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Interview with American Sci-fi Author, Steven Lyle Jordan
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Interview with American Sci-fi Author, Steven Lyle Jordan

Post by: Kabita Sonowal

 

 

This week, team BookChums chatted with American sci-fi writer, Steven Lyle Jordan. In this exclusive interview, he discussed his current projects, the challenges he faces while writing, pros and cons of a career in writing, inspiration, and much more. He has authored Sarcologia, Verdant Skies, My Life, The Kestral Voyages series, Denial of Service Episode 1, Despite our Shadows, As the Mirror Cracks and Robin among other sci-fi thrillers. You can read his first interview with us here.

Q 1: Thank you for finding the time for this interview with BookChums. The last time we spoke, we discussed your latest book, Sarcology. What are your immediate writing plans?

In the last year, I’ve been spending a lot of time concentrating on promotion, so I haven’t been doing nearly as much writing as I should!  But not long after Sarcology, I did a bit of work on an ongoing project with an old friend, Rob Robertson, of Arupt Entertainment.  We’ve been developing a project for television, based on an old sci-fi movie, and we’re hoping to get it running soon.  Rob also encouraged me to develop my own TV series concept, so I’ve created a concept, a story arc for six seasons, and scripted an opening series of episodes to get it off and running.  (I wish I could provide details, but until contracts are signed, the projects are very hush-hush.)  If either of those projects gets picked up, I hope to be doing a lot of script writing for them.

At the moment, I’m planning to start a new novel sometime in the next few months, but I haven’t decided which project yet.  Both the Verdant novels and Kestral series are ripe for a new novel, and I’ve developed ideas for both.  I also have a few novels that are presently out of circulation that I’d like to update and re-release, so I might go with that next.

Q 2: What are you reading at the moment?

I’m just starting book three in George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, Jokers Wild.  This is a sci-fi series edited by Martin and Melinda Snodgrass and contributed to by a group of sci-fi and pulp enthusiasts, about a reality where aliens brought an experimental virus to Earth that was inadvertently released over New York at the end of WWII; that virus mutated people whom it touched, killing many, but turning the survivors into Aces—people with super powers—Jokers—people with horrible disfigurements—or Deuces—people with useless abilities or minor disfigurements.   It’s like a cross between pulp novels and comic books like the X-Men, and there have been 21 excellent books written so far.  I’m re-reading them from the beginning, now that they’re being re-released as ebooks.

Q 3: Is there any particular book that you would recommend to our readers?

Well, since you asked, I’ve been trying for years to encourage more people to read the Wild Cards series; the stories are great sci-fi adventure, but with a lot of fascinating personalities and impacts on an alternate reality populated by superheroes.  They run in chronological order, and the first novel sets up the series, so by all means start with the first book, Wild Cards.  Nothing against Game of Thrones, but this is my favorite G.R.R. Martin material by far.

Q 4: Your blog is a rich assimilation of varied topics, interests and information other than literature. What inspires you?

Primarily I’m inspired by the development and application of technology to improve the quality of life on this planet.  That’s why, though I’m fascinated by discoveries of Earth-like planets and the nature of the universe before the Big Bang, I’m much more interested in how we can clean up our polluted ecosystem, save animals from extinction and provide clean water and other essentials to the world.  I see developments in automation and human services, alternate energy production and storage systems and increased medical knowledge as being among the most important directions we can go in right now.

I’m also inspired by the many and often unexpected ways people find to use technology, and how it impacts them on a daily basis.  Technology can be a social and psychological game-changer, and not always for the better; and I try to caution people about allowing technologies to develop to support our passions instead of our common sense.

And sometimes I just enjoy other media that promotes or celebrates science and technology.  TV series and movies, great books and graphic novels get me thinking about similar projects or moments that I’d like to see depicted in my own stories.  That always gets my creative juices flowing!

Q 5: Do you have a particular audience in mind while writing? Or do you write for yourself to begin with?

I do write for myself to begin with; or, for those who share my passions for technology and its impact on people.  I can never find enough futurist fiction or science fiction these days… they are being overshadowed by fantasy and lighter, Star Wars-level sci-fi, genres that either take science and technology for granted, assuming they can do anything at all, or outright ignore them in their quest for pop thrills.  I write for those who want to think about science and technology… readers who care about people, but also want to envision the realistic impacts of science on their lives.

Q 6: How do you conceptualize the graphics for your books?

My quest for quality book covers has been an interesting journey!  Being that covers are the first thing most audiences see, I’ve made every effort to make them as attractive and enticing as possible.  I’m presently involved in recreating covers for my novels, to make them even more attractive to my potential audience, and I’m applying everything I’ve learned from my roots as a graphic artist, before I started writing. 

Considering I write stories about a lot of places and things that don’t yet exist, I’m always on the lookout for images I can use for covers.  I’m also mindful of the tradition of science fiction covers to be painted or abstract (again, because so few of the things they depict actually exist); of course, some of those covers were of the most lurid and ridiculous of sci-fi and pulp covers… so I only want to emulate them so far!

Fortunately, the availability of Photoshop and the many online stock photo outlets often means that, with a bit of creative researching, I can find the elements I need for a near-photo-quality cover.  I like that approach wherever I can use it, because it provides a bit of distance from the cheap and lurid aspect of traditional painted sci-fi covers, and hopefully makes my work look more mature as well as more professional.  But I still tend to add a texture that suggests a painted final product, to recall those classic painted sci-fi covers at least subliminally.

A recent photo search finally connected me with a model (well, her head, anyway) that is almost exactly the likeness I envisioned for Carolyn Kestral, main character in The Kestral Voyages.  Using her as a central image in the three Kestral covers has raised the bar on their visual accessibility and attractiveness, and I’ve been hearing a lot of compliments on the new covers.

Q 7: What is it that you find most challenging while writing your books?

When you start to conceptualize your story, you want it to follow a certain path; but to follow that path, the twists and turns have to make sense for the characters you’ve created.  Nothing ruins a story faster than a character making a decision that advances the story, but is all wrong from that character’s personality and point of view.  So making sure the characters have a good reason to drive the story in the direction you want is of paramount importance.

Also, I need to make sure the technology in the story is working in the context of the story.  In my more serious futurist fiction, I want all of the technology to feel so real that the readers can easily imagine themselves seeing it, using it and being impacted by it.  Even in my lighter sci-fi, the technology needs to feel consistent in the world I’ve created.  In the same way that inconsistent character behavior can break a moment, inconsistent technology can do the same. 

Of course, with all of that, the story still has to be fun!  Getting all of that to gel into one great story is the most challenging aspect of the writing process.

Q 8: If you had an option to choose a writer for a mentor, who would they be?

Mmm… tough question.  Writers have very different working and creating methods, and I admit that I don’t know enough about any specific writer’s methods to make an informed decision about a mentor.  If I was going to choose an author whose work seems to reflect the kind of stories I’ve tried to tell, I might find myself trying to draw Arthur C. Clarke back from the grave: His approach to science and technology as a coherent element of story has always captivated me. 

But if I was going to be mentored by an author who’s still with us, I might pick Ben Bova.  His style with science and tech is, in a lot of ways, very similar to Clarke’s; but his characters tend to be very strong and attractive to the reader, his stories more passionate.

Q 9: Do you recommend writing as a career to aspiring writers?

It’s hard to recommend writing as a career to any writer… at this moment.  The writing profession is so much in flux right now, with rapidly-changing local, regional and international markets, more potential content sources and writers than probably ever before, the evolving pricing systems for content, the risk of losing revenue through online content sharing, and the constantly changing face of promotion and advertisement.  Frankly, no one really knows how this will shake out, and no one is being impacted more than writers trying to find a way through the fog. 

Fortunately, there are a lot of markets for you to practice your writing skills, though for little or no compensation.  So, if you’re prepared to spend a lot of time honing your craft, while waiting for the changing writers’ market to settle down and present a clear and workable career path to aspiring writers, go for it. 

 

In the meantime, try to find a paying job that will at least give you enough free time to write when you’re not working.  And hope your friends and family will understand when they don’t see that much of you.  In fact, consider using your low-pay or free writing specifically to advance your paying career; you may get more use out of it that way.

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