Interview by Hereward L M Proops
Booksquawk: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
G R Jordan: My name is Gary Ross-Jordan, writing under G R Jordan for my fantasy series, and as well as putting pen to paper I’m also a Coastguard, an archer and a Dad of four. This all keeps me extremely busy especially as at my age life has only just begun. I live in the Northwest of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis, keeping chickens amidst the marauding winds.
I’ve always written poetry and told stories from very young but it has been the past few years when I have decided to put things out there for public consumption with a dream that one day my passion can also pay the bills. With that in mind I produced a poetry book, “Four Life Emotions” to get to grips with self-publishing and followed this up with “A Darker Shade of Light” a collection of short Christian allegories in the style of H.P Lovecraft (Not sure anyone has had that sort of mix before!).
Having learnt a great deal from these experiences, I set about putting together a full length novel and was successfully crowdfunded. The fruits of the crowdfunding is “Crescendo!” of which I am extremely proud but I haven’t sat back on my laurels with the second Austerley and Kirkgordon novel “The Darkness at Dillingham” in its final production stages. I also write slightly less weird material and hope to be releasing the tentatively titled “Hook, Line and Sinker”, a tale about mermaids coming to an island community which looks at exploring the variety of views and lifestyles by the peoples’ reactions to these creatures. Of course there’s plenty of action and fun on the way.
Like most of my counterparts, I’m no expert on this writing journey but the experience of composing and then pulling a book together has been fantastic and I am now immersing myself in understanding how to share and promote a book and myself. This writing life isn’t all easy but it is a lot of fun!
Booksquawk: Do you have a particular routine for writing?
G R Jordan: I genuinely don’t which is contrary to most of the advice given on how to write. But there is a good reason for it – life as a husband and Dad of four. My wife has her own business, my kids age from aged ten to 6 months and I am a shift worker, operating on quite diverse and non-routine shifts. So I will grab whatever time I can throughout the day. Be it travelling, late at night, early morning, meal breaks at work or whenever, I have developed the habit of just sitting down and writing. That being said my favourite thing to do is to go to a coffee shop and sit down with my tablet. Noise doesn’t bother me but I do think a good latte is an appropriate partner for writing. I write at approx. 1000 – 1500 words an hour (pretty good but no express train) normally writing novels of approximately 60,000 words. Once the first draft is written I print it off and read it in a hard copy, pencilling any changes. After a second draft I usually let my beta readers see it before giving it a third draft. After that the editor gets involved. The book then gets knocked back and forward and we end up with the final cut ready to be made into a book.
Booksquawk: What are the Austerley and Kirkgordon novels about?
G R Jordan: I like to say the premise that the series is based on is “When you see the Darkness, do you run to it or run from it?” Hence we have Austerley, university professor, shambling oaf and complete genius when it comes to anything occult, weird or otherworldly. Not only is he an expert in these matters but he is constantly sucked into their world often risking others to know more.
Beside him is Kirkgordon, former bodyguard, man with a questioning faith, wary of any danger and who has had his life messed up by accompanying Austerley on an ill-fated trip to explore some of the Darkness (after finishing “Crescendo!”, I wrote their back story in a short story entitled “Footsteps” which is a tribute to Lovecraft’s “The Statement of Randolph Carter” and available online and in the hardback version of “Crescendo!). Because of his faith and belief in a form of decency, Kirkgordon struggles with Austerley’s outlook and actions, whilst also feeling compelled to protect him. This allows me to write some of the most fun dialogue as they nip and pick at each other and also give some outright abuse. The novels have many connections to myths or worlds both created and from our human past and present. In “Crescendo!” Lovecraft’s mythos is used extensively but there is also some Russian mythology. And sometimes I just throw in some of my own, after all I need to let my mind go nuts too sometimes. But the novels are also about action and adventure. I aim to provide an entertaining rollercoaster of Austerley and Kirkgordon being put through the mill with good connections to ideas and fantasies known and unknown.
Booksquawk: Austerley and Kirkgordon are a great double-act. Did you take your inspiration any buddy-cop / unlikely partnership movies?
G R Jordan: I don’t remember ever thinking about a particular partnership but I have watched / read about a lot of partnerships and seeing the dynamics. If you are going to base your books around a duo you need to make sure that there is plenty of internal conflict. With Austerley and Kirkgordon I write mainly from Kirkgordon’s viewpoint because Austerley has to remain a curiosity. Kirkgordon’s family troubles, job dissatisfaction and trouble with strange people I think we can all understand. But Austerley is something else. Discovering and understanding Austerley is a key component to the stories.
Booksquawk: “Crescendo” moves at quite a frenetic pace. Do you have any good tips for authors struggling with pacing in their stories?
G R Jordan: Pacing really depends on what you are trying to do and is greatly affected by how you write. What is it you want to have your reader do? In the A & K world, Kirkgordon is always out of his depth, bemused by all this weirdness. As it’s written from his point of view then my readers need to feel that. And so I gallop along hoping that it will all make sense at some point.
If that’s what you want your readers to feel then write like that. i.e. I actually didn’t have any plot when I started. I knew some Lovecraftian mythology, had the idea we would end up on a Scottish island and had a really good understanding of my two main characters. But until I had gotten to writing chapter two I had no idea we were off to Russia, or where in Russia. Similarly Calandra who appears in Russia suddenly developed into a major character. The fun and games begins when you need to hold the whole novel in your head as you get to end and have to pull everything together.
So to sum up, write to what your characters are doing. Are they panicked and confused, then write and plan that way. Do they indulge slowly and take everything in, then put in the extra description and nuances.
Booksquawk: “Crescendo” exists in the same universe as the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. What are your favourite Lovecraftian works?
G R Jordan: I love the “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” unsurprisingly. The whole decrepit feel is amazing and the sense of horror without ever being gory or sick. For me it’s Lovecraft’s best.
“Pickman’s Model” is another favourite, as it has the best kicker I have ever read at the end. Lovecraft’s genius was the punch to the mind at the end of a story. You sit back for just a second and then the actual horror hits you as you put the pieces together.
I have plenty of other favourites but I think “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” is a prime example of the mindless horror that Lovecraft could write which was I think the most terrifying. People for no good reason grab a rope and try to haul in a “something” in the water but get pulled in, hypnotically hanging on until they are dragged to the depths below. No reason given, no explanation. Sometimes when writing we try to explain everything but Lovecraft teaches us that our own minds can dream up far worse things than are ever put to paper.
Booksquawk: Did you find it a challenge to write in someone else’s fictional world?
G R Jordan: Not really. I’m never bound by that world. You need to step yourself in it but always remember it’s your story. I try to build on what went on before rather than go back into it. As A & K is set some time after Lovecraft’s writings, I get to play about with things a lot easier. And if any mythos is not fully explained you can fill in the gaps!
Booksquawk: Although set in the same world as Lovecraft’s works, “Crescendo” is a different sort of novel. I found it leaned more towards the action-adventure than traditional cosmic horror. Was this intentional?
G R Jordan: Totally. It is more Indiana Jones than Lovecraft and like Indiana Jones delves into mythology. One of the main points about the Indiana Jones films (which are fantastic!) is that while they do bring in archaeology and mythology, it is basically a romp and you hold onto your hat while you do it. That’s the sort of adventure I love but I also love mythology and history. Hence to combine them together feels very natural. I am following the age old advice for a writer – write the book you want to read!
Booksquawk: What next for Austerley and Kirkgordon?
G R Jordan: We’re off to the English seaside to a place called Dillingham. Having globetrotted, I decided to challenge myself to remaining in an obscure place and staying there. But there’s still plenty of trouble and some new characters. This time there’s a witch, some ghostly pirates and conglomerated creatures – but scariest of all, a girl becoming a teenager. Dillingham further develops our characters and starts looking at how “off-piste” they will go, Austerley with the Dark arts and Kirkgordon with women. But there’s plenty of adventure, DIY shopping, someone madder than Austerley and a cauldron pouring out revenge and forgiveness. There’s also a third adventure in the pipeline where our twosome go to another world with the stakes at their highest yet for Kirkgordon. All three books come together as a trilogy and will set the guys up for something totally new thereafter.
Booksquawk: A bit of fun - let’s imagine for a second that the movie rights to “Crescendo” are bought by a high-profile Hollywood studio. Who would be your first choices to play Austerley and Kirkgordon, and who would you want to direct?
G R Jordan: I was actually asked by my artist Jake Clarke to tell him who Kirkgordon looked like and I told him, Mark Strong as he has that brooding presence but can also give the action run around a good go. He also seems to play the vulnerable character well as his run in “A View From A Bridge” recently showed.
Austerley is much harder to cast. John Candy playing it really dark would have been good or maybe Robbie Coltrane. If the booming voice went a bit more evil then Brian Blessed might be an option. But really I think Austerley would be better with an unknown actor.
To direct I would have to go with Spielberg as he is a pure genius. I saw Tintin and was blown away by how he got the film to really be an extension of the comic books. By letting someone produce a film of the book I would get quite nervous (although the money would be good!) as my baby would be being dressed by someone else. But I think Spielberg could do it well and faithfully while making it a great movie.
Read the review of Crescendo! here.