Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Interview with Jackson Keene, author of Nolichuck


Welcome to the blog, Jackson Keene! Jackson is an author of a series of time travel books for teens. Read more about him and the first book in the series - Nolichuck - below:

Tell us a little about yourself and the book(s) you've written...

My name is Jackson Keene, a former advertising Mad Man and marketing executive with a love of great fiction and a bent for history.  I’m the author of the debut YA novel NOLICHUCK.  NOLICHUCK is a combination of historical fiction and contemporary fiction via time travel, and is loaded with action, adventure, and light romance.  It’s the first book in a planned trilogy of YA adventures.  The manuscript for my second novel SARAH QUANLI has just been turned in to the publisher.  The first novel in a four-book series, it’s a combination of historical romance and family saga fiction.  SARAH QUANLI covers the lives of four generations of a Chinese-Scottish family beginning with the birth of David Adam MacDougall in the Highlands.  The story crosses the globe from China to the U.S. and follows each generation as they strive for survival amidst the wars, social upheavals, and great passions of the 20th century.

Why do you write? What got you going?

I write because I have a drive, a need to write.  Plus, creating something that other people want to read only fuels the fire inside.  It’s not about the money (although great success as a writer when it comes will be nice), it’s about having a connection to a growing universe of readers and feeling good that I’ve written something that brings them pleasure and enjoyment.


What is your favourite thing about writing?

The fact that writers can create whatever they want on the blank page.  From new worlds, unforeseen universes, and amazing heroes . . . to an array of characters that make us love them, hate them, adore them, feel for them, hurt for them, cheer them on . . . to stories that cause us as readers to laugh, cry, love, fear, think deeply, sign, imagine, and yearn.  Of all the arts, writing is perhaps the most magical.


How do you choose the names for your characters?

When I begin a new story, whether it’s based in the U.S. or in another country, I research names, meanings of names, which are most common, which are most unique, roots of surnames and first names, etc.  I try hard to select, in the end, names that will wear well over time as well as strike a chord with readers.

How much control did you have over the cover design of your book? Do you like it? If you didn't design it yourself, how do you think it would have turned out if you did?

Actually, I hand-picked the photograph used on the cover of NOLICHUCK.  I also insisted on including a headshot of a young boy that greatly resembles the hero of the story.  The basic design followed an initial layout I suggested.  Although the publisher has final control over the cover art, the many years I spent in advertising working with graphic artists and creative stood me in good stead.

Do you have any fun hobbies other than reading and writing? What are they?

I am a fitness fanatic, which means I work out as much as I write, which is to say, every day!  Also, I am a player-coach of my own Men’s Over 40 basketball team.  And finally, I am a volunteer youth basketball coach at the Plano Sports Authority (PSA).  I love the game of basketball.  I just wish I were better at it!

Is there a Y.A. novel you wish YOU wrote?

Harry Potter, of course!  I’ve read all 7 books 6 times now, each time learning a bit more about how the author does dialogue, builds layers on the characters both minor and major ones, creates plot and sub-plot, and immerses the reader into the story.

Would you prefer to be a dragon rider, a dragon slayer, or the dragon itself?

To be the dragon rider is the best of the three choices, by far.  This implies that the dragon is either friendly or can be tamed to my purposes.  I have a wonderful stead with immense powers and invulnerabilities to help me on my heroic quests.  I don’t have to worry about killing such a dangerous beast because it obeys me.  Nor would I face the prospect of getting killed myself, because I’m not the dragon.  One has to be common sense about such things, you know.

What advice would you give your teen readers about life?

There are two pieces of advice would I give young readers.  One is an adage from basketball, which is, “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  Translated, this means throughout life, you should always be looking and reaching out for good opportunities that fit your talents and interests.  If you have a legitimate dream, don’t give up just because of temporary roadblocks or disappointments.  Keep striving, keep doing, and keep dreaming . . . BIG.  And the second piece of advice is corollary to this: “It’s never too late.  Let’s say that finances, or family obligations, or military commitments temporarily kept you from college or kept you from pursuing a business endeavor or dream profession.  Don’t give up on yourself.  Don’t settle for anything less than the best you know you can be!  Especially if you have a passion to be a writer, it’s never too late to start

Thank you Jackson for your wonderful interview! You can read more about Jackson and Nolichuck below:

About the book:

    TJ’s just an ordinary fourteen year old kid with extraordinary problems at home and school:  A broken up family from his parents’ bitter divorce, evil bullies almost every afternoon, failing grades, boring classes, snobby girls, mean teachers, cut from basketball tryouts, few friends. 
     Life is rough for TJ Cockrell.
     And then that mysterious little green book had to go and throw him into the past.  And not just any past, but into the untamed forbidding forests of 1802 eastern Tennessee along with the savage Indians, wild beasts, bloodthirsty robbers, backwoods ruffians, and log cabin living!  Yup, it’s definitely not 2011 Knoxville anymore.
     And he thought his present life was bad news!  But TJ’s adventures are only beginning.  Along the way, he fights off killer beasts and bandits and braves, meets the young Davy Crockett, gains a world of confidence in himself, finds his first real love, and is befriended by a fantastic frontier family who really has it together.
     When he returns to the present, he’s a brand new person––but there are killers loose in his house, bullies waiting to beat him up at school, a pretty new girl at Highland High he hasn't even seen yet.  And the aftermath of the little green book to deal with!


About Jackson Keene:

Jackson Keene was born sometime before the turn of the century in a little town that nestles close to the mighty Mississippi and not so far away from Graceland, either, the final home of the King, Elvis.  Millington, Tennessee was, until 1993, home to Memphis Naval Air Station, at one time, among the busiest and biggest of U.S. naval stations in the whole world.

Born into a traveling military family, he attended seven different schools, and lived in five states (TN, RI, CA, FL and TX) before graduating from senior high school with honors.  He obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in History and spent a year toward a Ph.D. in the same field before abandoning his dream of being a publishing professor.

However, he never lost his love of history, detailed research, or good historical fiction.

Rebounding nicely, Mr. Keene completed a M.B.A. in Economics & Statistics at the University of Oklahoma (leading his class), and gamely entered the gritty but fast moving world of business.  For the first half of his career, he lived the real life of an advertising Mad Man including a stint as Director at iconic Ogilvy & Mather as well as SVP at two other marketing firms.  In the second half of his business career, he was in senior management as a Director, VP, EVP, or Managing Partner with several software, telecom, and data service companies.

These days, he indulges in another of his loves, basketball – coaching and playing on his own Men’s Over 40 team, as well as volunteer coaching youth teams.  A fitness fanatic, Mr. Keene works out as much as he writes, which is to say, every day.  He also attends a most wonderful church, Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.

Yes, deep inside, he always had the desire to write.  His first novel, a mix of historical & contemporary YA fiction, was published September 2011 by indy Treble Heart Books.  The manuscript for his next novel, a combination of historical romance & family saga, has just been released to the publisher for scheduling.  More news to come!

And already, he is beginning work on the second book in his YA series on TJ.

Mr. Keene lives in Plano Texas with his wife, Barbara, soon to be joined by a chocolate female dachshund puppy to be named Sprinkles.  They have two grown daughters.  Emily, the oldest, finished her Ph.D. in Mathematics in record time and was awarded the prestigious Humboldt Fellowship.  Newly married, she currently lives in Berlin with her wonderful husband, Jim.  Renata, the youngest, is a proud graduate of Sam Houston State, and is in junior management with a large automotive dealer services firm.  Both daughters are avid runners, actively competing in marathons, halfs, 10K’s, and 5K’s.  Renata is also a classically trained dancer and cheerleader, and in her not-so-spare time is co-captain of a busy dance squad for a semi-pro sports team. 

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