SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Steven Gould, Author of “Impulse” and “Jumper”

Steven Gould is the New York Times bestselling author of Jumper. His other works include Wildside, Helm, Blind Waves, Reflex, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, and 7th Sigma as well as several short stories published in Analog, Asimov’s, Amazing, and other magazines and anthologies.  He is the recipient of the Hal Clement YA Award for SF and has been on the Hugo ballot twice and Nebula ballot once for his short fiction, but his favorite distinction was being on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Banned Books list 1990-1999.  Steve lives in New Mexico with his wife, writer Laura J. Mixon (a.k.a. Morgan J. Locke), and their two daughters. He’s also a current candidate for SFWA President. Jumper was adapted into the 2008 movie of the same name staring Hayden Christensen, Samuel L Jackson, Rachel Bilson and Jamie Bell.  He can be found on Facebook: as Steven Gould, on Twitter as @StevenGould, and at his website eatourbrains.com/steve/.


SFFWRTCHT: First things first, where’d your interest in speculative fiction come from?  And who are some of your favorite authors and books that inspire you?

Steven Gould: I was bit by the SF bug early, a book called The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey. Zelazny, early Heinlein, Blish. I’ve always liked Bujold but I’ve been especially pleased with the Chalion fantasies.

SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to become a storyteller and how did you get your start?

SG: When I was nineteen, I observed a Turkey City Writer’s workshop with Harlan Ellison, Keith Laumer, Howard Waldrop, Bruce Sterling. I started my first story right then, on the back of a Con Program. It got me a personal rejection from Ben Bova at Analog.

SFFWRTCHT: How’d you learn craft? Trial and error? Formal study? Workshops?

SG: Some peer level workshops later but trial and not too much error first. Sold my second story to Analog.

SFFWRTCHT: What was that story about?

SG: It was called “The Touch of Their Eyes“. About a guy who could feel people looking at him. And when they weren’t.

SFFWRTCHT: Where’d the idea for your Jumper series come from?

SG: Jumper came from spending too much time in airports and college bull sessions. Alcoholic father was mine, though.

SFFWRTCHT: That’s tough. Davy’s father is quite difficult. Jumper is the story of Davy who lives alone with his difficult alcoholic father.  When Davy discovers he has the power to “jump” from one place to another, not just a few feet but whole continents. And as Davy explores his new power he learns that the world is literally his for the taking. But there are consequences too. How long did the novels take to write?

SG: The first novel took two years. The other answer is the novels took twenty years.

SFFWRTCHT: Fair enough. Which came first: world, plot, character?

SG: Situation followed by character.

SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about Davy and his world. Mainly thinking of jumping, how it works, a little b.g. on those chasing etc.

SG: In Jumper, Davy is being chased by the NSA while, at the same time, he is chasing the terrorist who killed his mum.  In Reflex, Davy has been captured by a secret multi-national corporation and implanted with a device to control him.

SFFWRTCHT: In the 3rd book, Impulse, their daughter Cent, named after her mother, discovers she can jump, which brings consequences for all. Obviously inspired by your family. How do you balance inspiration and privacy?

SG: I anonymize by daughters pretty good in Impulse, I hope.

SFFWRTCHT: I think you do. Do either of them aspire to be writers like their parents?

SG: They do both write, but one is college in physics and the other wants to do wildlife biology.

SFFWRTCHT: It’s great that they’re both into science. Are you a science buff/fan?

SG: I am a fan of science and particularly of evidence-based decision making.

SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about Millie, Davy’s wife.

SG: In Impulse, the same corporation is after them, but Cent (the daughter) has local trouble, too.  Millie learns to Jump in the second book, when Davy is captured. She’s a family therapist by training. She kicks ass.

SFFWRTCHT: And perhaps mention how Jumping works. Is it science? Is it magic?  Can just anyone learn to jump?

SG: That is one possible interpretation. After all, Millie is not genetically related to Davy but learns.

SFFWRTCHT: It seems jumping happens under stress, but obviously not everyone jumps. What’s the unique factor?

SG: Davy, the first one, just did it, but Millie and Cent did it (under stress) after being jumped 1000s of times.  I am very consistent, though, with what they can do with it.

SFFWRTCHT: Are you an outliner or a pantser? Did you follow the surprising ride or have it planned?

SG: I write like I read. To see what’s going to happen. I’d be faster if I was an outliner.

SFFWRTCHT: How did you approach working Davy and Millie’s history into the current book, keeping it accessible to new readers?

SG: I approached it from Cent’s POV. She wasn’t there, so she says what they told her.

SFFWRTCHT: How did you wind up with TOR? Tell us about your path to publication please.

SG: Had a ten year short fiction career including two Hugo and one Nebula nominations. Also SFWA regional director.  By the time I wrote Jumper, I knew the editors in the field. Three agents offered to represent the book. Picked my late agent Ralph.  Jumper was submitted simultaneously to Bantam and TOR. Bantam passed, Beth Meacham at TOR didn’t.  She’s the onky book editor I’ve ever had. She is one in a million.

SFFWRTCHT: You also wrote Griffin’s Story a tie-in to the movie with differences from your original world.

SG: Yes. Griffin’s Story is consistent with the movie’s version. Not canon to the other books.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like-specific block? Write `til you reach word count? Grab it when you can?

SG: If I’m elected SFWA President, I take office in July. Need to finish a book first! So, trying for big word counts.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you and your wife beta-read each other’s work?

SG: Yes, but Laura’s work drives me crazy in her first drafts. Nothing like the finished product. Brainstorming lots.  She’s definitely a pantser.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you have any writing rituals or tools? Scrivener? Word? Something else? Do you write to music or silence?

SG: Last two novels have been in Scrivener. Music is good, especially movie soundtracks.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

SG: Best advice from Kate Elliott: The first draft doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done. Worst writing advice? Oh, there’s so much. Was told not to get an agent by a very prominent writer in the field.  On the bad advice, alcohol was definitely a factor and they no longer drink so we’ll leave his name blank.  Nowadays, the “No Agent” advice would not necessarily be bad advice, depending.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you also have a “worst advice” on the craft of writing (as opposed to the process of getting published)?

SG: Well, don’t stand around telling people about the story you are going to write. Write it, instead.

SFFWRTCHT: Does your process differ from writing short stories to writing novels? Or from standalone novels to series?

SG: Never really set out to write a series. Perhaps why I admire Bujold. Cliche but short stories are sprints. Novels marathons.

SFFWRTCHT: Last question: Steven Gould, what future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?

SG: Exo, the next book, is due in June. I’m still writing it. No idea on release date yet.   Hopefully a sequel to 7th Sigma after that. Have to see how well Impulse does before shopping it.