Today, we have another interview for you!
Tell us what first drew you to writing.
Since I was about 5 years old, reading Curious George with my mother, I’ve loved stories of all kinds. All of my games with friends from a young age were based in telling stories based around things like Pokémon or Sonic the Hedgehog – a kind of fan-fiction I suppose. And when I was alone, I was crafting ongoing narratives will all of my action figures. Heck, even when I was playing video games I would be narrating to myself, creating more interesting plots in games that lacked them (I still do that today sometimes!). I’ve always injected fiction into everything I can.
My first real foray into writing was an ongoing comic book series called Super Baby, which featured my little sister and I as superheroes. I wrote it when I was 8 years old, and for my sister’s first Halloween we went as our characters from the series. Even back then I was writing serial fiction!
Tell us about your current serial work.
Odd & Ends tells the story of Donovan Allman, a retired adventurer who is settling down in the peculiar floating city of Skymoore and trying to find happiness in a more simple life by opening up a shop that sells magical goods. As you might expect, this is easier said than done, and the past comes back to haunt him both internally and externally. In a larger sense, it’s also the story of Skymoore as a whole. The series is both serialized and episodic, and will occasionally venture off into one-off chapters exploring the lives of Skymoore’s other citizens, all of whom are trying to find meaning in a strange and fantastical world. No matter who I’m focusing on, I try to tell stories that emphasize compassion over action, and explore the value of empathy and creativity.
At it’s core, the series is a mix between slice-of-life, Pratchett-esque fantasy comedy, and more traditional fantasy. Some very nice people have favorably compared my work to Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and Adventure Time, which is basically all I’ve ever wanted in life.
What prompted you to serialize your story?
Many of my favorite stories have been serialized. When I was in elementary school, I read the Hardy Boys books like a fiend. And I’ve always been a big fan of that Monster-of-the-Week style show with overarching storylines like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Gravity Falls. But most specifically, Odd & Ends was inspired by my love of comic books. I’d wanted to write one of my own, but I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag, so I had conceived of this joke-of-the-week web serial set in a magic shop. Many of my characters existed in this initial incarnation, including Nestor Pinkly, the eccentric gnome artificer, and Gwendolyn Bottlehelm, the sassy theater director. It was inventing the character of Donovan Allman, this nostalgic man with much to learn, that made me realize I had a bigger story to tell.
How do you structure each entry?
I break down Odd & Ends into “episodes,” each of which have their own beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes these are a single chapter, sometimes they’re up to ten if they’re very important. Usually they’ll be focused on the perspective and life of a single character, but there really aren’t specific rules into how I approach them. Odd & Ends‘ stories vary in genre, tone, and PoV, and although I try not to veer too far off of its fantasy comedy roots, it can be fun to allow myself to try something very different every once in a while.
How do you setup the story to ensure the reader comes back for the next entry?
It being very slice-of-life at times, I think the most important ingredient is just writing characters that people enjoy reading about. Skymoore is filled with silly and endearing characters who live hopeful lives tinged with sadness and drama, and I hope that seeing what happens to them next is enough to keep people going. That said, I think ongoing mysteries and frequent foreshadowing of things to come is a useful tool! Many of Odd & Ends’ storylines end with epilogues that tease something to come, or expand upon a minor element that was recently introduced.
To give a specific example, in the “Recursion” storyline, I introduce a character named Teyla Eastwind who briefly interacts with Donovan for one scene, before we move onto the more important parts of the story. Then in the epilogue, we see what Teyla gets up to at home, and set her up as an important character in the stories to come.
What are the greatest challenges to writing serial fiction?
Once you publish a chapter, that’s it, you’re done. With a more “traditional” novel, you have the benefits of multiple drafts. You can get to the end of the story and realize your very first sentence was all wrong, and you can fix it.
In serial fiction, you don’t have that luxury. Whatever you’ve published is out there now, and if you realize later you made the wrong call, you have to live with it. This can be particularly troubling with genre fiction, especially if you struggle with worldbuilding as I do. There are parts of the lore I would change, but nothing too severe.
What do you love/enjoy most about serial fiction?
Sometimes I am an advocate for concise stories that get in, do their thing, and get out. I love myself a good ninety-minute movie. But there’s something comforting about a group of characters and a setting that you come to love, and that you can come back to and watch grow. And that setup need not be simply comfort food. Getting to know a character for an extended period of time can be just as thematically meaningful as a tightly-constructed tale. In real life, people grow and change over an extended period of time. We regress, we find new paths and interests, we grow close to people we never expected, and these things can define us. Long-form storytelling can be very effective at allowing us to experience these things in fiction.
What would you tell someone about to try writing serial fiction for the first time?
Don’t always worry too much about the future. Sure, there are some elements of Odd & Ends I have planned years and years in advanced, but by allowing myself to go with the flow and write what interests me as it comes up, I end up writing characters and revelations that I never had expected when I started. Sometimes it even surprises me in the moment, and a character does or says something that I realize is the right call only moments before I write it, and it can be truly exciting. Sometimes it elongates the story, and pushes its eventual conclusion further into the future, but it makes the road more fun for me.
Read the serial here.
Odd & Ends, Vol. 1 on Amazon.
Be sure to stop by and check out Jordan’s serial!
If you’re interested in being interviewed about your serial fiction, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!