Friday, September 3, 2010

Fresh Voice: Jay Eckert!

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the voice of Jay Eckert!

What is your ultimate writing goal?
My ultimate goal is to be published and have enough repeat success so that I can make writing my full time job. I can't imagine this is an uncommon goal. It's one heck of a stretch, of course, but to some degree it's in my hands. How so? I have to write. A lot. I have to continually improve as a writer. If I'm able to dream up characters and stories about which I'd like to read, then I'm heading in the right direction. And if my writing group and my family like them, then I know I'm improving my chances for success. I have some brutally honest beta readers.

Why do you write?
Frankly, it started as a hobby, and then I found it helped me reconnect with a creative side that had been underused for a while. I actually did an entire blog post about this very topic on SM Blooding & Crew -

In the end, I write because I like to write. It certainly fulfills many needs, but I'm not one of those people who writes because I can't help it. I certainly don't write for free coffee. You have to be careful with free coffee. Once in a while, you'll work in some office where they're using starbucks, but most often, it'll be some packets of Krusty's recycled grounds sent through an industrial coffee maker that adds a foul odor and taste to everything with which it comes into contact.

Have you worked to achieve your voice or is it just a natural style for you?
I think every novel or series has a distinct voice. In my case, my first two novels didn't have a particularly compelling voice. They were far more plot driven and I didn't connect particularly well with the characters. As the author -- the supernatural force pulling the strings -- if all I do is like or dislike my own creations, it's a problem. After those two novels, I decided I needed to switch things up and took on a new project -- Urban Mythos -- by writing in the first person POV. This was a total breakthrough. As I wrote, I found that I fell in love with each and every one of my characters. Well, okay, just the "good guys". I have a son in high school, and I see and hear a lot of teenage attitude. Despite what my kids say, I'm also not so old that I've forgotten what it was like to be them, albeit with archaic video games and a complete lack of texting. On top of that, I read a ton of YA and Middle Grade fiction to make sure my voice is honest. My characters are often an amalgam of other fictional folk, with the occasional nod to a family member or friend.

Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
There are a ton, but here's a shortened list.

JK Rowling - The voice. The fairytale feel. It would be easy to say that it's because I can read all seven Harry Potter books over and over and never tire of them. And while that's true, it's not the real reason. Simply put, she motivates me. If I can make others feel about my characters the way she's made me feel about the characters in her world, I will feel like I've accomplished something great.

Neil Gaiman - Because he wrote Neverwhere and the Graveyard Book. But mostly because he wrote Neverwhere. His imagination is all over the page for the reader to see.

Stephen King - I don't think anyone needs an actual reason to like Stephen King. Here are some of my own, however. The Stand. The Talisman. It. More recently, Under the Dome. There are few writers that can make me stick with a 1000 page tome as consistently as he can. Only he could have concluded the Dark Tower they way he did. You want to talk about brutal honesty and total fearlessness? Uncle Stevie will go anywhere and do anything. Is it occasionally a bit much? Sure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child - Because they've created a detective series featuring the strangest hero ever - Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. And because I generally learn a little something new about New York City or some other locale.

Suzanne Collins - Another fearless author of both Middle Grade and YA. Mockingjay is a brutally honest ending to a fantastic series that captivated everyone.

What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
I love spending hours each night living in a fantasy world of my own creation, forgetting about my professional responsibilities. I like sharing those stories and characters with others. Personally, I'd prefer to actually spend more of that time during the day, as opposed to after dinner hopped up on Cafe Americano's struggling to stay awake.

If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?
Good question. I used to think that if I won the lottery, I'd move to a college town and teach. But I'm not sure I'm suited to teaching. Maybe an ice road trucker. You know work is tough when you think being an ice road trucker seems like a relaxing profession. Since you say I'd have guaranteed success and wouldn't drive off a mountain, maybe it's an option.

If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?

What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
From literary agent Donald Maass in Writing the Breakout Novel -- "As authors we like our protagonists. We are tempted to protect them from trouble. That temptation must be resisted."

I agree. You need to be merciless with your babies. What doesn't kill them will make them stronger.

There's also this one other bit of advice I've seen repeated a number of times. "It's okay to write crap in a first draft." It helps me tune out that evil inner editor and get to the end of the story.

Jay Eckert is a writer of YA fiction, including his YA Urban Fantasy, Urban Mythos and his YA contemporary fantasy, The Children of Midian. He is also an active member of SCBWI. He posted a series of blog entries entitled, "Birth of a Novel", in which he chronicled the development of Urban Mythos. Here's a sample - - you can link back and forth from there.


  1. Best of luck, Jay! I like living in a fantasy world for several hours a day, too. Best perk ever for a job, huh?

  2. Truly an ideal place to be. Thanks, Linda.