True Colorz is your web source for all things YA in the LGBTQ community! Our blog features new releases, featured authors, interviews, and reviews/recommended reading.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Featured Author: Jay Jordan Hawke

Jay Jordan Hawke spent way too much time in college and holds a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in history, as well as a second master’s in Outdoor Education. He loves everything sci-fi, especially Star Trek, and hopes to be on the first starship out of here. In the meantime, he teaches high school full time and anxiously awaits the day when he can write full time. His hobbies include camping, reading, running, writing, and attending powwows. He resides in one of the Great Lakes states near the capital of Tecumseh’s confederacy. Jay Hawke loves to interact with fans through social media.

Connect with Jay Jordan Hawke on Twitter @JayJordanHawke or visit his website:

Q&A with Author Jay Jordan Hawke:

  1. In what way is your story unique compared to other books in this genre?

    Very few books deal with Native Americans, let alone a gay, Native American teen. Even fewer show what Native American life is like, today, on a reservation. I was at a powwow a few years ago, something I've been doing for years, and it hit me what a great story it would be to follow a Native American teen participating in a powwow competition. Nothing like that had been done before. At the same time, I wanted to expose people to the dramatic contrast between Christian views towards gay people and Native American views. You get that dramatic contrast in the character of Joshua. He was raised by a conservative Christian family off the reservation and suddenly finds himself back on the reservation at a time when he is coming to terms with his sexuality. You see through his character the dramatic differences between the two cultures.

  2. What part of the story was the most fun to write? The most challenging?

    The most challenging turned out to be one of the culminating scenes in the book involving the competition powwow that Joshua participates in. I've been going to powwow's my whole life and have done some dancing myself, but describing it in a way that does justice to how it feels – that proved a monumental task for me as a writer. But it was ultimately a very satisfying one as well. In terms of the most fun to write – I love writing humorous dialogue, and I had the freedom to do plenty of that in this novel. If you find yourself laughing at any of the dialogue, know that I'm right there laughing with you. My favorite scene, for example, involved Joshua pouring out his heart and soul to his best friend, Mokwa. He gets a very unexpected response. That's the way life is sometimes. You think something is the biggest deal in the world, and your friends just want you to lighten up.

  3. Do you believe in ghosts?

    My story has a lot of supernatural elements in it, as does its sequel. Since the book immerses the readers in Ojibwe life on the reservation, I felt I couldn't do justice to the story without demonstrating how pervasive the supernatural, the mystical, whatever you want to call it, is on the reservation. And some of it, I do believe in—especially the power of dreams, which is a central element in the story. The lead character, Joshua, discovers that through dreams, he can peer into the future and capture brief, often puzzling, fragments of what is to come. I do believe there is a larger reality beyond the one we know about – and that one can access that through dreams. What you access manifests itself partly through your own cultural beliefs. If that makes sense to you, then you get me.

  4. Which of your characters is most like you?

    That's a good one! I actually had an argument about this with someone. I think most writers would say that there is a part of them in every character they write. But I'm told that I'm a lot like the lead gay protagonist, Joshua. My intentions with Joshua, however, was really to create a character that does NOT embody my personal weaknesses. Joshua is courageous, and talented, and confident, which is not to say he doesn't have his self-doubts. But he overcomes everything life throws at him, no matter how terrible. I wish I were like Joshua, and I'm flattered that anyone would think I am. But alas, I created him because he's the person I wish I were, not the person I feel I am. Heck, he is the person pretty much everyone wishes they were like. Now, in the sequel to Pukawiss, entitled A Scout is Brave, I have a character named Robby, who is ruthlessly bullied. That's me basically. And Joshua is the friend I wish I had when that was happening.

  5. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?

    Oh, this is going to be fun. It would be so easy to say flying like superman, or climbing buildings like spider-man. BUT, one of my all time favorite movies is Beastmaster, which is about a man outcast from his tribe due to his unnatural ability to communicate with animals. What would I do with this ability? Never be alone, I guess.

  6. What would you like young readers to take away from your novels?

    I would like my readers to understand that the stigma against homosexuality is the only thing that is not natural. It is also not universal. My two young adult novels celebrate a very common Native American tradition that revered gay people. It may seem like the whole world, and all of history, is against you. But that simply is not true. Imagine living in a world where as a gay person you are considered something extra special and that you were in fact touched by God. That's a radically different world from the one most gay teens grow up in today. I want people to see what that is like through the eyes of my protagonist, Joshua.

Now Available from Jay Jordan Hawke:

Pukawiss: The Outcast When family complications take Joshua away from his fundamentalist Christian mother and leave him with his grandfather, he finds himself immersed in a mysterious and magical world. Joshua’s grandfather is a Wisconsin Ojibwe Indian who, along with an array of quirky characters, runs a recreated sixteenth-century village for the tourists who visit the reservation. Joshua’s mother kept him from his Ojibwe heritage, so living on the reservation is liberating for him. The more he learns about Ojibwe traditions, the more he feels at home.

One Ojibwe legend in particular captivates him. Pukawiss was a powerful manitou known for introducing dance to his people, and his nontraditional lifestyle inspires Joshua to embrace both his burgeoning sexuality and his status as an outcast. Ultimately, Joshua summons the courage necessary to reject his strict upbringing and to accept the mysterious path set before him.

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