Friday 18 February 2011

Author Q&A with Peter Jordan

This week I've been chatting to an author who is geographically about as far away from London based Helen Smith as you can get, Peter lives in New Zealand and is the author of IVRRAC. Thanks to Peter for taking time out to do this, now let's find out more!

When did you first think of becoming a writer and who or what got you interested in writing

I cannot remember a time since learning to write words on paper that I have not been interested in writing fictional stories. I guess what pushed me to really get into writing was wanting more stuff to read than I was able to get from the town library. I started an exercise book of short stories when I was around 9 and kept going from there. I still have that book and I may go back to it for inspiration when I finally use up the twenty odd unfinished stories on my computer.

How would you describe your books and style?

This is a very difficult one as most of my stories are different styles. One thing they do have in common is the twist and turns, or as I describe it, the rollercoaster ride. I enjoy taking the reader for a journey, whether expected or unexpected. IVRRAC has a few unexpected turns and many expected. I think the reason why this occurs is my writing style, the story even surprises me in the first draft.

I am also a mainstream author even though I am a Theological student. I know God gave me the gift and inspiration to write how I write, so I make no excuse for my books being for the everyday post modern individual. I write to entertain, so the more people that read them and enjoy them, the happier I am.

When you write do you have a particular routine you follow, and what do you find the most difficult part of writing a book?

I write in drafts, it all depends on how long a story is in production to how many drafts. Any new ideas would only be in two drafts but one’s that have been started, stopped and then restarted can have more. IVRRAC was published on its fourth draft. BOAS is now on its fifth and final draft. Once the final draft is completed the editing begins. First I go through editing copy and moving things around if they don’t work for me, but this is usually already done between drafts. I also check continuity at this point and the grammar errors my feeble English can pick up. I then apply my findings to the text. Once that is done it is off to the professionals or designated editors and beta readers. I then edit as per their comments (if I agree) and once that is done it is formatting time and publishing. The hardest part for me is editing the text once the errors have been found as this is more mechanical than creative. My children’s detective book is at this stage and has been there for quite a few years.

Another habit of mine is to write descriptive text while out and about. For instance the description of the majesty of the mountains surrounding Trentsworth at sunset from Simon’s window was actually the sun setting behind the Southern Alps from my window of a motel unit in Mount Cook Village.

Do you start a book knowing what the beginning, middle and end will be or does it take on a life of its own as you write?

I start usually knowing only one character and what he/she is doing for the first few paragraphs. I hardly ever have a purpose in mind but allow that character to bump into other characters and slowly let the story develop as it goes. This is why all of my books will have more than one draft, the first draft is just to see what happens. Sometimes the characters become boring and the story ends there.
IVRRAC started with an exercise I gave myself of describing a murder from the murderer’s point of view. After the murder I started writing about the sentence which turned out to be a new technique by a firm whose acronym name was about twelve letters long. I never finished this draft as it got too unbelievable before the main twist was announced. It wasn’t until four years later that I attempted the project again, this time with romance in mind. Each draft the acronym got shorter and I finally ended up with IVRRAC.

I love being surprised and thus if I had to write knowing the middle and end I would stop writing. I write to be entertained by the characters I write about. This is also the reason why my first drafts are so short, I am too impatient to find out what happens to bother with descriptions. I still remember sitting by Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown writing IVRRAC Draft 2 and suddenly realising who Kyndrea was. It is one of the more predictable twists to the story, but it came to me suddenly as it does now to the first time reader. Yet I know now the story would not work without it, but it was not at all planned.

Are you self-published or traditionally published, and what has been the best and worst thing about the route you have taken?

I have attempted to be traditionally published and was determined to be that way as I wanted confirmation I was a worthy author. However in 2008 I had an ex UK newspaper editor and traditional non-fiction author staying at my backpackers and he consented to read my book. His comment was that it had to be published and that boosted my confidence to try again. However this was also the time of the credit crunch and the news was reporting that all publishers had closed their doors to non-agented writers. Upon looking up agent’s websites I discovered that due to the economic environment no agent was accepting new clients. So I came to the conclusion that it was going to be either self publish or not be published at all. As I already had a business set up I included a publishing arm which I felt at the time was required to get a good cheap on-demand printer. It also made tax a lot easier in New Zealand. If I do make money from my books, I will look at assisting other authors with my publishing company.

The worst thing about this route is I have to organise and pay for any promotions and that it is more difficult to get mainstream reviews on the book.

If this isn't too much like asking a dad which of his children he likes best, which of your characters is your favourite?

BOAS is one of my favourites because he’s just plain silly. But at the moment, and this view will change as more books are written, I would say Janine in IVRRAC. One of the reasons is how Janine developed through the draft sequence. She didn’t even exist in the first draft (neither did the leading lady, Kyndrea) and in the second and third draft she was only in two scenes, for those who know IVRRAC, they were the black tie dinner and coffee machine scenes. Yet now she has a pivotal role in the conclusion of the book. The reason being my first copy editor said I needed to double the size of the book because there was so much detail not told. I can’t remember if she suggested Janine but I knew straight away that Janine could be more rounded than she was and add to the plot at the same time. I guess it is because she developed in front of me rather than just always being there I have more of a soft spot for her.

What do you like to read and do you have any other passions?

I read all sorts of books. I grew up on science fiction and comedy. I loved Douglas Adams as he did both and I have a large collection of Terry Pratchett books. I read biographies of people that I am interested in and presently, due to my studies, I read a lot of Christian Theological books. I have a passion for humanity, our failings and triumphs. I am studying Theology to become a minister in the church so I can tend to people’s hurts and help them on the journey with God. I love photography and nature, I enjoy living in South Canterbury which is the location  of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook - Aoraki, and many others in the Southern Alps.

Finally, what are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

I am working on a black comedy called BOAS. It is a book about an unusual superhero and how he came to be. I originally wrote it at University (instead of studying) and had my friends on  the floor in laughter. This book was written slightly differently to most of my books as I knew that the middle of the book would have the hero become this superhero and thus there was a direction I needed the characters to go in. Now I am working on the fifth draft trying to get even more humour into the story. This is totally different to IVRRAC which was based in a believable context, BOAS is, on purpose, totally unbelievable. Characters say things which no person would normally utter, but are hilariously funny. Even the concept of BOAS himself is totally ridiculous but it works, you just have to leave your brain behind when reading this book. It is not a book to take seriously, it is a book to sit back and read for a good laugh and totally ignore reality.

Peter tells me BOAS is provisionally due for release around the middle of this year, and having enjoyed IVRRAC and loving the sound of the new book I'll be keeping an eye out. You can find Peter's blog for IVRRAC here. and for BOAS here. Thanks again Peter, fascinating answers!


Donna Fasano said...

Wow, I am amazed by your ability to sit down and write, not knowing what is going to happen in your story. I need a road map to get from my beginnings to my middles to my ends. I always have, at the very least, a loosely-plotted synopsis, and feel even better if I have a detailed one.

Great interview!

The Merry-Go-Round, a romantic comedy
Mountain Laurel

Peter Robert Jordan said...

Thanks Donna.

For me that's the best thing about writing, not knowing where it is going. To me having a synopsis is like skipping to the last page to see what happens.

We are all different, that's what makes the world an exciting place.