YVONNE: Let’s start with NaNoWriMo, Jordan. Your post about writing the first draft of SEABOUND during National Novel Writing Month was insightful and inspirational. Could you share that story with us?
JORDAN: I tried out National Novel Writing Month for a shorter non-fiction work in 2011. The piece I wrote was never meant to be more than 15-20,000 words long, but I met a bunch of cool writers and had a lot of fun in the process. In 2012, I wanted to write a full-length novel that was fun and fast-paced, with lots of world building. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction, and I wanted to write something immersive and inventive like my old favorites.
I walked around for days with the idea that I needed an idea. Then one Saturday in October, I got on a junk boat and sailed out into the middle of Victoria Harbour. (I live in Hong Kong). I looked up as we passed a cruise ship called the Star Pisces that was about to dock after an all-night gambling cruise. I thought, "Man, it's like a floating city!" And there was my idea.
For the next few weeks, I wrote outlines and character descriptions and planned out an apocalyptic catastrophe that would lead to a group of people living long-term on this floating world. By November 1st, I was ready to hit the ground running. I completed the first 57,000-word draft that month, and I was totally hooked on the story.
The book required plenty of work after that November, but that's where it all started.
YVONNE: Outside of the NaNoWriMo structure, what is your writing routine like?
JORDAN: I recently quit my job as an English teacher to write full-time for six months. I write for three or four hours a day, usually at a coffee shop because my apartment is too distracting. The rest of the day I work at home on promotion, blogging, research, and answering emails. After I finish a draft, I'll switch to the next book in the series and do a draft of that one, then come back and rewrite. I go back and forth, allowing each draft to sit while still keeping up my momentum.
YVONNE: I’m intrigued by your back and forth approach and can imagine how it allows you to be in that writing sweet spot where there’s space to both dig in and move forward. When it came to moving forward on SEABOUND’s road to publication, what experience have you found to be most enjoyable?
JORDAN: Aside from the writing, I really like formatting files. I don't know why, but there's something satisfying about preparing the Word documents to be converted into e-books or print-ready PDFs. I also had lots of fun arranging for the cover design, but I got all the covers for this series at once so it'll be a while before I'll get to do that again. I wanted to work in book publishing before I ever started writing, so I like that as a self-publisher I get to do all the fun parts of publishing in addition to the actual writing.
YVONNE: I can imagine how your passion for the production and design phase must have madeSEABOUND ’s debut especially thrilling. What has been the most challenging aspect of the publishing process for you?
JORDAN: It's always a challenge to get noticed. There are so many good books out there, but I want people to find mine! Marketing and soliciting reviews require a lot of patience. I think people will like SEABOUND enough to recommend it to their friends, but it'll be a slow build until then.
YVONNE: If you could only share one nugget of guidance with writers finishing the first drafts of their novels, what would it be?
JORDAN: Make sure you're writing a book you'd want to read. Don't worry about writing serious literary fiction if pace-y adventures or steamy romances are what keep you up at night. Don't try to be super commercial if you just want to luxuriate in words and sentences. When you finish the first draft, your work has only just begun, so make sure you're writing a book that will keep you excited for the next few rounds!
YVONNE: So true! At what point did you know SEABOUND was going to be a series, SEABOUND CHRONICLES ?
JORDAN: When I got to the end of the first draft of SEABOUND, I thought I really had something. I liked the characters and felt that the world had so much potential. I started right in on the second book in January of 2013. My plan is to release a trilogy about Esther's adventures and a prequel about the Catalina during the actual apocalypse. I wrote the first draft of the prequel in November of 2013, and it helped me clarify the backstory before I finished revising SEABOUND. It's written in dual perspectives featuring Judith and Simon, and it really helped me flesh out those characters. I just wrote a very rough draft of the final book in the series for NaNoWriMo 2014!
YVONNE: Fantastic! When do you expect the next book to be released?
JORDAN: I'm shooting to release SEASWEPT in March of 2015. I'm in the third round of revisions and I've already started sending chapters to my writers' groups, so I think I'm on track.
YVONNE: I look forward to reading it and also think the CHRONICLES would be awesome on the silver screen. Imagine that Seabound is coming soon to a theatre near me. Who’s in the cast?
JORDAN: Esther: a grown-up Maisie Williams or Michelle Rodriguez; Judith: Charlize Theron; Simon: Jeff Goldblum; Neal: Jesse Eisenberg; David Hawthorne: Christopher Egan; Paris: Jason Sudeikis; Dax: Harry Shum, Jr.; Captain Boris: Tom Hiddleston; Captain Ryan: Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson (I love them.) Also, Joss Whedon would be the director!
YVONNE: How very right on! I think you could have a dual career, Jordan – author/ casting director. Now, if you could have lunch with three authors (dead or alive), who would they be? Where would you want to meet them?
JORDAN: Robert Jordan (RIP), JK Rowling, and Hugh Howey. I'd take them to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Hong Kong for some cold vermicelli with stir-fried lemongrass beef and Vietnamese filter coffee. Then we'd walk down to Victoria Harbour for a ride on the Star Ferry and a look at the ships!
YVONNE: What do you do when you’re not writing?
JORDAN: I like reading, going to the movies, and eating out with my husband and friends. I'm involved in three different writers' groups and a publishing society, so a big part of my social life revolves around writing. I also love visiting my family in Arizona. I have eight siblings, and we like to hang out in the kitchen or by the barbecue. I'm slightly obsessed with popcorn.
Yvonne Lieblein is a poet and author whose debut novel, The Wheelhouse Café, will be released in early 2015. You can find her at yvonnelieblein.com.