Monday, January 7, 2013

Meet Phoenix, Author

Phoenix sent this autobiographical note... I am Lee Jordan and I am The Phoenix. I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, grew up in California, and came from a long line of Americans who were pioneers and individualists. The family tree goes back to the revolutionary war and is filled with rugged people, rough coal miners, and farmers who lived in log cabins in the early west.

I love researching history, philosophy, and religions and am never content with the way things are explained. I love to look into the nooks and crannies and wonder, what if? I live in Hollywood with my husband, Gary, and our ornery tomcat, Snickers. I wrote A Whisper from Eden, A Historical Fantasy, which is an epic fantasy about the Mandan Indian tribe. My husband and I, as co-writers, are busy at work writing a paranormal thriller series.

1. What sparked your interest in the Mandan culture, and could you describe the scope of research involved in writing A Whisper from Eden?

A Whisper from Eden started as an American western. I was having fun reading Louis L'Amour and thought I would give the genre a try. However, it evolved into something else entirely, because the research spurred ideas.

The year was 1837. Clayton Pinckney was enthralled with the Indians. He was a sixteen-year-old, aspiring writer who has little interest in his advantaged life. He was handsome, well educated, and the son of a wealthy plantation owner. However, his enthrallment with the Indians was a shame to his family. Clayton was determined to prove his was not just a foolish boy with silly ideas with his ideals about the Indians. He felt he could ignite imaginations and provoke curiosities with his writing. What he needed was a good story. And so did I.

I needed an Indian tribe, but I knew nothing about the Indians. My research led me to the Mandan tribe, and I was hooked, completely enthralled. I figured he would be too. To prompt Clayton to run away from home in search of the fabled wild and exotic tribe, all that was needed was a heated clash with his father.

2. In reading the reviews of your book, I notice that reviewers mention multiple genres in describing it: how would you describe it in terms of genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, western, and beyond?

My husband and I decided not to worry about writing in many genres or creating new pen names for each. We are Lee and Gary Jordan as The Phoenix and have several other books in various genres planned.

But finding a category for a reader using the Amazon search engine can find has been such a problem. Readers of a particular genre have certain expectations. Most of the time, historical fantasy is about castles, knights, King Arthur, Merlin and such. There is a review on Amazon right now where the reader said: "This is not sci fi." Well, no it is not. It is not historical fiction either because of the fantasy elements.

Native American Fiction is the best category. And so is Literary Fiction. However, defining literary fiction opens a can of worms. The easiest way to define it has something to say about the human condition. In a brick and mortar store, genre fiction will go on a shelf with other of its kind: romance, mystery, thrillers, westerns, etc. Meanwhile, literary fiction will appear in the "General A-Z" section, along with mainstream fiction.

I love to read and have read so many terrific books that would be impossible to shove into a category. However, the subject of category and genre is an unfortunate fact of life for a writer.

As far as the sci-fi elements of A Whisper from Eden, A Historical Fantasy, one of the things that fascinated me about the Mandan lore was their belief in a god called Lone Man. A field researcher in the 1930s interviewed an old man on the Berthold reservation. He asked who Lone Man was. The old man said that Lone Man came from the stars on his vehicle that sped through the sky like a comet, only slower. I thought: were the Europeans not the first “aliens” to find the Mandan Indians in North America? According to the Mandan lore, the People from Above sped through the skies in vehicles that were like comets and landed on the prairie. They have a ceremony dramatizing Lone Man's arrival. He arrived at their village and told them he was there for good. He then taught the Mandan tribe magic because they were special. Of all the tribes in the northwest, they were his chosen ones. He taught them magic to make them powerful, to call the buffalo instead of chasing them, and the ability to tap into the supernatural.

When he left for the last time, Lone Man assured them that if they were ever in serious trouble, he would hear their prayers and he would return.

Some facts are just too good to resist!

A Whisper from Eden is available on

3. What are the particular challenges involved in writing and publishing a lengthy book?

I did many rounds of query letters to agents and the interest was high, but the book was too long. It was suggested many times that I cut it or make two or three books. I finally decided to self-publish. Self publishing not only gives an author tremendous freedom, but also control.

4. Would you tell us about the collaborative writing you and your husband are doing?

Writing with my husband is very exciting because we brainstorm a plot, start writing, and trade the manuscript back and forth using Word revision mode. Together we are very creative. However, we don't always agree on a plot point. Most of the time we do. It is a kind of separate but together collaboration. With the brainstorming sessions, we are able to come up with some exciting and fresh ideas--like the paranormal thriller series which we are writing right now.

5. What's your process for writing/working together with your husband, and what advice might you offer to other (potential) collaborators?

Co-writing is a tricky thing if you can pull it off. Ego can be a problem. A writer falls in love with his/her own words. So trading the manuscript back and forth and making revisions, adding a scene or subtracting a part, has the potential of being upsetting to the other writer. With the first book in the series we are writing, I made changes and cuts and didn't use the Word revision mode. That upset him. So I promised I wouldn't do that again. I now make sure he sees my changes in red.

The main thing is not to keep something in the story the other does not agree with just to be pleasant and agreeable. That won't work. Critics and readers don't care about the writer's feelings. They like something or they don't and are not always kind. Hard fact, but true. By the way, A Vampire's Island, Leon's Lair is coming soon, along with the sequel, A Vampire's Island, Leon's Revenge.

People can go to my website and email me for a free Kindle version of A Whisper from Eden. I will send the Amazon gift certificate via email and be able to notify them when we have published new books.

Thanks, Phoenix!

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