Local author Jacqueline West excited about new series, upcoming local events
After a successful run as a playwright, and following up on the success of her "Books of Elsewhere series," Jacqueline West's newest series — the Collectors duology — will bring readers into a whole new world with new wonders and mysteries to explore.
"The Collectors is about all the things we don't notice, specifically the magic that we don't notice. It started with the idea of superstitions. Specifically wishes and how many of us make them without really thinking about who's supposedly granting these wishes and how they come true," West said. "This project has been so fun because I've been able to start it from scratch. You get to feel like you can scrape all the rules and get to go back to the really fun day-dreaming and imagining part. It is good to start over."
West, a Red Wing resident and River Falls High School alumna, will make three appearances locally for author talks and books signings in the next few months, with the first taking place at the Prescott Public Library at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29. The second event will be a reading, chat and signing at the Fox Den Used Books in River Falls, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2. The final talk, Q&A and signing will be at the Hudson Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 11 a.m.
"I'm a very slow and persnickety drafter. For me, this was about a three- or four-year drafting process. I started it before I had my kid, then had him and everything got much more difficult for a while. Then I kind of had this explosion of productivity once he was in preschool," West said. "This book took about half the time it took me to write my first book. The Collectors series will be just two books because I just don't want to do another five-book series at this point in my life."
The main character in the Collectors is a small boy who is hard of hearing, but is especially good at noticing things other people overlook. One day, he sees something he shouldn't be able to see and then he gets drawn into a dangerous, underground network of wish collectors. That is when his life starts to get exciting.
"I didn't know that the main character was going to be hard of hearing until I was more than half-way through my first full draft of the book. Then it felt like it was something that the character told me ... it was just sort of this discovery. Once I realized he was hard of hearing, all the other pieces of the book fell into place," West said. "Everything else had already been there, like the fact that his mother was an opera singer and he had this gift for noticing things. Suddenly with that additional piece, everything made sense."
Although West was initially wary of writing a character who was hard of hearing, she decided that she would go all in and do as much research as possible to make sure she portrayed her character accurately.
"I had help from a bunch of local DHH teachers and students, including in River Falls. Several students there allowed me to follow them around, ask them questions and hang out with them in their classes," West said. "The teachers there, as well as in Red Wing, were extremely helpful. A bunch of kids gave me tremendous input and I tried to weave that all into the story."
The first book in the Collectors duology — titled "The Collectors" — came out on Oct. 9, with the finale of the series coming out in October 2019. Including the finale to the Collectors, West will have three books coming out in 2019, including a middle grade mystery novel in January and a young adult novel in May.
"I usually described it as a fantasy-mystery-adventure. If your interests lie there, I think it would be up your alley. A lot of readers so far have told me that they really love the mix of fear and humor, which is something I always try to go for in my books," West said. "I don't like goofy humor, but I like character-driven humor. Some moments of lightness in the dark."
West's book coming out in January is a collaboration with the Story Pirates — a New York-based improv theater and storytelling troupe that has as popular podcast for kids — who selected West to write a story based on the ideas of a child who won a story idea contest. The idea for West's book, "Digging Up Danger," came from the contest winner and is being illustrated by Hatem Aly. The back of the book includes a guide to writing your own mystery that is put together by the Story Pirates.
"It is a great book for kids who like to write or even just kids who like mysteries. I'm super excited about it," West said. "I never got to communicate with the child, but they gave me her specific story outlines which were pretty detailed. But I had the freedom to make things work."
West is also excited about her new standalone young adult novel coming out in May, called "Last Things." West describes the novel as a modern Minnesotan metal retelling of the legend of the guitarist who sells his soul to the devil.
For more information on upcoming events or about West's other series, visit Jacquelinewest.com.