IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
WITH JOANNA PENN & STEVEN PRESSFIELD
You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
My passion for writing started in fifth grade when a friend and I entered a local short-story competition in Caldwell County. I didn’t even write the story, my friend did, I just drew the illustrations. But, after going through that short process to put together the story, it ignited something inside me. It made me want to write. The following year I decided that I wanted to write a Star Wars book, and my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hicks, did everything in her power to encourage me to make that desire a reality. She supported me so much that she actually allowed me to take a group of like ten classmates aside once a week and have little book planning sessions (because my classmates were characters in the book).
Since then I attempted to write one thing or another but could never find my method. It wasn’t until about four years ago that I finally found it, I’m a planner, not one of those gifted spontaneous writers, and it took me from sixth grade to college to figure that out. Yet, with the continued support of my sixth grade teacher and of course my family and friends, I wrote my first book, They’ll Call It Treason, and released it in 2016.
I love your story, Jordon. I also love that you found your rhythm as a writer. Finding what works best for us in the writing process is critical. I happen to be more of the spontaneous type. Studying story structure, outlining, scene structure, plotting and character certainly has its merits.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
Primarily to entertain. However, at the same time for me it’s a creative and mentally stimulating way to spend my time opposed to sitting on a couch for hours every day watching TV. I have nothing against TV or movies, I love them, but the more I write the less time I seem to have for them and despite people thinking I’m a little behind on my TV, I like that I’m doing something proactive mentally rather and passively watching shows all the time. In the end though my goal is to entertain. Yes, I’d like to become a full-time writer, and if that comes it comes and I’ll gladly accept it, but for me the goals come step-by-step. Now is simply to enjoy writing and to entertain my readers, and that will bring each future goal as is fit I believe.
Another general goal for me also is to not be pigeon-holed into one genre. So, in an effort to ensure this my first book was a political conspiracy thriller called They’ll Call It Treason whereas my newest book that released January 10 this year is a dark psychological horror thriller called To Watch You Bleed. They’re both thrillers, but they are far removed from each other in every other aspect. In addition to this I’m hoping to write a young adult book, maybe a trilogy, as well as something in the full-on science fiction realm in the future as well. I don’t want people to expect one specific genre from me, but instead to be able to see me across a few different ones.
I can relate to this entirely. It’s amazing you were able to write two extremely different books, both as bestsellers. Hat’s off to you.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Well before I started planning my first published book, the thing that hindered me most was not knowing the method that worked best for me. I cannot just come up with an idea and begin writing and successfully write a first draft of an entire book by letting it flow from my mind. No, I have to sit down with an idea that comes to mind or that I’ve had brewing up in there, put the idea down on paper (digitally speaking of course) and then work out that simple idea into a slightly more complex idea with a clear beginning, building, conflict, climax and resolution. Then after that is done I have to step back and write out an entire chapter-by-chapter outline before I actually write the first word of my first draft. With that structure in place I can write away, but I have to have that structure it seems.
Beyond that, I find that I have to schedule things, and if something gets in the way of my schedule or makes me have to alter it, I tend to have a harder time getting back on track, and often times my writing time is what suffers unfortunately. I’m a creature of habit it seems so I have to have my schedule for the most part. Other than that, I guess the occasional bought of writers block gets in the way every once in a while, but that is usually only during my planning stages, not during the actual writing fortunately.
The adventurous aspect of discovering our writing process is most exciting to me. What a glorious moment! Of course, this is a evolving experience over time. But it sounds like you have all the right nuts and bolts in the right place.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Before I actually published my first book, the thought of what it must be like to see my book in print and have some one read it kept me motivated. Now, hearing readers tell me what they thought of the book and how much they enjoyed it is what motivates me most. I still find it hard to see myself as a genuine writer, and it just feels odd when someone says they are a fan, but that’s definitely what motivates me now beyond simply the love of writing.
That must be a very surreal feeling! Face it, Jordon, you’re a writer! And I’m a fan. It’s very encouraging to those who have day jobs (me) hoping to break into the writing game.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
If you are speaking to my latest book, To Watch You Bleed, my antagonist are three young boys in masks and I cannot really go into much more detail than that. I don’t want to ruin the story.
I’m very familiar with them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget!
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
I think a lot of why writers throw in the towel so-to-say is because they expect too much or they feel like it’s too far out of reach. I know when I was getting started, I would read up on authors trying to get their works published for years, only to be rejected time and time again. I imagine that that kind of response, no matter how confident one might be in their story telling, can be a real blow and cause even the most stalwart writer to bend and bow. At the same time however, there are many stories like those very ones were after tons of rejections they finally get that one acceptance letter than changes it all and gives us a huge hit. Of course, there are also other avenues of publication as well, but I think many authors feel that only the traditional route is “legitimate” unfortunately.
Then you have authors I think which are surrounded by people who negatively impact their confidence in their own ability to write by telling them it’s a “pipe dream” or it’s just too difficult, it’ll never happen. Yes, some people may not have the talent that’s needed to write, but I think for the most part, those who want to write, can at least learn to write and people need to be there to support them and encourage them to make the right decisions but to not give up. I had a lot of people cheering me on even when I didn’t think I could do it or that it would be a flop and that helped me out a lot.
We’re glad you kept going, Jordon. It certainly wasn’t a flop. The numbers don’t lie. I have a lot of the same reservations. This is good medicine!
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Get back up, dust off and try again. Maybe you hit the wrong turn. Maybe the story you chased was just not the right one for you. Don’t let people get to you if you really want to write, just do it and be confident about your story but still humble enough to see where you fall short. But, at the same time keep writing and improve as you go.
Amen to that buddy. That’s the gospel truth.
BONUS: What else do you have coming down the pike?
Right now, I’m working on book 2 in the Ethan Shaw series, which is the book following up from They’ll Call It Treason, and I’m planning a spaced-based psychological horror thriller standalone novel, nothing too out there, no monsters or aliens, just horror in the vastness and loneliness of space. Both of these are in the initial planning stages so far though, so it’ll be a while before I have more details about them available. However, I am aiming for a Fall/Winter 2017 release for the Ethan Shaw Book 2, and a Spring/Summer 2018 release for the space thriller.
What is within a tear?
And from whence does it truly flow?
It hails from hidden abodes of heart,
sprung apart from embattled depths below.
What is within a tear?
And how significant is its worth?
How heavy the burden escapes unweighed;
in dimensions of pain, unknown girth.
What is within a tear, you say?
Only the bearer truly knows.
Hearken that tune when it’s wrought.
As pain grows wings, let them flow.
Suzanne is an award-winning author of historical crime fiction set during the American Revolution. She is also one of our talented participating authors in this years Mystery Thriller Week event Feb. 12-22. Don’t miss it!
Suzanne currently has two series:
The Blacksmith’s Daughter
Regulated for Murder
A Hostage to Heritage
We all perceive things a bit differently. The subtle shifts in perception makes all the difference from person to person. The faculty of sight may be the same, however the interpretation and reflection is quite different. Different indeed.
Now come, let us see through the eyes of yet another talented author…
*Who shaped your reading experience as a child?
Preschool, my reading experience was shaped by my mother, a schoolteacher. After that it was shaped by peers, popular television shows like Star Trek, and the Space Program. (I’m a native of Florida.)
I really appreciate how important early reading experiences are. They help sow the seeds that develop much later in life.
*Which books had the most impact on you in the early years?
In elementary school I devoured books in the Nancy Drew series. I also enjoyed biographies of women like Sacajawea and Abigail Adams. Later I shifted to reading classic science fiction, horror, historical fiction, and mysteries.
I’ve heard many authors begin with the Nancy Drew series! Sounds like you have a wide ranging interest in books.
*How did you develop a love for history?
That didn’t happen until I’d graduated from high school—where I had to memorize dates and details of long-ago battles without much context—and had the room to appreciate Florida’s fascinating history. When I studied history on my own, I discovered how horribly biased high-school history had been. History became fascinating because it was no longer sanitized.
Oh wow. You had quite an eye opening experience. I wonder why history books are biased? I’m sure that would open up a few can of worms!!
*Did you read historical fiction or texts in high school?
Yes, I read biographies of people who’d lived centuries earlier. I tried reading historical romances, but although the historical periods often inspired me to research them on my own, the characters did not appeal to me.
Wow. Not too many teenagers read historical biographies. This is rather impressive. If I were to start with biographies it’d be deathly boring. Reading historical fiction would have the reverse effect however.
*Which books developed your love for science fiction?
Most fiction written by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Robert Silverberg, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, H.P. Lovecraft, and Poul Anderson. Andre Norton’s “Witchworld.” Anne McCaffrey’s “Pern.” Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Darkover.”
Great group of authors!!
*What sources do you read for American history?
In the last twenty years, there’s been a surge of research published by scholars and historians on the Southern theater of the American Revolution. That’s the setting for my series, and in the back of each of my novels, I include a one-page bibliography of those works that were helpful.
Oh good. I hope to get a copy of a few of your books soon.
*Name 3 of your favorite historical people.
Enheduanna, Hannibal Barca, Dag Hammarskjöld
Yikes. Never heard of these guys.
*Name 3 things you hate about American history education.
Only three? Gee. It downplays or omits the successes of the “enemy” while downplaying or omitting American mistakes. It offers almost no hands-on interaction with historical elements, so it’s boring. And you don’t learn specific examples of how history repeats itself.
Now I can smell the bias there. It’s amazing what we willingly omit from the truth.
*What draws you to the American Revolution?
Religion was losing its stranglehold over people’s thinking as well as the running of governments during that time. Scientific thinking and processes were emerging as acceptable. Women also had more freedoms during the Revolution than they did prior to the war or for more than a century afterward. And with industry gaining momentum, the average person was no longer totally dependent upon handmade items.
*Besides the revolution what are your favorite parts of history?
I’m fascinated with early civilizations, such as the people of the Indus Valley, Anatolia, and Sumer. However some periods of history I avoid because they’ve been done to death: Tudor, Elizabethan, Regency, Victorian, and recently WW1.
I have interest in the early civilizations as well. Most recently, the early native Americans.
*Name historical fiction authors or books you enjoy.
Ellis Peters, Mary Stewart, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ashley Gardner, Daphne du Maurier.
Thanks! I always love good recommendations.
*Who are your favorite science fiction characters?
I have a soft spot for many of the characters (guests and regulars) of Star Trek: the Original Series as well as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Also Lois McMaster Bujold’s protagonist Cordelia Naismith in Shards of Honor and Barrayar; and Maggie Black, protagonist in Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife. And, of course, Princess Leia.
Hard not to like the old Star Trek classics. I love what they’ve done with the new series too. I’m a big fan of the Fringe, Star Wars, 100 etc. The list go on and on…
*Name 3-5 pet peeves as a reader.
o Breaking a promise to the reader or otherwise not playing fair
o Creating a stupid villain or antagonist
o Dumping in pages of description or backstory that can easily be skipped
o Giving a protagonist unmerited rewards
*If you were a time traveler where would you go?
One that would bother me the most would be a stupid villain. I personally believe that ruins the entire story.
*Which historical customs would you bring into our society?
o Courtesy and politeness. In my lifetime, I’ve seen people become outrageously rude.
Instead of finding it appalling, society now considers rudeness entertainment.
o A thirst for knowledge. Where have all the critical thinkers gone?
I always enjoy seeing the different responses to this question. Your last response is rather intriguing.
*If you had to marry someone in the American Revolution who would it be?
It would be someone with many of John Adams’s qualities, but he needn’t necessarily be a patriot. In addition to being intelligent, Adams recognized and appreciated the intelligence of women. He didn’t chase petticoats like Ben Franklin did. He wasn’t a party animal like his cousin Sam, or Paul Revere, or John Hancock. (Wow, get those three together, and they’d drink all your booze.) He wasn’t weird, like Thomas Jefferson was. He also didn’t allow sentiment to derail his logic, demonstrated by his ability to successfully represent the British soldiers involved in the Boston “Massacre.”
Wonderful. I need to learn more about John Adams. I have a book about him buried deep in my TBR list.
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Author page of JR Handley, a veteran who writes military science fiction to excise the demons of his time spent fighting in the Late Unpleasantness in Mesopotamia.