Steven Lyle Jordan focuses on sci-fi literature. He has worked as an illustrator, writer, graphic artist, and a web designer. He publishes his own books. Some of his most-prominent writings include Evoguia, Verdant Skies, Verdant Pioneers — Sequel to Verdant Skies, The Kestral Voyages: My Life, After Berserker, The Kestral Voyages: The Lens, The Kestral Voyages: The House of Jacquarelle, Chasing the Light, As The Mirror Cracks, Worldfarm One, and Despite Our Shadows. In this interview with BookChums, he discusses his writings, interests, inspiration, and motivation with us.
Tell us about where you grew up and the literature that has always delighted you.
I was born in Washington, DC. My parents, both government workers, were among the first black families in the US who could afford to move out of the cities and resettle in the suburbs in the 1960s, so we moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, just north of Washington, and I spent my formative years there.
My first books were mostly light-hearted adventure books and comics. I bought a lot of them when we would visit my grandparents in Delaware; my favorite part of the weekend would be a walk to a nearby grocery store which had a spinning wire display of books. I discovered the Doc Savage and Perry Rhodan series there, and I’d buy new books whenever we visited. I was introduced to L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in junior high school, which kicked off my love of science fiction short stories and novels… from then on, I couldn’t get enough.
What triggered you to write sci-fi literature?
Two things: First, I’d spent a number of years as an illustrator, and occasionally considered creating graphic novels. But although I could develop interesting characters and settings, I didn’t have actual stories for them to perform. One day, I started writing out a story idea in short story format, and I discovered that I could do a good job writing the stories… better, in fact, than I could illustrate them! So I accumulated some short stories, which would later become The Onuissance Cells.
Years later, I was driven back to writing when I went through an extended period of not being able to find anything I wanted to read… most of the SF available at the time had become very predictable, mostly galactic empires and space battles, or predictable fantasy, none of which interested me. I started writing the kind of stories I wanted to read, full-length novels this time, and again, I realized that they were coming out pretty good. I decided I might have a future in writing.
Of all the stories I was exposed to, science fiction has always been what interested me the most. Stories about the promises of the future, of applying science and tech to our problems to create a better world, of maybe showing a reader how we might do things better or improve ourselves someday, have always been my passion.
Your writings have an element of science, mystery, and futuristic settings. How do you go about forming a plot?
I usually start from a very basic “What if?” scenario, or a decision to write about a particular idea, for instance, “I want to tell the story about a virtual world that is tightly tied into real life.” Then I go about creating notes and outlines of the characters, settings and basic plot-points I want to hit—where I want the story to go.
Once I have those basics, I write what is essentially a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the story, 1-2 paragraphs per chapter, and revise characters and settings as I go along. Between the synopsis and notes, the story starts to form very clearly in my head. Usually, I hit a point at which the story is ready to almost write itself… all I have to do is decide on that crucial first sentence, and once I have that, I’m off to the races.
Are you also working on non-sci-fi literature?
I’ve written one noir mystery and one non-fiction book, but neither have done as well as the sci-fi material. The non-fiction was about the development of the ebook market itself, and honestly, I released it too soon; so it’s now out of circulation, and needs a good editing before I release it again. It’s on my list of things to do. The noir mystery was fun, a very sexy story, and I occasionally consider new stories with some of those characters. I might still write books other than sci-fi, but I don’t have any plans to do so at the moment.
What motivates you?
When I start a project, I need little motivation… I enjoy developing a story and writing it. Part of me hopes to create a story that will “Wow” everyone who reads it… but I also admit that what I’d really like is for these stories to become popular, and make me some money! Writing is something I’ve discovered I can do well, and I hope to make it a future source of income, perhaps when I’ve retired from my day job (in a few decades). In the present commercial chaos being caused by the emergence of ebooks, I have no idea how well that’s going to work out, but I continue to hope that ebook selling will settle down to a commercially viable and secure market soon, and when it does, I’ll have plenty of books to sell.
Who all are your favorite characters in literature?
First I’ll say that a lot of my favorite characters came from comic books, mostly Marvel’s characters such as Iron Man, the X-Men, Spiderman and the Avengers, and DC Comics’ Batman, Green Lantern and Green Arrow. They were a nice mix of super-powered characters, and unpowered, ordinary people with extraordinary abilities.
I mentioned Doc Savage earlier; he was my first big influence, and he was followed closely by Perry Rhodan. I’ve read as much Star Trek literature as I’ve watched the various series and movies, and the original crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise has always been close to me. From there, the characters I still think of often are Ben Bova’s Chet Kinsman, Frederik Pohl’s Roger Torraway (Man Plus and Mars Plus), Ernest Callenbach’s William Weston (Ecotopia), Steve Austin (Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, not so much the TV character based on the book), and Thomas Tudbury, aka The Great and Powerful Turtle (G.R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series).
Most recently I’ve loved Jack McDevitt’s Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins and the Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath duo from his various books. And Kris Kelvin (Lem’s Solaris) still holds a special place in my heart.
Tell us about your hobbies and interests.
I mentioned I used to be an illustrator, but I peaked way too soon and had to give it up as it ended up constantly frustrating me. Today I do computer art and graphics, and I create the covers for my novels. I branched out into web design later, and presently use my skills to create and maintain my books site at Rightbrane.com. I’m a big fan of animation, computer animation and anime, and I have a select collection of graphic novels, mostly sci-fi but also a lot of superhero and adventure hero stuff. Science and technology of the past and future have always been a huge interest of mine, but I also have a strong interest in the environment and the future of the planet, so improving the human state on Earth and preserving our environment are important to me. And, of course, I’m always looking for good SF to read… I’m always on the lookout for great new material by those independent authors who took advantage of the ebook market to bypass traditional publishing avenues.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
One thing I can say to all aspiring writers is: Keep practicing your craft. Use your favorite novel(s) as a benchmark, and work hard to create novels as good as that… something you’d want to read. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and if you need assistance from professional editors, proofers, etc, by all means seek it out; anyone who can help you improve your novel is worth your time.
Beyond that, it depends on why they write. If they are trying to become financially successful, the best advice is to BE PATIENT; that’s just not going to happen overnight… and it may never come. But some people write just because they enjoy writing, in which case, the best advice is: Ignore everyone’s advice, and continue to enjoy yourself!