WIPJoy Deep Stuff: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

Share a line that hints at your theme.
This is difficult: if I have a theme, it’s that adventure is cool, and the whole story illustrates that point.

What’s one big reason you’re writing this story?
SF&F these days is full of what I like to call ‘message fiction’: that is, a story written to make some broader point. I’m not going to claim that message fiction necessarily sacrifices story, but I do think that we lose something when the big authors in the field are concerned first with saying something. Sometimes a story should just be a story.

What kind of reader desperately needs this book?
If you agree with the previous answer, you’ll probably like all of my stories.

What’s been your biggest challenge with this WIP?
That’s a great question. It might be my continued insistence on writing with pen and paper—I’ve assumed, in the past, that pen and paper and its free editing pass when I type improves the quality of my drafts, but my last few drafts may have put that theory to bed. I guess we’ll see.

Describe your work in progress with a single image.

What aspect of this book is the most unique?
I hope it’s my commitment to scientific and historical plausibility even in the midst of stories about ancient mystical artifacts. The zeppelins designed for Skypirates stories are within about 10-20% of being plausible from a lifting capacity standpoint, the performance characteristics of the airplanes are more or less accurate, and of course the firearms details are pretty spot-on.

Share a line that’s a fantastic example of your writing voice.

It had started a week ago, in Australia, when Pietro di Giacomo, one of his mechanics, received a telegram.

“From my cousin,” di Giacomo explained. “He read of your venture in Panama several years ago, and he thinks he has a problem you can solve. He says he can pay, but mio capitano, he is a monk, a man who has taken vows of poverty.”

Cannon had given him the third degree, and decided that most monks weren’t of the type to lie outright. Inconstant was due for a trip to Europe in search of spare parts anyway, so Cannon rounded up his crew from Darwin’s bars, gambling halls, and houses of ill repute, and set his course for Istanbul by way of Arabia. It had been an uneventful crossing until the HMS Sparrow turned up.

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