Interview: What inspires a Young Author like Jackson
In early December 2020, I interviewed Jackson and recorded our conversation. This is a transcript of that recording.
So, Jackson, where do you get your ideas for stories?
I get my ideas through things that happen around me. I was eating corn one night from a can. Mp the cornmy mom had heated up the corn – and I came up with the idea of Corn Corps, a totally ‘not evil’ corn company that’s now part of a short story I’m writing.
Another time, I was mad at the latest book of a series that I had been reading. So I made a spoof off that book, because that last book in the series was horrible.
Why were you mad at the book?
It was a really popular series, a good series.
So I wrote a short story called, “OOWWWWLS' in that exact tone of voice. It’s about an interview with a man in an asylum with people who based their ideals off, I don’t know of, like their idols. And, they’re so fixated on their idols being at the peak of human perfection. Then, when they read the book and realize it’s a ‘dumpster fire' which contradicts everything they’ve read in the whole book series … it fractures their fragile minds and they end up in an asylum.
So, you wrote a spoof, because you felt that book at the end of the series ruined every other book you’d read in the series?
Where do you get ideas for the cartoon illustrations in our books, WARNING.NEVER.EVER. or Throwing History and Reality: UNDER THE BUS?
For the WARNING book, sometimes, it’s just like a ‘What if….?” It’s like “Hey, I wonder what about a porcupine at a surprise party? That was one of the cartoons in our book.
For Suitcase.The.Cat., it was inspired by a real cat at the rescue shelter where I adopted Cookie and Angel.
And you said, “How about calling him SUITCASE?”
And I said, “What’s wrong with you?”
And you said “No, it’s a good name.”
And SUITCASE.THE.CAT. was born.
Ok., I do remember talking about that. So, you don’t purposefully sit down and concentrate to get an idea.
Sometimes, I do. And other times I’m just really inspired to do something. Most of my comedy ones come from something going on around me. Or it might be something I’m studying that I find really interesting.
But most of my long stories come from ideas that just pop into my head.
Or sometimes I do sit down and say, “I’m going to write today”
So, sometimes you do sit down and plan to write. You sit down with that purpose?
Yes, but those are mainly action adventures, not spoofs or comedies.
There’s never been one of those under seven pages…stories when I just decide to sit down and write.
When you write, you keep creating, keep writing, like I do? You don’t stop for grammar or punctuation? I find it ruins the creative flow of my writing, if I stop to make corrections. I know that I can, and will, go back and edit and fix things and do some wordsmithing.
Normally, I’m actually good with punctuation. And I then I’ll just go back and fix a couple of words. But I don’t stop until I’ve made a chapter.
When you’re ‘in the zone’, when you’ve got thoughts flowing…you don’t stop?
Ironically, I’m ‘in the zone’ most at 9 at night.
Why late at night?
Because after a long day, I’ve had a lot of inspiration.
And sometimes, I ask people, “Hey mom, give me one idea.” And she might say, “What if you made a story about the cats?
And I thought, maybe…and I started a series of cat poems.
Are they generally rhyming style or more poetry?
Ummm, they’re funny.
Do you have some suggestions, some tips for students, young people about writing?
Ok. There two kinds of writing: Essays that you have to write. And then, short stories. Fiction and Nonfiction.
Let’s talk about creative writing, because a lot of kids really dislike creative writing.
Ok. With creative writing, pick something that you’re interested in. It could be space, right? Or sports. Or race cars. Or cats.
Then, do a “What if….?” “What if [the topic I like] did something ridiculous? What would happen?”
To me, that’s creative writing. Explaining the ‘What would happen …?” with a series of two events. Of a person or thing doing something . And what happens?
For my creative writing, I put a bit of me into each of my stories. You don’t have to do that, but it a lot easier if you don’t have to fake it.
Explain ‘fake it’.
Fake the story. Basically, if you’re not doing a style of writing that suits you….If you’re doing poetry and you really can’t do poetry, then don’t do poetry. Do something that works for you. And if it’s comedy, use your sense of humor. Don’t try to make it adult dry humor or someone else’s kind of humor… if you can’t do that.
Be authentic to your style of writing. And don’t try to imitate other people.
Are you also saying “Don’t fake it” by saying to pick a topic you really care about?
Again, like I said earlier. Pick a topic that you’re passionate about.
Or really care about. In other words, if I ‘hate’ sports, you’re saying don’t’ write about sports.
On our site, I write that imagination is what’s behind all of our books. I think children and even adults don’t tap into it, but it is there. Imagination is there, they just don’t use it or feel they have it. I consider imagination as a kind of super power.
So what do you think about asking kids, “What’s your super power?” And getting them to start with, “I have this superpower and this is what I can do with it.”
And ask them to write like it really is a super power. Ask them to imagine their super power, whatever it is, as magical…amazing…beyond reality. Like the super heroes we read in books and watch in movies. Super heroes with super powers. Your thoughts?
Ok. “What’s your super power?” Here’s mine:
“Well, I can turn invisible, when I sing all of the show tunes from Barney.”
It’s like you cancel out the point of invisiblity, because you’re singing all those Barney songs.
Think we can work on that?
I think we’ll need to give them some prompts.