I’d like to welcome literary fiction writer Justin Ordonez, author of Sykosa. Before we learn about Sykosa, let’s see what Justin has to say…
1. When did you start writing?
I started to write seriously in ninth grade. It was the first time I set time aside, like a person would for homework or a sport, and that time was specifically devoted to writing. It’s all sort of grown from there.
2. What’s your ultimate goal as a writer? How close are you to achieving that goal?
I think my ultimate goal is to completely finish Sykosa, which will probably be 3 parts, so I think I’m 33% there! Wow, can I just say I’m 90%? That makes me feel better, lol.
3. Where does your story take place? Why did you choose this location?
My story takes place in Seattle and Bellevue metropolitan areas in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. At the time I started Sykosa, I was new to Seattle, and everything here seemed so new, so beautiful, and so unique. The place is unbelievable and the first thing you want to do is write about it.
4. What made you decide to self-publish instead of the traditional route?
I had interest from some agents and some editors but I was assured my book would have to be seriously changed. One person straight up told me, “I love your book, I really love it, but I don’t know how to sell it.” That about sums up the issues with Sykosa. Though, if I could offer a hypothesis, I don’t necessarily feel that my book is so radically different from anything out there. It’s a literary book that goes through a young women’s life. Truth is, that book has been written for male characters 1,000 times, and it’s always considered important and profound. The issue is that when you start getting into female protagonists, it’s not enough to be a female protagonist. You have to kill vampires, use magic, solve crimes—you must be something inherently more than you are. Your simple state of being is flawed, empty, and cannot speak to life’s greater virtues; or if you try to do like, maybe like My So Called Life, people freak out.
Also, nobody makes any money publishing any longer. In the past, at least it was a debate you had with yourself, asking, “If I do A, B, and C, could I make it big?” These days, it’s not a reality.
When you consider these factors, and you become honest with yourself about them, the choice actually isn’t that difficult.
5. What does your editing process look like?
It’s a bit of a disaster! I edit more than I write, so there’re markings all over the place and broken sentences and deleted clauses. My writing can seem very disjointed and strange until the last few drafts when it has woven itself into a coherent narrative. I like the process, though. Keeps me on my feet, keeps my mentally invested, I think I prefer it to the actual writing part.
6. What do you love about being a writer? What do you hate?
I like that part where everything comes together and it’s clicking. The story, the characters, and you have all reached synchronicity. It takes sacrifice to get that kind of team work. It might sound strange that I would say “team work,” but I feel like writing is a team activity. Your characters are their own people, and managing them becomes as important as the writing itself. Like any group of people, they have needs. Niko needs this plot lined examined, even if I know it’ll be deleted. Sykosa needs me to rewrite this for the 100th time, even though it’s already good enough. Getting all these people to cooperate is difficult, but when they all know their places, when they all know their parts, it feels pretty magical. It’s a fantastic pay off.
As you might have guessed, I hate the exact opposite of this. A Kevin Costner movie I like is “Tin Cup.” It is about golfing. It’s a difficult sport because the golf swing requires you to be very loose and relaxed. You almost need to flow and transfer weight like water rolling along the edge of a cup by centripetal force. Writing can be a bit like that, you’ve got to be loose, you’ve got to be free. If you’re not, you get a bad golf swing, and as Kevin Costner so adeptly put, it feels like “an unfolding lawn chair.” Doesn’t sound very loose or free, does it?
7. How do you overcome writer’s block?
Your relationship to your writing is a unique one that takes on many different forms, but you’ve got to be able to love it unconditionally like you would a child. When it’s challenging you, when it’s fighting you, when it’s mocking you, that’s when it needs the most love, the most patience, and the most care. Puts its needs first, show it you’re receptive to its feelings, sacrifice to resolve short-term bottlenecks and the story will come back to you.
8. Walk us through a typical week. How much time is spent writing, editing, plotting, marketing, and anything else that’s writing related?
If I’m not working on my writing, I’m usually thinking about it. It’s a bit overwhelming. Lately, because of the nature of publishing, I spend more time marketing than I probably should. I’m trying to write guest posts that are interesting, that make people think, that don’t necessarily make me the most popular person, but will spark something in an individual. I try to write interviews that are honest, heartfelt, interesting. All of these things take time, they take energy, and you can definitely feel burnt out afterwards. I’ve been writing a lot lately, but not so much fiction, I’ve been jotting down thoughts on economics (a hobby of mine) and what I think the future of the NBA is. It’s been a bit unfocused, but it’s where I’m at for now.
9. What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a dude. A lot of people read Sykosa not knowing that and it’s a big shock to them when they find out.
10. Are you a plotter, pantser or a little of both? Describe how a story comes together for you.
I’m a panster. I need stories that have room to grow how they want. Oftentimes, if I know too much about a story, I feel like I’m manipulating it. Usually that’s a sign that the wheels are about to fall off. Plus, it’s better when you don’t know what’s going on or what’s going to happen as you write it, it makes it a far better experience for the reader to be in that space with you as they read it. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way, but I’m sort of a romantic personality like that.
Sykosa (that’s “sy”-as-in-”my” ko-sa) is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the life of her friends. This process is complicated by her best friend, Niko, a hyper-ambitious, type-A personality who has started to war with other girls for social supremacy of their school, a prestigious preparatory academy in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. To compensate, Sykosa has decided to fall in love with her new boyfriend, Tom, who was involved in the act of violence. Propelled by survivor guilt, an anxiety disorder, and her hunger for Tom and his charms, Sykosa attends a weekend-long, unchaperoned party at Niko’s posh vacation cottage, where she will finally confront Niko on their friendship, her indecision about her friends and their involvement in the act of violence, and she will make the biggest decision of her life—whether or not she wants to lose her virginity to Tom. YA fiction for the 18+ crowd.
If you liked the blurb, take a peek at the excerpt for Sykosa:
She knows her parents are debating any number of topics. Maybe they want to talk to her about sex. Or what love is really like. Or, if they feel bold, they want to explain how life, unlike what they’ve presented thus far, is a cold and lonely place, and they’re a tad worried she’s learned this too soon. Possibly they want to get really specific. They want to tell her how sometimes bad things happen and, yes, it brings people together, but it can also create attachments that, while not bad, are not by such automatically positive. And they fear this has happened to her, and that this boy, Tom, who seemed like an alright guy when he picked her up, may be inadvertently, and by no fault of his own, prolonging her pain and intensifying her suffering.
None of it gets said.
They think: She’s only sixteen. Kids don’t feel things that serious, and I’m projecting my emotions on her. I shouldn’t put these thoughts in her head. Besides, other than the occasional second, she seems happy, and okay with life, so let her be a kid and…
The problem’s I’m no “kid.”
If you want to pick up this great read, check out this link:
If you’d like to learn more about Justin, check out his website: www.sykosa.com
Thanks for visiting, Justin.