INTERVIEW WITH J.S. KAPCHINSKE, AUTHOR OF COYOTE SUMMER
What is your name and where do you live?
My name is J.S. Kapchinske (my first name is Jason but growing up everyone called me Kapper). I live in San Diego, California, with my wife and two sons. I love San Diego—the beaches, the happening downtown, the desert and Laguna Mountains to the east. This morning I woke up at dawn and got to surf for an hour before work. There were dolphins in the water. Life is good!
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, I have always wanted to be a writer. As a kid I loved to read. I grew up in the Mountains of Colorado, and we didn’t have a television, so I spent a lot of time reading and then making up games outside that involved the books I’d read. I loved fantasy and adventure stories and a kid, and I dreamed of writing my own books someday.
However, as a grownup I haven’t always had the confidence to chase that dream. In college, I started as a creative writing major, but I ended up switching to biology. I love being outside, exploring wild places, and learning about the amazing plants and animals we share this planet with, so biology was a good fit too. But I didn’t really feel complete in my career until I started pursuing writing on the side.
What is the name of your latest book? If you had to summarize it in one sentence what would you say?
Coyote Summer. Hmmm, one sentence is tough… After his father’s unexpected death, it takes a wild-eyed tomboy, a litter of orphaned coyote pups and a mysterious old lady to help Heath Jenkins rediscover joy and beauty in the world.
Do you have a favorite character from Coyote Summer?
I really like Annie in Coyote Summer. I like that she is a little rough around the edges. I like her spunk and the fiery side of her personality. I like how that part of her personality mixes with her softer, more vulnerable side. I definitely would have had a crush on her when I was young.
How did you come up with the title and cover design for Coyote Summer? Who designed the cover?
The title just sort of came to me… and it fit. It sounded like a summer I’d like to experience—Coyote Summer. The cover art for the book was done by a wonderful artist named Samantha Wiley. She does some really great stuff, and you can see a little bit of it at http://www.samwileydesign.com. I especially like the pictures from her series Welcome to the 27 Club—Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. She also makes fun app games for Apple products. You can search her name at the Apple App Store and find some fun stuff.
Do you plot your books before you actually begin writing? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I do plot my books before I start. I use rough outlines that can be up to 30 pages… but I definitely stray from them once I start writing. I love the unexpected twists that come up as I’m creating the story, and I love getting to know the characters and seeing where they want to go.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
I have too many hobbies. I can’t find time for all of them! I love to surf, ski and backpack. I play the violin and mandolin, and my sons play guitar and drums, so we get to jam together sometimes. I really enjoy reading—all types of genres, but lately I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction. I find meditation really useful in my life, but I haven’t been very good about doing it consistently. And I love just sitting on the front porch sipping a hot cup of tea and petting the dog. I have a tiny Chihuahua, which is really funny to me. I never thought I’d have a tiny dog, and I was actually grumpy when my wife brought him home, but I fell in love with him so fast, and now we’re great buddies.
Do you think schools these days encourage kids to read and use their creativity enough?
My sons are both in elementary school (2nd and 5th grades), and they are encouraged to read a lot outside of school, as homework. However, there is so much emphasis on achievement tests these days that a lot of the creative activities that went along with reading when I was a kid (and made school fun for me) don’t happen anymore. It’s not the teachers’ fault. They have such a tough job these days with huge class sizes, low budgets, and overemphasis on tests. And there are great teachers out there that find ways to incorporate fun, creative activities into the standard curriculum. Both of my kids have great teachers, and they are both doing some imaginative writing and other creative activities. To be honest, I think the problem lies more in the home than in the schools. Parents need to take responsibility for limiting the time kids spend on television and computer games. Give your kids opportunities to be creative through imaginative play, unstructured time outside, and time for free reading.
Do you have a treasured book from your childhood?
One book that has really stuck with me over the years is Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. I love the story and the transformation that Jay Berry goes through. I actually still have a tattered paperback copy that was signed by the author in 1978, and I’ve now read it to each of my sons. It is a beautiful story. I love it.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Sit your butt down and write! That’s it. That’s the secret. It’s a lot of work. Make time for it every day. Be consistent. And read a lot.
What can we expect from you in the future? More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I have completed a draft of a dystopian young adult novel, and I am currently working with an editor on revisions. It is entitled Alone, and it will be released in 2014.
I am also working on a nonfiction book for an adult audience. It centers on a 200 mile backpacking trip that I’m completing with my wife and two sons this summer, and it explores our culture’s relationship to nature and the importance of helping our children connect to wild places. The trail is called the John Muir Trail, and you can learn more about what we’re up to and why by reading this post from my blog Mud on Your Feet: http://www.mudonyourfeet.blogspot.com/2013/02/john-muir-trail.html. Starting in September, I will also be posting an extensive series of photos and journal entries from the trip, so please follow along.
Where can readers find Coyote Summer?
It’s available from all major eBook retailers. Here are a few links: