Writer’s Corner: Jo Zebedee

Writer’s Corner: Jo Zebedee

This week we’re talking with author Jo Zebedee. She’s a science fiction writer who lives in Ireland. You can find her on Facebook, or on her website, https://www.jozebedee.com. She is also featured in the Clayborn Press book, Question of the Day: The Andre Polk Memorial Anthology.


How long have you been writing and what is your proudest accomplishment so far? 


I’m been writing 6 years now and have five books out. My proudest accomplishment is my Space Opera trilogy, my Abendau series. Not because it’s the best thing I’ve written, necessarily (although I think the 2nd and 3rd books are up there) but because I set out to write a trilogy with no other writing experience. No published work, no polished shorts, nothing. And to start with a trilogy is really hard – there’s so many strands to hold and not lose.


The fact I managed to stick with the books and get them released, was a real accomplishment, and a great learning ground for writing. That they’ve done reasonably well and that their reviews are good, makes it even nicer.


2. What advice would you offer new writers? 
Write something you really love. I know that’s such a cliché but, especially your first books, you’ll be looking at them for ages. Across many, many rewrites. If you don’t really love a project you’ll get to the point where chucking the computer out the window will feel like a viable option – and a better one!
3. What is something that you struggle with the most when you are writing?
First drafts. I hate them with a passion. I can’t, can’t, can’t plan. I have tried it and my brain will not cooperate. But I also like to know WHAT I’m supposed to be writing. So first drafts, where I don’t, are a torment. I always feel like I’ll never complete the book at some point (normally 20000 words in, or thereabouts).
4. As a writer, do you have any literary pet peeves when reading books?
I don’t think I’m the worst for that, as I read pretty widely. But I do like a character-led book so anything distant from the characters will be hard for me to get into to. Probably because of that, I actively dislike filter words – seens, and felts, that sort of thing – as I find they remove me from the character.
5. When you decided to put your books out for sale, did you go Indie, small press, or with an agent? And what factors contributed to that decision? 
I’ve had such a chequered approach to my career. When I finished Abendau’s Heir there was an open window to one of the Big 6 publishers and I entered it. That open window was supposed to last 3 months, went on for 18 and I was in the last 300 (out of 5000!) manuscripts, so didn’t hear until the very end. While it was being considered, I didn’t submit the trilogy elsewhere, but instead worked on a separate project.
That separate project became Inish Carraig, about an alien invasion of Belfast, and I sent it out to agents with favourable responses. But because the book sat between the YA and adult demographs, all asked me to rewrite and I chose to make it YA (this was a mistake, I feel). I got a great agent with it, and we went out onto submission having further reduced the adult storyline. But this was just after the Hunger Games, the market for YA SF was saturated, and, despite lovely comments, it didn’t sell. At which point, I took the rights back and self published it – because I wanted to bring it back to the original market.
It’s really important I did that. Inish Carraig’s story rests on the chemistry between the main character, a 17 year old street lad, and the adult character, the cop who becomes embroiled in his story. Once I brought it back to that original premise and feel, I was more confident in it, and I think I was right to be. It gets brilliant reviews, is something of a cult hit and I answer the question of ‘will there be a sequel?’ at least weekly, at every con, on any forums I’m around in. (The answer is hopefully: I’m working on it at the moment).
In the meantime, I received an offer on the Abendau books from an independent publisher, and I sold the trilogy to them. That was 2 years ago, and I recently had the opportunity to take the rights back, and have. I’m in the process of self publishing them, with a planned relaunch in the New Year.
And then I decided to write a fantasy, Waters and the Wild. I took that to a different indie press who I felt suited it well (Inspired Quill) and it’s with them presently. I chose a press as I felt that it was a different brand than my sf work and, also, because I’m time poor and a press does some of the hard carrying for an author.
As for my next projects? I have one out with agents at the moment. I nearly bagged a Big 6 with Inish Carraig, I think I’d like to give that another shot. If it doesn’t pick up an agent, then I’ll probably see about an independent publisher. Inish Carraig’s sequel, however, and any other SF, I plan to self publish. The SF market is online so it makes a lot of sense to do so.
6. Are you working on anything new? 
Yes, always. I have one completed work (see above), I’m working on Inish Carraig’s sequel, I would quite like to do more in the Abendau universe, and I have two other novels that I need to get back to. I also have a new short coming out soon in an anthology and would hope for maybe a few other shorts coming out this year. And that’s just the current projects…. 🙂
7. Would you describe yourself more as a “pantser” or an “architect” type of writer? (someone who makes it up as they go along, or someone who plans meticulously)?
Pantster all the way. My subconscious writes the books…. I’m just along for the ride.
8. What is your writing process like?
Varied. My paying job comes first, of course, so it’s as and when I get a chance. But once I get a chance, I go for it, and can bang out 1000 words in about an hour. So even with limited time, I still keep building up those words.
9. Do you use any special tools or programs to help you write?
Nope. Just me and a word doc. I find anything else gets in the way of creating for me.
10. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with reader or aspiring writers? 
Just that having a varied portfolio can be problematic for the market, but it’s great for keeping your writing fresh. But, if you do that, be aware of your branding. I promote different projects in different places. Anywhere Space Opera-y, it’s Abendau I list. Anywhere Irish it’s Inish Carraig and Waters and the Wild. Etc etc etc. The author is the brand these days – look after your own and don’t rely on a publisher etc to do so. 🙂