Okay, readers, are you ready for a little release day Q&A and a giveaway from Jordan Castillo Price? This is an audience participation guest post, so enjoy Jordan’s interview, then be sure to check out the questions we came up with for you. Your comments to any, or all, of the questions will put you in the running for your choice of e-book in the Mnevermind trilogy: The Persistence of Memory, Forget Me Not or Life is Awesome.
THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED
And now, here’s Jordan.
JCP: Hi Lisa, I’m super excited you’re having me come talk about the Mnevermind series today. It’s always such a pleasure to do an interview with you!!!
TNA: It’s always a pleasure to have you join us for a visit, Jordan. Thanks for taking the time to be here! So, let’s get down to business:
Q: I’m going to ask this first question with readers who haven’t read the Mnevermind series yet in mind. How would you describe these books to them, and what makes them unique compared to some of your other work?
A: In this series, the characters own a business where they implant quick-fade recreational memories in their customers. The series slogan is “Making memories…one client at a time.” Yet as techy and Sci-Fi-ish as the concept behind Mnvermind sounds, it’s one of my most intimate, relatable and domestic series. It’s about people dealing with families, friends and work, and how they deal with it when something goes wrong. I think this intimacy of plot sets it apart from most other speculative fiction. It’s not about big, overarching evils or conspiracies, and no one’s out to change anything other than their own little corner of the universe. This downsized approach takes a plot element that could seem implausible and makes it feel entirely real.
Q: Where did the idea for this series come from?
A: I’m a pretty visual thinker. I had a mental image of these rows and rows of comatose bodies, and the story happening to the one guy who was actually awake, taking care of the crappy warehouse where the bodies were stored, while the comatose people mentally vacationed in Hawaii, the moon, or wherever. But then I realized I didn’t want it to be too much of a medical thriller, or too much like The Matrix, and I reimagined the memory science of mnemography as being something more like tattooing or electrolysis. Something where you’d need qualifications to perform it, but not an entire medical degree. And I think that decision kept the whole story more working-class, which is one of its big strengths.
Q: What were the fun and frustrating parts about putting this particular series together?
A: I wrestle with writing being frustrating, because it seems to me that it shouldn’t be. And if it is, that’s all in my head. I’ll have to let you know if I ever find the answer to that one! That solution might sound something like one hand clapping, though.
The fun was in writing the implanted memories themselves, the mnems. I went into a real flow state whenever a mnem came up, and those are my favorite parts of the story to revisit.
Q: Is plotting and writing a book a little bit like memorysmithing? If so, would you then suppose that for us, the readers, reading is a little bit like mneming, only we’re not participating in our own fantasy but someone else’s?
A: Wow. You just blew my mind. I think reading is a HELL of a lot like mneming, because you’d be surprised at how much the reader’s thoughts, ideas, hopes or notions color their experience of a book, often causing them to read stuff that was never written and recall story elements that never happened. I’ve read reviews of stories that said, “I loved it when this character did X.” And it never happened in the plot. But the reader fully experienced it so plausibly that it was their favorite part of the book. Memorysmithing must indeed be a thinly veiled symbol for authorship.
Q: Let’s talk a bit about Daniel Schroeder and Elijah Crowe, your MCs. For readers who aren’t aware, Elijah is on the autism spectrum. Tell us a bit about some of the challenges you faced in writing a character like Elijah?
A: I think what was most difficult was making sure I wasn’t being exploitive in the way I presented Elijah, but also in making him a fully rounded person and not just a walking bundle of affectations. I studied films, books and blogs for months to get me into a state of mind that felt like Elijah to me. Luckily many people with Asperger’s or autism are eager to share their experiences, so I had lots of reference available. Several people on the spectrum (or people with friends and family on the spectrum) wrote to let me know they finally felt like they’d been represented. What a good feeling.
Q: Were you afraid at any point, especially in Forget Me Not (book two told from Elijah’s point of view), that he might be an unrelatable character? How did you strive to make him someone we could and would embrace?
A: I knew from reaction to The Persistence of Memory that Elijah actually wasn’t initially very relatable to readers, which must have influenced my decision to tell the second book from his POV. I felt like it would be impossible to really know him from anywhere but inside his own head. I would say the first chapter of Elijah’s book was a risk, since I showed him deliberately obtuse and rambling about a piece of string cheese, then at the very end of the chapter I pulled all the heartwrench-strings and showed that he wasn’t rambling on about cheese after all, but divorce and loneliness and self-discovery, the difficulty of relating to other people. I figured most folks would stick with me for the duration of a chapter. Once the understanding that I was going to be approaching things sideways was established, I felt readers would stick with Elijah for the remainder of the book. I had a suspicion they’d find him endearing, and they did. He was such an underdog that it was hard not to root for him.
Q: This could be either the simplest or the hardest question of the bunch so far: why do Daniel and Elijah work as a couple?
A: It’s simple to me! Elijah is smitten with Daniel because they’re interested in the same things (which is profoundly important to him), and because Daniel treats him with respect. And chest hair. He has a thing for chest hair. Daniel is a little more complicated. I refer to several interactions with his last boyfriend Joe because there’s such a contrast in the way Daniel and Joe related compared to the way Daniel relates to Elijah. We haven’t really talked about the key tragedy that’s driving the whole series, and I’d prefer to be vague for anyone who hasn’t yet read it. But before that incident, Daniel was an entirely different person, a confident hotshot with the whole world as his oyster. But when Elijah meets him, he’s broken. Elijah allows Daniel to experience a relationship as the new person he’s become, someone who’s nurturing and thoughtful and patient. Daniel doesn’t even realize he’s being patient, because throughout the story he’s the one who ends up losing his cool and shooting off his mouth when he doesn’t mean to. But when he’s alone with Elijah he is wonderfully patient, empathetic and tender.
Q: There are some really funny moments in these books, a lot of them coming as a result of Elijah taking things literally or missing cues or him just being socially unaware. What are a few things that, when you wrote them, made you laugh?
A: I got a big kick out of it whenever Elijah should have been using his “inside voice” to say something really personal to Daniel, but instead he just belted it out. I don’t think he has an “inside voice.” But honestly, a lot of the other things that might read as funny, I actually found mortifying. It’s really hard to type when you’re cringing. I could barely stand to detail what Elijah wore to Aunt Pipsie’s party, for instance. Luckily he didn’t notice anything odd, so maybe some readers kind of glossed over that part. That’s what I tell myself to get the words out.
Daniel’s buddy Larry is always good for a laugh, since he’s such a big, happy doofus, and he would laugh right along with you. He’s like the pressure valve on the series.
Q: Now that the final book in the series, Life Is Awesome, has been written, can you say that at any point before you typed those final words you were tempted to have Daniel try to memorysmith a “cure” for his dad, Big Dan, and/or Elijah? Why or why not, or would that even be a possibility?
A: A book I’m reading states my reasoning elegantly. “A classic writing technique is to play on people’s expectations and then surprise them.” (Motivate Your Writing, Stephen P. Kelner Jr.)
That story resolution was on my mind, definitely, but not like I thought it would be a great ending. It was the desirable goal I was dangling in front of Daniel. It was the plot that I was hoping the reader would presume was there. Daniel screwed up and has lost his confidence, Daniel regains his confidence thanks to Elijah and then fixes his screwup. That’s what I’d want the reader to think is happening. Then they get to peel the onion and see that the issues all run way deeper, and there are pieces to the puzzle that Daniel has been missing all along. There are a couple of ways that he grows, and one is to realize that being vulnerable and being weak aren’t the same thing. It’s not weak to accept help, it’s courageous. And really, everything is NOT on him.
Q: Was it difficult to type The End on this series, any more so than your others? What will you miss most about Daniel and Elijah?
A: I don’t think so, because each book took twice as long to write as I guesstimated it should for its length. I would think I understood what was happening, realize something didn’t quite match up, delete multi-chapter hunks and sink back into planning mode. Over and over. It’s actually kind of harrowing. I get antsy to share the story with readers so I get to a “finish, already!!” point. I was eager to resolve the trilogy plot, because I felt like readers were really hungry for resolution, and I was worried that I was doing the series a disservice by taking the time it took to write it. Series are hard. If you resolve the conflicts in a book, then the next book is going to feel like a contrived afterthought. And if you leave a major plot point unresolved to tackle it across the arc of the whole series, readers seem dissatisfied with each individual story. If there’s a good balance for this, I don’t think I’m a natural at striking it.
Q: Would you like to share some info on any of your current WIPs or upcoming releases with us?
A: Recently I was given the opportunity to showcase Among the Living in an Urban Fantasy box set called Psychic Storm. It was a big thrill being the only m/m writer in the bunch. I’m hoping it puts my series in front of lots of fresh eyes!
Right now as a palate cleanser, I’m working on a standalone short story. I’m also mentally preparing to tackle the next PsyCop book, which will be Crash’s novel. Meanwhile, I’m working with the funny, smart, sexy and stunningly talented voice actor Gomez Pugh in producing more audiobooks. Secrets should be coming out anytime now, and we’ve got plans to start another series. I can’t wait to hear it.
Thanks so much for having me at TNA on Life is Awesome’s release day!
Dear Readers, here are some things for you to ponder:
Q: If the technology existed to craft and control an artificial dream-state where you could do anything or be anyone you wanted, would you do it?
Q: Do you foresee a future where that technology could/might exist? Why or why not?
Q: If you’ve read the first two books in the Mnevermind series already, what would you say to your friends who haven’t read them yet to try and convince them to read the series?
Have fun! I look forward to sharing your answers with Jordan! :)