Friday, April 26, 2013

Guest Post + Giveaway with Nick James, author of Skyship Academy series

Today I have the amazing Nick James stopping by with an awesome guest post about the worldbuilding in his YA science fiction series, Skyship Academy! I'm super excited to welcome Nick back to my blog, and even more excited to share this great post with you guys!

I'm a huge fan of Nick James' Skyship Academy series! The Pearl Wars was absolutely amazing, I loved the worldbuilding (it's mind-blowing!) and the non-stop action! And guys, Crimson Rising was even better!!! Click here to read my review: CLICK

Building the World of Skyship Academy
A Guest Post by Nick James 
When writing the Skyship Academy series, one of the most important aspects to me was that the sci-fi/fantasy world of the books felt real. Honestly, creating a unique world is probably the biggest draw for me when writing science fiction and fantasy. I'm huge on imagination and creativity, but for books like these to work, the reader can't be forced to suspend disbelief too often. The more "out there" an idea is, the more directly it must be related to something the reader will recognize as familiar -- even if that's just a feeling or shared, common struggle.

Much of the world of Skyship developed during my revision phase. I had the basics down when writing the first draft, but at that point I was more worried about the characters and the overall story arc. When it came time to revise, I was especially interested in the relationship between the three main factions in the book: the Skyship Community, the Unified Party and the Fringes. To me, you can have the most awesome fantasy world ever, but if you don't understand how the connections between the pieces of your world work, it's going to feel hollow and fake.

With this in mind, I whipped up a graph to remind me that all three of these futuristic factions have things in common and conflict. This became a good visual representation for me as I was revising.

The resource that binds these three factions together is Pearls -- falling green orbs that are the world's ultimate (and last) power source. The Skyship Community and the Unified Party both rely on Pearls to power their respective technology, and the Fringes ends up being the place where most of these Pearls land. It often becomes the battleground in the war. It's impossible to separate any of these three factions completely. They're all very interdependent when it comes to telling the story.

The Skyship Community:

The Pearl Wars wasn't the first book I tried to write about kids living on a Skyship. The idea has been with me for over a decade, and I distinctly remember starting an unfinished manuscript where a floating school featured prominently. Unfortunately, I couldn't sustain my own interest in that particular story, but I certainly borrowed aspects from it when writing theSkyship Academy series.

In addition to city-sized skyships being totally kick ass, I love the psychological implications of living above the clouds. In the book, the Skyship Community (which lives in dozens of ships across the country), is basically a separatist movement, taking to the skies in protest of the goings-on in America. They're rebels, and have visibly separated themselves from the rest of the country. As such, they're unable to breach the International Skyline and head to the Surface. I'd imagine that, while being pretty cool, the experience of living on a ship of this nature would also be very isolating and somewhat lonely. Imagine living on a cruise ship that you couldn't escape. Same people, same drama. I like that it's a confined space. I also like that this community has a tactical advantage over their foes on the Surface of the Earth. They could literally drop down and attack at any moment. Both of these aspects served the story well, and I think that's important in any world-building. If it doesn't serve the story, does it really need to be in the book?

Much of the action in the first half of The Pearl Wars occurs on Skyship Academy, a school and training ground for those who will someday fight to obtain Pearls. Having spent time as faculty of a boarding school, I know very well what it feels like to be unable to leave your school because you also live at it. It's the worst nightmare for a kid who doesn't like, or doesn't excell, at school. This provides an interesting backdrop for my main character.

Unified Party:

The Unified Party is what remains of traditional United States government. They've become more secretive and powerful as a result of situations that they've been forced to deal with in the past. They are very much an exclusive government, giving the wealthy and well-connected shelter in their futuristic Chosen Cities, while ignoring those suffering in the Fringes of the country. To a certain extent, they've been forced into this position, but they've also operated in a way that both the Skyshippers and the Fringers find unacceptable.

Of all the pieces of the Skyship world, the Unified Party is the most typically dystopian. On the surface, everything looks pretty rosy, but the political machinations behind the scenes are anything but. I wanted the Unified Party (and particularly its Chosen Cities) to feel very futuristic and rich. In the world of Skyship, America is one big desert, and the Unified Party is the only faction with the power and resources to shield their followers from the harsh conditions. Their Chosen Cities are covered in Bio-Nets, which pump in cool air and keep the atmosphere stabilized. But it's also a place of great control and very little tolerance for outsiders.

The Fringes:

While the Skyship Community and the Unified Party are the two factions most at war, the Fringes is the place where most of the action happens. In essence, it's neutral ground, though it's filled with thugs and rousers and others that have been shut out of the Unified Party's Chosen Cities. It's the most volatile place in a number of ways. The heat alone is enough to prove fatal if endured for too long. It's also a very low-tech, poor area of the country without law or order. In my mind, I always pictured the typical Old West towns when I was writing the Fringes.

When I wrote The Pearl Wars, I was living in Central Washington for the first time in my life. Having grown up on the coast, I was used to rain and beaches and cool temperatures. Living on the eastern side of the mountains was a huge shock to my system, and is really evident in the book. In fact, I doubt whether the book would be anything like it is if I hadn't moved to Central Washington for a year.

Nick's Golden Rules for World-Building:

1. Setting, as with every piece of a manuscript, exists to support the story. If it doesn't serve the story, should it be there?

2. Connections and relationships between the people/motivations of the book's world are what make it feel real.

3. The more outlandish a book's world, the more closely it should be tied to experiences/situations the reader can understand..
LOVE this post! The worldbuilding in the Skyship Academy is top-notch (I know, I am repetitive, but it really is amazing!), and it's so awesome to learn more about it and how the world of The Pearl Wars came to exist!  Thank you for sharing this wonderful guest post with us, Nick

Nick James is a fabulous YA Galaxy Defender! Check out Nick's MIYA-style photo:

(this is an exclusive MEN in YA2 photo that will be printed on the 2014 MEN in YA Calendar. You can enter to win one of two (1 of 2) copies of the exclusive calendar here, at Bookish, on April 30th). 

Author bio:

When he was a young boy, Nick James’ collection of battle-scarred action figures became the characters in epic storylines with cliffhangers, double crosses and an unending supply of imaginary explosions. Not much has changed. The toys are gone (most of them), but the love of fast-paced storytelling remains. Working in schools from Washington State to England, Nick has met thousands of diverse students since graduating from Western Washington University and braving the most dangerous job in the world: substitute teaching. Luckily, being dubbed the “rock star teacher” has granted him some immunity. He currently lives and teaches in Bellingham, Washington.
Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Because I love Skyship Academy SO MUCH, I want to share this awesome series with you guys! One lucky winner will get the first two books + a pre-order of the third (available Octber 8th 2013)! 
Open internationally, as long as Book Depository or Amazon ships to you!

Ends: May 25th

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This guest post is posted as part of: 

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