First off thank you guys for taking the time to do an interview. Secondly, their book is amazing you really should check it out.
LF: So how did it come to be you both working together?
JR: I’d known Mike for a couple of years before he disclosed that he took part in a ‘role-play forum’. Immediately curious, he told me that it was an Internet forum where you each take on a character, and collaboratively tell stories by taking turns telling the story from your character’s perspective. He had been participating in one since high school, playing the part of a brash airship pilot Archamae, whose skill in the pilothouse is only matched by her ability to hold her liquor. For me, I had been blogging as a hobby for a number of years. Hearing of Mike’s forum, I was interested to see how that sort of a system worked. He had also mentioned that they were at risk of losing all of their data due to their choice of hosting. When I asked to see it, and see if I could help with the technical portion, it was a hard ‘no’. Mike did not want this secret shame out in the world. I don’t think he had even shown his wife some of his stuff. But then Mike got desperate. After a bout of inactivity, he posted on Reddit that his role-play community was looking for new members. And I happened to know his Reddit username. So I latched onto that, hard, reading their prior content, and even trying to add some of my own. About a year after we decided to march out, taking parts of the RP universe he had helped build, and making a world of our own. Archamae now has a new rust bucket to pilot across the continents.
MR: A forgotten username is all it takes for Josh to ferret out your dark secrets. Luckily for me, the most juicy content is in analog form, arriving on my doorstep in a heavy box, shipped from the Lower 48 by my parents. Those pre-teen notebooks are filled with content that in some circles could be described as stories, and somehow avoided the burn barrel. While Josh will never get his hungry mitts on these asymmetrical, pulsating abominations, he did discover my forum-based cooperative storytelling, and coerced me into making something better. Something permanent. A hike into the mountains outside Anchorage turned into our first jam session, and with bear spray in hand, we hammered out the bones of Skysail. With the blood pact sealed, we delved into the word mines.
LF: What benefits have you guys noticed working as a pair?
JR: There’s a good number. Having a built-in beta reader, line editor, and literary critic comes to mind first. Most valuable, though, is having to earn each other’s interest prior to having something make its way into the story. I subscribe to the idea that for everything someone is reading, they need to be shown why they should care. And for me, Mike is the first person I have to make care about whatever bizarre, esoteric thing I’m excited about on a given day. Without Mike, Skysail would be a continuous stream of bizarre, face-melting descriptions of magic systems and fantasy physics that are equal parts punishing for both the readers and the writers. Being able to ask, “Is this as cool as I think it is?” and hearing nothing but stunned, awkward silence is a service I can’t do without.
MR: Without Josh, Skysail would be closer to the pulp fiction Vasili, our protagonist, so voraciously consumes.
LF: What downsides have you noticed?
JR: None. Our working relationship is perfect. I often liken it to Pacific Rim, where our lumbering juggernaut of a pulp airship fantasy novel needs two minds that are ‘drift compatible’ in order to pilot, and we are the only two minds compatible enough to do so. …But really, it comes down to things you’d imagine: occasional writerly disagreements, communications issues, or having to coordinate changes in a timely fashion. There’s a lot of overhead, both mental and work-related, that solo authors don’t have to deal with. Solo authors don’t have to necessarily seek approval for anything, or get someone’s buy-in. They don’t have to worry who wrote what, or how confident someone else feels about a passage. They don’t have to ask their beta readers, “Does this sound like one person wrote it, or two?” It takes a lot longer.
MR: You could probably exchange these last two questions and the answers would still be accurate. Cooperative writing is a process, and sometimes the downsides are a gift-wrapped present you didn’t know you wanted.
LF: Skysail, where did the idea come from?
JR: Largely from Mike’s role-play days. But I’ve learned that most, if not the vast majority of the concepts of airships and our magic system come from the Final Fantasy series of games.
MR: I’m enamored with an adventure that explores a variety of environments and cultures. So we roughed out a story around the concept of an ensemble cast on an airship. The airship is particularly intriguing to me. It embodies the freedom of the age of sail, but without restricting us to the seas. It provides a stable platform from which our characters can operate from, their base of operations, their home. It is a fantasy story, and the airships are more than dirigibles, so we concocted a magic system that had some semblance of logic behind it. We also wanted to tell an adventure story where the expectations of the POV character are subverted at every turn. Vasili is not necessarily the protagonist of the story, but he’s the vehicle for revealing the unique parts of our world. If anyone is looking to draw comparisons, Skysail is two parts Final Fantasy 6, two parts Firefly, one part Mad Max, all wrapped in a healthy dose of teenage uncertainty.
LF: Your book cover is amazing, tell us about it.
JR: Mike should definitely take this one.
MR: I studied architecture in college, which let me to dabble in a variety of the visual arts. Rather than just cranking out floor plans, much of architectural education was the process of communicating an idea, whether through an interactive 3D model, illustration, or technical presentation. I’ve played with watercolors and inks for years. For *The Apotheosis Break* cover, I worked up the image initially with watercolors, scanned it, and picked away at it digitally until I was too frustrated to start over. Picking out typeface is another project in itself. But I’m most excited about publishing the commissioned cover art (by Gustaf Ekelund) for Volume 2.
LF: How long has it taken you guys to fully publish?
JR: We started around June 2012.
MR: We spent about a year doing character creation, story outlining, wordbuilding, and the rest of the backend work. The changelog shows that we started doing chapter work around October of 2013, and didn’t finish a first draft of the “first book” until late 2015 / early 2016. The reason “first book” is in quotes is because what we originally wrote was 300,000+ words long. As an initial offering by rookie authors, that’s a hard sell. Plus, in order to adequately edit and publish the thing, it would have taken much, much longer to get out the door. So, we opted to focus on the first “act” of our 300,000 word monstrosity, polish it to the best of our ability as our first serialized volume, and work on the remaining content as we sought our community. Our collaboration tool says that we’ve spent 318 hours during which it saw us typing (keystroke time). Mike and I usually estimate actual time spent working on something to be about 10 times this much (lots and lots of pensive staring). We estimate about 3000 hours into Volumes 1, 2, and 3 so far.
LF: How long until the second book?
JR: In 2017, we jokingly said, “Coming in 2017.” Now it’s 2018. And we can hopefully, and less jokingly, say, “Coming in 2018.”
LF: Anything you guys would like to add?
JR: As we round out Volume 2, we’re also going back and fixing up things that came up in Volume 1. With Vol. 2 , we intend to publish a new edition if Vol. 1. How and when remains to be hashed out, but certainly follow us at `
@skysailsaga` on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for future updates.
MR: Oh, sweet All-Father, what do our eight followers want to see on our Instagram? Do they want to see screenshots of my coffee and laptop? Snippets of misguided text? Or do authors post about themselves in hopes of connecting with the human on the other side of the keyboard? We have some work to do. And our twitter? Yeah, check that out for all the airship concept art we dig up off the internet. We also have a few short stories that take place in the Skysailverse on our website: http://skysailsaga.com