TNA: Hi, Jordan, welcome back! It’s always great to have you here with us. For readers who may not have had the chance to be introduced to you before, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself to get things started?
Jordan: I live in NC, not terribly far from where I spent the majority of my childhood. My ancestors brewed moonshine, so I keep up some of the family tradition brewing beer and mead in my spare time. I live with my wonderful husband (and beta reader) David and our three very cute cats.
TNA: You’ve come a long way since you published Hainted back in 2012, having published more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories since then. With the benefit of hindsight and experience now, what are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way not only about writing but about self-publishing as well?
Jordan: Don’t try to guess what the market wants. I thought no one but me would want to read about a dorky comparative philologist with major self-esteem issues. I wrote Widdershins anyway, but I figure it would sell a couple of copies and disappear forever. Never have I been so glad to be so wrong.
TNA: Since we’re on the subject of Hainted, personally, I think Dan and Leif could use a sequel or two, so do you have plans to write any more books set in that world? If so, what can we expect from them next?
Jordan: I’d love to write something more about them, but so far they haven’t given me a story. Then again, it was years between the initial idea for Hainted and the final spark which took it from idea to story. Apparently Dan and Leif don’t like to be rushed.
TNA: So… you seem to have this fascination with the arcane. Can you foresee yourself ever writing a book that doesn’t include some sort of magic or horror? What is it that draws you to all manner of the paranormal in your writing?
Jordan: There are books without magic or horror in them? (I kid, I kid—I actually read a lot of mystery and contemporary with no paranormal element.) I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comic books pretty much exclusively. The imaginative element appeals deeply to me for several reasons, but as a writer I love the challenge of setting up the various rules of magic and then asking myself how these affect the characters. How would someone react to suddenly having a vampire spirit sharing space in his skull? Or discovering, after a lifetime of powerlessness, that he could cast spells?
TNA: You must do hours upon hours of research for some, if not all, of your books. What are some of the most interesting things you’ve researched that didn’t make it into a story?
Jordan: Probably the various therapies employed by Victorian-era lunatic asylums. I had a ton of material from my trip to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum alone that never made it into Stormhaven.
TNA: Before I get too much further off track, let’s talk a little bit about Percival Endicott Whyborne and Griffin Flaherty, they of the Whyborne & Griffin series. Necropolis takes our two heroes to Egypt, with a slight detour in London (read: Remnant). Tell us a little bit about why you decided to take the action out of Widdershins and into the land of pharaohs. With the vast wealth of possible storylines from Ancient Egypt, did you have a difficult time settling on where you wanted the story to go? Did you consider any other possibilities in the plotting stage—deities, pharaohs, even setting?
Jordan: Having made Whyborne and Griffin’s friend Christine an Egyptologist, I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to send them on a dig with her! Victorian Egypt is such an intriguing setting; you have the birth of modern archaeology, the struggle of colonialism versus native rights, the first astounding discoveries of the ancient past. There are SO many directions a story could go!
Part of my difficulty settling on a story came from the fact I went slightly off course at first. I mistook Daphne for a Donald, and wrestled with a more adversarial relationship between “him” and Christine. Not surprisingly, the book stalled. Once I realized my mistake, things fell into place very quickly and the story practically wrote itself.
TNA: Now that our heroes have been to Egypt, can Israel or even Greece be far behind? Or will they be staying closer to home from now on? In other words, where to next?
Jordan: We’re back to Widdershins for Book 5, Bloodline, which is the first book not titled after a location (unless you consider Whyborne himself to be a location, I suppose). After that, there are any number of places I’m thinking about taking them. Kansas, the Yukon (the height of the gold rush ended in 1899 but didn’t die out altogether), other parts of New England…
TNA: During the Historicals roundtable discussion at Rainbow Con, we talked a bit about the ways in which the happy endings for men in times past couldn’t necessarily be held to the same standards we expect of happy endings in our contemporary romantic fiction—and certainly not in comparison to M/F historicals—simply because of the social constraints of their time, something that Whyborne and Griffin know all too well. After that longwinded preface, my question is, do you see historical romance as a bit of a niche market within the M/M genre because of that innate conflict? And to go along with that, do you approach writing Whyborne and Griffin in a different mindset than, say, writing John and Caleb (from the SPECTR series) because of those restrictions?
Jordan: I do think it makes historicals even more of a niche within m/m because readers tend to expect a historical to be depressing due to the societal constraints set around the romance. Which is one of the reasons I think people who don’t like historicals generally still enjoy Whyborne & Griffin. Although the fact they can never acknowledge the truth of their relationship publically informs certain parts of the books, it’s only one issue they face among many.
(Also there are monsters, explosions, etc. which aren’t found in a lot of historicals. Downton Abbey this isn’t.)
I do approach it with a different mindset from my SPECTR series, because John and Caleb can be out even though they live in a conservative part of the country. Whyborne and Griffin hide even within their own home, to an extent, in that they maintain two bedrooms so as not to arouse the suspicions of their cleaning lady. One of the nice things about writing Necropolis was that two middle-class gentlemen traveling abroad would be expected to share accommodations, as opposed to Threshold where Whyborne was there as the railroad baron’s son.
That said, I draw inspiration from real life couples who have left behind some record of their existence. The constraints and social pressure broke up many gay and lesbian couples, but some were able to forge lifelong or at least long-term commitments. The idea of marriage equality isn’t as new as we think; sympathetic clergy have been conducting same-sex marriages at least since the Victorian era, although those unions couldn’t be acknowledged either legally or even publically. For those interested, the book Outlaw Marriages is an excellent starting point, as it discusses well known gay and lesbian couples who made their relationships work for at least a while, in a time when all the odds were against them. But for every one of these better known couples, there also were hundreds of ordinary people who quietly lived out a life together.
TNA: One of my favorite characters in the series is Dr. Christine Putnam. She’s such a strong woman in a world that would otherwise have her dismissed simply for being born female. Do you find you gut-check yourself every so often as you’re writing her to be sure she doesn’t fall too far outside the boundaries of her time? If you could bring her off the page and into the real world today, would she hit the ground running, or do you think it would take her time to adjust?
Jordan: When coming up with Christine’s character, I definitely looked into the real-life women of the time who did become doctors, scientists, and archaeologists. There weren’t many compared to today, but they did exist in a greater number than I think most people imagine. To step outside one’s ordained role in the era, a woman really had to be committed and incredibly thick-skinned.
As an example, a male professor my husband had in college declared women shouldn’t be engineers and ordered all female students out of his class…in 1984. Imagine how much worse it was in 1884. These early women scientists had unbelievable determination to put up with constant harassment and belittlement from every quarter: professors, male students, and society at large. Vulnerability isn’t something they could afford to show, save to those they most trusted. Which I think gives an extra poignancy to Christine’s relationship with Whyborne.
I think Christine would be unbelievably happy in the real world of today. Also, she would throw the best bachelor party for Whyborne ever. (If there are any AU fanfic writers out there: I want to see this!)
TNA: How many books do you have the Whyborne & Griffin series planned out to? Do you see a definitive ending right now, or will you simply write until you run out of material?
Jordan: I’ll have a better answer once I finish the first draft of book 5. How is that for evasive? 😉 Seriously, though, several ongoing threads will be wrapped up in Bloodline. Will Griffin ever come to terms with Whyborne as a sorcerer? What is the nature of Heliabel’s long illness? Why did the dweller contact Whyborne, and what did Daphne mean when she said he smelled of the ocean?
At the same time, there are plenty of other plot threads which won’t be resolved in book 5, such as Griffin’s brothers and whether he can ever hope to reconcile with his adoptive family. Not to mention any new questions which will be raised. Suffice it to say, I’ve still got plenty to write about in this universe!
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from Necropolis with us?
Blurb: Introverted scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has spent the last few months watching his lover, Griffin Flaherty, come to terms with the rejection of his adoptive family. So when an urgent telegram from Christine summons them to Egypt, Whyborne is reluctant to risk the fragile peace they’ve established. Until, that is, a man who seems as much animal as human tries to murder Whyborne in the museum.
Amidst the ancient ruins of the pharaohs, they must join Christine and face betrayal, murder, and a legendary sorceress risen from the dead. In the forge of the desert heat, the trio will either face their fears and stand together—or shatter the bonds between them forever.
Companion Story: Whyborne & Griffin – Remnant w/KJ Charles – Available for FREE at AllRomanceEbooks
The hope proved futile, of course. As we prepared for work, Christine joined Griffin and I in front of the wall. “What on earth is going on, Whyborne?” she demanded. “Have you and Daphne argued over your translation?”
“No, and keep your voice down,” I said, glancing about. Fortunately, only Griffin stood close enough to overhear.
“Well, what’s wrong? Tensions are normal in a situation like this, isolated from civilization as we are, but it’s best to get them out in the open before they have a chance to fester.”
There was no way around it. I explained the situation to Christine as delicately as I could, given Daphne was her sister. When I finished, Christine rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Hmm. I’ll just tell her you’re a eunuch.”
“Christine!” I exclaimed.
“Well, I can’t lie and say you’ve a woman waiting back home,” she pointed out. “What if she wants to visit me in Widdershins? Or even move there? When this mysterious other woman failed to appear, she’d know I’d made the whole thing up.”
“Surely you can think of something better than my being a…a…”
“Impotence. It would be more believable, anyway.”
“Oh honestly, Whyborne, don’t put up such a fuss. I swear, you men have your entire egos tied to the functioning of a few inches of flesh.”
“More than a few,” Griffin said with a smirk. I buried my face in my hands and wished the mummy’s curse were real and might strike me down immediately.
“I don’t want to know, and implore you not to say anything further,” Christine responded.
“I thought nothing shocked you.”
Christine snorted. “Whyborne is my brother, by choice if not by blood. I wish him all happiness, but have no desire to know any details.”
“Would you both please stop talking?” I begged. “Tell Daphne I’m dead. Over here. Killed by apoplexy thanks to the two people closest to me. Perhaps she can speak a phrase from the Coffin Texts over my corpse.”
TNA: Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about John Starkweather and Caleb Jansen and, of course, Gray from the SPECTR series since I brought them up. As you well know, I’ve been Team Grayleb all the way (A thumbnail sketch for those who haven’t read the series, Gray is an incorporeal but very sentient entity who resides within Caleb). How surprising has it been for you to see readers rooting for such an unconventional relationship? Were you shocked at all when fans of the series began rooting for John’s romance with Caleb and Gray?
Jordan: Considering that’s what I intended from the start, I’d say I was gratified rather than shocked. I always planned for readers to fall in love with all three protagonists and want them to come together, and I’m very glad people responded so well to a very unconventional relationship.
To be honest, my moment of shock came around the second or third book, when I started seeing comments from readers like “I want them all to get together, but I know it won’t happen.” And I’m wondering, Why wouldn’t it? How cruel do you people think I am?!
TNA: Which series do you find more challenging to your writing and imagination, Whyborne & Griffin or SPECTR, or are they equal in terms of your writing experiences?
Jordan: Each has it’s own unique challenges. When it comes to SPECTR, I have to take into account all the modern devices which make mysteries and thrillers more difficult with every year: the proliferation of surveillance cameras, YouTube videos, smart phones, drones, and everything else. On the other hand, Whyborne & Griffin requires me to make some interesting choices, because I’m writing a historical but for a modern audience. There is a definite balancing act to doing so, and although I feel I have to ultimately come down on the side of my readers, at the same time I have to do so without being obvious about it.
TNA: Do you have the SPECTR series planned out to the end yet? How many more books can we expect before we have to say goodbye to these characters?
Jordan: The original SPECTR series was always meant to run for six episodes. Hey, that’s twice as many as a season of Sherlock, right?! 😉 I’ve had a lot of requests for SPECTR 2, however, so stay tuned for news on that front.
TNA: Jordan, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we end by having you tell us all the places we can find you on the internet?
Jordan: Thank you so much for having me!
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