Royden Lepp Discusses Rust
It’s been decades since robot soldiers were created to win a human war. In the years that have passed, peace has seemingly settled in on this seemingly very earthlike planet…but now a robot with a childlike appearance has come to a small family farm, being chased by a wildly violent, much larger android. That’s the beginning of Royden Lepp’s creative and inventive new book, Rust, the first in a series. Here’s Lepp’s take on the story that is about to unfold for readers.
When did you develop the idea for Rust? How long has it been in the works?
Sadly, I've been working on Rust for years. Because I work in the games industry full-time, anything outside of my day job happens pretty slowly. Rust came out of an idea to mash up a quiet prairie landscape with big robot battles and jet packs. I grew up on a farm not too unlike the Taylors’, so I just put myself back in that place. It's amazing how you can feel so claustrophobic in such a wide-open space. That was kind of the goal of Rust: Can I make this farm feel like a trap?
Explain a little bit about the world of Rust. It’s set in a reality where humans have built robots to fight wars, and now, nearly 50 years later, some of the aftereffects of building those robots have come back to haunt humanity. Is the mystery of what this world is part of the story that you will reveal as you go along?
It's true that I'm weaving a lot of mystery into the story. Some questions will be answered and some won't. But the setting is pretty simply an alternate reality, a “What if” kind of story. What if robots were developed to fight world wars in a time like the ’40s? To be honest, I'm not even willing to call it earth. I just wanted to create a familiar setting, but then have the reader quickly realize that they aren't in Kansas anymore, or Europe, for that matter. The scope of the entire world of Rust will probably never be fully revealed. But maybe it will….
How many books do you envision the series will have?
Rust is a four-book series.
What is the relationship between the protagonist, Roman, and his father, whom Roman writes letters to? How do you see that unfolding over the course of the series?
Without giving away too many spoilers: Roman's father is obviously absent for reasons suspected by most people. I actually lost my dad this last year, so the story has suddenly become very relevant to me. Roman's letters to his father are his source of introspection. Sometimes they will become a letter to himself, a journal, more than a letter to anyone. I think that's important. It sounds contrived, but it's true…sometimes when I'm writing them now, I'm simply writing to my dad.
When we first meet Jet, flying along with his rocket pack, it’s clear he’s something more than human. What can you reveal about Jet? How would you describe him to readers?
I am willing to reveal almost nothing about Jet. He is a boy full of mysteries. He is the central mystery to this story…I really can't think of anything I can say about him yet.
Do you have the series completely mapped out at this point? Or are there still details you are determining as you go along?
I'd say mostly mapped. There are a lot of details to work out still. I know where we're going, but I don't know the particular points of getting there. I'm looking forward to seeing them come together.
Did elements of your upbringing on a farm work their way into the story of Rust?
I grew up on a Canadian farm. I didn't even really realize it until recently, but Roman's shop is essentially the same layout as my dad's shop when I was growing up. All the houses and barns are different, but that shop is straight out of my childhood.
Who were your inspirations, both as a writer and an artist?
It sounds weird, but I really loved Terminator 2. That was a deep lesson in action storytelling to me. I still find myself thinking about the first half hour of that film. As far as books, I love the modern-day classics; Kazu Kibuishi, Doug TenNaple, David Peterson… I don't take much time to read much, but lately I've been really grabbed by a web comic called Power Nap. As well as a self-published book by Jason Brubaker called reMIND.
The tones and colors you use in the book are quite striking. How did you achieve the look you wanted for the book?
The book actually started out in grayscale, only because I couldn't afford to fully color the book if I wanted it to be done in a decent amount of time. It was on signing with Archaia that Mark Smylie brought up an idea I'd been playing with for a while myself: What would the book look like in a rusty sepia tone? I think it's perfect for the tone and the story. I hope readers like it!