Interview by Diana Jackson

1.What motivated you to compile the book of stories Uphill Both Ways?

Thank you Diana, I really appreciate this opportunity to be with you today.  Initially I didn’t have any such motivation.  For no apparent reason I decided to start a blog, even though I didn’t know what that was.  At the time, Social Security was in the news, so I researched it and wrote an essay about it.  Then Sandy Hook happened, so I researched the history of gun control laws and wrote an essay about that.  Much to my surprise, fellow bloggers actually liked what I wrote.  After I had written a few stories about my childhood, my wife, my best friend John, and I discussed at length how this writing could turn into a keepsake for my children.  At that point, then, I wrote (what you now know as) the Prologue.  My readership multiplied 10-fold that week.  As I continued to write the stories, many fellow bloggers planted the seeds that this should be a book.

2. How did you go about writing the stories; from memory or did you spend a great deal of time talking to your parents.

My father died of Alzheimer’s in 2003 and my mother died of old age in 2006, both at the age of 89.  Unfortunately, neither one ever shared their own stories with me.  However, I do have an album of old photographs.  My mother put together an album for each of the kids.  I went through the album and as I recognized a picture that reminded me of a story, I wrote the story.  It was really nothing more sophisticated than that.

3. Each of your stories has a message.  Why do you think that’s important?

Each of my stories has a message for two reasons.  First, every story my father told me, no matter the subject, had a message.  It was his style.  It was how he taught the lessons of life to his children and to everyone around him.  He never once ordered me to do something, ever.  Instead, he would tell me a story that, by its nature, would make me want to do what he wanted me to do.  If it didn’t work the first time, there would be another story, and another, and another, until I had come to believe in what he was trying to teach me.  Second, these stories are written for my children.  I tell stories in the same way and for the same reason that my father did.  I have never issued any orders to my children, instead I told them stories.  Because this is a book for my children, this is not just a collection of trivial and funny things that happened in my life.  Instead, this is a collection of mistakes.  Some mistakes were made by my parents, some by me, and some by others.  Some mistakes were particularly egregious, some were pivotal to my life’s direction, and yes, some were pretty funny.  But each story carries the lessons; what caused the mistake, what should have happened, what are the consequences.
4. Can you share some of the messages with us without giving away the story?

Sure, the first nine in the order in which they appear:

–       Bless and nurture the unwanted.  They are more valuable than you can ever know.

–       Recognize and preserve the innocence of your children for as long as you can.

–       Vacation and enjoy life with your family.

–       Nurse and heal your children; no matter the cost, no matter the personal pain.

–       Teach your children to trust you.  Never give them a reason not to.

–       Instill curiosity into your children; make them ask questions, make them doubt.

–       Recognize your own limitations before imposing them on your children.

–       Eat the evening meal together as a family; it is the one time each day everyone can talk.

–       Teach your children to think.  Facts are nice but knowing what to do with them is better.
5. Did you find it easy to write and find your writing style?

Yes, but in an interesting way.  When I was 15 I could barely read and write.  I never took a writing course so I’m largely ignorant of the literary arts, as was my father.  When I decided to begin writing, I closed my eyes.  In my mind, I built a fire, sat in a comfortable chair, and put on my father’s shoes.  Then I told a story just as he had only my story went to paper.  I use the same constructs, the same tempo, and the same relaxed style.  The words just flowed with ease.  Not his words; my words, but his style, and his wisdom.  Sure, this is my story, not his, but I could hear him telling each story as if he were sitting next to me.
6. Who is your target audience?

This is a literary arts question so I’ll just have to take some guesses here.  I think there are several audiences that would enjoy this book.

–       New parents would be interested in the stories of my early life and the early life of my children.  The gentle art of the story as a means of persuasion can be very useful.

–       Teenagers would be interested in the stories about divorce as told from the child’s point of view and the repercussions that come from that divorce.  They might also identify with the difficulties of dating and relationships.  Most of all, I would hope they would find some solace in the value of perseverance.  There is ample evidence here that you should never give up.

–       The boomer generation will probably enjoy the descriptions of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.  Life was different then and I have tried to describe that life, from the child’s point of view, as realistically as I could.

7. How have you promoted ‘Uphill Both Ways’?

Another literary arts question.  If only I knew what this question meant.  I really know nothing about book marketing, promotion, or selling.  I can’t afford to have a company do it for me, so I read and learn as best I can and hope I stumble on the secret.  I wrote the book, one chapter at a time as blog posts.  While I did that, I was building a large readership that encouraged me to publish.  Since I published the book, I have continued to write and build my readership with the thought that if a new reader should happen to like my stories then perhaps they will buy the book.  I also have my Facebook page linked to my WordPress blog.

I am completed convinced however, that there is a secret, a trick perhaps, to all of this.  When a book such as “50 Shades of Grey” can sell a million copies at a premium price and then land a movie deal, I take solace in knowing that there’s a secret to all of this.  I was raised on perseverance, so I’ll keep digging until I find it.

8. Do you have a new project in mind now?

In a word, no.  But then, I didn’t envision “Uphill Both Ways” as a published work either.  I continue to write as ideas pop in and out of my head, but I really don’t have anything in mind.  My readership has a loving way of pushing me in one direction or other and I suspect that eventually a collection of essays will emerge at some point in the future.

Would you like to include a small extract?

The best possible extract would have to be “My Mother’s Birthday.”  Since it was Freshly Pressed 2 weeks ago and is Chapter 2 of “Uphill Both Ways,” I think that would be the best one.

Uphill Both Ways is available on Amazon Kindle and you can read more about JT’s book and continued writing on his blog

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