Tuesdays with Lexie: Brooke Johnson

8/09/2016 10:17:00 AM Lexie Dunne 1 Comments

Welcome to the first installment of Tuesdays with Lexie, a series where I talk to people that I find interesting and ask them inane deeply insightful and award-winning questions about their books, their jobs, or just prettttty much anything I want. My first sacrificial guest is Brooke Johnson, steampunk aficionado and all around cool person whose hair consistently shocks and amazes.

Obligatory Tell Us About Your Book, Brooke! *shiny plastic smile here*:

The Guild Conspiracy continues the story of Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, as she tries to stop the conspiracy she uncovered in the first book, The Brass Giant. The British Empire is on the brink of war with the anti-imperialist French, and she’s determined to do whatever it takes to prevent it—even going so far as committing treason to keep the conflict at bay. Throw in the complications of a long-distance boyfriend, the excitement of an underground mechanical fight ring, and the watchful eye of a Royal Forces soldier, and Petra has more than enough to contend with in this book.

THE GUILD CONSPIRACY is your first full sequel in this series, though there’s a spin-off novella (THE MECHANICAL THEATER, starring Petra’s older brother Solomon) available for readers as well. What challenges did you face when coming up with a sequel? And what surprised you the most?

When I first started writing The Brass Giant, I had no idea there would be a sequel. I thought the story would be wrapped up, a simple one-and-done standalone novel. I was obviously very wrong. I got about 75% into my outline before I realized that I couldn’t wrap everything up by the end. So it was about that time that I started thinking of what would happen next. And that’s where I ran face first into a megaton of bricks. It took me literal years to iron out the details of what would happen in the second book. I went through several unfinished half-drafts before finally settling on a story that made sense and felt right as a successor to the first book. Some elements from those early attempts remained: the mech fights, the final airship battle, and the addition of the best friend character. But only traces. (There’s a reason I never finished a draft before this.)

Really, the hardest part was coming up with a compelling plot, a high-stakes conflict to top what happened in the first book. I went through several different outline revisions before settling on the final plot. I wanted something new, something different enough that it wouldn’t feel like the same plot as the first book, but something familiar enough that people who enjoyed the first book would hopefully enjoy the sequel. And I think that’s where I ran into the most trouble. I was very reader-conscious when I wrote this book. The Brass Giant, I wrote for me, to see if I could write steampunk. The Guild Conspiracy, however, I wrote for literally everyone but me. So that was crippling at times, constantly thinking of how it would be received, instead of just writing the damn thing. But I got through it. Eventually. And with an acceptable degree of sobbing.

As for surprises, I did not expect to hardcore ship a certain pair of characters like I did. In my outline, there was not going to be a romance in this book. Then suddenly, there was a romance subplot. When I had these two characters on the same page, I could not help but want to shove them together and make them kiss. I fought it. I cut every single iteration of romance. I put it back in. I scaled it back. Removed it. Revised it. The final result is very different from any of the early drafts I conceived, and I only came to a decision on how exactly to resolve things after a long talk with my editor. A good surprise, at least. :)

Because I’m a sadist, who’s your favorite character in your own work?

Oh, this is tough, but if I have to choose… I’d say Rupert, the best friend character introduced in The Guild Conspiracy. He’s just that steadfast, really thoughtful kind of friend who will always be there for you no matter what kind of shit goes down—even if it means helping your best friend to commit treason. He’s the kind of friend you call when you have a dead body and need someplace to bury it, the friend who shows up with a shovel at 3:00 am, no questions asked. That guy. Everyone needs a Rupert.

You’re a hybrid author, publishing both indie and through Harper Voyager Impulse. Everybody can read your DARK LORD IN TRAINING series free on Wattpad (Note to my readers: you should do that immediately, the premise is hilarious and charming). Do you find that there’s a lot of crossover between the two? Are there different skillsets you need to bring for each?

I started with self-publishing, so I have a soft spot for the DIY attitude that comes with going indie. As far as crossover, the writing is the same. I put just as much thought and attention into both when it comes to writing the actual story and trying to entertain my readers. The biggest difference is that I very much go solo with my indie stuff. Some people prefer to hire editors and cover designers and ebook formatting services and publicists. I don’t, so all of those tasks fall to me. Whereas with my traditional stuff, all of those things go to the art department and a team of editors, so that I can focus on whether or not my sales rankings have moved since yesterday. There’s a lot more work involved in self-publishing, but really, for me, the biggest difference comes down to the format. With Dark Lord in Training, I’m writing the story one chapter at a time, (irregularly) posting each chapter as I finish it. That’s a challenge in itself, very different from writing a first draft, editing the whole thing twelve times over, and then publishing a novel in its entirety. And being able to get instant reader feedback is something you just don’t get whenever your chest-deep in your second round of edits and can’t figure out what words are anymore.

What would you name your own personal airship?

Probably something containing “pickle” or “turnip”. I don’t know why. They’re funny words. I like them.  

The Indomitable Turnip.

For somebody looking to read steampunk for the first time, where would you recommend starting?

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. That’s where I started, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to get into steampunk. If you’re already a big fan of romance-driven young adult or paranormal romance, then I’d recommend Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series, starting with The Clockwork Angel. For urban fantasy readers, Viola Carr’s Electric Empire series, starting with The Diabolical Miss Hyde.

Most important question of all: walk me through the strategies your characters would employ when playing D&D. Is there a min-maxer? Who’s the drunk bard? Does anybody accidentally derail the campaign? 

Oh man… okay:

So, Emmerich would be totally into it. He’s the guy who spends three hours building his character and figuring out just how to roleplay properly without being too annoying. He’s the one who brings props, plays in costume, and talks in a weird faux-medieval accent during each game session. He plays the studious wizard who multiclasses into bard.

Petra would be the min-maxer, analyzing the rules and gameplay in order to make the most overpowered character possible. She’s the one who would always be trying to “win” against the other players, despite being told numerous times that the game doesn’t work that way. She’s the fighter, duel wielding swords.

Braith would be the rules lawyer, keeping Petra in check and letting Emmerich do whatever the hell he wants because he doesn’t try to abuse the game. He’s always looking stuff up in the player’s handbook to make sure that everyone is playing their characters right. Braith ends up as the dungeon master.

Rupert is the tagalong friend who comes to hang out but doesn’t really care to learn the rules, so Emmerich tries to make him a character because he just loves making characters, but it’s way too complicated to play well, so Braith steps in and gives him the simplest character possible. Petra takes over and helps him max out his stats. Rupert ends up landing the killing blow in his first epic battle and starts to actually get invested in the game, and afterward, he ends up veering the group on the weirdest side quests because he still doesn’t really know how to follow a quest line from beginning to end. Also, it’s fun wrecking Braith’s carefully laid plans and forcing him to go off-book. He plays the curious, yet deadly accurate ranger.

Yancy is the guy who always plays the rakish swashbuckling rogue, drinks and flirts too much in-game, and pretends not to care about the game at all, but secretly he loves it.

And Selby is the guy that got dragged into the group because they needed a fifth. He thinks Braith is a terrible dungeon master, he constantly gets into fights with Petra over who should be the leader of the group, he finds Emmerich’s roleplaying annoying, and he can’t stand Rupert’s complete and total obliviousness of the rules of the game. But he still comes to every session because he doesn’t want to be left out and hear about all of their crazy shenanigans after the fact. Begrudgingly, he enjoys it. He plays the high and mighty paladin of the group.


In the face of impossible odds, can one girl stem the tides of war?

It has been six months since clockwork engineer Petra Wade destroyed an automaton designed for battle, narrowly escaping with her life. But her troubles are far from over.  Her partner on the project, Emmerich Goss, has been sent away to France, and his father, Julian, is still determined that a war machine will be built. Forced to create a new device, Petra subtly sabotages the design in the hopes of delaying the war, but sabotage like this isn’t just risky: it’s treason. And with a soldier, Braith, assigned to watch her every move, it may not be long before Julian finds out what she’s done.

Now she just has to survive long enough to find another way to stop the war before her sabotage is discovered and she’s sentenced to hang for crimes against the empire. But Julian’s plans go far deeper than she ever realized … war is on the horizon, and it will take everything Petra has to stop it in this fast-paced, thrilling sequel to The Brass Giant.

Buy THE GUILD CONSPIRACY: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | Harper Collins

1 comment:

  1. best interview ever. thanks for having me today, Lexie!


Please keep it PG. My mom reads this blog.