So it’s finally here. The new interview series that you’ve all been waiting for!
Who better to open the series for a wordy blog like mine than a writer? Introducing (for those of you who don’t already know him) Luke C Jackson. By day, Luke teaches and by night he writes; stories of secrets and spies; exotic cities and robots. Well… not really. Luke does write and he does teach but not as dramatically as I’ve made you believe. Just thought it would be fun to get all ‘opening night’ on you. Drama aside, Luke was a pleasure to interview and more than generous with his wisdom and time. For all that boring resume-ey stuff check out Luke’s website. Otherwise, enjoy the interview.
A few days ago while walking the dog and pondering what approach to take for this interview, I stumbled across a pile of metal bits and bobs at the foot of a shrub – old lock barrels, screws, some hinges (I think – my bits and bobs knowledge is far from extensive!) – so I took a photo of them and sent it to Luke with a caption that read, Dead robot?. His reply was typically Luke, Maybe a robot waiting to be put together. And it could have been. It just wasn’t the first thing that I saw because I’m a pessimist. Luke, on the other hand, is the eternal optimist. Read and learn…
ON ‘MAKING IT’:
“I always knew I was a story teller.
You have to be optimistic / confident / thick skinned in this industry, according to Luke. So how did he ‘make it’? Hard work and self belief. And natural ability? Surely you need to be able to put words together in some sort of decent arrangement to call yourself a writer? No? Sure. But for Luke this probably only accounts for 30% of what goes on, the rest is just putting in the hard slog. What’s that Edison quote? Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration…
ON INSPIRATION & PROCESS:
“I don’t always need to feel inspired to write.
Luke has always been willing to put in the work, regardless of whether the inspiration for a piece of prose / novel / story reveals itself or not, much like other writers who make a living out of their writing. Waiting around for inspiration to come along can get a bit tedious and resemble a scene out of Waiting for Godot, “I should write.” “I can’t.” “Why not?” “I’m waiting for Godot.” So, what is Luke’s process? 500 words a day, five days a week Greene style, or over a breakfast of four Bloody Mary’s like Hunter S. Thompson? Unfortunately for the romantics out there like myself, it’s far less idealised and has evolved over time – as has his writing. At uni it was a matter of snatching whatever personal ‘space’ he could, whenever he could which often meant four hour writing stints between 12 and 4am while everyone else was asleep.
A ‘space’ to write in – not necessarily in the Woolfian sense of the term, but in a more abstract, ‘head’ space sense – is still important to Luke; perhaps more so now that he has more responsibilities and works 4 days in the week (Luke’s a high school teacher – fitting given that he’s best known for his young adult fiction, see right). He writes on the fifth and, although this is nowhere near as often as he used to, he is able to write more at any one time. Surprisingly though, Luke writes far more easily when he’s not writing about himself. Something about distancing himself from his work makes it easier to silence his inner critic and escape into the world that he’s created. Perhaps this is why he’s been so successful in the young adult fiction sphere.
ON THOSE DRIVING THEMES:
“I’m very interested in the concept of, who are you?
Questions of identity, construction and how to find oneself are at the heart of all Luke’s books and are questions which, very much, drive his writing. Why? The idea of who we are and what we know has always been intriguing to him, particularly in cases where our “constructed identity”, as Luke refers to it, falls away. Saying that we’re X is one thing but what do we actually do? What kind of a portrait do our actions paint of us?
ON CREATION… & ROBOTS:
“Professor Willoughby’s Last Robot is an expression of that archetypal relationship between creator and created.
Luke’s latest publication, picture book Professor Willoughby’s Last Robot, is a fun and fantastical exploration of the themes surrounding identity and its formation; particularly the idea of creation. About a curious young robot and his five mechanical friends, the book traces their attempts to find their enigmatic creator Professor Willoughby. Part Wizard of Oz, part Edward Scissorhands I was engrossed from page one, much to Luke’s delight. However, Professor Willoughby’s Last Robot is just the beginning of things to come for Luke. Having enjoyed the process of writing a children’s book so much, Luke is working on a sequel due to be released later this year, along with a graphic novel. Delving into the cheeky and very ‘now’ world of transmedia (storytelling across multiple platforms) along the way, is helping Luke nicely with these projects – in particular with breathing some extra ‘life’ into those clunky friends of his… Confused? Interested? Go here and have a snoop around…
ON THE GRAPHIC NOVEL:
“This isn’t exactly what I thought I’d be doing [right now]… but I love the medium.
According to Luke, his work on his graphic novel has been the most enjoyable of his writing endeavours so far. Perhaps because the medium itself “seems to hold so much promise and potential” or perhaps because it’s the next logical step for Luke given his love of comics as a kid, his young adult fiction and the picture book. Or, it could just be the manifestation of Luke’s inner child and its desire to create a “big expensive comic” – in the words of Watchmen author Alan Moore. Ten, or even five years ago, Luke most definitely didn’t envisage himself working within the realm of graphic novels but, given his versatility as an artist and openness to new opportunities, it’s no surprise that this is where he’s ended up.
“A good book makes you feel like you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you.
What does Luke read? Generally, anything and everything around whatever his latest project is and mostly fiction. And favourite authors? Favourite books? Kurt Vonegaut Jr and Breakfast of Champions, and maybe something Phillip K Dick. Of him Luke reminisces, “reading Phillip K Dick was the first time I felt like I was reading a genius.”
AND FINALLY, ON WRITING:
“Characters are most important, readers are second most and then I’m third most.
I am in awe of Luke’s ability to effortlessly move from fiction to picture book to graphic novel. When I asked him how he did it, his answer made oh so much sense. “I do it by remembering that it’s all storytelling,” he replied, “which is why I can do it in any medium… I really just want to tell a story and have my readers enjoy it.”
FAMOUS LAST WORDS:
“Story is the most powerful force.
And that my friends is a Local Life Lovin’ premiere wrap!
Luke has generously offered to answer any questions that you may have about his books / process / writing… well about anything really! Post them below as a comment and he’ll get back to you. Don’t forget to tick notify me of follow up comments by email so that you don’t miss his response.
To buy one of Luke’s books, click here.