[Interview & Giveaway] B.J. Keeton and Austin King — Author’s of Nimbus (Part One)

Hi Guys! B.J. Keeton and Austin King were kind enough to answer a few questions for us about their debut novella, Nimbus (Part One). It’s certainly an interesting experimental project they’ve embarked upon with the serialised nature of their story.

Hopefully this will answer some of your questions about the greatness that is this Steampunk/Fantasy genre-mash!

Further, there is a giveaway! Two, in fact! Read on for details. :)


1) I’m not normally one to dive into Steampunk, but when I heard it was a Steampunk / Fantasy genre-mash? Well, colour me curious, I had to check it out. What inspired this particular genre cross and how do you feel it is working out so far?

Austin: B.J. had the initial idea to do steampunk, which was a genre I wasn’t exactly crazy about. I am, however, extremely crazy about fantasy. So after we began talking things over–outlines, characters, etc.–the fantasy aspect just seemed to make sense. It allowed us to explore things we couldn’t necessarily do in the “real” Victorian era, even if we did try the whole rewriting history thing.  I guess what it came down to is that both of us like to blend genres in our writing, and steampunk/fantasy just seemed like a nice fit.

B.J.: I really had a single idea for a novel—airships and demon possession—but no story. Because of the airships, I felt that we could do a lot with the steampunk aesthetic, even though neither of us were crazy about the genre as a whole. When I approached Austin with the idea, he initially rejected it, but the more we talked, the more we developed a hybrid-genre novel that took the conventions we loved, while avoiding the ones we didn’t. So far, I think it’s working really well because we’re actively trying to avoid genre clichés in Nimbus.

2) Both of you confess relating most things back to TV a lot, and I think it shows through in the format of Nimbus as a whole being serialised, and even the break point of the first part! It felt very much like the ending of a pilot episode. How intentional was this? Were you aiming for a pilot-like feel, or did it happen more naturally due to your interests?

Austin: We wanted Part One to be more of an introduction to the world, while also trying to explain important things like Hosing and the functions of the High Prelate and the Assembled Court. We really wanted each part of the novel to feel like a season more than an episode, and I’m glad to hear we achieved that feel–at least somewhat. Thinking in terms of television was just a good way to base our outlines for each of the four parts, really. Hah. So I guess you could say it did occur (kind of) naturally.

B.J.: Like Austin said, it was mostly intentional. When we were discussing how we wanted the story to progress, we’ve always seen it as though we’re telling one story. We’ve known from the get-go how the last couple of chapters are going to wrap up, and with that in mind, we’ve been able to plan out the volumes to tell an entire part of the story, rather than being arbitrarily broken up. We’ve used LOST as a touchstone during our planning because each season has its own subplots, but ties serially into a much larger narrative. We love that idea and hope it transfers well.

3) You have now also started to further serialise Nimbus by releasing it for free, chapter by chapter on B.J.’s blog! What is the drive behind releasing it for free and do you think this will continue for the latter parts of the story?

Austin: We like to think of each chapter as an episode, so each “episode” gets released weekly. I guess it all goes back to our TV way of thinking. We really wanted to get people into our novel, and get them into the world of Nimbus. Giving all of Part One away for free just seemed like a good idea. Plus, we both love getting free stuff, so we thought we’d try to pay if forward a bit. We haven’t actually decided about the latter volumes, but I think it will really depend on how successful (or not) Part One is. People like free things, and we are definitely interested in giving the people what they want.

B.J.: I’m going to be keeping an eye on the analytics for the individual chapters to see how they do, especially in comparison to the overall sales of the ebook. We’ve talked about having each chapter up for free, and we’ve also talked about every other combination imaginable, too. We’re just not sure yet. We know that we’re at least going to keep Part One free on the blog. That’s not going to change because we love free stuff. One of my driving forces behind the “free novel” was Michael R. Hicks, an indie author who used to work at the NSA, but quit his job to write full-time. He gave away the entire first novel of his In Her Name series as a promo for the rest of the trilogy. I think that’s a fantastic idea—if it worked for him, hopefully it will for us, too.

4) How have you managed to write this collaboratively? Chapter by chapter? Responsible for different Point of View characters? Having been through the process of writing collaboratively for Part One of Nimbus, if you were sent back in time would you still do it the same way?

Austin: B.J. handles all of the Rucca chapters and I handle Jude’s. We meet up every week and edit each other’s stories, so by the time we have the finished product, there’s B.J.’s writing in my chapters–and vice versa. It also helps that we have very similar writing styles, which is something we discovered after we began writing. It was just one of those happy coincidences–serendipity, really. And it made writing this novel a lot easier.

B.J.: We had thought initially about swapping characters with each new part. I would write Rucca in Part One, then Jude in Part Two, and so on, but by the time we finished the draft of Part One, we were too in love with these characters to pass them off. Having a writing partner has really helped me, personally, too. Having someone to hold me accountable, a reason to make deadlines, has really helped push me through this process. I would definitely do it again, and hope that it continues, even as Nimbus wraps up in the coming months.

5) Will there be any print editions made available for those who do not have an e-Reader or simply prefer to read print?

Austin: We hope to have a print edition out after we release all four parts as ebooks. The short-shorts we’ve released–and will continue to write and post on B.J.’s blog–will be included in the final omnibus edition. I wish I could give a release date, but we just haven’t planned that far ahead. If I were to guess, I would say it will be either extremely late this year, or early 2013, before a print edition is available.

B.J.: Right now, serializing a novel as an indie author in print is entirely cost prohibitive. Even through the best distributors, it’s just too expensive, which is why we love ebook technology–we can do something cool and experimental like serializing a novel in parts, and then go into print later, when the cost makes sense. There will be a print edition, and it’s going to be awesome, too. Kind of like a Director’s Cut, or an Author’s Definitive Edition, including short stories and other kinds of extras. (There will be an ebook version of it, too, by the way.)

6) Anything else you’d like to add? Free floor for you guys!

Austin: I really hope people who dislike steampunk will give this a try–and I hope the folks who love steampunk won’t absolutely hate Nimbus for its fantasy aspects. We tried to take the best the steampunk genre had to offer and blend it with our favorite fantasy conventions. And we hope the readers out there had as much fun with it as we did.

B.J.: Ha! Austin stole my line! Really the only thing I wanted to add was that we hope steampunk and fantasy fans aren’t turned off by the genre-mashing we’ve done. We wrote a steampunk novel that we wanted to read, told a story we would love to hear, and used the best trappings and conventions we knew of to do it. If you’re on the fence about it, that’s why it’s being serialized free at my blog. Give it a shot, and I bet you’ll like it. It’s good stuff!

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions for us, your time is much appreciated!


Well, this is rather easy! There are actually two giveaways in which you may win. The first is via right here at Once Upon a Time, simply post a comment giving your thoughts on what else you might consider to be an interesting genre-mashup! SciFi/Horror? Horror/Romance? Let us know! :)

There will be three copies of Nimbus to give away. Please note that you must have an eReader, although it need not necessarily be a Kindle. You will also need to provide a valid email address which you actively check with your comment. (This will not be made public, but we will contact the winners through the provided addresses!)

I will draw via random number from all respondents come Wednesday 16 May!

The second giveaway is via Professor Beej’s own blog, and it includes $25 Amazon Gift voucher, in addition to copies of Nimbus! Please check out the entry details here. This one is counting down quickly though, with a little less than 3 days on the clock from time of posting!


  1. Well, that’s it folks!

    Three entries, three winners!

    I’ll send you guys all an email shortly — via the addresses you have provided via your comment entry — to ask what eReader you guys have and thus what format BJ should be sending on to you guys.

    Once I have that information I’ll allow BJ to contact you guys directly with your copy of the book! :)
    Naithin’s most recent post ..[Review] Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

  2. I’ve long wanted to see a steampunk version of BattleTech. To me, the juxtaposition of extreme future tech and alternate history tech is ripe for some interesting interpretations. I’d agree with Rowan, though, in that the visual mashup is almost more interesting than the literary aspect. My ideal would be a Dinotopia sort of book; a clearly visual piece of work that nevertheless tells a good story.
    Tesh’s most recent post ..NBI: hobNoBbIng

    • Heh, amusing. Because while I thought that text-to-imagination imagery is typically enough, with your specific example I think I lean more toward wanting it to be something physically rendered in one form or another.

      In any case, you are of course also a winner! So I’ve sent you a quick email inquiring as to what eReader you have. :)
      Naithin’s most recent post ..[Review] Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

      • Thanks!

        I do think there’s room for more visuals in literature. Mind you, I’m a big fan of descriptive writing and leveraging readers’ imagination, it’s just… I’m an artist by trade and inclination, and it seems like there’s so much sometimes that can be communicated by visuals that it’s a shame not to use them in some way. I note your reviews on Mistborn… imagine that world without the maps or the glyphs (both of which a coworker/friend designed, incidentally). Still good, to be sure, but those add to the world in ways that text alone can’t. (And yes, I hold Dinotopia up as a marvelous example of how this all works.) Even The Lord of the Rings, masterpiece that it is, is made better by the simple inclusion of a map.

        …then again I’m biased, being an artist with delusions of literary competency. :)
        Tesh’s most recent post ..NBI: For Love or Money

        • Oh I wouldn’t argue that visual supplements can make a difference for the better.

          The illustrations in The Way of Kings (also by Sanderson, incidentally) of Shallan’s sketches were great, because the things described didn’t translate to mental imagery quite as accurately as some other things can.

          Although perhaps ‘accurately’ is the wrong word, because even from a simple character description, everyone is still going to see a different version of that character.

          Maps though… They’re an interesting one. I love a well drawn map. I sometimes spend a good deal of time looking over them, even. But then usually once the story starts, that’s it for me. I don’t really refer back to them and could be equally happy whether they were there or not.

          There have been some exceptions though, main one that sticks out in my mind is the Wheel of Time. They travelled all OVER the place and I was curious to see how it all linked up, not to mention where the Blight was in relation to everything.

          LoTR which you mention, was also another exception for me. :)
          Naithin’s most recent post ..[Review] Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

  3. OK I’ll bite. A steampunk/fantasy seems intriguing. I personally find the steampunk genre a bit odd for nvoels, considering how visual it is, at least to me. Animated or live-action or even graphic novels make more sense. Thqat said I have nothing against steampunk fiction. Now fantasy fiction, on the other hand, is great. I know, that could be seen as inconsistent. Oh well.

    As far as mash-ups, I love them. They often display the best tropes of the two genres. Although, I also think subdividing speculative fiction into subgenres is a bit artificial anyway, but seems to make people happy. Good luck to you guys on the book. It sounds intriguing.
    rowan’s most recent post ..Opinions Are Like . . . The Newbie Blogger Initiative

    • Interesting you should say that, don’t suppose you happen to know which is your best learning modality? I’d be curious whether it leaned toward Visual, or whether it was quite strongly the opposite, either Kinesthetic or Audial.

      I am a visual learner primarily, but reading this — and other things — can typically formulate a clear enough image of what is happening as I go. It’s better with some readings than others, but I thought Nimbus did a pretty decent job of conjuring up an image.

      Also! You are of course a winner, so can find out for yourself what you think soon enough. :) I’ve sent you an email inquiring about eReader type.
      Naithin’s most recent post ..[Review] Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

      • I’m not sure what my best learning modality is. I easily absorbed lectures in high school and college (trying to take notes is actually a distraction), but I’ve scored high in both spatial (engineering) and language/math assessments. I have some talent for drawing, but I have to work at it. I’m much more comfortable at a keyboard writing.

        I look forward to reading the book. Thank you.
        rowan’s most recent post ..Come Into My Parlor: Blog Lists and RSS (NBI)

  4. Ooo YA/space Opera. Story about a feisty young woman who is one of a elite group of youngsters who are able to bond with the semisentient Strike Hawks powerful cybernetic warmachines which are used to defend humankind from some terrible threat from the reaches of space. By day she and her friends fly in to battle by night they have relationship issues and try to be normal…

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