Opossum Trot and Beyond
When I was a kid, I pictured being an author as this almost magical experience not too dissimilar from a Jedi using the force. I imagined writers as artistic figures who were are able to tap into this ambiguous creative spirit that flowed through their body and onto the page. I thought inspiration could be triggered by small things, but once struck would burst from my brain like a hidden reserve of oil.
The reality is much less sexy. Inspiration definitely plays a part in the process and there are scenes I've written that seem to appear almost fully constructed (See Ezekiel's fight with Eden's dad in The Thin House), but 99% of writing is a lot more like playing with a Rubik's cube. You have a general idea of what is should look like and you spend a lot of time shifting and moving pieces to make it fit just right. Editing and rewriting play a much role in delivering a finished book, than I ever would have guessed. Particularly in the later stages, which is where I find myself.
So as a respite from the formatting and back and forth with printing services, I thought it may be therapeutic to take a break and share a little more about what comes next in The Hinderwood as well as future books.
Readers of The Thin House noticed that one of the strongest relationships in the book is between Finn and his Grandparents Ezekiel and Eleanor Blacklock. Eagle eyed fans may have also noticed that the story is dedicated to grandparents. I've said in earlier posts that I grew up in a Southern storytelling culture that was largely established by my parents and grandparents. When I wrote my first book I wanted to capture the feeling I grew up with of a young boy who is thrust into this world of elaborate and colorful mythologies.
Some people expected the second book to continue on this theme, and to basically see the continuation of Finn's story. I can honestly say that was never the plan. I envision Jackalope Stories as three separate, standalone (if overlapping) stories that are all ultimately tied together in an "event style" fourth book that serves as my bookend to the world I first created with Thin House.
That said, each of the three standalone stories is really founded on a type of relationship and a different stage in my own life. Thin House was my childhood relationship with grandparents and parents; whereas, The Hinderwood is my adolescence and my relationship with my younger siblings. I had a lot of readers ask about the parallels from my personal life that worked their way into the first book, and I've said before that good writing is personal writing. I expect this to intensify with book two.
My siblings spent countless summers and weekends exploring the town and vast networks of trails my grandfather and great uncles cleared through the pine forest surrounding all the rural homes. It hasn't changed much since I was a kid, and it still has a magical quality that is hard to articulate. When I started considering the setting for The Doe Brother's story there was no other possibility. It was easy to picture Jack and Jimmy walking the quiet country roads and doing odd jobs for crazy old guys like Buford and Cash, who are based lovingly on my great uncles.
I actually first visited Opossum Trot as a writer when working on a comic book a couple years back. The comic didn't work out, but the quirky town has been stewing in the back of my mind for some time now, and I fully intend to go back not only for Hinderwood but for other future projects as well.
Readers may remember Opossum Trot from The Thin House. I actually mentioned the Opossum Trot Funeral Home in the chapter introducing The Auditor. It's no coincidence that book two follows one of the otherworldly bureaucrat's other files, and I think it's safe to assume you will see more of him throughout book two and three. In many ways The Auditor is the glue between the stories and his story is a big part of what I have planned for the finale in book four.
Anyways, I hope you're as excited as I am. I feel like I've been hanging out in Opossum Trot for years now, and I can't wait for you to do the same. Talk soon!
New Book Announcement
I have been waiting for this day for some time. In my experience, writing fiction that hasn't been shared with anyone is learning to live with voices in your head and elaborate invisible worlds that no one else visits. If you do your job right this imaginary world doesn't always feel so imaginary. You can clearly envision the geography, local flora and fauna, and the overall vibe of this place that exists in your head. Not only that, but the citizens of this fictional place become more and more real until you can almost hear them bickering, laughing, and vying for your attention. This phenomenon intensifies until you reach a point where you have to do something about it, or see a therapist.
So to put off having to set up an official appointment with my father-in-law, it's time for a new book. I can now officially announce that the second book in the Jackalope Stories series will be released on February 19th. To celebrate, I would like to reveal the completed cover for The Hinderwood which you can see below.
As I mentioned, The Hinderwood is the second installment of The Jackalope Stories Saga, but much like The Thin House it can be read as a standalone story. However, readers from my first book will appreciate a continuing sub plot that will frame future books and lead to a final story that will tie everything together in a conclusion that's been several years in the making. In the coming weeks you can check back here for more teasers and character spotlights in advance of our February release, but for now check out the back of book summary below. Talk soon!
When Jack and Jimmy Doe left New Orleans to live with a new guardian in Opossum Trot, Mississippi, the brothers thought they would finally live out a normal childhood—at least by their standards. They expected unfair fights with schoolyard bullies, hard work with ornery neighbors, and an endless supply of terrible though well-intended cookies.
But one Halloween night, Jimmy convinces his older brother Jack to break through the chains and locks on a wooden shed behind the town mortuary. By the time Jack rubs the blinding light from his eyes, Jimmy is already gone, stolen away by a pale hand with sharp, yellow nails. While Jimmy struggles against his ravenous captor, Jack can only give chase into a strange world—taking every risk necessary to find his lost brother before time runs out.
Because once spirits in the Hinderwood forget their purpose, they fade… or they feed.
My name is Jake Nickens. I'm a husband, dog owner, and Author of The Thin House.