Steve Turnbull has been publishing stories in his steampunk Voidships Universe since late 2013, creating an impressive catalog of 14 titles and counting. This week, I talk to Steve about how he got started in self-publishing and how he manages to release a title a month.
Steve got started writing steampunk fiction while working on a script for a web series. The director asked him to make it “steampunky.” Steve said, “What’s that?” The director explained: he had an idea for a universe just like ours, except for the notable difference that in 1843, Sir Michael Faraday discovers the Principle for the Partial Nullification of Gravity, resulting in steampunk flight.
They went with it and launched a Kickstarter in order to fund the project. Sadly, it failed, but Steve noted that it failed due to a lack of an pre-existing fan base. So he set out to build one…by writing books.
Steampunk Meets Agatha Christie
Bitten by the brass-riveted Steampunk bug, Steve fell into creating and expanding this alternative Edwardian universe he now called Voidships. His first title in this universe is his homage to Agatha Christie: Murder Out of the Blue, featuring Maliha Anderson, a young Anglo-Indian woman, who sets out to solve a murder that occurs during a steamliner flight.
Steve’s written several more books in the Maliha Anderson Mysteries series, but he’s also got other serieses running in the same universe at varying times in history. While Maliha Anderson solves crimes set primarily in India around 1908-1909, the two sisters in Steve’s Iron Pegasus YA series find adventure in East Africa in 1896. Steve also has an episodic adventure series set in India and China around 1909, called Frozen Beauty, a steampunky tribute to Joss Whedon’s Serenity and Firefly.
Building a Catalog One Title a Month
Even though Steve has only been publishing a little over two years, he’s got 14+ titles available on Amazon and growing…at the rate of one title a month! He writes both novellas and novels, ranging from 20k to 70k words, and shows no signs of slowing down. How does he do it?
Steve has a unique situation in that he stays in London during the week for his day job, so he tries to do most of his writing during his “extended commute.” He is a “pantser,” and writes his stories front to back knowing only the beginning and end, with the middle “up for grabs.” He follows Heinlein’s rules and doesn’t change too much from his first drafts. He uses two editors; one for continuity issues, and one for copy editing.
Finally, Steve enjoys deadlines. He creates deadlines for himself by setting up pre-orders for his titles and booking reservations with editors.
Steve had some difficulty finding a narrator on ACX who suited his stories, so he decided to record some of his stuff on his own. Excited by the audiences fellow writers were building through Podiobooks and the like, Steve DIYed a little recording pod in his cellar with acoustic foam and duvet covers, then narrated and produced his book Journey into Space 1874, as well as several crime scene extracts from the Maliha Anderson series. (These can be found on Soundcloud.)
He hopes to have some of his audio work available on CD for this year’s Asylum steampunk festival.
The Next Big Thing:
The Next Big Thing for Steve Turnbull is really a whole lot of big things. As he continues to write and release titles on a monthly basis, he’s coming up to the ninth and final installment in the Maliha Anderson series. (But don’t fret, fans…Steve assures us that she will be making future appearances elsewhere.) He’s also continuing his work in his other serieses. Given his prolificness and enthusiasm for world-building, it will be interesting to see what his Amazon Author Page looks like in a year’s time.
“I am not Joss Whedon. I want to be him when I grow up.”
“I love creating universes.”
- For love or money? Ask yourself if you love what you’re doing. Turnbull is turning out a book a month because he loves it. But he also spent a good amount of time in 2014, he says, working on a project he didn’t love, but thought would yield a good return on his efforts. He eventually abandoned that project and decided to publish a book a month in 2015, a goal that he is currently knocking out of the park.
- Use social media to meet authors who are doing the thing you want to do. Sometimes it’s easy to forget social media is not just for marketing, building platforms, and finding readers. Reach out to other folks who are finding success in the area that you want to achieve and make friends, ask questions, and participate in the community.
- Are you brave and can you do accents? Consider DIYing your audiobooks. Narrating and producing your own audiobooks is hard work, but it’s doable and affordable…plus, you have an excuse to hang out in the cellar by yourself while your significant other wrangles the little ones during witching hour. (For everything you need to know about audiobook production, including how to DIY, check out Simon Whistler’s Audiobooks for Indies: The One-Stop Guide for Authors Looking to Make More Money Selling Audiobooks.)
Steve is an avid world-builder, and his passion and enthusiasm clearly drive his impressive story production. What’s your favorite part about the writing process? What is it that gets you to your desk every day?
Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at email@example.com