In your opinion, what are the top three reasons why teens or adults should consider picking up Gigged the next time they see it online or in stores?
1. Gigged is not just a story but an experience. My favorite books are those where the characters stay with me when I finish, and I think J.T. is that kind of character.
2. Originality and Complexity. Gigged is different than what most teens are exposed to, in form and subject matter. The story is accessible to reluctant readers while at the same time giving experienced readers a unique experience, a chance to dig into the more psychological aspects of the characters. It’s also a completely different experience the second time through it.
3. The Question. Gigged poses several questions about what we see as right and wrong about our world and ourselves. I am a firm believer in the role of literature to pose questions, not to provide answers. The question makes us think, gives us a chance to discover, to ask more questions.J.T. is the main character in Gigged, so can you tell us a little bit about him. Also, if you could offer him any advice, what would you say?
J.T. is a complicated teenager that tries to do everything in his power to make his world uncomplicated. He wants everything to be clear-cut, right way, wrong way. He doesn’t realize that life is rarely black and white; it is more often varying shades of gray. There is often more than just one answer. He is the victim of trauma and has no real skills to deal with the results of that trauma. J.T. really does care about other people, but it so hard for him to show that he cares because he wants to avoid his own emotions. If he faces his internal self, that means facing pain he works so hard to avoid. He wants to be “right” and “good.” If I were to give J.T. some advice, I guess I would try to teach him that he has to be good to himself. I know that would be a hard job because J.T. doesn’t think he deserves that.From the summary of Gigged it seems like J.T. has faced a lot of grief and despair in his life from the death of his parents, which leaves to wonder if this was drawn from your own personal experiences. Also, do you have any advice for teens who may be in the same position as J.T.?
Fortunately, I have not experienced the pain and grief that J.T. endures. I guess I wrote from a place of overwhelming hope for him. The only experience I share with J.T. is perhaps an unwavering focus on a goal, almost to an unhealthy level. I guess we both don’t know how to give ourselves a break, room to make mistakes. As far as advice for teens in a similar position as J.T., I would say find someone you can trust with your pain. One of the tragedies of J.T.’s situation is that he tries to carry the whole load on his own, believing that he is perfectly capable of doing so. None of us can carry that much weight, regardless of experience, age, or wisdom. So teens shouldn’t feel weak or inadequate for seeking support or comfort in someone they trust.Out of all the characters in Gigged, do you have a favorite?
I like most of them for different reasons. I guess each one has at least a piece of me in them – Mr. Coffeen for his wisdom and strength, each cadet for his/her own individuality in a situation that calls for conformity, Sergeant Maddox for his desire to see others push themselves to places they didn’t think they could go, Mrs. Hernandez for her compassion and tenderness, and of course, the teacher in me likes Ms. Francis.
I really wanted the novel to be about the perpetuation of violence, regardless of the source of that violence. It is a cycle that must be broken. I also really want readers to question which role they would play in this story. Who would they be? We have to realize that we all play a part of others’ lives, whether we know it or not. The hope for J.T. is found in those characters that are willing to step up and take some responsibility for him.If Gigged had a theme song, what would it be?
“There Ain’t No Reason” by Brett Dennen. The song is about the tragedy of how we allow things to happen. A weapon doesn’t have to be a gun. Bad things happen, but the tragedy isn’t that they happen but rather our inaction when they do. That is part of how J.T. evolves into the teenager that he is. Yes, there are characters that try to help him, but the question that still hangs out there is, “How could nobody have noticed?” Maybe they chose not to notice.How does it feel to know that Gigged is now in stores?
It is definitely something I am still trying to get used to. For so long, J.T.’s story was just between me and my laptop. I had to go to some dark places to get Gigged written so it is a bit weird that people are going to be going into J.T.’s world. I still haven’t had a real discussion about the book with anyone besides my editor. I am looking forward to doing that.If you could live in any book besides your own for a day, which would you choose? Why?
Whoa, that is tough, so I think I am going to have to cheat a little. People who know me already know the answer to this question – Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. I’d like to believe I would have been a student who would stand next to Jerry. Although scary, I think it would be fun to fight against the power of the Vigils and Brother Leon. And Han Nolan’s Born Blue, about a girl with an unusually powerful singing voice and an obsession with Etta James. I’d love to hear her voice just one time.What’s your typical day like?
My typical day during the school year is riding my motorcycle to school, working my tail off trying to teach my students to be better readers, thinkers, and writers, then working out or or going for a ride on my mountain bike. If I haven’t crashed myself into a tree or sent myself over the handlebars, then I’ll cook dinner when I get home. I love the kitchen. I do write on Tuesday nights religiously, and on the weekends.Quick! Name three random things about you!
I play the guitar and the banjo. The only book I read in high school was 1984, which is why I am such an advocate for young adult fiction. Someone should have put the stuff in my hands. And I’ve actually hit a hole in one. I didn’t even know I did it. I thought I lost the ball so I just went to the next hole. The guys playing behind me had to bring the ball to me and let me know.What’s next for you book wise?
I finished a manuscript a few months ago, and I am waiting for feedback from my editor on changes that need to be made. It is a story about senior in high school who is a volunteer fireman in a rural town in Alabama. The narrator has a bit of a savior complex and thinks he can save everybody from whatever it is that could harm them. Of course, he doesn’t realize that maybe the one who needs to be saved is him. I am also about eight chapters into something else. I can’t help it. I have to work all the time.Is there anything else you would like to add?
I guess that I hope Gigged reaches those teens who maybe haven’t found that book that they can really get their hands around. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I especially want boys to read it. In high school, you don’t see too many boys carrying novels that aren’t required for class. It would be nice to see that change at least a little.~~~
Thanks, Heath! I'm looking forward to reading Gigged soon.