Happy re-release day to Flotsam by RJ Theodore. The book was originally released by Parvus Press, but has found a second life with Robot Dinosaur Press. This swashbuckling adventure perfect for adult fans of Treasure Planet. Join me in celebrating this science fantasy first contact story with a behind-the-scenes look at the revision and the journey to publishing.
Returning to Peridot
Though this book is a re-release, there have been several updates to the text found within the pages. Did you have a plan going in or did it emerge when the opportunity to re-release the book arose?
The plan to update Flotsam came when the original publisher of the series, Parvus Press, closed their doors in 2021 without having released the third book, Cast Off. If they’d released the whole series, I might have been satisfied to move on and let the series fall out of print, but I couldn’t let the world think the lack of a third book had anything to do with the author. The third book was written and waiting for its time to shine!
Of course, I could have left the first two books as-is and re-released them with the same text, covers, and everything. It would have been a much smaller investment of time and money! But there were a couple of good reasons for me to give the first two books another pass.
First, I wrote Flotsam in 2016 and, while I was starting to learn about diversity and inclusivity, I will be the first to admit I still bumbled a few things. I’ll continue to grow and learn (at least I hope so), but I made updates in those areas to the best of my current ability and understanding.
Second, I finished drafting Cast Off in 2020, and revising Flotsam and Salvage gave me the opportunity to tighten a few throughlines that would make the trilogy stronger overall. When Flotsam was written, I had planned for at least five books in the series, maybe seven, and the transformation to trilogy under Parvus didn’t result in any edits to the first book. The second book was also originally drafted before that decision, so I had a lot of loose ends to tie up in the third book. I’m really proud of the fact that I managed to pull it off, but you can imagine it helped to have the ability to go back into the text and do a little housework!
What did you find the most challenging to update?
The throughline that was most important for me to get right was the power of the rings over Meran, and the different parties at play trying to control her. Control of a sentient being is something I did not want to handle without extreme awareness of what I was doing and who I could hurt if I got it wrong. Sadly, I don’t believe the earlier versions of the books had built a strong foundation for the agency she needed to possess. The story is, as the new cover illustrations show, fundamentally about Talis’s relationship with Meran as Meran tries to reclaim her power, while at the same time trying to save a planet that is threatened by that goal. It was a balancing act to get right (I spent a LOT of time staring at index cards on a corkboard), but I’m really happy with how it will all wrap up in Cast Off.
What parts of the process did you enjoy?
Among the things that I really enjoyed about world-building Peridot, sky chanteys and bestiaries top the list. In the Parvus releases, we didn’t get to enjoy any chantey lyrics until book two, Salvage, and there was also a song built into Cast Off. For balance, I made sure Flotsam got a sky chantey, as well.
For Peridot’s bestiary, I added another dangerous beast, much like the zalika and the tocks, created by the god Silus Cutter. Hoarbeasts are introduced in chapter one of Flotsam’s second edition, and not only are they an actual physical threat, they become the imaginary manifestation of Captain Talis’s anxiety—and a really fun part of her character arc.
Do you have some new favorite scenes or did the list stay the same? What are you excited for readers to experience (either again or for the first time)?
I always loved the opening scene where Captain Talis makes a solitary excursion into the frozen layer of waste (the titular flotsam) to try and find treasure for a contract client. It’s lonely and tactile and nerve-wracking for both Talis and the reader, and now, with the addition of the hoarbeasts, it’s even more intense, so I hope that it ropes readers in and doesn’t let go. I’m also a huge fan of all the meal scenes. The way my characters interact over food is always really important to their relationships, and that’s true across the trilogy.
Onwards in Publishing
Is Flotsam your first book?
Flotsam is the first novel I ever completed, though I released my Phantom Traveler novella, The Bantam, ahead of it.
Is there anything you know now that you would want to tell past!Rekka?
Gosh, a lot of things. If I had to pick one most closely related to Flotsam and the Peridot Shift Trilogy, it would probably be that drafting fast doesn’t mean a book gets done quicker. The less time spent on one step (like drafting) means more time spent on another (in this case, editing). Slow down, enjoy the step you’re on, and know that you’ll get the work done in the time it takes.
What are you working on now?
My next project is a science fiction novel that I pitch as “Magical Girls x Dead Space x Mushroom Blood Guy.” The project is still mostly in its concept phase, and I have a stack of reference books from manga to mycelial non-fiction that I’m working through. I have a very general outline in my head at the moment, with some concepts I want to work through the story, and I’m hoping the reference books will fill in the gaps.
Which books are releasing or out now that you’re excited to read?
The last book I finished was Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes. I’m mad I didn’t read it sooner but I’m also relieved I waited because we’re a lot closer to book three than we would have been if I’d read it right away! I listened to the audiobook, performed with all the right attitude by Almarie Guerra. I’ve also recently read and loved A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark and The Unbroken by C.L. Clark. Those all hit some tasty action, fantasy, and magic notes. I’ve also really been enjoying stories with more introspective feels, like Nghi Vo’s Singing Hills Cycle, Andi C. Buchanan’s Succulents and Spells, and The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler. And finally, I am really excited about the upcoming YA release, The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor, out later this year.
R J Theodore (she/they) is an author, graphic designer, podcaster, and all-around collector of creative endeavors and hobbies. She enjoys writing about magic-infused technologies, first contact events, and bioluminescing landscapes.
Her love of SFF storytelling developed through grabbing for anything-and-everything “unicorn” as a child, but she was subverted by tales of distant solar systems when her brother introduced her to Star Trek: The Next Generation at age seven. A few years later, Sailor Moon taught her stories can have both.
She lives in New England, haunted by her childhood cat. Find more information at rjtheodore.com.