Vibrant Steel Kickstarter – Interview with Daniel Chou

Welcome back to “Creator Spotlight, with more Kickstarter interviews. Today we have an exclusive interview with the author Daniel Chou who created the intriguing novel, Vibrant Steel. We will discuss the inspiration behind the story, the fascinating worlds and characters within, and the unique elements that set this book apart. Drawing from children’s games and the author’s personal experiences, Vibrant Steel promises to be a riveting journey filled with adventure, introspection, and mystery.

What inspired you to write Vibrant Steel?

I was inspired to write Vibrant Steel by two things: first, the mid-2010’s movie trend about gritty versions of children’s games like 2012’s Battleship and 2018’s Tag. I thought the premise to twist the concepts could be a challenge. Secondly, I started writing it during the pandemic. My old hobby as a board game designer was stalled because in-person conferences were cancelled. I dusted off an old novel I had been writing for a decade and came to realize I needed a writer’s education to finish composing something of quality. I launched into teaching myself how to write and Vibrant Steel unexpectedly ended up being the one exercise I started that grew into something much more.

Can you explain the significance of the title “Vibrant Steel”?

Vibrant steel is the name of a fictional element that all of our character’s lives are changed by. Either by living in societies that revere the metal, or discovering it and suffering for it, the element has otherworldly origins that offers mystery and helps drive the plot.

Vibrant Steel

How do the children’s games in the story shape the various societies?

The favorite example noted by my early readers who helped shape the novel is the story of The Marbles. On the autocratic empire’s capital planet, Tenocolis, they’ve developed a system of governance that measures people’s worth with marbles. Everyone born is given a pouch. Inside, you inherit a few marbles from your parents. This places you in a certain social class. It defines your future. Citizens are fed the narrative that they are not good enough yet. You should improve yourself, and when you do you will earn better marbles at the discretion of the government. The catch is that you will never be good enough and there is nothing you can do to feel better about that which isn’t controlled by the government. In practice, people use their marbles to show their trustworthiness, accomplishments, standing within the government all in just a few seconds. There is no need to talk it out and you can’t lie about your past. Your marbles are a regulated, tamper-proof way to show your worth so it actually works if you don’t mind the control exerted over everyone.

What challenges did you face when writing Vibrant Steel as your first novel-length story?

The first draft checked in at about 66k words which was already the longest of my pandemic-practice pieces. After working with a substantive editor, I knew there needed to be more substance in specific places. I tend to be very direct. Taking another hard look at the pacing of the story to correctly identify where I should slow things down and take some time to explore the environments and people proved challenging. You can definitely do this wrong and mess up an action sequence, a horror element, or a surprise.

How did you develop the distinct characteristics and backgrounds of the five main characters?

This was one of my very first tasks. As a writer, I start with a big concept and assemble the pieces around it. Then, I build up specific pillars and move outward from there. The characters were pillars and they needed to be strong. I was inspired by a radio program I heard on my morning commute that interviewed the author of the book Superpowered: Transform Anxiety into courage, confidence, resilience by Renee Jain, Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Each of the five main characters are based on one of the “super powers” Ms. Jain and Dr. Tsabary say children have at birth. Those powers are: presence, resilience, wholeness, energized, and originality. Their unique societies or situations challenge their power and they find solutions using their gifts.

How does the Rover Order’s strictness impact Red’s journey and decisions?

Red wouldn’t want to admit it because she would say she doesn’t believe in silly superstitions, but the Order can feel very religious in all but name only. The Rover Order is a very old and very structured organization tasked with learning more about a grand mystery. This means when Red decides to do research that is not sanctioned or supported by the Order, it must be done in secret. Who can Red trust when she needs help testing her theories and inventions? And will she ever understand why her mother so publicly challenged the Order when she was shunned almost her entire life?

Can you give an example of the ways humanity’s truth challenges the characters’ beliefs?

We learn in the opening chapter that Red lives on a planet that believes the Earth and all of humanity have been long dead. They have zero evidence to the contrary and they’ve been searching for hundreds of years. To find out also early in our story that this is not true, Red understands that this will change her society forever. The benefits a barren, resource-slim planet could gain by reconnecting with a galactic empire could save her people. At the same time, this revelation makes Red want to investigate new things that the Order would never allow. What kind of person could be the first to discover an amazing gateway to unlimited inquiry and then just walk away?

What role does faith play in the lives of characters like King and Minnie?

Minnie is devoutly religious. She belongs to a religion known as the Divine. However, the way her planet practices differs from how it is practiced elsewhere and that is fascinating for her to learn. She is challenged when she questions whether walking the path of faith is enough to save the people she cares about. King, on the other hand, is tolerant of religion. He grew up with a pretty bad experience in the church, a radical sect of the Divine, but doesn’t hold it against those who are good people as he defines it. He often serves as an in-between for Minnie and Red, who again is prejudiced against religion.

How does the story explore themes of personal identity and self-worth?

Each of the main characters believes they are the hero in this story. Some of them figure it out really quick that they can’t do this alone once they gather together. Others have to rethink themselves and figure out what their role is. There is pride, recognition, and acceptance mostly. Several of the characters also question whether or not they can make a difference. They learn, with the encouragement from their new friends, that they absolutely have a part that is irreplaceable.

What inspired the diverse settings and fantastical worlds in Vibrant Steel?

Children’s games and what environments could support the feeling of them were the main inspiration. Secondly, my love for 1950-80’s hard science fiction filled in the rest. I enjoy reading Asimov, Clarke, and others on aging, yellow paperbacks that you can only find in hole-in-the-wall independent bookstores these days.

How do you plan to distribute the book to libraries, independent bookstores, and reviewers?

The Kickstarter campaign will help me afford extra copies for this exact purpose. In addition, the ebook is ready to go and many of those paths accept them. Finally, talks for an audio book are in the works.

How has your experience with writing novelettes influenced your approach to writing a novel?

Novelettes have a much faster pace. Vibrant Steel started as a series of novelettes. It was once I realized that they had a very common theme emerging that it became a novel. The experience of pacing novelettes helped me plan better on a larger scale. Start small and then go big, I say.

What do you hope readers will take away from Vibrant Steel?

I hope readers will enjoy the adventure. Fantastical sights will come to life in their minds. There are introspective conversations between characters that will have readers questioning their own assumptions of people and our potential to be good, to rise to the occasion. And lastly, I hope they feel warm rooting for the good guys and seeing them pull it off despite the odds.

Can you share more about the stretch goals and how they will enhance the Vibrant Steel experience for your supporters?

One stretch goal is a hardcover copy of the book. I don’t know if we’ll get close to that tier but it may become an upgrade available to folks towards the end of the campaign should they want to receive one instead of the paperback. I’d need a lot of backers to help us subsidize that option becoming available. I am also developing a video game based on Minnie’s story right before the events of the book. It is a psychological choice-based adventure. I’d love to complete it by 2024.

What was the collaborative process like with your editing team?

I love collaborating. I believe strongly that everyone who collaborates should get something out of the experience and end it better off than when they started. Working with my copy editor is pretty easy since I’m married to her, ha! Working with my substantive editor was much more structured. As a growing professional, the college student Greta Henderson whom I hired had the chops to do the job but not the deep experience yet. Having collaborated with partners for board game publications before, I discussed expectations before we even talked money and this both provided a structured experience and paved the way for limited confusion. I wrote a long post on Reddit today about good project management and how you can work with anyone (even your best friend or wife) and still come out the other end not hating each other. It’s all about setting expectations properly.

How has your writing group influenced and supported your journey as an author?

My writing group has been a huge inspiration and help. Several folks in the facebook group (I know, facebook is for old people) are hobby writers themselves and some also like scifi, but not exclusively. This was great for me because I could both get feedback and original opinions on the craft of writing and also from different genre perspectives. I really couldn’t have been luckier to have such a great group of engaged individuals who were curious to see what I was up to and actually shared their honest thoughts on my work. I try to do the same on Reddit subs for writing and tried to do the same when I was active in the board game community.

How do your previous works, Candii’s Quest and The Martian Connection, compare to Vibrant Steel in terms of themes and genres?

Candii’s Quest was published first in 2017 and is a fantasy novella. We’re talking magic, unicorns, elves, and witches. It’s also almost all action from page one until the final confrontation. Since it is also a musical, prompting you to literally play the soundtrack to chapters as you read them, the theme is high-octane action that should make your heart feel the feels in a new way for a literary experience. My first romance novella, The Martian Connection, has only had early drafts released to folks. The almost 40% bigger 1st edition will come out hopefully this fall 2023 and it is a little spicy if I do say so myself. It is filled with drama, interpersonal conflict, character imposter syndrome, and heavily explores the theme of mental health. It also tries to be funny while also exploring the consequences of not taking things seriously.

Can you discuss your experience with designing and publishing board games?

Board game design is awesome. However, it is even more dependent on planning and project management than publishing books. I will say there are great similarities like that no one person can do all the roles. In writing, you need the author, all the editors, marketers, social media gurus, bookkeepers and more to go the distance. In board games, you need all of that and multiple illustrators and designers, hordes of unique play testers, parts designers, production companies all over the world to name a few. To be honest, publishing a book is easier for me than publishing a board game but I could never have done either without the support of partners and fans. A final difference between the two types of work is the feeling when someone plays the game with you. It’s very fun to see people’s faces light up because you crafted an interactive experience that they are enjoying. You did that! Wow! Will I get the same feeling from books when I read reviews? I don’t know.

What challenges do you foresee in the production of physical copies of Vibrant Steel?

I’ve designed the covers, formatted the insides, and ordered test and final copies of Candii’s Quest so I’m pretty versed in the basics of design and delivery. The several test copies of Vibrant Steel look great and professional. I suppose another global disaster could kill the supply chain, but barring that, our printer (Amazon KDP) is ready to go.

Are there any plans for a sequel or series based on the world of Vibrant Steel?

Each of our characters come from unique worlds. That means I have at least five rich pasts and unknown futures I could delve into. The story hints at historical events of a few of these societies and also wonders what their futures will look like after the conflict. There are definitely a few stories I have yet to tell about Red, King, Adiquis, Minine, and Olyana that I’d really like to tell. Maybe the readers will encourage me to put the pen to paper again!

We hope you enjoyed learning more about the creative process behind Vibrant Steel and the captivating universe it inhabits. As Daniel Chou continues their journey in the literary world, we look forward to seeing how the characters and their stories unfold. Whether it’s through sequels or new projects, we’re excited to see what lies ahead for this talented writer. Thank you for joining us for this insightful conversation, and don’t forget to check out Vibrant Steel on Kickstarter!

Website | Vibrant Steel Kickstarter

About Stec Studio, All Ages of Geek and “I Married a Monster on a Hill”

Stec Studio is a New Jersey-based company founded and run by by the Stec Sisters. We specialize in producing interactive comics and novels based on All Ages of Geek media, as well as creating a fully open world Boys Love Universe called BLU Media. This universe is being built from various media forms, including readable media, games, and animations.

Our main series, I Married a Monster on a Hill, is a WEBTOON comic, visual novel and online universe. The series is a whimsical dating-focused visual novel that explores the intricate dynamics of Boys Love, GIrls Love and several married couples. With a heartfelt emphasis on friendship, love, and drama, this engaging experience delves into the multifaceted nature of relationships. Witness a delightful blend of various romantic pairings, perfect for fans of all things love and passion. As the inaugural title in a promising series, this charming tale paves the way for countless more heartwarming adventures to come. Don’t miss the chance to be swept away by the warmth and enchantment.

At Stec Studio, our goal is to create content that gives people hope and light, and we hope our stories can provide joy and entertainment to all who experience them.

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