A Writer's Life

Dawn’s Early Light: The Blog Tour! Q&A Time with Tee and Pip

Pip_Tee_byJRBPhoto by J.R. Blackwell

Pip Ballantine: Prolific award-winning author, podcaster, cat-herder, New Zealander on special assignment in the States, wife and mother, blogger.  Tee Morris: Writer of Fantasy, Non-Fiction, Podcast Pioneer, partaker of good cigars and scotch, assistant cat-herder, father, husband, thespian.  Together, they fight crime! (Okay, I just really wanted to say that.)  Actually, they write crime. And the most dastardly of enemies. And astounding gadegtry and corsetry.  On March 25th, Dawn’s Early Light, the third exciting book in The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, will take us on another amazing adventure with  both familiar and new agents. I caught Pip and Tee in a rare moment between their own adventures and, while running alongside , coaxed out answers to a few questions. And, at the end of the Q&A, look for details on a giveaway contest that you can enter!

Do you plot out a book in advance, or just dive in with a general idea of where you’re going? Or something in-between?
PIP: I’m a discovery writer, which is in between. When I start I know where the story is going to end, but I never know the bits in between. It’s like setting off from New York, knowing you are going to St. Louis, but not knowing the roads you’ll take. For me, it is the best of both worlds, I have the security of that end, but I have the spontaneity of the journey.

Do you have any bizarre writing habits?
TEE: I lack the talent my wife has where she can put on a movie or television and write. I can’t do that. If it’s email or administrative something-or-other, I can do that but when it comes to writing a manuscript, I can’t do that when somethings on the television. Impossible. I’ve seen Pip crank out a few chapters that way, but not me. Not even podcasts.

Dawn's Early Light

How do you go about choosing the names of your characters? (Although I think most of us can figure out the inspiration for Agent Bruce Campbell.)

TEE: Actually the story of Bruce came when we were making up agents from all parts of the Empire. I asked Pip “So what’s the Australian’s name?” Pip immediately came back with “Well, it has to be Bruce.” When she asked me for a last name, I shrugged and said “Well, of course, it’s got to be Campbell.” Now all we see is that incredible chin and that smug grin. We’re still hoping that someone gets a copy of either Phoenix Rising or Ministry Protocol to the actor. We think he’d get a kick out of it.

PIP: I usually dig deep into my own past and mix and match people I know. There’s only been one time I’ve vetoed a name. In Dawn’s Early Light, we have a character inspired by one of our favorite actors. I wanted to drop a subtle hint as to who the actor was, and Tee suggested “Luther Pentacost.” I said “No.” Quickly. A little too meta for my liking.

TEE: Still think that would have been a great name for a character.

Where do you see yourself as a writer in ten years?
TEE: If we are still writing in ten years, I’ll be thrilled. Ten years ago, self-published authors and eBooks were considered bottom feeders and what you did when your career was on the way out. Now, ten years later, it’s considered a viable option to getting published by the Big Six. It’s hard to say where we will be in that time. I am trying to make smart choices in this incredibly wild ride, so I’ll be very happy if people are still as anxious for my books as they are now.

PIP: Perhaps adapting The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences for Sir Peter Jackson. Or for HBO.

Are there topics you would never write about?
TEE: So far, I’ve not come across any topics I’ve not written about. I doubt if I could write about child abuse, even though I’ve never faced a setting where it would have been appropriate or would have worked. I tend to face whatever works for the story, and I’ve gone dark on several occasions. So far, so good; but if I write something dark, I do it for the merit of the story, not solely for shock value.

Is there a certain type of scene that’s difficult for you to write? How do you conquer it?
PIP: I had a terrible time with writing sex scenes. I preferred to close the door or fade to black if ever facing the moment when two characters wanted to enjoy one another’s company. To get over it and to improve my short story skills, I launched a podcast called Erotica ala Carte. I offered to my audience a setting, a sexual preference, and a unique element (a character, an emotion, or something) and based on the popular vote, I would write and podcast a short story. What was an exercise for me lasted for three years, and I even hosted “guest chefs” in my kitchen and was nominated for a few awards. Podcasting is a great platform for Tee and myself.

What is something you are determined to accomplish before you die?
TEE: I wouldn’t mind returning to the stage. Lately, I find myself missing those days when I was a professional actor. I don’t have a lot of free time for acting on account of the demands writing asks for, but I’d like to get in some Shakespeare again. I saw a video of Tom Hiddleston gearing up for a production of Coriolanus and I felt a twinge. I love performing Shakespeare.

What authors inspire you?
PIP: I love CJ Cherryh. She’s been my heroine for longer than I can remember. She has had a varied career, writing many successful series. I guess what first drew me to her was her powerful, but relatable female characters. As a young reader I found that very compelling.

My thanks to Pip and Tee for sharing their thoughts.  Dawn’s Early Light can be found at  Goodreads and Amazon.

New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author, with her husband Tee Morris, of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, and a Sir Julius Vogel. Morris is the author of Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana and the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. In addition to his work as a fantasist, he is also a social media pioneer and the author of Podcasting for Dummies and All a Twitter.

Pip’s website — Pip’s Twitter 

Tee’s website — Tee’s Twitter

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Facebook page

It’s a  giveaway! Enter now! At the end of the blog tour, three winners will be chosen to receive the following gifties.

Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair

Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
The Extraordinary Contraptions CD
Signed cover flat of Phoenix Rising

Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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