Today, Jordan Castillo Price is back on the blog to tell us all about her newest release, her plans for the future and answering several other questions I was dying to ask to one of my favorite authors.
Q. For all our readers out there who may not familiar with you and your work, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your books?
JCP: Hi Brie! I’m so thrilled you invited me back!
I’m one of the early m/m writers to arrive on the scene, back in 2004 when my vampire/werewolf story Starlight was published in the anthology Bloodlust by M. Christian and Todd Gregory, although then it was considered gay erotica rather than m/m romance. The label is interesting, because I think m/m transcends a lot of these labels, yet doesn’t fit neatly into any other categories. Not all of my work is erotic, and not all of it is romantic. This genre is still in its infancy, and it will be interesting to watch the evolution of its definition. My most popular series, PsyCop, began in 2006 and is still in the works, with two more novels planned over the next couple of years.
Q. Your newest release, Magic Mansion, started as a serialized novel, not only that, but readers who tuned in monthly were able to vote for their favorite characters. Could you tell us more about the book and the process of writing a story while having input from readers?
JCP: Magic Mansion is about two gay stage magicians who meet on a reality show. I published the first version serially in my newsletter, about 5 to 7 chapters at a time, and on every key voting point where a magician would be voted in or out of the mansion, I turned that decision over to the readers.
It was a huge challenge to work this way, because while I had a general idea how I wanted the novel to end, I wasn’t 100% certain of how we would all get there, or even what all the details would be. It was up in the air, for instance, who would actually win the reality show. Probably because the relationship between the main characters was more the point than who won the show—although if you think about it, it wouldn’t be possible for both main characters to win, so I’d need to feel things out and make some decisions about how to wrap everything up in a satisfying way.
The mentality I brought to the serialized writing was very different from my usual mindset. Early on I realized that there was absolutely no way I could predict how readers would vote, and so I needed to adopt a go-with-the-flow attitude. It was also clear I couldn’t tempt fate. I couldn’t offer a scenario as a voting alternative unless I was fully willing to write it.
Q. I’m curious to know more about the differences between writing a regular novel and a serialized one. Do you write it all at once and then divided it? Or you play it by ear and see how the readers respond?
JCP: I’ve never written a novel all at once and then serialized it—although, really, I could see the temptation to do that. It’s really hard to write something to order. What if you choke? What if there’s a wrench thrown in your schedule that month? What if you’re three-quarters of the way through and you realize that something in chapter two should have been different? These are all very legitimate concerns.
My feeling, however, is that writing something complete and then doling it out bit by bit is not satisfying for me as a writer. It feels contrived. If I’ve written a whole novel, I want to publish that whole novel and then shout it from the rooftops, not make readers sit around and wait for pieces of it.
My first serialized novel, Zero Hour, was published one chapter at a time. Once in a while I might get ahead by a chapter or two, but never more than that. I found the publication schedule to be too skimpy; one chapter a month really isn’t enough to keep readers engaged, and they were more likely to save up big chunks of the story and read it.
For my second serialized novel, The Starving Years, I began publishing multiple chapters per month to keep the story moving, and I also included a reader vote at the end of each section to keep the audience engaged. That way, I felt I had a really authentic reason to serialize—because I needed to tally the vote before I could flesh out the next part of the story!
Finally, for Magic Mansion, I added the reality show concept, because it seemed like a fun way to include the actual voting as a real element in the storyline itself.
Serialized stories are about momentum and suspense more than perfection. They require both a lot of faith, and a lot of editing. They’re exhilarating to write, though, and in particular I love the sense of connection I get with the readers, and the immediate feedback to the work.
Q. JCP Books is your own indie press. What made you decide to create it instead of going with a different publisher?
JCP: After working with several publishers I decided I preferred to have greater creative control over my work than would be possible working for someone else. Before I started JCP Books I was a graphic designer by trade, and I love the intricacies of typesetting and cover art. When I was in grad school, I took a few semesters of bookbinding in which I made one-of-a-kind “art books” where I not only crafted the content, but the book itself.
I think of making my own ebooks and paperbacks as an evolution of that “art book” sensibility, where every title is unique, and gets as much attention lavished on it as it needs, with special graphics and detailed end-matter, functional tables of contents, and covers that really convey the way I envision the story. I see myself as a book artisan.
Publishers are not going to be able to invest that amount of time into the layout and design of each title. They have standardized templates they develop according to the taste of their design department and fit each new title into that template accordingly.
Q. Because I don’t want to get my PsyCop Fan card revoked, I must ask, what’s next for Victor and Jacob? When can we expect the next book? There’s going to be a next book, right, right?!?
JCP: It’s gratifying to know readers are eager for more of Victor Bayne’s adventures. PsyCop 7 is currently incubating. I plan a total of 8 PsyCop books for the main series (plus the bonus shorts and extras).
Q. All your books have a bit of a dark tone. They have paranormal elements, some violence, horror, definitely suspense, and lots of black humor. I was wondering if you would ever consider writing a different type of book, something more like a contemporary romance without the darker elements. I’m just asking this because I love contemporary romance and can’t get enough!
JCP: The books I write are exactly the type of books I love to read: blood, guts and danger. I’m intrigued by the way relationships can be explored in greater depth and breadth if they play out over a stage with paranormal or SF elements. There are scads of writers out there who write contemporary romance because that is what they enjoy.
Fans of contemporary romance may enjoy Magic Mansion, as I went deliberately subtle with the paranormal element to keep the focus on the theme of media manipulation and authenticity.
Q. What else are you working on? What can we expect and look forward to reading in the future?
JCP: When I was reading The Suicide Collectors by David Oppegaard, I was touched by the relationship of the main character and his next door neighbor, who was a stand-in father to him. I realized that I was more invested in the two of them than I was in many relationship couples, which led me to want to start exploring family dynamics in my work.
The Mnevermind Trilogy is the result of this new direction. Mnevermind is set in alternate-reality Madison Wisconsin (a college town full of overeducated folk thinking lots of thinky thoughts) in which Daniel Schroeder manages his family's business: an independent memory palace in a run-down part of the city. The first novel, Persistence of Memory, is slated for the end of April.
I’m also planning a new paranormal series called Turbulence. This will be a sequence of free short stories to fill the slot in my newsletter left by the completion of my serialized novels. Each story will have its own arc, so readers can start reading right away without feeling like they’re going to be left hanging, but each short will also lead to the next to allow for development of the characters, relationships and worldbuilding. I’d love for this to debut in May, but the research is turning out to be more involved than I anticipated. Interesting, but involved.
Q. Finally, I can’t let you go without asking you our standard question: what’s your favorite romance novel?
JCP: Stephen King’s 11/22/63 had a beautifully romantic ending. Funny thing was he almost wrote something else (that didn’t do the romantic story arc justice at all), and a guy named Joe Hill suggested the ending he eventually went with. I thought, “Wow, Stephen King trusts some guy enough to change the ending of an epic book based on his idea? That’s wild!” And then it turns out Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son! Given the father/son dynamic of the current series I’m working on, the story behind the story intrigues me as much as the book itself.
Thank you so much for being here today and taking the time to answer our questions!
JCP: I was flattered you asked! Thank you so much for having me!
Jordan Castillo Price is the author of the PsyCop series and the owner of JCP Books LLC. She writes paranormal, horror and thriller novels from her isolated and occasionally creepy home in rural Wisconsin. Connect with Jordan in the following places:
JCP Books: Jordan’s online bookstore
JCP News: Jordan’s monthly newsletter