Like many young men in high school cursed with a dash of creativity, Jim found a love for writing, which everybody else thought was practically useless. Those folks urged him to get good at math and science instead, and so he worked at those, but he was never sure if he could hack them out at a university level. After he graduated said university with an arts degree (where he had to read an awful lot), he wondered what other young people had gone through the same thing. It’s always been his dream to inspire young men and women to pursue STEM projects, as he thinks the world could use as many helping hands it can get and he thinks they are up to the challenge.
In other news, he grew up near Toronto, Canada and devoured any written adventure he could find, including many of the works written by Kenneth Oppel, D. J. MacHale, Christopher Paolini, and Rick Riordan. Later on, it was Jim Butcher, R.A. Salvator, Hajime Isayama, and Tsugumi Ohba who fueled him through his early adult years and to whom he associates much of his personal growth to.
HUNTED BY FIRE
What is fifteen-year-old Felix Deltorei supposed to do when he longs for rebellion? In his world, where the dragon Gods reign with barbaric force, such thoughts could cost him his life.
The risks have been drilled into Felix and his friends since they were children. The war between humans and the winged Gods ended with a treaty; humanity would serve them or be driven extinct. Hundreds of years later, under the watchful eyes of the Gods and their devoted followers, those same laws remain.
Felix knows he has to find his place in the world before he’s found out. Surrounded by teachers who only ever value faith, obedience, but also technological advancement, Felix strives to achieve security and a better life in the only way he knows how; with his inventive mind. However, just as he gets his chance, one of the province’s famed inquisitors arrives in town. Little does Felix know, the devastating events about to take place will risk exposing him, but they will also push him out into a journey that might mean the deaths of the ones he loves if he can’t escape in time.
Stephen: today on Discover Wordsmith, I wanna welcome Jim Hepburn.
Jim good afternoon. How are you doing? It’s a bright, sunny spring day here. How about you?
Jim: Yeah, no, it’s good, Stephen. Thanks for having me. It’s it’s kinda cloudy, overcast, but it’s warm, so that’s what
Stephen: matters sometimes. To let our audience know a little bit about who you are, tell us some of the things you like to do, where you live, and things you do besides writing.
Jim: Yeah, sure. So I live up in Canada. I’m right around the Toronto area there. And I I spend a lot of my time when I’m out riding, I usually either cook or do I do lots of jiujitsu also. I love doing that. Getting beat up for fun is great. And and yeah, between that, hanging out with my dog and my fiance and then writing that that captures about 95% of the time that’s there.
Stephen: So what’s your favorite thing to cook?
Jim: Oh, pizza, hands down. I yeah, no, I you know what was funny? It was my family has always loved pizza forever, and I could eat pizza every day of the week if I had the opportunity. But for Christmas, my mother gave me this. Book this pizza Bible written by a 12 time pizza champion in New York or something like that.
So I studied up on it and got the pizza stone and the pizza pan. And I went to town on that a couple times and I like to do that when I have time. But It’s it’s awesome.
Stephen: I’d love to get an outside pizza oven. One of those brick pizza ovens they have.
Jim: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That would be the dream. One day right now, I just, I gotta make with the oven and trying to peel the thing off the, and when I shove it in there and Yeah, I’ve, yeah, maybe one day I’ll be a pizza master, maybe down the road for my grandkids,
Stephen: but Pizza Master or a Jiujitsu Master, one of those maybe.
So you take jiujitsu, is it mixed, like kids and adults or do you just take adult classes?
Jim: Nope. No. It’s specifically adult classes. And it’s any, it’s pretty much anybody over 18 you jump in and Nice and ju jujitsu’s interesting. It’s so interesting about it is you can you jump into it and your weight.
Doesn’t matter when you’re really good at it. In a way, it’s our coach actually, so I’m six foot, I’m 185 pounds. I like to keep in shape as much as I can. Our coach is a guy, he is in his thirties and he’s 135 pounds. So very small, and he’s phenomenal. It’s amazing what you can do when you know the art really well and how you can defend yourself with it.
It’s, Obsessive, in a lot of ways. Yes.
Stephen: Nice. Yeah, I took a style called Kwan, it’s Korean. Oh, for years with my kids. Yeah. Oh, wow. I love that. I actually, I think the guy that does Kwan and the guy that originated Jiujitsu in America, I think they’re like friends. They actually know each other.
Oh. So I think if I remember the history, something like that. But anyway why did you wanna start writing?
Jim: I started writing because I really felt like I needed to. It was something that let me rewind. So I started write about when I was 25 and for the longest time, you, you consume books all if you really like fancy and literature.
You consume books all the time. And I got to the point where I went to school and I had to then start consuming books for to pass as opposed for fun, as opposed to for fun. And. I got edited for a little while and I came back to it and work was pretty smooth and things were going well, but I felt like something was missing and I wanted to do something more constructive with my hobby time.
And I had always tried to write a book, back when you were 16, 17, you might pull out a piece of paper and scribble on something and try to see how that works before getting completely overwhelmed. And so I wanted to go back to that and then, It started off as a see if I could do it sort of thing, and it just kept evolving as I wrote more and more chapters before turning into the debut novel there, hunted by fire.
And then afterwards I really tried to turn it into something that I thought I would’ve really loved when I was 13, 14, 15, 16 age. Yeah.
Stephen: Nice. Okay, so let’s talk about that book. Tell us a little bit about it. Give us a title again and a little bit about it without, giving away the whole story.
Jim: Yeah, no problem. So it’s called Hunted by Fire. It’s a young adult fantasy, and it’s about a, it’s about a young boy, 15 year old boy, and in his world, humanities ruled over by the tyrannical barbaric dragon gods. And they’ve been ruling over humanity for thousands of years and. The status quo is is it’s not good, I guess let’s say that.
And and so this boy, unlike most others around him, like his friends and his family, he feels like something’s off. Like how they’re being treated isn’t right. And so he dreams of rebelling, but he’s stuck too because he’s young and he needs to hide those thoughts while trying to find his own place in the world from people who might wanna seek him out.
And so this boy, he’s not combat trained though he’d like to be, and he isn’t exactly charismatic like some of his friends are. But he’s clever. He’s got a knack for building and inventing and for science and engineering, and. And coming up in this hometown as this famous contest held by the gods to determine who the smartest and most determined young people are.
And so our protagonist, this boy, he wants to enter and he wants to do it not just to prove what he can do to everybody else, but also to help find his own place going forward in the future. But in the background, there’s some events happening unbeknownst to him that That are gonna cause some, maybe some scary and some familiar people to come looking for him.
And he’s gotta get gritty and get resourceful if he’s gonna have any hope of escaping them.
Stephen: Nice. Great. And I like the elements in there, the fantasy. It sounds a similar to what I’ve got coming of age type fantasy stories. Those are some of my, I love those. So why did you wanna write, I’m sorry, go ahead.
Jim: I was just gonna say, which kinds did you read there?
Stephen: That I read. I like Warden. Oh yeah. When I was reading JK Rowling to my kids and when I first started writing, I’m like, okay, she’s like the biggest, let’s do what she does, and that’s. So I live by Kent State and they do a wizarding world Festival every year.
So I said, oh, I’ll write a short story. That way I can have something and set up an author table, I can offer it for five bucks or something. Sure. And that short story turned into not just one full novel, but a planned five to seven bucks series. So Oh, wow. She was my inspiration. But I actually think I write style wise a little bit more like den Oh yeah.
Okay. What, are there any books out there that you would say are similar to yours?
Jim: Yeah, I tried to write it in a way similar to maybe Christopher Paulini and Aragon. It they’re thicker books for sure. A hundred by Fires, 400 and some pages there. Wow. But I would say most like Aragon I suppose.
And then with elements of. Maybe some Brent Weeks or Jim Butcher down the road, but those are more adult style books. I, yeah. Yeah. So I was trying to, when I was writing it there, I wanted to bridge the gap a little bit and see if we could get some of those elements.
Stephen: with younger guys, arguably Jim Butcher he’s not too explicit or out there with either violence or sex and stuff like, like that, no. If my kids were 12 or something, I’d have no problem with them reading the dresses and stuff.
Jim: Yeah, the dresses and stuff’s amazing. It’s so great.
Stephen: actually in the middle of the first one, that’s the first time I’ve read it. Oh
Jim: really? Yeah. You’re in for a wild ride. If you wanna stick with it, it’s he writes fast-paced action scenes very well, very clear, very easy to visualize. It’s awesome
Stephen: stuff. Yeah.
I’ve been enjoying it. My son kept pushing me for it cuz he loves ’em. Oh. Yeah. So he’s still young. He has lots of time to read, so he reads a whole lot more than I do.
Jim: Yeah. It’s funny. We have so much time when we’re younger to read and do all that stuff and then we get older and things get in the way and,
You have to be choosy with your time sometimes, especially when you have kids. Yeah.
Stephen: I was just gonna say, you said fiance, so I imagine there’s gonna be a wedding someday and probably kids someday, so Yeah. You don’t know what not having time is like yet.
Jim: That’s true. That’s part of the game plan. I like to prize the time that I have right now.
Cause I know it’s gonna be gone very soon, but it’s a
Stephen: good gone it. It really is. And I think that’s part, I enjoyed my kids when they were young and I think that’s part of the reason I enjoy writing middle grade. Fiction so much, partly because my kids say that’s just, I’m like a 12 year old, so it fits so What ha.
Have you had any good feedback from readers? What have people been saying about your books?
Jim: Yeah, I’ve had lots of great feedback. It’s been awesome. You get feedback from friends and family, which is one thing, but the prized feedback is really the feedback from people outside yourself that make its way back to you.
Yeah. And it’s been great. Like lots of kids especially who’s who the book is for. They’ve read it and they’ve loved the action scenes. They love the main character. They loved the They love the the kind of steam punkish feel to the fantasy. And they like supporting a character who’s got some got some intelligence behind him who’s resourceful, who can solve some problems that way as opposed to with just I guess just combat prowess in a sense, which is what a lot of things are doing right.
But Yeah, I, no it’s been very encouraging. It’s been
Stephen: great. Yeah. Nice. It, I was gonna say your main character sounds a little bit like the fantasy world version of MacGyver, which I’m all for. I
Jim: love that. You know what, I, I don’t know MacGyver, I’ve heard the name. I can’t, you’re young.
Okay. I say that cuz the original MacGyver the actor Richard Dean Anderson, that was my favorite show when I was younger. And that’s one of the things that started me. I wanted to write a story with a character like that and I actually met him a couple weeks ago. I was very excited. Life.
Wow. Fan. Got to meet him. You should, I think it’s on Amazon Prime. You should find or cbs. Bs. It’s CBS bs. You should find an episode or two and just watch it because the way you described your character sounds a lot like him, even though they’re getting a little outdated for shows, but Oh yeah.
There you go. I’ll have to check that out then. Maybe I was inspired by it. So there
Stephen: you go. Speaking of shows, if you had a choice, what would you rather turn this into? A, a TV or a movie?
Jim: TV shows are so nice that you get to cover so much more content in the, over the span of a TV show. I guess I’d have to go with that for sure.
It’s I think probably like any content creator, Would love to have shows, delve into the nuances of all their storytelling that they have there. Some things get lost in a movie, but movies are nice too, cuz they have that completion factor. You get the closure at the end for sure.
Which sometimes you worry about with a long TV show.
Stephen: So you had plans for more books in this series or was this a standalone?
Jim: No I’m writing avidly. I so I work full-time. This is this is something that I do as a side as building the dream sort of idea. So right now I’m about three quarters through the second one in terms of finishing that.
And then yeah, I’m gonna make many more hopefully just to keep building on it and having fun and exploring the world and seeing what the characters can do,
Stephen: nice. Yeah. That. Do you have plans for how many books are gonna be in the series or are you just writing ’em as you think of ’em right now?
Jim: Yeah. I don’t wanna overextend the story. I want to have, at least I always thought in my head to have at least five for sure. 10 seems like a stretch when you’re only done book one, working on book two. You never know. But I think if it’s, if there’s something there that people really like and that people respond to, then I can see myself writing it for a long time and Right.
And really like I said, just really. Exploring the full length of it, of all the characters that are in there and the story that could be had and making something that could be really epic and fun that somebody could, a kid ideally, maybe you could really sink into on book one and be excited.
There’s nine more books coming. I always felt that myself. I, whenever I found a series and there’s a lot of books in, in the in a row, you get giddy cause you don’t have to look for a while longer. My parents even found the same thing, trying to find me proud.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. And then middle grade, Type age range is great cuz they become avid readers, but they’re omnivorous.
They don’t just wanna read fantasy, they don’t wanna read just mystery or whatever. They, one of this and one of this and one of this, and they read lots and I know I had a friend in school, he would read 10 books a week and he still reads several books a week even, full-time adult with job and kid and stuff.
Oh yeah. Good for him. Yeah, it, so it’s nice to. Have the books for them to read. Cuz they, if they love it, man, they wanna read all
Jim: of them. Yeah. And I was like that too. I remember getting any kind of book like JK Rowling, reor the new Aragon books. Anything I would devour them two days and it would it would be all you would want to do.
You just get so absorbed as a young child, just reading this volume and reliving this story. It’s so yeah. So I always wanted something like that for my readers too. Hopefully.
Stephen: No, it’s good. Yeah. Just go to sleep. No, just five more minutes, mom. Yeah. The flashlight under the blankets.
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Do you have a website that people could go to and check out your book in future books? Yeah,
Jim: absolutely. It’s author jim hepburn.com. It’s It’s fairly easy to find, but yeah I put all my updates on there. Any artwork I get, I put up on there. I even have, I have a progress meter actually on there too, of the next book.
So people can have a bit of an idea when it’s coming. Nice. And set the expectation. Yeah,
Stephen: Yeah. As long as you remembered update it, it’s not magically automatic. That’s true. That’s true. I had one and I looked at it, I said, oh, Book one’s 15% done. I just published it, so better update that. Oops.
Jim: It was a big update that day.
Stephen: Yeah, it was. I did a lot of writing last night, Jim. So we’ve talked about reading and books. So what are some of your other favorite books and authors? You’ve mentioned a few.
Jim: Yep. I did mention Jim Butcher. Jim Butcher, honestly, has to be one of my favorites just because of the simplicity of the writing the fast pace of the action, the The way he’s able to really build up a critical climax and develop the characters in a way that extends the stories over so long and keeps you invested.
It’s awesome. It’s definitely one of the be I think he’s, I think he’s underrated in a lot of ways. I think he’s great. And then of course everybody, I think everybody mentioned this a lot too, but Patrick Rothfus is also equally amazing. And that’s a whole conversation to be had about the un how about that series and its status.
But but the way he writes was, I think when I read that for the first time when I was in my early twenties was just next level. Yeah. Something to really aspire to in terms of in terms of writing skill and how he makes everything so immersive. Yeah,
Stephen: Yeah. Agreed that book hit me outta left field.
I heard a lot of people buzzing about it, and I picked it up and I said, okay, I’ll give it a try. I’m like I got done. I’m like, what just happened? It was like, wow. Yeah,
Jim: that’s right. Yeah. It’s so mind blowing and like I said, there’s a whole conversation you could potentially have about that, but yeah that’s up there for sure.
Patrick, and it’s,
Stephen: Do you have a favorite local bookstore you like to go to?
Jim: I’m from a small town, so we actually don’t have a local bookstore here that’s independent. So whenever, when I grew up, there was a chapters nearby that I always frequented, and it’s still there. I guess now it’s Indigo maybe is the the Canadian version, I think.
But But yeah, that’s where I would always go and then picture my book, maybe being on that shelf one day and and finding whatever else I could. And also going to those employees over the years and going, Hey, what else can I find that’s like this? And trying to scour their brain for something else.
Stephen: awesome. And that’s a good point. That’s the best reason, especially with kids, to go to a nice. Local bookstore because they get to know you, they know what you like, and they have recommendations. I have a gentleman come on about once a month on the podcast and he talks about new books coming out or a selection of books that are recommended and things.
And we did middle grade books. It’s cuz he, he’s like, when middle grade kids come in they wanna, what else do you have? What else do you have? So I agree. I love do I used to love doing that on vacation with my kids. We’d go find bookstores.
Jim: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I find sometimes that chapters there, at least last time I was there I remember combing through the young adult section looking for books for if I was that age and I was looking at the chapter shelf, okay, what would I be interested in?
What do I think would catch my eye? And I still could find myself doing that from time to time.
Stephen: Nice. Yeah. Alright before we move on, we’re gonna talk some interesting author stuff. Why if someone came up to you on the street and said, Hey, I heard you wrote a book they had a kid maybe and said, why should we get this book for us or our kid?
What would you tell ’em? I would tell ’em
Jim: it’s an immersive story and it’s about a character that isn’t gonna solve his problems with bran. A lot of pro, a lot of problems in our life are. Or mental, you gotta use, you gotta solve them with discipline and focus and assertiveness and force of will and cooperation.
And so I would tell them, becau, I would tell ’em that if they were gonna buy what they get, if it is hopefully a character who can inspire their kid to really, I guess really latch onto. Those ways to solve problems. Does that make sense?
Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. And based on that answer, you really should go seek out the original eighties MacGyver, cuz that’s almost pretty much describing the show.
Oh yeah. So good to know. Yeah, go check it out. You might enjoy it. Yeah, it’s a little outdated. But, sure I still love that character. So let’s talk a bit of author stuff for all of our author friends in the writing business. You’ve written a book and you’re working on another one.
What are some things that you’ve learned that you’re doing different since you wrote that first one? Since
Jim: I wrote the first one I find, I guess start, starting a series is so challenging in a lot of ways, right? Because you have to set so many, you have to introduce things at a good pace while.
Keeping readers engaged and setting up what the story’s gonna be like. I find writing the second book is a lot easier in a sense because you’ve been there, done that you’ve set the stage. Anybody who’s read the first one knows what’s gonna happen in the second one, and things are a lot quicker.
You can get to the action quicker. You can get to critical moments faster, I find, which is great. It’s exciting for me as a writer, but what I’ve learned, I guess I’ve learned that. You can get, I think everyone must say, everybody must say this too, but you can get it on the page and then you can edit it after and you can, it’s a, it’s all a performance art sort of idea.
So you can edit that thing as much as you want to make it and per, and tweak it and alter it and perfect it until it sounds like exactly how you want to say it. And it reads the exactly you want it to read and hopefully catches those emotions and the Exactly. You want them to be caught. Then you can, then at that point, then you can call it done.
And whereas before, I think I spent a lot of time trying to, in the moment, find the right word, the right phrase. So I didn’t have to go back and do that all as as much. But that’s probably one of the big things.
Stephen: Yeah. I think that’s a great point, and it’s something that I’ve, heard lots of people give similar advice.
It’s that, it’s just words don’t be so precious of individual words or sentences. Get rid of it if you need to expand it, if you have to, change it, if you have to. And I think until you’ve written a bit, you don’t really get it and understand that you have to have something under your belt or a couple somethings before it really clicks.
It’s yeah. I’ve written, 150,000 words, I can change these. It’s not, it’s not that big of a deal. Cause I know some people really get, oh, I don’t wanna change anything,
Jim: yeah. That’s tough too. That’s tough too. Actually, on my first book, so Hunted by Fire is about 180,000 words.
The first draft was 290. Wow. And I didn’t know how long that was. It took, I was, I had an editor who I was engaging with and I told ’em the word count and they said, are you for real? It’s like 290,000 words. And I said, yeah, and what’s the big deal? Isn’t that kind of what the standard is? And they said, okay.
And this is how they broke it down for me. They said, okay, you know the first Harry Potter book? Like very first one Philosopher Stone? And I said, yeah. And they go, that’s 80,000 words, right? I was like, oh, okay. And they’re, order the Phoenix, the fifth one, the biggest one, the thickest one.
I said, yeah. And they said that’s 290,000 words. Oh, okay. So then I had, yes. Then we cut it down a lot and it was painful. But
Stephen: yeah. So that’s great. I wanna hear a little bit about that because if. I know a lot of authors have a really hard time cutting things out. Everything’s essential. I love it all.
So you had essentially two or even three books depending on how big, kids’ books are 80 to a hundred thousand middle grade fantasy. So what did you do and what did you cut out? How’d you decide what to cut out and did you put it elsewhere? What’d you do with that whole process?
Jim: Sure. I think the critical part of that was determining. What, because there’s because there’s so many aspects to a story. When you are building it up from the bottom, right? You envision this thing that you’re gonna make that’s all encompassing and has all these elements and you’re tying them all together at the end.
And I looked at that 290 draft and I sat there thinking the same thing. Like I said, everybody else must think, oh, I can’t know. I don’t know what to cut. I’m gonna have to cut things out of the story. And. It was, I trying to find that realization and trying to actualize it about all those little encompassing things that, that, to you as the author, make your story look complete.
It was trying to find which ones were actually distracting, or maybe that didn’t hit as hard emotionally that then. Even though it’s, even though it’s great and even though it was, it’s awesome and it makes sense and it’s complete from a story perspective, we’re maybe distracting from something that could be a bit brighter underneath sort of idea.
So a lot of it was going, yeah.
Stephen: Oh no, please finish,
Jim: finish. No. Yeah, so a lot of it was going into the beginning, finding these extra chapters that I had ha I had in there to get to know the characters a bit more before some critical conflict, and then going, okay Do they? Do I really do they really, does the reader really need to read this to understand who this character is or have an idea?
And so then maybe that meant cutting out two chapters, which would be something to the tune of 10,000 words maybe. And then going into those first chapters, those very beginning chapters where you first met them and highlighting even more what their qualities were, what made them stand out so the reader had a better idea of who they were going into the rest of the story.
Yeah, there’s just, like I said, just all these little completed parts that you had to take out from the beginning and from the end to then reveal the core story that you really wanted to tell.
Stephen: Right and like we said about the writing itself, the editing, the chopping, the moving and whatever, that’s another skill.
It’s probably even more important that you’ve gotten through some stuff and edited and chopped and moved to get that experience or, because I, I. I’ve known authors, I’ve talked to ’em, heard ’em, where it’s oh yeah, I sent this book to my editor and they told me to cut this, that and the other thing.
I didn’t listen to ’em and published it like it is. And I’ve begun to think wow. They missed that learning experience. They missed what could have made their book better. Cuz sometimes cutting things out improves the book. And that’s a skill you have to learn by going through it a couple times.
Jim: Yeah, I think it’s important to under to remember at the end of the day That as an author, you wanna make something that’s so that’s so complete and beautiful and perfect in a lot of ways. But I think as a reader, you’re looking for something that’s engaging and entertaining that if you’re lucky, will inspire you or make you feel something that you’ve never felt before or have all these other things that could happen as a result of engaging from it.
And so to make something engaging, entertaining, often you must focus on what’s only need that only needs to be there,
Stephen: yeah. And so when I always ask authors, Hey, let’s talk, let’s find a topic to discuss for the second half with the author talk. And you said, Hey, let’s talk about STEM in high school.
And I went, oh, yeah, I’d love to. That’s right up my alley. Yeah. Why did you wanna talk about that? In what areas do you want, did you wanna discuss a bit?
Jim: Yeah. It was so important to me because something that Related to the, related to Felix, who’s the protagonist in this book and hunted by fire.
He, like I said, he has to solve all of his problems with his mind. And it’s something that I think when you are a young person entering high school, a lot of times you get a little classified as an arts kid or a science kid at the beginning. Maybe you have a really good experience with something or you get a good mark on a test or maybe it could be.
A negative aspect where maybe you had a bad teacher experience once and so kids, I think, go through high school and they’re trying to figure out who they’re gonna become and what they’re gonna do in life. They have this connotation that, oh, stem, math, science stats, it’s hard.
It’s not for me. And then they immediately classify themselves as, it’s not for me. It’s not something that’s, that I’m gonna be ever be able to do. I should avoid it and steers myself somewhere else. And so for me in high school when I was reading at the Prime of my Life and going through that type of stuff, I had a similar situation where I was really good at English and the arts and whatnot, and I had to struggle at math and science and it didn’t come naturally.
And I but I worked at it a little bit though because I wanted to, my parents were very encouraging and they wanted me to get good at that to, theoretically go on to school and maybe do something in engineering or be a scientist or have something with that sciencey background that everybody thinks is really valuable.
And it is valuable in a lot of ways. But so when I was there in high school, unfortunately we had a program where, It was very uncertain when you’re in high school going to the next level of university or college, if you could hack it out at that level. So if for example, if we’re, I had teachers in English class and also in the arts classes, that would tell us, okay, just so you know, like our high school is really good at we excel whenever kids go off to English programs or philosophy programs or what have you, or journalism programs.
But we, the kids from our school always tend to struggle whenever they go into math or engineering or something like that. So hearing that as somebody going through was a little nerve-wracking cuz you’re gonna, you’re about to take this big step and the biggest thing you wanna avoid is failing or disappointing your parents or disappointing yourself.
And so I thought about that and I went and I did something artsy. I did a psychology degree.
Stephen: Yeah, that’s artsy.
Jim: Yeah. Yeah. It’s yeah, there’s some science in there too but that’s what I chose to do. And that’s what I did. So when I graduated school and then I got involved in the working life and I understood what the world a little bit more was about, a little bit more, I looked back and I thought to myself, I wondered what would’ve happened if I had just stuck with it a little bit more if I had believed in myself a little bit more if I had understood that.
The science and the maths don’t come to very many people very naturally, but you gotta work at them and the work that you put in yields a reward that wasn’t tangible to me at the time. So that so that’s why I wanted to talk about stem because it’s such a, It’s such a daunting topic to a lot of kids, and it’d be nice, I think, in a lot of ways if kids were inspired to just grasp onto it a little bit more, to, to try it one more time to find some value in it that maybe is beyond beyond them right now.
Stephen: You said, the teachers said the math, science our students struggle. The first thing that came to my mind was if this is a common thing going through various years of school, maybe it’s the teachers, maybe you should look at getting more training for the teachers or switching teachers or something.
That was just my first thought. Yeah.
Jim: You know what I’m sure that that was a thought too. I don’t know. I think And back then it was very focused on maybe it still is, I don’t know. But everybody was very focused on getting into that next step, even if it might not be right for you. In a way, we had a, in our high school at least, we had a big focus on getting kids to university or to college, and that was where they wanted to funnel you.
Which isn’t necessarily right, but that’s what they did. For better or for worse, and. Yeah. And so I think to them, they had kids, Hey, just to get to university, you know what? You should know what you should do. Maybe you should take this arts course, this English course, do this. Take the minimum required mask.
Cause those are hard. Don’t bother with those and then you’ll get there. I think that kind of was the feel a little bit if I had to, if I had to spit bullet I guess. But yeah I wonder too if maybe there could have been a bit of a change there. Maybe there has been in the years since. Who knows. But,
Stephen: It sounds like you. Feel important that it’s an important thing, and you put that into your writing that’s, you described your character’s all about math and science. So was it a conscious thing that you wanted to give back to kids and try and encourage them through your stories?
Or was it just felt good or something, wa was there a specific reason you did
Jim: that? No, a hundred percent. I, absolutely. My dream is that somebody will read, hunted by fire. And be inspired by the main character and how he solves the problems in the world and be in, and then be inspired to reengage with the harder problems they have in their own world, which are very likely math and science and whatnot.
And and just challenge and just, I guess just find the the will to want to challenge themselves a bit more and delve into something that maybe is a bit scary and a bit daunting, but can yield great results for them down the road. For sure. Nice. Yeah. Cause I think, there’s lots of problems going on in the world and it can’t be denied.
There’s lots of, there’s lots of things going on, but I think you could use as many well-rounded people out there to help solve these things. And so part of being well-rounded is engaging with the math sciences in times when maybe they’re. When they’re hard,
Stephen: Yeah. And I think a lot of teachers are trying now different ways of introducing and approaching teaching that.
Yeah. And there’s, that’s awesome. Way more cool opportunities. My, my cousin’s grandson they have a robot Lego course. I didn’t have a robot Lego course. Nice. And then they just do all these Yeah. My kids, they build a working diorama of the Panama Canal. Okay. It’s wow, that’s pretty cool.
I would’ve loved doing that stuff when I was in school. So I think understanding that these are sometimes tough subjects for kids to wrap their brains around and instead of just beating on ’em and here this, and here’s the rules of science and the rules of math. I think they’re trying new things and different ways of doing it.
And I know the school my kids went to, it’s a stem, it was a STEM high school, and they. I think weren’t trying to avoid anything, but instead of focusing on here’s. A different lesson for every week, and we’ve got all these assignments and we’ve got all this homework and all this. They said, let’s focus on this and this, and they did projects and they learned geometry by doing a string art project for art class.
And that Wow. Was partly for geometry in their math. And I think it made a whole lot more sense, even if maybe there were a few lessons that didn’t get focused on. The basis of what they got was much stronger than, yeah. Just trying to buzz through everything with nobody understanding any of it’s.
So I think there are some differences nowadays.
Jim: Oh yeah. That’s so cool to hear that. There’s, teachers going about that and there’s programs that are angling it in that way. That’s awesome to hear that that story about the Lego and the Panama Canal, like reconstructing the Panama Canal would be such a learning experience, not just for maybe those subjects, but for life.
Like it’s things that Things that have those real world anchors that you can then base off of and be and have an understanding as to why you’re learning something, which I think make all the difference.
Stephen: Exactly. And along with that, I’ve started to come to the thinking that we need more story in school, more not trying to say every kid should be a writer and write a novel, but there’s more and more.
Story opportunities for writing as kids get older, but also I’m seeing a lot more in the business world, the non-fiction world, where things are presented in a story like fashion. And I think we focus too much on grammar. We focus on spelling without the reason why they’re learning grammar and swelling.
Very similar to the sciences, like you said. Kids always say, What do I need this in my life for? I’m not going to do advanced math, so they don’t care. Same with spelling and grammar. Why am I ever going to use this? I don’t care. So I think, yeah, that’s a little bit of the
Jim: problem. Yeah, they lack that engagement.
A, I feel that, if they had a real like I said, if they had a real world example to maybe then go, oh, this is what I used this for and this is what people used this for, this formula for to make this dam and to make this work, to calculate the flow. I feel like it just like it. It must just make so much more sense sometimes, to a kid, right?
Yeah. Wow. Ok.
Stephen: Exactly. Yeah. I was talking to another author, teacher, and I said, I think we’ve got it backwards. We focus on the spelling and grammar and hit ’em with that and push it. And then the only thing we ever ask ’em to actually write is, what did I do last summer? Or a book essay when they’re in high school, and so they don’t connect it.
I think if we started the lower grades, With writing stories, writing fan fiction. Go see a movie and write a fan fiction about it. Or, one of the things I suggested was the CS Lewis Lion Witch in the wardrobe. The battle, that first movie, the battle at the end is like 10, 15 minutes long.
Yeah. In the book, it is literally one paragraph. That’s the whole battle. Yeah. And I’m like the writing in the book that could be expanded. Do that with your kids, have ’em expand that battle and write it down. But by writing all of this, then when you point out the spelling and the grammar, it makes a whole lot more sense for the kids.
Absolutely. I, I like your thoughts, similar type of things. With science and writing. Yeah,
Stephen: All right. Jim I’ve been babbling quite a bit. Great talking about this stuff. That’s some of my favorite stuff to talk about. I’ll get going forever. Before we get rolling though, or get going do you have any last minute advice you would give to new authors or authors in high school kids?
Jim: I think any new authors, I would just, and we’re all on our own journeys, aren’t we? We’re all at different stages. So I think any new authors, I would just say, just keep going, just. Just keep going, keep trucking at it. Keep writing, keep trying to manage everything in your head and getting it all in the paper.