Zen J. Jackson Writes Fantasy Novels for Children All Ages Can Enjoy
Please give the readers some background about your life:
I was born in Connecticut and raised between its snow and the beaches of Jamaica, where my father sent me to train for soccer under the weaponized sun. My biological mother was a gangster and my father was a hustler, so my memory is filled with multiple parental figures. My father’s wife today, would become my inspiration for storytelling. She would read to me at night, and her love filled an otherwise terrifying time. As a young boy, I survived sexual abuse at the hands of a relative. This left me scared when the lights went out, and hallucinating throughout the darkness and nightmares that haunted me. My imagination began developing other worlds and characters that made me feel safe and comforted.
It was when I met my wife and her daughter, whose biological father had abandoned her, that I wrote my first novel. The little girl, Rosie, reminded me of myself; wide-eyed, frightened, and at risk of falling victim to a caretaker while her mother worked endless hours to provide for them both. She held onto her stuffed bunny that was passed down to her, and I dedicated my first book to Rosie, my adopted daughter, so she would remember how loved and courageous she is. The novel, The Bunny Book & the Creature of Boseman Farm tells a hero’s journey when the main character loses her favorite stuffed rabbit in a forbidden forest full of magic and a creature lurking about.
Do you have a “real” job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life?
The job that jump-started my writing career was working as a security officer. It gave me the time and space to complete my first novel. I would have shifts where I was required to sit in a car in the middle of the night in an abandoned parking lot for eight hours. I definitely used that time to write and take my mind off of how terrified I was. After publishing, I began to be more selective of my career choices. I currently juggle being a plant-based chef, working from home for an art-framing business, and self-publishing.
Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon?
I am currently working on the sequel to The Bunny Book and the Creature of Boseman Farm as well as a graphic novel series entitled Vanquish and finally, an animated series called Jak & the Lightworkers Way. I also spend my time writing scripts for short films. I try to exercise different mediums of storytelling outside of just publishing books, but writing books will always be at my core.
The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
The main characters of my stories have a tendency to be women, all but for my main character Jak in my Jak and the Journey Series. Jak is inspired by my own self and being, however, the rest of the main characters I develop and create are inspired by the powerful and unique women that surround me, like my many mothers, sisters, daughters, etc. I tend to name my characters after loved ones.
Do you have any pets? What are they? Tell us about them
I started with three rabbits, when one passed away. My three bunny friends manifested into my life from my daughter Rosie’s obsession with rabbits. They inspire peace, meditation, and clean eating; so we aim to always have our home a quiet and peaceful place to create that is clean, tidy, and full of plant-based foods to share with our bunnies. They inspired our indie-publishing house called Three Bunny Books.
Focusing on your most recent (or first) book, tell our readers what genre your book is and what popular author you think your writing style in this book is most like.
My writing genre falls mostly into magical realism. It can also be considered fantasy or mystery thrillers. My stories are child-friendly, but for all ages to enjoy due to their dark edges like that of Neil Gaiman, Tim Burton, or Roald Dahl.
How long did it take you to write your first book? When you started writing, did you think it would take that long (or short)?
It took me six years to complete my first book. When I started writing it, I thought I would be finished in no time. I took a notebook with me everywhere I went and wrote every chance I got. I even lost the notebook in the rain once, since I would have to sometimes bike or walk to work, but the story survived. I held onto it for years until my wife finally had to put her foot down and demand I finish something. I give her a lot of credit for being the force behind me that encourages me to complete projects, otherwise, I would start a million and never see the end of any.
What is your main goal or purpose you would like to see accomplished by or with your writing?
The main goals that I’d like to accomplish with my writing are to first and foremost heal and assist any child who is afraid of the dark by providing them other worlds so full of magic and wonder, that they can face their fears and escape in a safe place. Also, I’d love to own a house and farm big enough to host orphans and foster children, teach them to grow and cook their own healthy food, and provide a safe space for them to create before they venture off into the world. My wife and I are passionate about sharing creative tools and outlets for children who have become lost or abandoned, so they can thrive through the healing arts and support themselves independently through their own artistic journey. Creativity saved and helped me, and I want to pay that forward.
Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where?
When fully stocked with hardcover or paperback books, I like to host book signings at Liberty Books in Lawrenceville, GA. They are a small and independent book store that sells second-hand and locally written books.
It’s said that the editing process of publishing a novel with a publisher is can be grueling and often more difficult than actually writing the story. Do you think this is true for you? How did you feel about editing your novel?
My editor and publisher is my wife, and it has definitely been a grueling process in the past as well as the glue that binds our relationship together. She has a strong memory, and my inspiration comes and goes in waves, so I have narrated an entire book to her before, and she will remember it and push me to get it written down. But then when I go to write it down, it becomes a completely different story, and she has to bring my mind back to the first time I told it and the way it unfolded when it was a fresh tale. I also love to create in several mediums, so balancing my other art forms with completing the books I have shared with her has been a challenge, but she has been the backbone and spine to my work. Every story I tell, she believes wholeheartedly that it could change a child’s life, particularly because she was once a little girl hiding in her attic of books, diving into magical worlds to escape. Editing my novels are a process, but I trust my editor and my wife with her determination to release the kinds of stories she fell in love with.
Is there anything else you want your readers to know about you? Where can they find your books, and how a reader can learn more about you and your writing?
All of my writing can be found at ZenJJackson.com or on social media platforms @zenjjackson
Thank you, Zen, for telling us about your work and what inspired you to become an author,