20 Minutes with Jerry Gordon

November 16, 2012 Posted by Dave Robison

Jerry Gordon: Literary Alchemist

Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon is an author and editor of short and long fiction. As an editor, his work with Maurice Broaddus in the creation of the “Dark Faith” and “Dark Faith: Invocations” anthologies have informed his knowledge and perspective on the craft and qualities of good storytelling.  Writing is own fiction – including the upcoming PRE-apocalyptic “Breaking the World” has further refined those sensibilities. This was an exceptional 20(ish) minutes where we explored the challenges of using known history in your stories, the weaving (not mashing) of genres, and the value of reviewing and critiquing other writer’s works (and be sure to check out Jerry’s Workshop Episode!)

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Episode Breakdown

00:50 – Jerry’s fabulous intro

05:50 – You seem to be drawn to contemporary events as the stage for you stories. What is it about the modern world that makes it so appealing to you??

  • 06:30 – I was raised in a home where conversations you were supposed to avoid were at the forefront
  • 07:00 – Politics has always been interesting to me (apparently so is the end of the world)
  • 07:15 – I was influenced a great deal by Richard Matheson (“I Am Legend”)
  • 07:20 – And we moved around a lot so I was aware of how in some places you’re popular and in others you’re not
  • 07:35 – At one point we moved and there was no one around… that isolation gave me a sense of “you against the world”

 

08:15 – What are the challenges of using such emotionally charged contemporary elements in your tales?

  • 09:00 – It was a huge challenge with “Breaking the World” to deal with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians
  • 10:05 – In a short story (“Cities of Refuge”), I used that tragedy as a short-hand tool to invoke a kind of emotional devastation
  • 11:00 – A lot of people responded well to the story and wanted to know more about the Branch Davidians and the end of the world part.
  • 11:45 – So I came up with the idea of 3 teenagers in the Davidian compound during the standoff and the end of the world really starts
  • 12:50 – The teens are a great window for the reader because they (like the reader) don’t believe
  • 12:55 – Plus we get to see life inside the compound
  • 14:15 – You have to do a lot of research to make it authentic
  • 14:35 – I approached the book as kind of a cross-over… if you’re an adult and remember those events, you’ll look at it a certain way
  • 14:45 – If not, then it’ll be more about the character struggle
  • 15:20 – I wrote the first 50 pages of the book and threw it away. I was holding strictly to history with too many people and too much going on
  • 15:50 – Ultimately I resolved to step back and build some characters that the readers can grab on to and want to follow through this journey
  • 16:25 – I tried to be close to history but more emotionally close
  • 16:45 – You have to condense people and events to try and give it a more dramatic flavor
  • 17:25 – I felt a responsibility to be emotionally truthful about what happened

 

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18:20 – What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer?

  • 19:00 – There are two things… one is tricky to describe, the other and can explain
  • 19:05 – I’ve been told I’m good with structure and design and flow
  • 19:25 – Helping different writers find the story they’re nibbling around the edge of but can’t quite get to
  • 19:45 – I started out very structural. I’m not that structured now but I started out that way.
  • 19:55 – The other thing would be that I’m a massive fan of most forms with writing and entertainment
  • 20:05 – I have the lit degree and heavy geek credentials and I’m as happy with Walden as I am with comic books
  • 20:30 – I love taking aspects of different genres and putting them together
  • 20:50 – I have a SciFi novel that takes classic space opera and brings a lot of the horror genre’s sensibilities to it
  • 21:30 – There are things in horror that you normally can’t do in SciFi
  • 21:35 – Space Opera has archetypal characters… can you take those placeholders and put real complex people in their place
  • 22:15 – Can you take an unlikable character (common in horror) and inject that in the mix
  • 22:25 – SciFi adventure has a “let’s go on an adventure” vibe to it… what happens when no one wants to go on an adventure?
  • 23:15 – Can I take a Shakespearean play and put it in space (the book is called “Severed Dreams”)
  • 23:50 – The primary influence will be Henry V
  • 24:00 – Highly recommend Kenneth Branagh’s DVD

 

24:30 – What did you discover about your own writing through the editing of an anthology?

  • 25:05 – It’s difficult to get that position right off the bat
  • 25:20 – There are magazines like Clark’s World, Apex, and Shroud that are looking for slush readers
  • 25:35 – For the first Dark Faith anthology we received about 600 submissions
  • 26:00 – For the second Dark Faith anthology we shortened the submission window and received about 700 submissions
  • 26:10 – As a slush reader, you read so many stories that you quickly realize why you move one story forward and not another
  • 26:40 – You get to a point where you can read a page and know whether the story is worth finishing
  • 27:10 – You start deconstructing what works for you, what meshes with what you do
  • 29:15 – There’s also a great online community at Critters.org
  • 29:30 – They’re setup that you writer three critiques a month and you get ten or so for your own work
  • 30:00 – I started doing detailed critiques of the established writers in the community and they (eventually) asked to see my work
  • 31:00 – You learn a lot by having a dialog about what works and what you think about craft


About Dave Robison

Dave Robison has indulged in creative pursuits his entire life. His CV includes writing Curious George fan-fiction at the age of eight, improv theater at age ten, playing trumpet at age twelve, as well as a theater degree, creating magazine cover art, writing audio scripts, designing websites, creating board games, hosting mythological roundtables and generally savoring the sweet drought of expression in all its forms. His years of exploration give him a unique, informed, and eloquent perspective on the art of storytelling.

One Response to 20 Minutes with Jerry Gordon

  1. Mercy Loomis says:

    Woot, shout-out! ;)

    Thank you, Larry, for mentioning critters.org. I had heard about it some months ago, but like an idiot did not write it down and then couldn’t remember the name. Looking forward to checking it out!

    (And I agree, “Ghosts of New York” is a phenomenal story! My fav from Dark Faith.)

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