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Ask An Author 3.0 #11


astone2292

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Who has their holiday decorations up? I certainly do! It's the first Wednesday of December, and we have something special. It's a fantastic edition of Ask An Author! 

I know many missed seeing the November issue, but as Renee put it, the well ran dry. Let me tell ya, I felt the site rumble with activity and the messages came flooding in! But I'm not one to act in desperation, folks. Ask An Author relies on readers sending in their questions. Let's end 2021 on a high note and stuff the AAA piggy bank full! I want to be buried in questions! Send them through PM, snail mail, telegram, or any other way you possibly can. This... is my wish for the incoming holidays.

With that out of the way, you're probably asking, "Aaron, you said this edition is fantastic. We're going to need some proof." Oh, it's fantastic alright. As a matter of fact, one might even say it's epic! 

Someone brought out the big guns in the questions department. I saw the name on this bad boy and I had to break out my scouts uniform to confirm I had some merit badges involving boats. Yep! Canoeing and Rowing, but I missed out on the Motorboating and Small-boat Sailing badges. Did I give enough clues? Am I starting to act like @wildone a bit? Are y'all ready for the biggest AAA 3.0 yet? I hope so, because we got three five questions for the longest story on the site!

Circumnavigation. This story title is one of GA's finest gems. I haven't had the pleasure yet, but I think I'll need to take a deep dive after these amazing answers from @C James! Let's jump right in!

 

    

Circumnavigation
C James

Word Count: 1,080,266 / 158 Chapters / Status: Complete / Genre: Action/Adventure, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense / Rating: Mature

Trevor, through little fault of his own, finds himself with few choices. Desperate and hunted, he decides that his best chance is to head out to sea on his boat, for a circumnavigation of the Earth. His boat, Atlantis, is a fifty-five foot cruising catamaran, bequeathed to him by his mother prior to her mysterious disappearance. Come along for the ride and explore with Trevor, as he discovers many things, not the least of which is himself.

 

In Circumnavigation, you hooked me in for the long haul after the first chapter, with the prologue as a teaser. How do you manage to suck in readers so they are interested right at the onset? Some rely on a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat craving for the next chapter, but in this story, you didn’t do that until later. What is your secret to get the reader to come back?

I really don't know, other than I sure do remember worrying that there wasn't a "hook" right up front. I guess I kind of relied on the title to show what the story was about, plus I opened with a prologue, set years before, when Trevor's mom vanished at sea, and hoped readers would notice it's central to the story. The story was part mystery, part adventure, and I hoped to at least show the mystery part up front. It didn't work for all readers; some did leave (for a while, anyway) after chapter one. Then, knowing that I needed to give readers sort of a tour of Atlantes (due to most being unfamiliar with big cruising seagoing catamarans) I was facing a chapter with a lot of dry narration. So, I figured that wasn't a good thing for chapter 2, and decided to do it differently; play with reader's heads a bit, and rely on their expectations - a future lover interest showing up early in a story is fairly common. So, in chapter 2, we have Ben - who was only ever to be in chapter 2, though most readers thought otherwise. His real purpose was to give readers a tour of Atlantis from Trevor, and also do some character development  for Trevor (and Lisa too). It was the only way I could think of to avoid having an overly-dull chapter right up front. I also, especially in the first few chapters, tried to mention things that were not only critical to the story, but (I hoped) would make readers curious enough to look at the next chapter. One example is Trevor finding a certain box of old paperwork in the Chandlery, then not actually looking at it until a couple of chapters later. Another thing I worried about (especially for an adventure story!) was the main antagonist isn't revealed until many chapters into the story (though they'd been in it from early on). To be honest, I was very surprised that the story became as popular as it did.  

 

Trevor and Joel were like brothers. Trevor knew Joel only since he dated Lisa. Did you consider how this could be an issue with Trevor truly finding someone? How did their relationship contribute to other issues in Trevor's life?

You are right, Trevor hasn't known Joel as long as he has Lisa. The story also alludes to Trevor having a bit of a crush on Joel, though never says explicitly - and yup, best friend Lisa was a rather large consideration there. I did that as part of Trevor's character development; he started off having major qualms about his own sexuality, and was very uptight about it. Joel getting him to loosen up and accept himself was the key to Trevor eventually finding love - as was seeing Lisa and Joel's relationship. 

 

Your attention to detail is amazing, which leads me to the assumption you do an incredible amount of research. Want to build a nuclear bomb, fly and land a jet plane? You are the guy! How much research was undertaken for Circumnavigation? Is it from self-experience? How do you do your research?

I indeed do a lot, though I was fortunate enough to know a bit on much of this, which gave me a basis, thus making the research easier. I do know how to sail, but I hadn't ever so much as set foot on a big cruising cat like Atlantis at that time. And, most important of all, I had expert help - one of my beta readers, Red, is a yachtsman, and helped me in all kinds of ways (and on that point, my writing team gave all sorts of input and advice, and were vital to the story - this story is theirs as much as mine). Other parts, such as the radar system in Australia, I already knew about, so it was easy. Geography and scenes from all the places visited was easy as well; I've been to most of them. In fact, I think I was in Italy when I wrote some of the Italian bits, though the scene in Pompeii was based on an earlier trip (which was when I took the photos in that chapter). And harking back to Let the Music Play, there's a scene in the Piazza Navona in Rome. I wrote much of it while sitting in the patio of a cafe at the north end of the piazza. Some of the other stuff, like bits about a single-engine plane, were easy; I've flown that particular model.  For other things, like Florida law, statutes of limitations, etc, I did online research to look up the text of the actual laws, plus on a couple of things I asked a lawyer to double-check me. Generally though, for things like port entry procedures, bridge heights, weather patterns on specific days and dates, etc, etc, I just look them up online (not always easy, because I didn't need current ones, I needed ones from what was already several years in the past). Online research usually works, but it also caused me to make a massive error that's still in the story. It's the shuttle launch Trevor sees. I looked up a launch manifest to get that (to make sure that shuttle was actually flying on that day in the story). Well, oops, I didn't double-check (and didn't know until a reader pointed it out); turns out, the site I looked up had an error; they'd copied the prior year's shuttle manifest to the following year's page. There was no actual shuttle flight that day, not even for months before or after, and by then, I'd posted too much of the story to fix it (it would have required a massive rewrite, as I was timeline-constrained by many other real-world events that the story is built around.)

 

 

Being one of the longest stories on GA, it must have been a challenge and a hugely rewarding experience. What did you do when you just didn’t really want to tackle the next chapter, or did you have times like that? You posted nearly weekly for what two years! What was the ultimate reward when you finished?

The posting schedule for Circumnavigation was... well, hard. Yup, weekly, for nearly two years. Often, I had a reserve of completed chapters to fall back on when life got in the way. Sometimes, I didn't. I was very ill for a month (and too zonked to write) which did derail the posting, but another time I was traveling for nearly two months, and had chapters ready to post before I left. Another thing that was hard about posting as a serial was the inability to change past chapters when later chapters developed a bit differently than I anticipated. As for it being the longest story on GA, that didn't phase me, because I just called it a short story. :) 

 

 

With so much passed time since you finished Circumnavigation, do you consider it your swan song? Or do you ever see doing a short story of Trevor and some or all of the cast, five or ten years later?

Will I be posting more stories? I sure as heck hope so. I've promised to (in my forum) to be doing so long before now, and feel like a jerk for letting my readers down. For a while, I was burned out after Circumnavigation.  Then, life got in the way, so did family responsibilities (I've been caring for an elderly family member). I've been writing again, on and off, for several years, though nothing completed yet. One story, Going Sideways, is at around chapter 20 of about 30 (and most of the chapters are very long - 20k or more words). I hope to get it done soon. I'm not posting anything until done, because I learned my lesson from Circumnavigation on that, plus I can't devote the time per week I did to writing Circumnavigation, so no way could I post on a schedule. Another story, Damaged Goods, is underway, though I'm writing it piecemeal. Will we see Trevor and Shane again? Not in Going Sideways. :)

    

I need a roll call in the comments. Shout out if you've completed reading Circumnavigation! I think I'll make this story one of my New Year's resolutions for 2022. Thank you @C James for answering these questions! 

If you've read a riveting story, shoot me a PM with three questions! I'll track down the author, knock on their front door, and ask them for you. All authors and stories are fair game. Ask An Author is a great way to give your favorite author a spotlight on their work! 

I'll see y'all next month! 

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  • Site Administrator

Great interview!  I read this shortly after I joined the site and I highly recommend it.  This is an epic adventure, right up there with the best of them!  There were points where I thought there's no way they're getting out of this... and yet CJ managed to do just that in a plausible way.  The amount of research that went into this story is very impressive.  I'm really glad to hear there are more stories in the works.  They'll be worth the wait.  :)

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  • Site Administrator

Hey, I loved Circumnavigation!! :heart: 

I think as it got more and more into the story, it kept edging out my favourite stories for first place. I was interesting, I read it a second time :o and there was things that I totally missed which in some cases, clues for ahead in the story. I don't think I will ask you to read it twice :gikkle: 

Not sure but there is some others that have read 2,3 or 4 times :o 

I was really happy to hear @C James's comments about the possibility of a couple of stories in the pipeline :yes: 

GA just hasn't been the same without the King of Evil Cliffhangers :D 

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