Q&A with best-selling author Jordon Greene: Watching for Comets
Light-hearted, sweet, authentic, and absolutely blissful. These are just a few ways to describe Jordon Greene’s Watching for Comets.
Watching for Comets tells the story of two boys, Tyler and Aidan, who are going through hard-times, mourning the loss of their beloved friend, Brayden. Brayden was Tyler’s boyfriend and Aidan’s best friend, but Tyler hardly trusted Aidan, believing he was trying to steal Brayden. Little does Tyler know, that is not the case. In fact, all Aidan wants to do is be Tyler’s friend. But this one-sided friendship soon turns into something more.
From the characters to the plot, Watching for Comets screams success. There are tearful moments, laughable moments, and moments that made me reflect on my own life since the characters were so relatable. But where did the story come from? What makes Watching for Comets so outstanding and feel so real?
I had the honor to interview the best-selling author, Jordon Greene, learning more about the origin of the story, the characters, and his own life experiences as a writer for the LGBTQ+ community.
Where did the inspiration for Watching for Comets come from?
Like most of my works, especially my more recent books, the inspiration came largely from a song. All my young adult books, and most my others, have titles that are either titles of songs I love or lyrics from those songs, which tend to be the primary inspiration for the story.
In this case, it came from a song from the rock band Skillet by the same name, “Watching for Comets.”
The other inspiration, however, was more aimed at my two main characters. I had gone through my first ever non-mutual breakup in the months before writing Watching for Comets and I was still dealing with that, or more like not dealing with it. Tyler and Aidan quickly morphed into bits of myself and my ex, the good and the bad from both of us, and their journey was in a way me envisioning a positive ending, an alternate ending, to our journey that came to a close. So, therapy.
What was the process like for developing the characters of the story and choosing their names?
I’m not sure how it works for others, but for me, there is a lot of searching baby name websites. I do it with every book. I tend to have a basic idea of each main character’s overall personality pretty quick, or major things in their past that formed them into who they are in the story, upfront, but once I get a name, then I start developing them more in depth.
I literally have a document for outlining my characters where I lay out everything from their physical characteristics, their date of birth, where they’re from and where they live, who their immediate family members are, their allergies, phobias, personality traits, things they like and hate (namely music, movies and books), how they do in school, their aspirations, and then events in their history that shaped them along the way.
And since I’m a little more visual, I also find pictures of actors and musicians who in my mind could play their characters in a movie adaptation and that’s who I see while I write the story.
When developing a story, what are some conflicts you tend to experience in developing the story, and how do you overcome those conflicts?
The main conflict I experience is self-doubt. And oddly enough, it only seems to grow with each book. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure for the next book to be as good as the last or if it’s just in my head, but even if I think an idea is great, by the time I’ve fleshed out a quick little outline and decide to share it with anyone, I immediately begin to doubt it, and think it’s stupid, or too cliché, or that it doesn’t make sense. So yeah, for me it’s my own head that gets in the way the most when I’m developing a story.
Now to get past it, I try to focus on those who have liked my work first and remind myself that not everyone is going to, but some will, and that’s okay. Then I tend to have my editor look at my outline to give me her input and thoughts along with a few close friends until I feel a little more confident about it.
How long did it take you to write Watching for Comets?
I can’t really say exactly. I went back and forth with a few different ideas before finally settling on Watching for Comets and was having a hard time writing during this one, so it’s harder to say. But, I think it took about a year from getting the idea to publishing it. Now to actually write the first draft, I think it was a few months.
Did you self-publish Watching for Comets? If so, how was the process?
I did. So far, I’ve self-published all of my stories.
It’s a lot of coordination and decisions along the way. Obviously, I start with writing the story, after outlining a ton. Then once the first draft is done, I work on a second draft. Then it’s off to beta readers, followed by another draft with their input, before it goes to my editor and proofreader with another draft between those and then the final. During all of that, I worked with my cover designer to put together the eBook and print covers, and an illustrator to do character drawings, which I’m still obsessed with. Once the final draft is done, it’s off to formatting the interior of the different versions and then uploading them to their various platforms, checking print proofs, and getting ISBNs and barcodes, and Library of Congress numbers.
The scary part comes after that. That’s when I send advanced reader copies, ARCs, out to pre-selected readers and authors to hopefully, fingers crossed, get some early positive reviews so other readers will get excited about the book. And during all of that I’m putting together promotional materials, and promos for giveaway and pre-order goodies, all in the months before release.
*ARC – Advanced reading copy
As a writer, do you experience writer’s block?
In the past not so much, but during this past book and the one I’m working on now, yes. I think a lot of it has to do with all the junk over the past few years, but even with that aside, it still happens. I tend to just take a little break from my computer and come back an hour or so later, or try to work on some promotional thing until my brain starts working for me again.
What were some of the challenges you faced and overcame as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and what is your advice to anyone facing similar challenges?
For me, it was overcoming a lifetime of being told who I am was an abomination and to admit it was to basically claim hell as my home. I grew up in a strict fundamental Baptist home where lots of things were considered “of the Devil” and accepting myself despite my upbringing was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome. And it took me thirty years to do.
There’s nothing wrong with faith, or being Christian. I still claim my faith, as hard as believing at times can be, you can be gay and Christian.
Other than just coming out and accepting myself as the person God made me, the hardest thing for me has been simply being me. One, it’s because I lived a façade, an image I knew my parents wanted me to be. I’ve spent the last three years deconstructing that and trying to figure out who I really am, and in so doing there are things I now believe and do that my family doesn’t like or approve of. For me, my family’s approval meant everything, and I tend to lean too heavily on the approval of others, friends, family, and such, and when they don’t approve, even though it shouldn’t, it makes it hard for me. But I’m working on it.
As a writer, do you enjoy writing?
I can’t imagine I’d be writing if I didn’t. For me, writing is how I spend much of my spare time. It allows me to be creative and at the same time hopefully give someone something they can take for a few hours to escape or understand something they didn’t before. That’s exciting to me. I feel like I’d be a really bored individual if I didn’t write.
What advice would you give to a young writer who aspires to be a best-selling author?
Write. Just write. I think a lot of people simply don’t even begin because they’re afraid they won’t do well, or that people won’t like their stories. I feel all of that, and yeah, it’s annoying and can get you down when someone doesn’t like your work, but if you don’t try you’ll never get anywhere.
But, the one thing I always come to in this question, is to figure out your process, to figure out how you write. It took me several years to realize what my process was like, and when I did finally, my writing speed increased drastically, and I was able to put together better stories. And when I say figure out your process, I’m largely saying figure out whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or something in between. Some writers can get an idea and just start writing and come up with brilliant, complex stories. Others, like me, have to plot every little detail before they can write a single word of their story, or risk getting frustrated and quitting when it doesn’t work. And then others are something in between, they plan a little, write a little spontaneously, or maybe something else.
There is no wrong way, it’s simply a matter of figuring out what works best for you, and using it to put together the best work you can.
*pantser – a person who prefers to write by the seat of their pants without any forethought or planning.
If you could go back in time and see your younger-self, what advice or warnings would you give to your younger-self?
So many things come to mind, but the main things revolve around accepting myself. One of my biggest regrets is not coming out when I was a teen. I let fear hold me back. I’ve never been an emotionally strong individual unfortunately, so it held me back. And honestly, I don’t know how things would have been back then had I come out, but if I could go back now, I’d tell myself to stop lying to myself and others about who I am. I’d tell myself that God doesn’t hate me no matter what others say. I’d tell myself that it truly does get better, not perfect, but better.
Jordon Greene is also the author of A Mark on My Soul (2019), The Reserve (2018), and The Maze (2017). Greene currently resides in Kannapolis, North Carolina with his adorable, fluffy cat, Genji.
You can purchase your copy of Watching for Comets on Greene’s website—www.jordongreene.com—available in paperback, hardcover, and ebook.