JR began her authorial career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to herself. A Major Shift, JR’s first novel (rife with first-time novelist problems to solve), may permanently be “under revision,” but her current YA sci-fi project A New Morse Code will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection. Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that’s more Star Trek and less 1984. When she’s not writing, JR enjoys exchanging “your mama” jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons.
Q: When did you decide to become a writer?
A: When I learned to read at three years old, I knew I would write my own stories. I never expected I’d be over thirty before I finished one, of course! Poetry and songwriting was plenty for me, until it wasn’t, but writing has been a central focus for me all my life.
Q: Explain some of your world-building process for A New Morse Code—how much do you know about the alien worlds and histories? Are we talking a single storyboard or Silmarillion?
A: I’m somewhere in between those extremes. For each character, I have at least a dozen pages each—their backgrounds, original timelines, challenges, strengths, weaknesses, skills, interests, and for each planet they come from I have a dozen more pages—with creatures, habitats, evolutionary history, cultural events and mores, even natural catastrophes and eras. My story bible is more like a Demimarillion.
Q: Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
A: No, with the exception of NaNoWriMo, which I participated in for the first time in 2015, I don’t set production goals. I hit 50k two weeks into November without much trouble, and I haven’t worried about daily goals since. Besides that, I stay flexible to the needs of each writing day. If I write three short, golden sentences, I’m as satisfied with that as I would be 8k words. I can see why daily goals are essential to many writers, and I imagine there will be times when I may need such incentives. For now, though, I give what time I have and feel great about my process.
Q: As a planner, have you had any surprises during the writing of A New Morse Code?
A: When I first sat down, outline in hand, I thought I knew just where I was going. I was going to write in third person, in multiple POV, but when my fingers started moving on the keyboard, the character wouldn’t cooperate. I kept slipping out of third person as Hugo Morse took over telling his version of events. After a few chapters scratched out, slipping out of third, I finally gave up. It was Hugo’s story, I realized, and it needed his true voice throughout the whole narrative. Afterwards, the story poured out easily, though each of Hugo’s cadets has delivered me a few surprises. Their secrets—the ones I thought I knew, the ones I planned—were merely the froth on the ocean.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched?
A: For A New Morse Code, I’ve found myself in some strange mental places from space travel mechanisms and time travel paradoxes to mind control methods. By far the weirdest thing I’ve researched lately was “the ramifications of sentient plants.”
Featured Writers is a series dedicated to discovering the talents, motivations, and strategies of writers all the world over. I don’t care how experienced you are, whether you’ve published anything, or what you’re writing about: If you’ve got a story to tell, I want to hear about it! To share your process or project with my readers, contact me with a brief bio and a little bit of information about what you’d like to talk about.