Happy Tuesday, TSR readers!
Today we’re here with a brand-new interview with TSR fave, Jesse Haynes, who will be returning to our shelves soon with a fiery new trilogy! (I’ve got to tell you, it sounds AMAZING and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.) So without further ado, here we go!
The Spork Review: First, thanks so much for taking some time to chat with us. You’ve been very busy since the last time we’ve talked. Can you give us a quick life update?
Jesse Haynes: Quick? I’m not sure but I can certainly try! This year has been a whirlwind. In December I signed a four book deal with Roadrunner Press, and I’m incredibly excited to work with a “real” publisher who knows what they are doing (all the info on that deal is at https://www.jessehaynesauthor.com/blog/four-new-books). It’s been crazy, but also a lot slower than expected. My publisher had a couple big opportunities come up so the release was slid back a couple times–we were originally talking March, now we’re talking late summer–but I totally think Roadrunner made the right call. When opportunity knocks, you’ve got to answer.
I have a couple more projects in the works (more on that soon), and I think Summer ‘19 will be the biggest year for Jesse Haynes Author in a while. Pretty exciting stuff cooking.
Also, I graduated from college, so that’s cool I guess. Grad school next.
TSR: That’s so exciting! Your first traditionally published novel, Gifted, comes out this fall. What can you tell us about it?
JH: I’m not sure how much I can spill at this point before the headhunters are sent out looking for me (*wink wink*), but I can for sure say this: The Gifted Trilogy is, by far, my favorite work of fiction I’ve written thus far. All three books are finished, at least for the first drafts, and it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but they are all very special to me. It basically takes the “superhero saves city” genre and flips it on it’s head: the book is about superheroes living in a place where their differences make them enemies of the state.
This series is a heavyweight–the trilogy clocks in at about 300,000 words–and has three of my favorite original characters. I truly think it could be special, and I have a different feeling about these books than anything I’ve written before. I can’t wait for the world to meet Marx and the gang.
(Here’s my official request for an ARC – I need this like I need air.)
TSR: You’ve also written a non-fiction book on leadership, correct? How did that come about?
JH: Wow, you’ve done your research. Yes, I’m going to release “Leaderphors” in June of 2019. “Book” is probably misleading–it’s only 10,000 words, so about 40 pages. It’s more of a booklet, but has an interesting story behind it.
Basically, in early April, there was a National Honor Society State meeting at the Tulsa Zoo. It was the first of its kind and brought in about 500 high school scholars and leaders from around the state. Will Parker, a mentor/former high school principal of mine, is now also the Executive Director of Oklahoma’s Association of Secondary Principals, and he brought me in to speak. There I presented three “leaderphors,” and it was their first public appearance. They were well-received and I loved the energy in the room–lots of young leaders have TONS of potential. Mr. Parker went on to say that I should consider expanding and coming up with a book. Now, just over a month later, my work is almost done and he’s going to be providing me a forward. I can’t emphasize enough how special this man has been to me and how much he’s taught me, so I’m trying to pay it forward by helping teach some of the things I’ve learned through my years (I sound so dang old saying this) to other young leaders.
The best part of Leaderphors is that it is 100% free to everybody, everywhere. It’s a free e-book coming to my website, and I hope everybody can spare an hour of their life to give it a read. Young or old, I hope you can learn something from it.
With the help of my publisher, I’m presenting my Leaderphors at a conference of teachers in OKC this fall, and next school year I’m hoping to take my program into different schools around the state to share with student councils, NHS’s, and other leadership groups.
TSR: The Mazie Meadows Morning Show wrapped up last year and I’ve got to be honest, I really miss it. Any more podcasts in the works?
JH: Immediately, no. But yes, I think I’ll get back to podcasting sooner rather than later. I have a couple short audio-drama series ideas that need to happen, like yesterday, and I just haven’t had the time.
TSR: So what’s next for you?
JH: You’re about to get an inside scoop because I haven’t made much of this public knowledge yet. But, since you asked, I just finished a new book, and one of my summer objectives is to either get a deal for it, or perhaps try to self-publish. (I’ve been reading the pros and cons of both).
This book is, if nothing else, a nod to my favorite series when I was younger: Goosebumps. I freakin’ loved those books when I was in elementary school, and at the time I didn’t necessarily love reading.
This 23K word book is like Goosebumps with a sprinkle of modernity. It has all the elements of a book for “reluctant readers”: short chapters, hooks to end every one of them, and lots of mystery and suspense. Plus humor, because whether it’s the zombie apocalypse or superheroes, I gotta have some laughs in the pages.
I’m calling it Welcome to Skull Ridge, and it’s a creepy story about a summer camp full of a sinister history, lots of mystery, a pirate treasure, ghosts, and mysterious creatures stalking the campers by night. It’s intended to be part of a larger series that I’m loosely calling Sleep Remedies: Terrifying Tales to Keep You Up All Night.
More to come as I have updates with it!
TSR: Wow, I had no idea about any of that! How exciting – I too loved the Goosebumps series when I was younger, and can’t wait to read Welcome to Skull Ridge! Is your next project after that going to be continuing that potential series?
That’s certainly a possibility to come up soon, but short answer: no. I have an idea for a book that I think could be important and touch a lot of lives, and I’ve been kicking it around for a while now. I’m finally ready to start on it, and it’s not going to be a fast, ferocious, “I will log 2K words every day” sort of approach I’ve taken with a couple first drafts before. This is something slower, more emotional, and very tough to grapple with. I really think, if handled well, this one could be my “masterpiece,” so to speak, so I want to give it all the time it takes to come together. It’s not super powers, zombies, ghosts, or paranormal. It’s about human emotion, loss, and what happens when life throws you a curveball.
That said, as I start on SILENT, I think a few more Sleep Remedies stories could provide intermittent breaks from the emotional grind I’m trying to prepare myself for.
TSR: That’s certainly a venture away from the genres you’ve been working in thus far. What led to the inspiration for this new work?
Two things. The biggest inspiration is a very close friend of mine I’ve gotten to know over the last year. She’s this incredible athlete, a leader among her peers, and just a joy to be around. That said, before her senior year of high school, she was diagnosed with a really aggressive form of adolescent arthritis that hit her so hard she was in a wheelchair for a bit. Now, with weekly chemo treatments, she’s doing better, but the way she has handled the adversity (and the things she’s been through along the way in dealing with people who just don’t quite understand) has been amazing to learn from and watch. I told her that she’s inspired me to tell a story like hers, but I’m not telling her story. She tells it every day when she gets out of bed and continues to be a light for those around her. I just wanted to tell a story like that, to touch others as much as she’s touched me.
So that was my original inspiration, and I took that and began coming up with ideas. What I decided is that her story was so amazing I couldn’t do it justice with a pen, and I wanted to go in a different direction. No arthritis. Instead, I picked something I’ve studied over the years in college: the deaf community.
While I’ve taken ASL 1-4 and learned the language to the best of my ability, I’ve enjoyed the “culture” classes even more. The deaf community is often misunderstood and underappreciated by those on the outside looking in, and I want to tell a story that shines light on the community while also telling a story like what my friend has gone through: an event changing one’s entire world. That’s all I’ll say for now, but I’ll keep you updated on this project as it develops.
TSR: Well, that sounds like it’s going to be a real heart-wrencher and I can’t wait to find out more! Now for some lightning round questions:
1. Who’s your favorite superhero and supervillain?
Darth Vader is the best villain, and it’s not even close. I’d even argue Obi-Wan as my favorite hero, but I’m not sure if he’s “super” enough, and I’m obviously a big Star Wars nerd, so… maybe Spiderman.
2. If you could have dinner with any 3 people, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Geez, you’re asking hard questions. LeBron James would be the first because he could teach me quite a bit and he’s my favorite athlete. Second, Jesus, for obvious reasons. Third, Chance the Rapper, one of my favorite musicians.
3. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I’d be Force-sensitive in a heartbeat.
4. If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
Shoot, this is hard. I’ve had about four come to mind, but a couple lines in them ruin them for me. Still great songs, but not theme song worthy, y’know? I tried to think of a song where every single lyric I could read and apply to my life, and if I believe it holds true, then it’s the perfect theme.
In the end, it came down to two songs from my favorite album of all time.
The first song was “Stars,” by Fun, which gropes with the problems of gaining the public eye yet living in discontent with a life of which many would be envious. While I strongly relate to these lyrics, I’m not “famous” enough by any means to truly share the same concerns. The heart of the song, though, is about making mistakes and having regrets with a loved one. Get back to me in a decade and we’ll see where I’m at there. It ain’t lookin’ good!
In the end, though, the song that won out is one that has been my favorite song since it released in 2012, and I think upon answering this question, I realized it’s my favorite for a reason: it hits so close to home that it’s alarming.
This might be dark, but my favorite lines from the song are as follows:
“Some nights, I wish that this all would end/’’Cause I could use some friends for a change/And some nights I’m scared you’ll forget me again/Some nights I always win (I always win).”
These are absolutely perfect because I feel like even though I’m always trying to be happy or show others I am, I struggle with the harsh reality that the “career” I’m trying to pursue has no blueprints or instruction manual, and every single story I write could be my last before I have to get a “real job” (“When I hear songs, they sound like a swan, so come on.” –Some Nights again), so that occasionally gets to me more than I show.
That said, just like the song suggests, I’ve developed a knack for shoving those concerns to the very back, dark place in my mind and celebrating the small things, so even if I’m losing, “I always win.”
“Lightning round” done right, amiright?
5. If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
My biggest hobbies are playing basketball and I’ve recently started drawing again. I’m really into the idea of creating music, and I’d like to release a short mixtape this summer. No promises, but I have tons of lyrics written and just never taken the time to record or produce.
(Perhaps he should also add ‘professional artist’ to his resumé. These drawings are Sporktastic!)
TSR: It definitely sounds like you’ll have a very busy summer. Thanks so much for joining us today. Good luck and happy writing – we’re excited to see what the future holds for you!
JH: Thanks! And thanks to The Spork Review for always supporting my work. I appreciate it greatly!
Well there you have it, folks! There’s lots of exciting things coming from this incredibly talented author, podcaster, artist, and all-around amazing creator, and we can’t wait to be a part of it!