With very little online about Jackie Gamber, I found myself in the unusual situation of wondering what to ask her in an interview. I could ask the traditional questions one asks an author such as: “Why did you become an author? ” Or I could ask more unusual questions such as: “What is your favorite Skittle color?” I think I ended up asking a little of both kinds. And I received a fun and informative interview! To get to know more about the personal life, writing tastes, and other tidbits about the author of the Leland Dragon series, read on.
Allison: If you could relive one moment as a child, what moment would you pick?
Jackie: Wow, that’s a tough one. I don’t really look back at my childhood much, I often remind myself to keep looking ahead, keep planning ahead. I was pretty misunderstood as a kid; a sensitive oddball who saw things from a different angle than most. If I were to relive anything, I might choose a moment where I had the opportunity to punch someone in the nose, but didn’t. I would do it, this time. Might help me learn to stand up for myself better.
Allison: How early did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Jackie: I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. To me, it was as natural as laughing at a funny joke, and I thought everyone did it. I tried a few writing contests as a teen, and wrote so much poetry I filled journals. But it wasn’t until I was a mom, with both my kids in elementary school, that it dawned on me I could really try writing as a profession.
Allison: Often people either hated or loved their teen years. How did you find adolescence?
Jackie: Wow, another tough question. I think my teen years were where I really relied on my mantra “Keep looking ahead. It isn’t always going to feel like this.”
Allison: What is the best part for you about writing for young people?
Jackie: I enjoy the thought of encouraging all people to hang in there. To see that life changes, sometimes in a moment. You have to find what gives you strength, and make your choices toward that strong life for yourself.
Allison: What are your favorite creatures or places in the fantasy genre?
Jackie: Some of my favorite fantasy stories involve regular folks stepping into a world of make believe. I like the way those tales flip “extraordinary” with “normal”, and help a reader get perspective on his or her own paradigms.
Allison: Why did you start writing fantasy? Why dragons in particular?
Jackie: Most of my stories have involved an element of science fiction/fantasy/the paranormal. I think because that’s where I get to break some rules and rewrite society’s expectations. It’s fun to examine life through the eyes of an alien, or a mythical creature, and to examine why, in our everyday life, we either believe or don’t believe the things we do.
Allison: Your resume lists a few different jobs. What was the most unusual? Tell about the highlights of a typical day on that job.
Jackie: People tend to be surprised when I tell them I was a soldier in the United States Air Force. I processed awards and decorations, and also processed benefits and death notifications. You know how in the movies, people in uniform knock on a home to tell loved ones a soldier has been killed? That was my office. I never had to do that, thank goodness. But I once helped a Vietnam vet by digging out his award records, and I provided him with the medals and commendations he’d never been given. That was a highlight for me.
Allison: You co-established a writers’ group. How did that come about?
Jackie: For the one in Michigan, I had searched and searched for a writers’ group in my area, but couldn’t find one. So, I figured there must be others out there looking, too, and if we were going to find each other, I’d have to start a group, myself!
Allison: When you are not writing, what do you most like to do?
Jackie: I do a lot of reading, when I’m not writing. Also, I learned to knit a few months ago, and I really enjoy fiddling with that whenever I get the chance. But one of my most favorite activities is riding on the back of a Suzuki V-Strom motorcycle (my husband drives) and taking off for hours without quite knowing where we’re going.
Allison: Your resume also notes that you write reviews and plays. How did you get start writing reviews?
Jackie: I do something called “Booktasting”, where I pair a book (usually a classic science fiction novel, but not always) with a certain tea you should drink while reading. It started out as something I was just doing for fun, for myself, since I love both reading and tea. But then tea drinkers, or book readers, began asking me about it, as well as authors, who were interested in knowing what tea I might choose for their book, and I decided to start sharing my Booktastings with the world. It’s been so much fun!
Allison: Talk about your experience as a playwright and having your scripts performed. How is this different from being a novelist?
Jackie: I’ve had children’s plays performed, as well as a high-budget, multimedia play. Most recently, I’ve been writing screenplays, and have produced short films, with more on the way. It’s an entirely different sort of experience to see an actor live out a character I’ve created. With novels, I don’t actually see readers living out my stories. With plays or films, the world is right there, in front of me. I really enjoy that.
Allison: Redheart came about because of a dream. How did you turn this inspiration into a full-length book?
Jackie: It took a number of years for me to take myself seriously as a writer, and then for me to take my world of Leland seriously enough to start writing it down. Once I set the goal of doing this, for real, it took learning the craft, practicing it, and the discipline to keep writing, keep working. Of course, once a book is written, that’s when the real work of editing begins!
Allison: There are now three books in the Leland Dragon series. Would you share a little about the publication process of getting Redheart into print and receiving a contract for additional books?
Jackie: The publishing industry can be pretty brutal on a sensitive soul. Publishing is a business like any other, and yet its product is subjective art, and so how does combining the two make success? It’s a mystery, both to those inside and outside the publishing world. There are no formulas, and no real repeatable patterns. The best thing to do is to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep networking. Which is how “Redheart” and the following books came about for me. I shook hands with someone from Seventh Star Press who took the time to read my work, and to believe in it. Those are magic words to a struggling writer: “I believe in you.”
Allison: What’s next?
Jackie: Next is more stories! Always more stories. In addition to Book Three of the Leland Dragon Series, I’m also writing a steampunk fantasy novel for New Babel Books. I’ve written a feature-length paranormal thriller screenplay, as well as several short film screenplays based on my published stories. I also edited a special issue of the dark fiction magazine Shroud, due out in the coming weeks.
Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. It was established by in 1936, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
The Christy Awards are awarded each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.
Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples. It is given to African American authors and illustrator.
children and young adult blogger literacy awards
Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award was initiated in 2000 to recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with deve
Hans Christian Anderson Award
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards is given to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The award is the highest international recognition an author can receive.
Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs.
Middle East Book Award
The Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award
Honors fantasy books for younger readers, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia
Newbery Medal Award
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Pura Belpré Award
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. It is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino experience.
Red House Book Award
The Red House Children’s Book Award is a series of literary prizes for works of children’s literature published during the previous year in England.
Sydney Taylor Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.