Jackson has graciously allowed me to interview him, his actual words when I posed the question to him were, “I’d love to.”
Your book is based in Oregon and, I, being from Portland, have no trouble envisioning a body at the bottom of the Willamette. Some authors base their writing in a specific region, for instance a good portion of Stephen King’s books are in Maine. I noticed your short story, Good Samaritan, is based in Georgia where you used to live, and TEBR is in Oregon where you live now. Do you think you’ll continue this pattern?
I definitely think that where you live or have lived plays a major part in your writing. For me, having lived in quite a few states, I’m able to draw from different landscapes and cultures. I like to put specific detail in my novels and the book I’m writing now is set in Connecticut, a place I also lived.
You self-pubbed What the Hell? For The Earth Bleeds Red you are going the traditional route. How does this experience compare?
The traditional route was obviously harder when it came to finding an agent. I received so many rejection letters that it was a bit discouraging at first. But then, after I just kept querying, I started to receive interest from agents and publishing companies. I ultimately decided to sign directly with a publishing company and am happy with everything Pandamoon has done so far.
What lessons from What the Hell? did you learn that helped you with this book?
They are two entirely different books. “What the Hell” is a book on love and though it reads like a story, it’s not a novel. “The Earth Bleeds Red” is a literary suspense with real-life language that you won’t find in a Christian book. I’m proud of “What the Hell” but “The Earth Bleeds Red” feels like my baby. I’ve learned so much about marketing and promoting from my first book that I feel more experienced now. Still, I understand I have a lot to learn.
Two of your short stories, My Best Friend is Fidel Castro and Good Samaritan are gritty, with an I-don’t-pull-my-punches style and each has an amusing twist at the end. Is this an example of the writing style we can expect in TEBR?
Yes and no. “The Earth Bleeds Red” definitely has twists and turns in it (otherwise it wouldn't be a suspense) but it’s also deep. It’s a story of love, loss, and looks at the question: Why do bad things happen to good people? The book will shock many people and from those who have read it prior to publication, almost everyone has cried at some point as well. It will draw some sort of emotion out of the reader, whether you love it or hate it.
Tell me about your writing process and preferred environment.
I enjoy writing at night when everyone else has gone to sleep. I also like going to a coffee shop and putting my ear buds in, listening to some good indie rock or nostalgic 90’s music.
You are working on another book, The Lights Will Never Fade. Is it also based in Oregon? What’s it about?
It starts in Oklahoma as Peyton finds her entire family has been brutally murdered. She moves to Connecticut to live with her only aunt and trouble seems to follow Peyton wherever she goes. The shadow quickly arrives and refuses to leave her alone. Her aunt has a dark secret to hide as the shadow looks to bring death to everyone involved.
Now for the fun stuff!
You are a Trailblazers fan, arguably one of the most promising yet disheartening teams in the NBA, whose battle cry is “just wait until next year!” How do you keep your spirits up after witnessing defeat after soul-crushing defeat?
Thankfully, I’ve only lived in Oregon for the past 6 years (meaning my heartache has been limited). Now, I’m moving back to Georgia and will continue to be a Blazers fan from afar. I’ve been to at least 20 games over the past few years and the Rose Garden is a special place.
Who is your favorite fictional character from any writer? What about in your own writing?
My favorite character in a book would have to be Jules from “Them” by Joyce Carol Oates. He’s far from perfect and I connected with his pain throughout the novel. From “The Earth Bleeds Red,” I like Scott, the father of the daughter who has been kidnapped by the Hail Mary Killer. He’s got the same sense of humor as me and love his family.
What do you take in your coffee?
Nonfat black and white mocha from Starbucks, no whip.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’ve got a lot but I guess too many chocolate donuts would be one of the big ones.
If you could spend one day with any person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you do?
I would spend it with Joyce Carol Oates and talk about writing, life, love, and drink coffee together. I’d pick her brain a bit but really just spend the day getting to know her.
Is there one thing you do that makes you say, “Damn, I’m good!”?
Every day I look at my beautiful wife & kids and know that I am beyond blessed.
What is the best prank you’ve ever played on someone?
Man, there are so many bad pranks I used to pull. Most of them, I can’t mention here. The best prank I ever pulled would have to be the time I threw a cup of soda out the window while my buddy slowed down to 30 mph or so. It hit this guy who was running and exploded all over him. I feel terrible about it now but as a teenager, I thought it was the funniest thing ever. Don’t worry, I’ve had my fair share of payback over the years.
As a fellow prankster, I find this hilarious, but karma, tends to come back. I know this first hand!
If you could go to one concert for any band in history, who would it be?
Hmmm, tough to chose just one. Depending on my mood, I could choose anyone from The Gaslight Anthem, to the Counting Crows, to Blink 182. Right now, I’d say the Counting Crows but an acoustic, coffee house set with no more than 30 people.
If you were a professional wrestler, what would your ring name be and why?
Peanut Head because it was my nickname as a kid since it took so long for me to grow hair. Well, my head is shaved now so the name could still fit. It might not be very intimidating but it should catch them off guard.
Thanks for joining me today, Jackson. I know you have been moving and I appreciate you taking the time for us to get to know you a little better.
Be sure to read Jackson's book, The Earth Bleeds Red, out September 2013.
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Thanks again, Jackson, I look forward to reading your book!