Featured Interview With Jack Tyler
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
Born in San Diego, California, the son of a navy diver and a professional gambler, I joined the service to dodge the draft, sailed a wooden ship in a navy made of steel, and cruised the Orient on the deck of a tanker… all before my 21st birthday. My upbringing in an all-female household meant that no one was ever on hand to teach me that women were inferior, servants, sex objects, or any of the other negative stereotypes they fight against to this day. I believe this accounts in large part for my respectful treatment of female characters. They are always capable, always competent, and always play a pivotal role in my fiction.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t fascinated with books. My great-grandmother had me reading at the age of three, and while the difficulty and subject matter changed, the love never went away.
I can recall writing serious fiction (or fiction seriously) in third grade, which would be 1955. That makes it almost sixty years. Granted, it wasn’t anything anyone would want to read, but that was the beginning of the development of my craft. I wrote one meaningless story after another, always practicing, until the age of 18, when I decided I could write a book. Turned out I couldn’t, but the serious attempts began then. I began by mimicking whatever latest movie grabbed me. Sci-fi, spies, war, whatever, I was right there with my pen and notebook. After my “career” at sea, I accepted an ancient typewriter in lieu of payment for cutting a neighbor’s lawn, and my creativity expanded by leaps and bounds. Around 1990 I realized that there was more to it than to just grab a piece of paper and start writing, and leaped head-first into the world of how-to-write-books books. Beginning in ’95, I wrote five novels, none of which found a publisher, but my style and presentation solidified. I wrote three fantasies, a police procedural, and a story about an Irish terrorist become paladin for the oppressed. Having collected enough rejection slips to wallpaper a small bedroom, I took a long hiatus, after which I was inspired by a good friend to try my hand at steampunk. I fell in love at once and never looked back.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
My absolute favorite author is R.A. Salvatore, primarily for his long-running Drizzt DoUrden series. An evil drow or dark elf, one of an elfin race that lives underground with a kill-on-sight edict hanging over his head, Drizzt finds that he cannot abide the evil that is rampant all around him, and comes to the surface to try to make a life. Stories about an outsider who is more than what he appears to be have instant appeal to anyone who has ever felt like one, me included.
From Bruce Catton I learned to narrate epic battles, from Joss Whedon the importance of humor in drama, and from John Norman I learned how detail brings created worlds to life. Jules Verne defines my style, and I get my voice from emulating Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m currently looking for a steampunk author to place on the mantel alongside these fantasy, sci-fi, history and historical writers. I have slogged through and discarded several authors who have been touted to me as steampunk icons (no names, please!), and have finally found a good one in Gail Carriger. It’s too early to enshrine her at this point, but I’ve worked through most of the Parasol Protectorate series, and have been delighted thus far.
My reading tastes are those of a ten-year old boy. I still enjoy good fantasy, rollicking adventure stories, especially period pieces, and I harbor a soft spot in my heart for the ass-kicking female. This last has to be exceptionally well-handled, though; most of the ones I encounter are leaden clichés, parodies of the women they claim to represent. The best ones are understated. They don’t swagger, they don’t brag on their prowess, they don’t act like men. They feel fear, and in so doing, they bring their own feminine qualities to the profession of the warrior. Eowyn of Lord of the Rings is a good example, as are Cattie-brie from the Drizzt stories, and Clarise from Silence of the Lambs.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
“Beyond the Rails” is a continuing series of stories all concerning the same group of people. At 10-15,000 words, these stories bridge the gap between short stories and novellas. I guess you aren’t supposed to do that, but these were written for my own enjoyment, and each is as long as it needs to be. They take place in colonial Kenya in 1882 (so far), and concern the five people who live aboard a cobbled together dirigible moving cargo and occasionally people beyond the rail line that connects the seaport of Mombasa with the trading town of Nairobi.
The owner and captain is Clinton Monroe, a one-time star of the Royal Aero Force, cashiered for misconduct who landed in Africa and turned his hand to the only trade he knew. His engineer is Gunther Brown, product of a Prussian-English marriage. The deck hand is David Smith, an obvious alias for an American cowboy and gunslinger, a man on the run whose mysterious past could catch up with him at any time. The pilot is Patience Hobbs, another fugitive, though in her case, a fugitive from the gilded prison of life as a well-bred English lady. Rounding out the cast is Nicholas Ellsworth, a fresh-from-Cambridge botanist on a crusade to revolutionize medicine by cataloguing the pharmacology of the exotic fauna to be found throughout the landscape. He is the “teaching” character, the greenhorn who must be taught everything, and thereby teaches the reader. As you might imagine, the adventure isn’t in the moving of the cargo, but the extraneous events that happen to them while they are trying to do this.
The good friend I mentioned above, who shall be known as “Chops,” is a tabletop wargamer, and in the fall of 2010 he was involved in a series of battles utilizing a game called Dystopian Wars. It has a very steampunkish theme, and inspired by his enjoyment of it, he approached me to join him in a project to write a series of stories based loosely on the game. After we had put together a fair amount of material, the requirements of his job changed dramatically. Specifically, he found himself called upon to travel almost continuously, and could no longer invest the time we needed to put our opus together. He told me to carry on, but rather than commandeer his project, I moved it 40 years in time and 4,000 miles in space, and Beyond the Rails was born. It took about a year and a half to get the first six stories into finished form, a time frame that includes two false starts that had to be scrapped. I had all of them posted on writing.com for a good while, where they were well-received by the membership. Despite this, I wasn’t thinking of publishing when I began the project, so felt no sense of urgency; now I do, and hope to have Volume 2 ready sometime in the fall.
Connect with the Author on their Websites and Social media profiles