Thursday, June 13, 2019

D.B. Jackson

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Demon, is the second volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. Time’s Children is volume one; Jackson is working on the third book, Time’s Assassin.

As D.B. Jackson, he also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. As David B. Coe, he is the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy; the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood; a contemporary urban fantasy trilogy, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson; and most recently, Knightfall: The Infinite Deep, a tie-in with the History Channel’s Knightfall series.

Coe has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Last fall, soon after the release of Time’s Children, the first book in my epic fantasy/time travel series, The Islevale Cycle, I wrote a “Writer’s Read” post for this site. At the time, as usual, I was reading a variety of things: novels, short stories, magazines. Like so many writers, I read widely and eclectically. Being a professional writer means as well being a professional reader.

Today, only a week or two removed from the release of Time’s Demon, the second Islevale novel, I could easily write a similar post. I’ve recently read Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest novel, A Brightness Long Ago, so that I could review it for another site. It’s brilliant, as is all of Kay’s work. And, as it happens, I am currently re-reading his Fionavar Tapestry, a favorite of mine from long ago that I return to again and again, like comfort food for the spirit. I have been reading the most recent issue of The New Yorker magazine, savoring articles about politics and science, sports and the arts. I have recently read two books as a Beta reader for friends who are also professional writers, and I have several other novels and short story collections either underway or in the queue. I have no shortage of reading material, and I could easily write paragraphs about it all.

Not too long ago, though, I finished reading yet another book that was unusual for me: Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. It was an unlikely choice for a couple of reasons. First, while I’ve always liked Springsteen’s music, I’ve never been a huge fan. And second, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, and I certainly don’t read a lot of biographies or memoirs. A friend recommended the book to me, and after reading so much fiction, particularly in my genre, I decided the change would do me good. I was right.

Born to Run is not a perfect book. Not by a long shot. There is a lot of ego here, a lot of self-justification as he recounts the ups and downs of various friendships, and a good deal of minutia about the ins and outs of various tours and recording stints.

But there is also gold in these pages, especially for those of us who make our livings creatively.

One passage that fascinated me related that life-altering, culture-shattering moment when he, and the rest of America, first heard the Beatles. It was 1964, and Bruce was fifteen years old.
I first laid ears on them while driving with my mom up South Street, the radio burning brighter before my eyes as it strained to contain the sound, the harmonies of “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Why did it sound so different? Why was it so good? Why was I this excited?
I remember reading Lord of the Rings and The Earthsea Trilogy, and, yes, Guy Kay’s Fionavar books, and feeling exactly the same thing. I had glimpsed a new world of creation and imagination – this thing called “fantasy and science fiction” – a world I’d never known existed. My life would never be the same. More, I had seen my own future. Because I knew early on, the way so many aspiring musicians did hearing the Beatles, that I wanted to create magical stories too. I wanted to be like my new-found heroes.

At another point, Springsteen says, “I was not modest in the assessment of my abilities. Of course I thought I was a phony – that is the way of the artist – but I also thought I was the realest thing you’d ever seen.”

As a creator I relate on a deep level to these sentiments. On the one hand, so many writers I know, myself included, battle with moments of self-doubt, of imposter syndrome. That really is “the way of the artist.” But as writers, we also harbor an uncommon arrogance. We write stories for a living, and we tell readers, “This story is good. Really good. It’s so good, this story that I have made up, that you should spend your money and your time to read it.” That tension, which Springsteen describes so well, is central to what we do. I actually wrote about this not so long ago, in an essay called “The Arrogant Imposter.”

I read a lot of books over the course of a year, and Bruce’s autobiography won’t be close to the best of 2019’s crop. Still, reading his reflections on his career path, and seeing in them a certain universality of the artistic experience, was both edifying and inspiring. To Springsteen’s credit, I’ve thought about his book a great deal since reading it, not just because it was an entertaining read, but because it made me think in new ways about what it means to be a writer.
Learn more about the book and author at D. B. Jackson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Children.

--Marshal Zeringue