Friday, May 19, 2017

J.M. Hackman | Author Chat

I'm so excited to welcome author J.M. Hackman to the blog for an author chat. So grab your drink of choice and let's get to know J.M. ...
I’m an only child and have lived most of my life in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. I married my soul-mate 22 years ago (this June), and we have two fantastic, beautiful daughters, 17 and almost 12.

I’ve always written. Articles, essays, poems, to-do lists, even (bad) song lyrics. I began writing my first novel in 1995. After taking a hiatus to have two incredible kids, I came back to writing in 2006. I won the Editor’s Choice Award for the Realm Makers Short Story contest in 2015. That story, “The Escort,” was published in the anthology RealmScapes. At the Realm Makers Conference in 2015, I pitched Spark to L2L2 Publishing. The rest, as they say, is history.

My free time is spent reading, card making, and cheering the Penn State Nittany Lions football team on to victory.
Let's get real...

How did you start writing and why are you still writing?
I started writing when I was very young (probably around five years old) and I’ve continued to write because of joy. Despite the difficulties (after all, there are no “perfect” jobs), the joy of creating worlds, characters, and stories to share with others keeps me going. Right now, I feel I’m where God wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do.

That's great! So then...why do you write? 
Because the stories keep coming! There’s always one or two ideas percolating, but I can’t write fast enough. I’m a very slow producer, as well as being a wife and mom of two girls. So I use notebooks and index cards to capture the ideas before they slip away. They’ll be there when the current work in progress is done.

Let's talk a little bit about your book, Spark. Why did you write it? (P.S. LOVE that cover by the way!)
After my daughters were born, I started reading the Harry Potter series. When that was finished, I picked up Gregor the Overlander (by Suzanne Collins), then the Percy Jackson series, followed by the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I started to wonder, “Where are the girls?” (The Hunger Games and Divergent series hadn’t been released yet). Girls need to read about a female leader, not a sidekick, who is strong, yet vulnerable—a character looking for something special inside that makes her valuable.

Oh, I love that! Very true. So, do you have a favorite character in the book? If so, why are they your favorite?
Although all of my characters are special, Brenna’s my favorite. She’s a blend of a younger me and both of my daughters. Even so, sometimes she surprises me with what comes out of her mouth. What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? Brenna, who struggles with insecurity and ADHD, eventually accepts the new role she’s been created to fulfill. Everyone has a unique gift. Everyone has a purpose, something only they can do on this Earth. I hope others, whether they deal with ADHD, autism, a learning disability, or some other problem, can relate to Brenna and her struggles and come away knowing that these struggles are not what defines them. Their gifts and talents and how they use them are what makes them special.

Let's talk about the details for us writers. How long did you write before you got published?
A loooooong time! I started writing Christian romance in 1995 and finished three novels before I got pregnant with my first daughter. At that point “the voices in my head” went silent. They stayed quiet until after my second daughter was born. Apparently, hormones and creativity don’t mix! I started playing with words again around 2006 and never stopped. Only this time, I was interested in speculative fiction. So I’ve been on the writing journey for about 15 years. Last year my short story was published in the Realm Maker anthology, RealmScapes. And my debut novel Spark was released on May 16 from L2L2 Publishing!

We often here "keep writing" as advice for younger writers. Do you have any other advice or encouragement that you can share?
Become content with where God has you, right now. I spent a lot of years obsessing and wondering why I kept getting rejection after rejection. But every rejection taught me something so that my writing improved. It helps to view the writing profession as a marathon, not a sprint.

It also helped when I understood I was writing because I had to, because it made me a better version of myself. I realized if I died without publication, I’d still lived a pretty great life. And always, always, always, keep reading!

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I’m a hybrid. I usually know the starting incident and where I want the plot to go, but I give the characters a lot of leeway in between major plot points. I’ll list the major events that must occur on index cards and give myself permission to keep things fluid.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
My favorite is creating characters and worlds. The actual writing itself is fun if it’s a good day. If not, I’d rather have a root canal, although I force my way through it so I have something to edit. My least favorite would be writing the synopsis because it’s so different from writing the story. Explain what happens in a 200+ page book in a single page?!? Who comes up with this stuff?

In honor of Mother's Day, do you have a favorite memory of your mother you'd care to share?
My mother is an amazing woman. She gives some of the best advice (even sometimes when I don’t want it!) I was bullied in high school, and my mother became my sounding board. Her common sense advice was a life-line (and I’ve found myself sharing it with my kids!) When you’re faced with the negative every day, every month, every year from a classmate, you begin to wonder why you’re unlovable. My mother and father were my advocates and made sure I always knew I was loved.

Care to share what are you're currently reading?
Right now, I’m reading So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane. It’s an older YA book (1986) that was mentioned somewhere as a good read. The first line on page 1 completely pulled me in.

Thanks so much for being on the blog J.M.! Reader Friends, check out her amazing giveaway below and make sure to connect with her through these links: 

--> Website:
Blog: Jilligan’s Island, found at the same address as above, as well as co-contributor to Lands Uncharted

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