Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Doug Jenkinson's overactive imagination leads to writing career, novels

Welcome to Doug Jenkinson, who was born into an American military family in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1954. He came close to being born in Neuschwanstein Castle, 'the fairytale castle' (the very one that inspired Walt Disney to build his Magic Kingdom), in Southern Bavaria. After a long boat trip across the Atlantic; a ride that made everyone seasick except him, he came to the United States. He studied art after high school, later earning a BA in Media and Communications at Webster University in Saint Louis, Missouri. He currently resides in Saint Louis County with two cats, a hummingbird garden, and an imagination that never seems to want to wind down. Faraway is his first completed novel; he designed the cover.

Why did you decide to start writing? I've always had an overactive imagination. 

I felt the compulsion to begin writing at an early age, before age ten. In fifth grade I wrote quirky stories that my teacher loved; to my embarrassment, she read them out loud to the class. I've never been one to enjoy the 'spotlight' (I cringe), but I do enjoy the appreciation of my creative efforts.

It was natural for me to drift into journalism when I returned to college to work on a degree in Media and Communications. I wanted to learn to write well. While there, I won first place in a short scriptwriting contest (for airplay) held at KWMU, Saint Louis Public Radio. I was really quite surprised because I didn't think it was all that great, and, it was a nice boost to my morale; I've always been very self-critical.

Over the years, I made several attempts to write novels, but ended up putting them aside, feeling that it was not the 'right time." At one point I realized that I would end up a late bloomer, yet, it didn't bother me; I knew that I had it in me, that I only needed to arrive at a point where I would be ambitious enough to begin and complete a book. When I began writing Faraway (my quirky, 640-page fantasy opus), I never once felt the desire to place it aside; I felt driven to get it done.

Now that I've completed one book, it will be easier to do it again. It was a great learning experience.

What do you think people will like about your writing? I have what is called in the industry a new, 'quirky voice'; my storytelling and stories are very different than anything out there, in much the same way that Richard Brautigan was offbeat and different, in his days. His writing wasn't mainstream, but mine is; I want to write for a large audience. I'm able to take something that is absurd, unusual, or, 'way out there,' and wrap familiarity around it; people are curious creatures and like new and different things, but they also like familiarity. It's a comfort thing.

Faraway is an epic fairy tale on steroids; it has several iconic characters, a lot of secondary characters and minor characters who flit in and out of the story like hummingbirds; a great delight to see, but gone in a flash. It has subplots, and little fairy tales inside bigger ones; there is a lot of eye candy to attract readers. There is so much going on in it that the reader never gets a chance to become bored unless they plainly don't like the concept of the book. I've read through it several times and I'm still amazed that I accomplished it.

First, and foremost, I wanted to put something in the marketplace that was innovative, fun, and entertaining. I had a lot of fun writing it and it shows; readers will quickly pick up on that when they read it. People love to be entertained. I wrote it for people to enjoy. 

Is there a different genre or type of book you'd love to try to write? Historical fiction. I love history; particularly English, American, and European. I started but never finished, a novella years ago; a true story about my great-grandfather, who ran away from home to join his brothers in the Civil War. He lost track of them, then, was discovered in the ranks of the Union army, where they used him as a messenger boy when they found out that he couldn't recall where he was from (near Pittsburg, PA). He was only 11; they couldn't rightfully allow him to fight in combat. After the war, age fourteen, he went West; in Illinois, he was sent to seminary school by an older man who was taking care of him, then he went to Chicago where he was a volunteer firefighter in the great Chicago fire of 1871. There, he married an older woman, they had four kids; he bought a Conestoga wagon and went West with them when it was discovered that she had consumption (tuberculosis). They were headed for a drier climate, but she died on progress, in Colorado. He moved to Missouri after that and remarried (my great-grandmother). He was a true pioneer. He used to bounce my mother on his knee and tell her wild stories. She, in turn, told me wild stories while I was growing up. There you have it.

Would you share a bit about your next project? I took a secondary character from Faraway, a twelve-year-old girl magician, and wrapped a story around her. Her parents, the owners, and operators of the magic steamship, The Theodora (a boat that sails up and down the Mississippi, half in and half out of the real world), have decided to enroll her in Gryndells, a magician's academy (aka Hogwarts) for children. She sends sparks flying at first, not wanting to leave her parents or her environment but finds adventure and friends there. There is a weird, funny chapter wrapped around a monthly visit to a fair in a neighboring village; it concerns an amusement park for magician kids. There's a lot of humor in the book; a trademark of mine.

FARAWAY: Augustus Todd is a quiet writer of historical fiction; all he wants to do is write books, take care of his mother, and avoid the human race. You won't find adventure on his wish list; but, one day, adventure comes to call, in the form of a strange girl surrounded by hummingbirds, who takes him far away...

In a place where the magic forest of Ardaraia draws DNA from other dimensions to create new species, where Scrying Orbs gaze out over all the land, and where airships and mechanical flying monkeys are sent to the forest to spy, magic is afoot. It's where a magical steamship rolls up and down the Mississippi River, half in and half out of the real world, where wise-cracking ghosts roam the forest and the very 'lively' ghost towns; where an angry witch sets out to do what her predecessor failed to do, and a grumpy old dragon is asleep in his lair, waiting for his calling.

This is the land of Faraway; a patchwork world pieced together from remnants of the collective imagination of humankind, where fairy tales come to life - where anything imagined can happen, and usually does.

But, Faraway is out of balance, and a daunting task lays ahead for the hundreds of humans from the 'outside' when they come to discover what has brought them here and what they must do in order to return home. Before all is over, they have an important choice to make; save the magic realm, and themselves, or face doom along with everyone and everything in Faraway. Will they succeed?

Faraway is available in ebook, at ($3.99), and ($2.99).

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