Interview with Jean Knight Pace and Jacob Kennedy, authors of Grey Stone and Grey Lore

Interview with Jean Knight Pace and Jacob Kennedy

Jean Knight Pace and Jacob Kennedy are co-authors of Grey Stone and Grey Lore. They are continuing to work together on an upcoming series.

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In Grey Stone the reader discovers the land of the great red sun where dogs sing, wolves kill, humans serve, and wolf-shifters rule with magic and menace.

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In a different time, Grey Lore brings the reader on a journey where rogue wolves begin to stalk the edges of town and a serial killer with a penchant for silver bullets draws closer; the city of Napper seems to wake up.

Michelle:

Hello Jean and Jacob,
I’ve never had the chance to interview a dual authorship before. I loved having the opportunity to read Grey Stone and am anticipating reading Grey Lore. (It’s part of my back-to-school purchases!) I couldn’t wait to hear your thoughts on the first book.

How did the two of you decide to work on a book together? And what were the challenges or advantages in your decision?

Jean:

We were friends from church and Jake had an idea for a book. He knew I was a writer and he approached me about it. I LOVED the idea, we started talking about different ideas and backstory, and Grey Stone was born. There were lots of advantages. One of the things I felt the most beneficial is that we were able to produce a book that works for boys and girls. Jake would jump in when it got too dialogue-y, and I kept it from being a series of constant battles. 🙂 So there was some gender balancing there. Also, each of us was able to find different holes or weaknesses, and that was helpful. One advantage/disadvantage is that we don’t always agree on how something should play out. The ruth is that I think in the end this is more of a strength. We might argue some points, but it makes us think harder and dig deeper about things that are potentially problematic. As far as disadvantages, when you share authorship, you have to split the cash. But since we’re making oodles of Money, this hasn’t been an issue. Just kidding – well, it hasn’t been an issue, but we’re not quite making oodles just yet.

Jacob:

One day when I woke up, my wife surprised me with an odd statement. She said, “Last night I dreamed Mr. Witten (my daughter Ella’s grade school teacher) is a werewolf.” That was the beginning of the series. That’s the short version of a long story.

I’m a physician, and obviously my career has not been focused on writing, but I have always enjoyed it. I routinely treat urinary tract infections, sepsis, and things like hip dislocations. Like most ER doctors I enjoy saving lives, and I perform life-saving and diagnostic procedures like endotracheal intubation, performing laceration repairs, and lumbar punctures. However, these things don’t allow much of a creative outlet, and so I have written a lot over the years. Having a partner like Jean allows me to work out story lines, plots and develop characters without devoting the extensive time required to publish a book, as she is very good at making the story into a finished and polished project.

The disadvantage of having a co-author is that someone has to have the last word on the finished project, and I have given that to Jean. There are times that we disagree where the story lands, and it’s different than I would have had it. However, like any good collaboration, it ends up fantastic in the end anyway.

Jean:

Haha. That’s true. Jake does give me the final word. And someone does have to have it. Which can be tricky in a co-authorship, but without it I’m not sure how co-authors would succeed. I try to be flexible and I think we mostly end up agreeing, but there are a few points that Jake has just conceded. And thank goodness he’s been cool about that (thanks, Jake).

Michelle:

I love how you’re honest with the challenges. It would be unrealistic to think that everything is always a proverbially bed of roses.

Did each of you focus on different aspects of the book to tap into your person strengths?

Jean: 

Actually, no. For Grey Stone, we would get together about once a week and hash out ideas for upcoming chapters. I would go home and write those chapters, then send them to Jake. He would give a thumbs up or say that he thought something was missing in a certain section, or that he realized we hadn’t made the most of a  plot opportunity. Then we’d re-write and re-work.

Jacob:

I tried to make sure the story had enough action, and plot twists. I like epic stories with strong themes, and characters who learn their strengths through experience, and difficulty. I think people relate to this, because we are all on such a journey to find strength through the challenges we face. I contributed to Grey Stone in our weekly meetings, and occasionally wrote out a full scene for Jean to work out. For example, there is a scene where Wittendon goes into a cave, and faces phantoms. I wrote that portion and then Jean put it in the story.

Michelle:

I can see how that streamlined the process of working together for the final product.

I’ve always said it’s a combination of characters, story and setting that sets a book apart. What are your key elements when creating a novel? Do you have a method for combining these elements?

Jean:

I love character and story. I’m not sure we have what anyone would call a method (do we, Jake?). Often in discussing the upcoming sections, things just seemed to spring up and take form. We’ve worked (and are working) on several books together, and I feel like Grey Stone was the one where this happened the easiest. One of us would propose something (be it a character or a scene) and the other would build upon it and it would kind of bloom. Then we would edit the heck out of it for four million years, but a lot of the characters and story lines we came up with in those original discussions remained true to our original concept of them, even though they got polished and changed somewhat.

Jacob:

I like a smart story that resonates with me. I enjoy reading and writing clever dialogue that helps the reader appreciate the character, and imparts real wisdom. These are some of the key elements that matter the most to me. Putting these elements in a setting that is unique makes a great book, as it helps the reader consider a world they have never conceptualized before. I think Grey Stone accomplished this.

Michelle:

In Grey Stone, I felt like Whittendon was one of the most complex characters in the book. Without spilling too big of secrets, how did his character change and were you surprised by his choices?

Jean:

It’s good this isn’t a live interview because I really had to think about this one. Wittendon is definitely a crowd favorite (from the very first draft, our boys loved him). I think we always knew that he would morph into something amazing. I’m not sure I realized how sincere and deep he would become (or how charming he would be to the girl crowd – I’ve heard several swoon over him). The scene at the end with Sarak kind of surprised me when we came into it. And it’s still one of my favorite scenes in the book.

Jacob:

I like Wittendon because he is the underdog in this story. He has many challenges, but in the end (without giving away too much) he finds inner strength, and offers himself for a greater good. I wasn’t as surprised by his choices as I was by the choice of the race of dogs. They offered mankind so much, as they do today.

Michelle:

The race of dogs were very interesting and their priorities were different than I might have expected. This is one of those details that makes Grey Stone unique.

Another interesting character is Pietre.  Frequently children are portrayed as being precocious, but he retains his naive, child-like qualities while becoming heroic. How did you make the decisions for his character? Did he speak to you?

Jean:

This in an interesting questions, and something I’ve actually thought quite a bit about. So many child characters are precocious in some way or another. There were time s I worried that we’d left Pietre too normal. But for me it was a conscious decision. I wanted him to be an every day kind of character – no magical powers, no genius. But a very big heart. I wanted the choices of the characters to be more important than what their powers were. In Pietre’s case, that meant that he remained a regular boy. With some big decisions to make.

Jacob:

I found that Pietre lived a life that was full and adventurous. I liked that he serves as a role model for young people today. I ask my kids all the time, “Why don’t you go outside and play? Fight some werewolves and run with the wild dogs.” There just isn’t enough of this going on today.

Michelle:

I just read an article about how children are so focused on screen-time that they don’t play. Exciting books are a great way for our kids to learn how to fight the werewolves again.

The first line in chapter one reads,: “Pietre watched the red sun as it hunched over the horizon like a fiery bear about to relax into sleep; he quickened his steps.”

I felt the angst Pietre felt being out when the sun was nearly set – the ominous red sun dominating the horizon. how much did you agonize over the first sentence? (Was it at the top in the four million revisions?) Did you have a check list of the items you wanted covered in the first line?

Jean:

I’m so glad you like the first sentence! It was actually the very first image that came to me after the very first time Jake and I decided to create this book. Every day, the sun is a ticking clock for the humans (who must be in their villages before it sets, or the wolves will be released to hunt them). I loved that concept and the idea of a big red sun about to go down as a human boy hurries home. I didn’t have a checklist, just a feeling for the weight of that sun.

Jacob:

I know jean did, but it turned out fantastic!

Michelle:

In the Grey Stone world there’s been a battle between which sun – the red or the white – dominates and influences the species. Did you think through the mechanics and possible scenarios of how the sun would change everything that didn’t make it into the book? Each species would obviously have a different role, but what would happen to crops, the wilderness, disease and city planning?

Jean:

Haha. I did not consider all those things actually (should I confess this?).  I did consider how it would change the characters and their relationships with one another and their posterity, as well as a few basics about the world. In Grey Lore you will read more about that. Be warned that Grey Lore is a companion book, not exactly a sequel. So the books are connected to one another, but they are quite different and set in completely different time periods.

Jacob:

I definitely imagined the world from the eyes of the four races, and what the changes meant for them as individuals and different but dependent species. The changes were cataclysmic, but in the end brought about the world we know today. While change brings challenges, it also brings great opportunities as you will se in Grey Lore.

Michelle:

Even though you worked on this project together, there is so much to be written (and doctoring to do), I can imagine you both have your fingers in multiple book projects. What are your newest projects and is anything scheduled for a  publish date?

Jean:

Jake and I are working on another series that we’re incredibly excited about. We’re calling it The Determiner series. It’s a story set in the White House. It’s near completion, and we’ll start shopping it around this year. Wish us luck! Here’s a bit about it:

When Henry uncovers an assassination plot against his father, the president, he knows he has to stop it. But as secrets held in the White House grounds begin to surface, Henry starts to wonder if it’s really the president at stake; or something even more powerful.

On a completely different end of the writerly spectrum, I also have a short collection of essays about my mother and cancer. It’s about some of the bright spots in that dark time. It’s titled Hugging Death: Essays on Motherhood and Saying Goodbye.

And on another completely different end of the spectrum, I’ve been helping a friend write her memoir about her life with drugs – using, selling, and eventually recovering. It’s a sad, then beautiful story that I hope helps a lot of people. With luck it will be published at the end of this year or the beginning of next. It’s named Four Seconds by Laura Andrade.

Jacob: 

I’m working on the Determiner series, and have been working on a few other projects that are still taking form.

Michelle:

I’m glad to hear that you’re both busy on lots of projects. I can hardly wait to read more.

What is the best advice you received as a writer, and what would you say to encourage other writers?

Jean:

The best advice I received as a writer was to write when my children nap (I know; you’re supposed to nap when they nap, but I didn’t; I wrote). Don’t do the dishes. Don’t balance the budget. Don’t watch TV. Just give yourself a piece of time every day to write. I’ve been surprised at the amount of writing I get done in a sometimes brief but consecrated time every day. And that is the advice  I would give all writers. Give yourself time to write regularly. It doesn’t have to be huge. But it has to be. Don’t feel guilty about it. And don’t worry if some thing that are less important to you fall by the way (hello, last week’s laundry).

Jacob:

The advice I would give is to read stories, and write every day. I also listen to books, and so I am excited that Grey Stone will be on audio soon so people like me can listen as well.

Michelle:

Thank you for all your time today! It’s been such a pleasure hearing more about writing together and the ins and outs of Grey Stone.  It’s great to know that there are more books on the horizon to tempt our kids into a different world, as well as for our own healing and joy.

Jean:

Thanks! 

Jacob:

Thank you.

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To keep up to date, you can check in on Jean Knight Pace on her website, where she posts updates and sales!

Jacob Kennedy, in addition to being a doctor, keeps his writing fans in the loop and has another post for you to check out.

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About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow cooked in a tagine. Weekly I get together with friends and go to yoga for a bit of mommy time. Some may find me quirky, I prefer to think I am one of a kind.
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