at least a productive use of what downtime I had in Kuwait and that I never really enjoyed working with people who were entirely sane, so what the hell. ((Editor’s Note: Really, Kevin? I find out NOW that you picked me to work with because of proximity and relative insanity? I think I might be offended… Oh, wait. I’m not.))
By this time, I’d fully considered the idea of seriously attempting a substantial illustrating effort. To this point, I’d only been approached to draw a central character or event, which meant one or two drawings from a single body of work. Her Majesty’s Explorer would mean creating a character and drawing every emotion, action and background over each and every page. A lot of work, sure, but what fun!
We’d decided on taking a character from an earlier work of an automaton rigged up in that cool uniform from the 24th Regiment of Foot- that one from those Michael Caine ‘Zulu’ movies. I dialed down in martial trappings into an explorer rather than soldier. By doing so we’d intended to combine two archetypes of the Steampunk genre, explorer and automaton, and by making one of his eyes a lens, he’d have that Victorian monocle business going on. Furthermore, we’d add other visual elements from the Neo-Victorian palette to objects and animals that children would identify with. Hence Steamduck, but more on him later.
Ideas bounced over and across oceans and a storyline developed. Emilie and I worked out a way around time zones that was fairly convenient; while it was late in the PM over here I was drawing over there, so I could expect feedback every morning after emailing off the roughs in my Kuwait afternoon. She got drawings along with her cornflakes most mornings. Nifty.
As September neared I traveled back home for two weeks R&R, and on my way back through the Atlanta airport, Emilie met me there for our only face to face meeting through most of the development phase of the project. A lot was settled at that USO stopover. ((Editor’s note: As I recall, Kevin spent a good bit of time watching, agog, the people milling around the atrium while saying, “People in civilian clothes are so fascinating.” To be sure, he’d been soaking in the military pool for some time.))
After R&R and getting back to Kuwait, my coveted routine met with a snag; I was told I’d have to go up into Iraq and help close down Victory base in Baghdad. Uncle Sam frowned on us giving too much away via Facebook so I had to be cryptic, but the meaning was clear, the day job had to take the front seat for a while. After a month of what turned out to be a great mission, I headed back to Kuwait to pack things up and get ready to head home. About half the book was in the bag by this time.
When the ink finally dried on the redeployment paperwork in January of 2012 I got back to Louisiana and as soon as I recovered from the shock of stateside gas prices work on the book was all consuming. When the smoke cleared and the project completed, I was struck with the startling realization that I actually had a book coming out, and by all accounts, people seemed thrilled with the result. It really seems to be a world away from where we started, and I guess it really is.
The Launch Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/347525985265865/
The Her Majesty’s Explorer Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/HerMajestysExplorer
The Video Book trailer: http://youtu.be/kHb3Wpe3F2o
The Tease Read by Captain Robert of Abney Park:http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2931604900935
Chenda and the Airship Brofman: http://www.amazon.com/Chenda-Airship-Brofman-Emilie-Bush/dp/1449542549
The Gospel According to Verdu : http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-According-Verdu-Book-Brofman/dp/1461026466/