Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Interview: Jacob Parker, author of Kestrel's Midnight Song

Jacob Parker is an author of a YA fantasy, KESTREL'S MIDNIGHT SONG, being released this year,
the maker of one of the best ranked book trailers, and... oh, yeah, he's still a teenager!

You can find Jacob online at his website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter, but here's a introduction to this innovative young author, who's also throwing a huge launch party with giveaways!

Introduce yourself to us! What's your book about? What are you doing to promote it, and why are you doing it?

I'm a teenager with a dangerously overactive imagination and a love for words. My book, Kestrel's Midnight Song, is a YA Fantasy about a legendary Marauder awaiting his hanging, the Marauders' plot to free him and unleash the secret he so carefully guards, and a shepherd boy who travels with no knowledge that his journey will decide the pending fate of the world. To promote it, I'm currently organizing a "Huge Online Party" in which I'll be streaming live via webcam and giving away hundreds of fantasy books and gift cards. The reason this helps my book is that, in exchange for entries, I'm having people do stuff to promote my book ahead of time (RIGHT NOW). So far I think it's been a great success. Kestrel's Midnight Song is the #2 most discussed book of all time on (behind Twilight) and its book trailer is three votes away from becoming the #3 most popular book trailer of all time on

If anyone wants to help out and win cool stuff, go to

We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

I was forced to endure a season of cotillion class as a pre-teen. For those unfamiliar with cotillion class, I'm only too happy to raise awareness; cotillion class is where they teach you ballroom dancing and formal etiquette. A more effective form of torture for pre-teen boys has yet to be discovered. My psychological damage is evident to this day. However, the silver lining is that I survived, and from my experience was born a comic strip that ran in my local newspaper called "Skeeter & Skunkbeard." It features two teenage outdoors-men who are forced to endure cotillion class... and aren't afraid to stand up to the torturer—I mean teacher... It's my coping mechanism...

What are some of your favorite books? Why?

I like the kind of books that allow me to experience something impossible and/or otherworldly. I'm not usually interested in reading fiction in which the events happen in the real world. In short, the more imaginative the better. I most enjoyed books like The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Holes, Keys to the Kingdom, Artemis Fowl...

You're a remarkably young author. What led you to pursue this dream now?

I actually started much younger. In fourth grade I started writing my first novel with the plan to become the youngest author ever. (For the fame and fortune, of course.) I quickly discovered two things:
  1. I love writing. Way more than reading. Which is saying a lot.
  2. Writing is a lot of hard work.

My novel attempts reached into the 30,000 word mark and beyond but always petered out. Although I had some encouragement... I won a short story contest in 5th grade and the judge suggested I expand it into a novel. In 6th grade an adult read a sample of my work and thought I'd copied it out of a book somewhere... it wasn't until around my fifteenth birthday that I saw a novel all the way through. Coincidentally, that's also the first time I used an outline.


How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?

My book has a lot of me. It's a little scary how much of myself I pour into my writing. I'm sure a psychologist could basically peer into my soul after reading my book. However, none of the characters are like me, per se. Though, the main characters each have some of my traits. It's easier to write that way. And as I go through life, even as I experience things, I think about what the best way to translate it into words would be. I'd like to think it improves my writing.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?

I started writing it around my fifteenth birthday, finished the first draft around my seventeenth birthday, and submitted it after a few months of revision. Acceptance came a few months after that. And here I am, two months from my nineteenth birthday, and we're still editing. It's on the home stretch, though. It releases hopefully this September. As far as how I felt... at times ready to give up, at times euphoric, at times sick of the publishing industry, at times joyful enough to dance (literally), at times bored to tears of the monotony of slogging through the manuscript for the ninth time. Like I say in a later response, it was a roller coaster.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?

From a writing standpoint, my goal is immersion. I want my book to suck the reader in and never let go until the last page has been flipped, leaving them dazed for a few seconds as they travel back to the real world. That's what my favorite books do for me, so that's what I want my writing to do for others.


What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?

A byproduct of my overactive imagination is that I'm susceptible to dreaming. (I wanted to be published as a fourth grader, remember?) So I've imagined myself as accomplishing pretty much everything possible for a writer. It's hard to separate my dreams from my goals, but I'd really like to hit the NY Times Bestseller's list someday. Oh, and have one of my books turned into a major motion picture, oh and... I should stop there.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer? 

The number of teens who are actively writing and trying to get published. I get a lot of emails from young writers like myself asking for advice, and I've read some of their work. There are a few out there, in my opinion, that are very good. I think, in the near future, we'll see more and more teen authors published. I'm by no means the first, of course, but I think the numbers will grow.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?

Just based on my personal experience, be prepared for a roller coaster. One day I'd pound out a chapter and feel like I'm producing pure, exhilarating gold. The next I'd read over it and wonder what I was thinking and why I was even wasting energy trying to write a novel. I traveled to a writer's conference one summer and rode the train back singing (literally) after these experts I'd been stalking online were impressed with my work... even as they ripped it to shreds. (Okay, maybe it was more of a hum). Then I came home to a couple of waiting rejection letters. In short... hold on tight. Hmmm, in retrospect that's kind of a long way of saying never give up and believe in yourself...

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?

I think the compliment I get the most is for my actual wordsmithing—the flow, syntax, word choice, etc. My weakest? I have a lot of weaknesses, which is part of what has me excited for my next book, but probably one of my biggest is a lack of research and note taking. (Is that two? They're semi-related...)

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?

Definitely contrived dialogue... and now that I think about it, contrived plot devices. Nothing sucks the reality out of fiction faster for me. For instance, it really bugged me in Avatar when Parker explains to Grace that the whole operation is to obtain "unobtainium." She knows what it's all about. She's been on the project for years. It's a scene obviously there to inform the viewer about unobtainium. And it's especially frustrating since it could have been so easily avoided by having someone explain the unobtainium thing to Jake, who realistically could have no idea about unobtainium. But anyway, now that I've said that, everyone's going to point out all the contrived-ness of my book, and/or all the mistakes I made. :P
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