Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Interview with Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris & a Giveaway - May 30, 2012

Please welcome to The Qwillery Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, authors of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. The Janus Affair, the 2nd Ministry novel, was published yesterday.

Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris - NYCC 2011

TQ:  Pip, what is Tee's most interesting writing quirk?

Pip:  We all have our little writing crutches, so I bet I can guess what Tee will say about me. Tee however likes to make people huff during dialogue.

Tee:  No, my characters don't huff. They scoff!

TQ:  Tee, what is Pip's most interesting writing quirk?

Tee:  Hmmm...Pip's most interesting quirks in writing? I think Pip is an embodiment of "grace under pressure." She tends to procrastinate a bit in her writing, then when a deadline looms ahead, Pip kick it into overdrive and will launch a salvo of choice words. Her word count is almost superhuman then, and what she comes up with is awesome!

Pip:  Yeah, procrastination...I'll get around to procrastinating eventually.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pip:  When I write by myself I am definately a panster (though I prefer organic writer ;) When Tee and I write together, totally pantsing it isn't really an option, since we need to have some idea where we are going, or we will crash into each other. We are currently working on book three of the Ministry series, and we actually have a whole synopsis laid out—which is kind of a first for us.

Tee:  Writing solo, I tend to be organic as well in my writing, and so having a synopsis for the third Ministry book is unheard of for me. However, I recall the last time I had an outline and it served as a classic road map. Unlike a GPS which plots origin-to-destination, a road map shows you what's off the beaten path and alternative routes, and that is what a synopsis or outline is to me. I have a path to follow, but I can always take a different route.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tee:  Getting the book into people's hands. There's a lot for readers to choose from, and the readers I want are not attending the steampunk expos or science fiction conventions (although I love those audiences, too). I want the people who have never read steampunk. I want my books to find their way into the hands of readers who have never tried steampunk, have never read fantasy, or even considered science fiction. I don't really look at what I write as science fiction or fantasy. I look at my works like solid stories that happen to be steampunk, epic fantasy, or otherwise. Reaching the audience outside of my immediate circles — that is the hardest part.

Pip:  Getting myself into the chair. In this day and age there are so many distractions, and social media is at the head of them. However marketing must be done, and also word counts hit.

TQ:  What inspired you to write the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series?

Pip:  It was Tee who first came to me about writing a book with him (though I had pestered him about writing with him for awhile). However that book we originally planned has yet to be written. Phoenix Rising was a spin-off of a book that has yet to be born into the world. It was also meant to be a podcast for pay. However the inspiration for me was the adventure novels I read as a kid in my grandmother's house. She always had plenty of British rip-roaring adventures on her bookshelves, and I think that has always been percolating in my head. When Tee and I started writing together we just had so much fun it was like setting out on one of those adventures.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for series?

Tee: A great deal of the research for this series comes from understanding what the politics and climate were at this point of the British Empire, then taking what we accept as history and considering small changes made throughout. The alterations were have made to historic England, Queen Vic, and her Empire are small right now, but if all goes as planned in our series, we may have some larger changes to contend with.

Something I have found fascinating in the research is politics of the 19th Century really don't differ that greatly from that of the present climate. Change, it seems to show in history, terrifies people. That is what is happening in our own government, and that change has revealed a lot of good and bad in people. When I researched what was going on back then, it was a bit surprising.

TQ:  Do you each write a particular character in the series?

Pip:  I wrote Eliza, and Tee wrote Wellington. We shared out the interlude characters between us. Editing, of course, smoothed out things. We went back and edited and embroidered each others work, and even now there are portions I read in our books and can't work out or recall who wrote that piece. It is actually pretty delicious for an author.

TQ:  Describe The Janus Affair (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 2) in 140 characters or less.

Tee:  Steampunk Suffragists standing against an enemy dedicated to silencing their collected voice, one at a time. (You even have room for a #TheJanusAffair hashtag.)

TQ:  Tell us something about The Janus Affair that is not in the book description or back cover copy.

Pip:  We learn a little more about every character in the book. We see quite a bit more of Alice, Eliza's rather staunch maid, and discover what lies under her skirts.

Tee:  We also get a look at how Wellington and Eliza are getting along after Phoenix Rising. Their own relationship isn't as prickly as once before, and this means Wellington's comfort level with her is far higher. We also get a glimpse of Eliza's past in the appearance of her old boyfriend and world-reknown adventurer, Douglas Shepard. I think to hit all of these details, we'd need a book jacket for the book jacket!

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Janus Affair?

Tee:  There's an "A-ha!" moment of Wellington's that, I wholeheartedly admit, was an inspiration from a Brian dePalma film called Blow Out. (I will also attest that movie is what got me interested in the art of sound and Foley.) It's a favorite scene of mine that involved that inspiration, a bit of steampunk design, and some fast writing on my part. I'll be interested if anyone catches the film-inspired moment.

TQ:  Steampunk seems more popular than ever. Do you think it's because it's become more well-known or because it's become more mainstream, both, or something else?

Pip:  Steampunk is certainly becoming popular, and I think we are only beginning to see how far and in how many directions it can go. Mainstream is not quite there yet, though the awareness is growing. I think once I can tell my Mum 'it's steampunk' and she knows what I am talking about we will have reached saturation point. However many people are working hard on it; the League of STEAM are making some great steampunk monster hunter videos and Brute Force Studios is pumping out gadgets that television is starting to take notice of. It's not just the writers doing great things; steampunk is a wider movement that (excuse the pun) is building up a good head of steam.

TQ: What's next?

Tee:  After The Janus Affair launches, Pip and I continue with production of Tales from the Archives, a free audio anthology we offer through This podcast serves a good amount of purposes. First, it introduces people to the Ministry universe for free. Second, for people who read our books, this podcast takes some ideas and concepts to the next level. Remember those jars that made the map to El Dorado? How about what got Eliza kicked out of New Zealand and stationed in England? And did you ever wonder what happened after Operation: Dark Water? All these concepts (and more) are explored, and the world itself is expanded through these short stories.

Then there are the titles and ideas Pip and I want to get started work on, along with completing the next two books in the Ministry series. We've got a lot on our plate, so I'll be happy if I get a chance to catch my breath.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

About The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

The Janus Affair
Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 2
Harper Voyager, May 29, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain's best-kept secret agents!!

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain's latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats.

Phoenix Rising
Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 1
Harper Voyager, April 26, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.

These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling—will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest . . . and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray.

For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun—he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices—must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot . . . or see England fall to the Phoenix!

About Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Philippa (Pip) Ballantine

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Philippa has always had her head in a book. For this she blames her father who thought Lord of the Rings was suitable bedtime reading for an eight year old. At the age of thirteen she began writing fantasy stories for herself.

She first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Political Science and then a Bachelor of Applied Science in Library and Information Science. So soon enough she found herself working in the magical world of libraries where she stayed for over a decade

Her first professional sale was in 1997, and since then she has gone on to produce mostly novel length fiction. In 2006 she became New Zealand’s first podcast novelist, and she has voiced and produced Weaver’s Web, Chasing the Bard, Weather Child and Digital Magic as podiobooks. Her podcasts have been short listed for the Parsec Awards, and won a Sir Julius Vogel award.

Philippa is the author of the Books of the Order series with Ace- Geist and Spectyr out now, and Wrayth (2012) and Harbinger to follow. She is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series with Tee Morris. Phoenix Rising debuted in May 2011 and The Janus Affair will be out in May 2012. She also has the Shifted World series with Pyr Books, with the first book Hunter and Fox coming in June 2012.

When not writing or podcasting, Philippa loves reading, gardening, and whenever possible traveling. With her husband Tee and her daughter, she is looked after by a mighty clowder of five cats.

Tee Morris

Tee Morris began his writing career with his 2002 historical epic fantasy, MOREVI The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana. In 2005 Tee took MOREVI into the then-unknown podosphere, making his novel the first book podcast in its entirety. That experience led to the founding of and collaborating with Evo Terra and Chuck Tomasi on Podcasting for Dummies and its follow-up, Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies. He won acclaim and accolades for his cross-genre fantasy-detective Billibub Baddings Mysteries, the podcast of The Case of the Singing Sword winning him the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Audio Drama. Along with those titles, Tee has written articles and short stories for BenBella Books’s Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs, and Killer Muppets, the podcast anthology VOICES: New Media Fiction, BenBella Books’ So Say We All: Collected Thoughts and Opinions of Battlestar Galactica, and Dragon Moon Press’ Podthology: The Pod Complex.

When he is not writing, Tee enjoys life in Virginia alongside Philippa Ballantine, his daughter, and five cats (3 female, 2 males). Considering the male-to-female ratio in his house, Tee understands how General Custer felt near his end.

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 1) signed by Pip and Tee.

How:  Leave a comment answering ONE of the following question:

Who is/are your favorite secret agent(s)?
What is one of your favorite Steampunk novels, stories, etc.?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

There are a total of 3 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), and Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook and Twitter. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, June 6, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. Thank you for a great interview! These two books have been on my wishlist for quite sme time already! :)
    Favorite spy is probably Nikita, but I also loved the cheekiness of Milady (Mila Jovovich)in recent adaptation of Three Musketeers.
    As to a favorite steampunk novel - at the moment it's 2 books by Steven Harper: The Doomsday Vault and The Impossible Cube. They are fantastic and so imaginative!
    +1 comment
    +1 gfc follower
    impy80 at hotmail dot com

  2. A good interview. The pair have to all accounts and appearances a fascinating relationship, professionally and otherwise.

  3. Soulless by Gail Carriger is my steampunk novel favorite. As for secret agents, I like the new version of James Bond :D

    +1 comment
    +1 GFC : Ren

    Thanks for the giveaway

    sawamura_foxman AT yahoo DOT com

  4. I would say Soulless and the entire Parasol Protectorate series is my favorite. Delilah Dawson's Wicked As They Come, which has elements of steampunk, is also a new favorite!

    shewolfreads AT gmail DOT com

    (and I follow on Twitter and via RSS with Google Reader)

    love the interview!

  5. My favorite Secret Agent was the muddled and dangerous Jason Bourne

  6. I've been curious to read a Steampunk story since I've enjoyed movies in the genre (League of Mysterious Gentleman & the new Sherlock Holmes series); and a do enjoy spies (James Bond (love the gadgets(, Jason Bourne)
    email follower - sallans d at yahoo dot com
    tweeted -

  7. Phaeton Black from the book The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone. I wasn't sure if I would like this or not as I am really more into romance than intrigue/mystery. However, it was a book that I couldn't seem to put down. I am looking forward to more from this fine author. She has opened me up to a larger variety of books.

  8. Thanks for a fun interview! I love Gail Carringer's Parasol Protectorate series and it's really the first I've read of steampunk. I'm always on the lookout for new authors and this series comes highly recommended :) My fav secret agent would have to Maxwell Smart as played by Steve Carrell... very funny!

    gfc: erin

  9. My favorite Secret Agent is james bond
    i\m a steampunk newbie

    +1 comment
    +1 gfc follower ; rogier


  10. One of my favorite Steampunk novels is Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It was one of the first books I read that crossed several genres (steampunk, zombies, historical fiction) and expanded what I think about genre fiction. I loved Tee Morris' The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy and have been itching to read this series. Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

    @timlewis on Twitter

  11. My favorite Secret Agent is Jason Bourne. Please enter me in contest. I am a follower and email subscriber.

  12. I will always love James Bond! edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom
    GFC Krystal Larson

  13. My favorite secret agent is (well, I guess was, since the show is now over) Chuck. Not exactly in line with the theme, but he's my favorite! Or maybe Casey, he was great.
    I'm a gfc follower.


  14. Good interview!

    My favorite secret agent is Bond, James Bond.

    I am a Follower of The Qwillery.

    My tweet:

    russc98 at gmail dot com

  15. I love James Bond. I watch his movies all the time
    Debby236 at gmail dot com

  16. Wicked as They Come by Delilah S Dawson is one of my favorite Steampunk novels.

    +1 comment
    +1 GFC follower: Throuthehaze

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  17. I like James Bond.

    I follow the blog.


  18. Thanks for the giveaway! This looks awesome! One of my fave steampunk books (and honestly one of the few I've read so far) is Gail Carriger's Parisol Protectorate series. It also has really nice romance :)

    GFC - JessS


  19. I don't have favorite secret agent, but i like story about secret agent. My favorite novel was Lord and Lady Spy. I love this story :)
    I am new for genre steampunk.

    GFC as Filia Oktarina
    Twitter :

    filiafantasy at gmail dot com

  20. My favourite steampunk would have to be A Ruby in Rain from the Tales from the Archives Vol. 1 podcast. Loved the story and the recording.

    Asylos at gmail

  21. I've always had a soft spot for Maxwell Smart. Hilarious, bumbling & all heart!!

    GFC: Mary Preston


  22. One of my favorite steampunk series is the Bloodhounds series by Moira Rogers.

    Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences sounds like a series I'll enjoy. I'm adding it to my wish list.

    +1 comment
    +1 follower

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  23. The first steampunk novel I read was Gail Carriger's Soulless, and I loved it, but I think my favorite steampunk novel is The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. So fabulous!

    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    +1 tweeted (


  24. I haven't read a lot of steampuk books for now but I really love the Gail Carriger series, I'm still at the first book, but I can't wait to read more. thanks for the giveaway and the post, I'm very curious about this series.

    I'm a follower (melliane)



  25. My favorite secret agent would have to Shaman Bond from "Secret Histories" by Simon R. Green.

    I like the quirky, dark, awesome awesomeness. Very similar to the Nightside series in humor and characters, but a bit less dark characters.

    The armor tho. I. WANT. THAT. ARMOR. !!. Such a cool armor! I prefer the Strange Matter one tho. Less murdery.

    Anyways, rant over! ;P

    Twitter mention:

  26. My favorite steampunk novel is definitely Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson.

    +1 follower

    Sara M
    sara_UFblog [at] yahoo [dot] com

  27. gail carringer's series is by far my favourite steampunk series!

    +1 comment
    +1 blog follower

    aliasgirl at libero dot it