Phew, it's been a while! I just finished editing a really amazing debut novel, Phreak, as part of the House of Zolo team. I recently caught up with JE Solo in Second Life to chat about speculative literature, the promise of VR and online spaces, and the launch of their debut novel! JE also reads the entirety of Chapter 1 (starting at 14:17).
As House of Zolo we’re collaborating with the Odyssey Contemporary Art and Performance Simulator on a series of live readings for virtual space. We’ve created a new virtual HOZ studio and reading area in the online world of Second Life, with designs in the works for new HOZ environments on AltSpace VR and NEOS VR. From there we will continue to explore other virtual worlds as we bring speculative literature to audiences around the globe via VR and the internet.
Phreak is now available in digital formats on Amazon and directly from the publisher!
In an alternate, near-future world where corrupt government and corporate interests rule the smallest details of Island life, an unusually sensitive child is born. Navigating a landscape of ecological devastation and botched genetic modification experiments, the child’s survival depends upon their heightened senses and the skills they learn at the knee of their life-hacking father. Will it be enough? As they cross the threshold of adulthood the collapse of Island society draws close and they must act in order to protect what they love.
A richly detailed and compelling first novel, Solo deftly layers satire and social commentary to create a powerful story of resilience and survival.
What Readers Are Saying
“From mind experiments and radio-signal hacking to illegal fishweed trading and radical plant-based activism, Phreak is a poignant and captivating snapshot of our not-so-distant future. Beautiful in its devastation, a whimsical story of injustice, hope, and the fight for connection in a disconnected world. An important and timely novel. JE Solo is a visionary.”
--Tracey Waddleton, Author of Send More Tourists, the Last Ones Were Delicious
“This book hacked my mind and modified the way I see my city. A sweeping, crusty feat of biting, Nostradamic wisdom. An imaginative force. A dirty mirror held up with tough love. A warning.”
--Terry Doyle, Author of Dig
"Phreak often worked against my narrative expectations with its fragmented, time-jumping, and vignette-style approach, and in the process delivered a singular character whose clear and deeply felt recollections warn us how close we are to delivering a similarly bleak future to the next generation. You’ll want to get your hands on this novel as soon as possible."
--Richard Leis, Author
“Phreak is an urgent, evocative novel. It’s a treatise on the dangers of our capitalist, resource-driven economy and a warning of what our future could be if we don’t take action. Phreak is a call to resistance and a reminder that individuals can fight against corrupt systems. The world in this book is imagined but shockingly familiar. St. John’s and Newfoundland are like a second protagonist, with a voice and character that shines through the pages. JE Solo has sent us a warning in this novel, but has done it with humour and heart. This book is a quick witted, word-playing journey that gives us what we all need right now: hope.”
--Susie Taylor, author or Even Weirder Than Before
“Phreak is a masterfully written post-dystopian tale — a “what if,” multi-lessoned story that, once injected under the reader’s skin, stays in one’s system long after the book has ended. A brilliantly crafted first novel by Fresh Fish finalist JE Solo.”
--Poet, E.B. Reid
Feeling Overwhelmed Is Part of the Process
Being overwhelmed is not something to fight and get over and THEN start your writing. It’s a natural part of the writing process. Seeing the scope of your life or your expertise or whatever topic you feel called to write about may feel like a towering mountain stopping you in your tracks.
That stream of internal chatter builds layer upon layer of limiting thoughts.
Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into? I can’t do this. Who am I to write about anything? It’s all been done before, who wants to read another memoir, another business or productivity guide, another mommy blog, another story of overcoming challenges . . .
The truth is, it has all been done before. And that’s been the case forever.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell writes about the Hero’s Journey and how it’s essentially a universal process told again and again in every great story. The underlying structure may be the same—venturing out into the unknown, undergoing a series of personal transformations, then returning as a new person—but the actual story itself has infinite variety. Nobody will tell the story of dealing with a divorce the same way you will. Nobody will tell the story of dealing with depression the same way you will. No one will write about your work or your expertise quite like you will.
Your life, its insights, and how you express yourself will infuse the story in a way that’s never quite been done before.
Book Creation Software
Once upon a time writers had to use elaborate physical systems to keep track of their manuscripts in progress. Think post-it notes on a mindmap pinned to the wall, index cards on a cork board, or typewritten sheets lovingly piled next to a typewriter, the final page proclaiming "The End"...
Of course, these are still viable options for those who like working hands-on with physical paper. But for most of us who do so much of our writing digitally, here are my top picks for software that will make the writing process as bearable and streamlined as possible.
Reading + Writing = #writerslife
When you’re not writing—perhaps you’re procrastinating or avoiding the important work you’ve set for yourself (we all do it!)—take the opportunity to read about writing. Study the craft, pay attention to how your favourite novels are structured, figure out why certain non-fiction books keep you hooked. Reading is the other part of the essential helix of your writing life, so here are my favourite books on writing!
1. Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
This was my textbook for a creative writing class in college. I keep coming back to it because of the idea of taking things one step at a time, that writing does not tumble out of you fully formed and perfect. This is the “fantasy of the uninitiated,” a fantasy that has a long shelf life…
The two single most helpful ideas I invoke on a daily basis are “short assignments” and “shitty first drafts.” (Shitty as in rough and unpolished, not intended to be an assault on your self-worth!) Both these tools help keep perfectionism, the main obstacle between you and the first draft, at bay.
To do a short assignment, write only as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame. This might be your opening scene. It might be a setting you saw in a dream. Whatever it is, the task becomes manageable because you’re not sitting down to write your entire magnum opus; you’re “taking this bird by bird.” The shitty first draft is like a Polaroid developing, where you’re allowing yourself to stitch together your short assignments in some semblance of a story or narrative.
I come back to this book every time I forget that writing is iterative and first drafts are not only necessary but the foundation of the writing process. This book will help ease your cramped psychic muscles and give you permission to write, and to continue to write even after you’ve convinced yourself out of it.
Why you need an editor
It’s not just you! Everybody needs an editor. It’s just a function of the human mind that you will gloss over errors in your own writing. You see what you intended to write, not always what you did write. So don’t sweat the details – that’s what an editor is for.
Editors bring a fresh pair of eyes to your writing, seeing every word for the first time. Missing words or repeated words will pop right out (whereas this might be your 27th time re-reading your draft and you’re too familiar with it!).
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