Q&A with Jax Cordoba: Author of Fate Lends a Leg
My guest this week is Jax Cordoba, author of the quirky gay YA novel Fate Lends a Leg He’s joined me to talk about fate, his experiences of growing up gay, and the best writing advice he’s ever been given.
Welcome to The Boys on the Brink Blog, Jax. Something fun to start off with. Can you share three interesting facts about yourself?
I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures and I love to travel, I’ve been all over the US and much of Europe, most recently I had the pleasure of visiting Ireland. My favorite drink is coffee. I was sipping iced coffee in the summer long before Starbucks made the drink popular. I’m also a bit of a Star Trek geek, mostly the TNG variety.
And have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. As far back as high school I wrote, and even won 3rd place in a regional short story contest. In college, I majored in Computer Science with a minor in Journalism. I went on to work in software development, but my favorite part of the job was writing the user manuals. I did continue writing fiction during that period, but found it a bit frustrating that I couldn’t seem to come up with any good short stories. After I showed one of my stories to a friend, he commented that it felt like I was trying to cram a 200 page novel into 5,000 words. So, I let go of the idea of short stories and started writing novels.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given, and who gave it to you?
Besides the bit of advice I just mentioned, I actually dedicated ‘Fate Lends a Leg’ to Mrs. Chandler, the high school English teacher who told me that plot doesn’t need to be exploding cars and falling meteors. The quieter moments in life can also be plot-worthy.
So what inspired you to write Fate Lends a Leg? Love the title, by the way!
Thank you. I’ve always loved playing around with idioms, and since so much of the book revolves around Cal’s leg injury, a twist on ‘fate lends a hand’ seemed appropriate.
As to what inspired me to write the story…I guess it started when I saw one of the weird-facts shows on TV, where they had a story about a young boy of 3 or 4 that kept drawing detailed pictures of airplanes and talking about ‘the war’. After some research, the boy’s parents discovered he was drawing World-War-2 era planes. The boy soon grew out of that phase and seemed to forget whatever memories he was recalling, but that started me thinking…what if the boy didn’t forget? If reincarnation is a real phenomenon, would it be possible to actually suffer PTSD from something that happened in a previous life? The rest of the story just evolved from that plot-bunny. In my original notes for ‘Fate’, Calvin was a recent college graduate who just moved to a new town to start a new job. But, I never worked on that story, because something about the idea just didn’t seem ‘right’.
Then, I happened to see an episode of the “Ellen” show on the anniversary of Matthew Shepard, where her topic focused on the problems of bullying and teen suicide among the GLBT youth. Ellen said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “We must all, in our own way, do something to help.” That statement kind of bounced around in my head a bit. Since my own way is writing, it seemed natural that I could write a fun Young Adult story that could be something both inspirational and light-hearted. I could see the possibility for ‘Fate’ being told from a YA point of view, so I shifted Cal to being of high school age. The story suddenly felt ‘right’, and I wrote the first draft in about 6 weeks.
The one thing that really made your book stand out for me was how Cal and Bill’s sexuality is so accepted among their classmates. It was rather refreshing, actually. Did you have an easy time of it at school yourself, or are you writing more from the perspective of how you wish things had been?
In many ways, the character of Bill is a bit auto-biographical for me. Like that character, I grew up in a sort of bubble and was accepted in school without any major drama. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how rare and lucky that kind of occurrence is. I did struggle a bit with the ideas of bullying and whether or not that should be a part of the book. But, I decided to stick to my original notion of writing something light-hearted and fun, so I left the angst out.
As this novel develops, it becomes apparent that there’s some kind of cosmic force at work in Cal and Bill’s lives. Are you a believer in fate yourself?
Hmm, that’s kind of a sticky question. I don’t believe in pre-destination, but I do believe that the universe is a very giving place and will give us nudges or offer gifts when we’re still and quiet and open to accepting them. In the novel, it isn’t until Cal stops thinking of himself as being punished and accepts his circumstances, that he finds the gift he was given. I think that happens to us in real life sometimes, we get so focused on what we lost, or what could have been, that we don’t notice or appreciate what is there.
There are countless young people out there who are right now struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. What would you say to them?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I was lucky enough not to have struggled with that issue at a younger age. So, I don’t feel like much of an authority on that subject. The one bit of advice I can offer, is not to get obsessed with labels. I know it’s human nature to want to define and package everything, but love is never that simple. Just listen to your heart and let it steer you where you need to be.
Thanks so much for giving me this interview, Jax. Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
“Fate Lends a Leg” is the only YA title I have right now. I’m currently working on a new YA novel revolving around the idea of ‘be careful what you wish for’, which I hope to have out by summer 2013.