Pip Ballantine is an extremely busy author, with books happening all over the place. Her recent release is ‘Phoenix Rising – A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences‘, a sensational steampunk offering written in collaboration with Tee Morris.
We approached her with some questions about her life and career so here’s a little peek into Pip Ballantine.
2006 saw you become New Zealand’s first podcast novelist, can you explain to us what that is please?
Podcasting novels was something that happened in 2005. Tee Morris was the first to tackle, dividing up his novel, chapter by chapter, recording it in its entirety and then releasing a chapter a week.
Listeners subscribe through itunes, or another RSS reader. So short answer, serialised novel length fiction.
And podiobooks? I am not aware of these.
Podiobooks is a term coined by Evo Terra to describe this new form of audio, that is a cross between an audio book and old time radio. He went on to create with Tee and Chris Miller the website podiobooks.com where you can find, to this day, hundreds of free pieces of free fiction. It’s a great place to find new voices in fiction.
‘Phoenix Rising – A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel’ is your current release, what can you tell us about it?
It actually started out as a podcast for pay, but morphed into novel when there was interest from publishers. It is set in a steampunk Victorian London, and involves a New Zealand secret agent Eliza D. Braun who works for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.
She’s been described as James Bond in a corset. Unfortunately after a series of explosive incidents at work, she ends up demoted to the Archives. There she meets Wellington Thornhill Books, the rather stuffy Archivist, and discovers a collection of unsolved cases.
Among them is a case that her previous partner was investigating before he went mad and was sent to Bedlam. Eliza ends up dragging Wellington along with her in search of answers. The novel is a fun, adventure-packed romp—full of chases, nights at the opera, knife fights, and lots of cups of tea.
Phoenix Rising is a collaboration with Tee Morris, can you tell us a bit about how a collaborative novel works and how you write it together?
We started writing different characters; Tee wrote Wellington and I wrote Eliza. However as we started to get through the editing and writing process, we ended up merging our styles as we worked with each others characters. Then when we added side plots it became even more fun as we wrote together.
The brainstorming and the ideas was high energy. Bouncing ideas and characters off each other was something I miss when I write by myself.
How did the idea for this collaboration come about?
We actually talked about collaborating on a series about the Ministry, but the original book we discussed hasn’t even been written yet. We ended up writing the spin-off of that book. One day we might get around to doing that original book.
What has been the best thing about working with Tee Morris on the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series?
Just having so much fun. The Ministry world is full of so many possibilities and excitement, and Tee is always full of so many great ideas it invigorates me too.
Can you tell us a little about what constitutes ‘steampunk’ for you?
Steampunk is a changing and evolving genre, and what exactly steampunk is has become quite the debate. For me it is about fun, and a sense of adventure. The joy of flying on an airship. The mystery of exploration. And the delight of looking beautiful when dressed in a corset.
Up to this point in your career, what has been a major highlight?
Just meeting people who have loved reading what I have written. Every time someone hands me one of my books to sign and says they enjoyed it, that’s my highlight. It might sound corny but sometimes being a writer can be a little lonely. Seeing your work out there, being read by people you don’t know is the highlight for me.
Can you share with us a quirky fact about you that we wouldn’t know?
As a kid I used to collect tropical fish with my Dad. We even went to a club! I can still tell a neon tetra from a guppy.
You have another book due for release closer to the end of the month, what can you tell us about Spectyr?
Spectyr is the sequel to Geist. Both are set in a world where the supernatural are a given fact. The Deacons of the Order are there to protect everyday citizens from these geists.
Sorcha Faris is a powerful Active Deacon, who along with her Sensitive partner uncovers treachery and danger in the Empire of Arykam. Along the way she meets the Pretender to the Throne who has his own dark secrets. There are supernatural beings, shapeshifters and a touch of romance.
What’s next for Pip Ballantine, what can we expect to see in the near future?
Well, I have another two books in the Geist series coming out with Ace next year. Wrayth and Harbinger. Also next year I have a book called Hunter and Fox coming from Pyr, and of course the second book of the Ministry series, Of Cogs and Corsets will be out. In between I may get a chance to write a new series or two in between somewhere.
What does being a woman mean to you?
It’s about your girlfriends. Having someone to shop with, someone to call up when you need a shoulder to cry on, someone to dance with at a club when no men are dancing at all. It may also be about pretty shoes…
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!