Word Lily: What makes you believe in the power of story?
River Jordan: My experience growing up for one thing. Story, the art of telling and of listening was a part of our everyday existence. I’m thankful for my Southern heritage in that respect because I’m not certain otherwise I would have had the same kind of pacing in both my life and in my novels. My faith as well. I’m a Christian and it really is a faith that has been built in many ways on the stories handed down for generations. We treasure those ancient stories. They mean a lot to us. For instance, if a character in the Bible builds an altar to remember something, we may draw on the story over and over again in our own lives to strengthen us in times of trouble.
Word Lily: You started your writing career as a playwright; how does your background writing for the stage inform your writing of novels? Of memoir?
River Jordan: I think I give more attention to the words characters speak, the rhythm of those words, how they fall and rise. The same is true in the memoir.
Word Lily: How crucial are the elements of magical realism in creating the stories you want to tell? In the sense of wonder they evoke?
River Jordan: It always shows up as crucial but it’s not because I plan it that way. It just does. I write with a lot of allegorical meaning so a mystical character in a story may actually be a representation of the things that we struggle with in our lives and that would be different things for different people. But I really do love the sense of wonder in the world. I watch the wind blow through the tops of the trees at our place in the woods and it’s as wonder-filled and mystical, magical if you will, as anything gets.
Word Lily: I read that you have a love for the newspaper business. How did that develop?
River Jordan: I think at an early age I might have developed a romance for the woman reporter. In an age such as Mercy Land’s in the novel, which is set in 1938, women weren’t always in the newsroom. A type of Lois Lane character here and there. Then I studied both print and broadcast journalism in school, received a small journalism scholarship to a community college, and had planned to pursue that. Then I took a playwriting class and although I wrote stories all my life, wanted to write a novel, somehow the theater captured me in such a way that I took a few steps away from journalism. I still love the romance of it though.
Word Lily: A couple more general questions now. Why do you write?
River Jordan: To survive. I jokingly tell people I get sick when I don’t write and by that I mean snappy, short — that kind of thing. And I really love being able to live what I call a thousand lifetimes in one life, to travel to new places, all without living the room. The Imagination is an incredible thing and being able to meet the characters in my stories and travel to where the stories are set, to live there for awhile, is amazing.
Word Lily: Thank you so much for your time! Anything else you want to say? Am I missing something?
River Jordan: Hannah, thank you so much for the opportunity to meet new readers and share my thoughts. I love your questions and appreciate your time.
About the author
River Jordan (@RealRiverJordan) teaches and speaks across the country on the power of story. She and her husband and their Great Pyrenees, Titan, live in Nashville. She began her writing career as a playwright and spent over 10 years with the Loblolly Theatre group, where her original works were produced, including Mama Jewels: Tales from Mullet Creek, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, and Virga.
Other interviews with River Jordan
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