At its heart, Jesus Jackson is the story of a 14 year-old atheist, learning how to handle the grief he feels after his brother’s death, without having any specific religious faith to guide him. As someone who gave up on religion at a young age, this basic situation–coping with pain and hardship in the absence of faith–is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It was easy for me to give up whatever faith I may have had–I just decided one day that I didn’t believe in any type of god, and that was that. The hard part, at least for me, was learning how to handle all of the difficult and painful things that life can throw at you without a ready-made set of beliefs to rely on and take comfort from.
So ever since I started writing fiction, I’ve been tossing around the idea for a story about a teenager who finds himself in this type of situation: facing a difficult and painful loss, but without any faith to help him make sense of it. For years, though, that’s all I could ever do: toss around the idea, and then set it aside when I couldn’t quite figure out how to turn it into a story. I didn’t start to really get a sense for how I could tell this story until sometime during the last semester of my MFA, when I found myself writing an essay on Raymond Chandler, and it first occurred to me that I could approach the idea as a murder mystery. After all, what better way to explore the mysteries of life, death, and the universe, then through an actual mystery?
I knew that I was on the right track with the murder mystery angle, but something was still missing. I kept tinkering with the idea for a few more years, but I just never found the piece that would make it all fit together. Then one day I was sitting on the subway, having a conversation with one of the many imaginary characters that I would frequently create to bounce ideas off of (if you don’t do this, you really should: it’s quite helpful) when it hit me: the missing piece of the story. You see, the problem I was having was that I didn’t want my protagonist to spend the entire novel just thinking about all of these philosophical ideas. He needed someone to talk to, to guide him; he needed an imaginary companion of his own. Now, for reasons I cannot fully explain, the imaginary friend that I was talking to on the subway that day just happened to look quite a lot like Jesus, except for his white linen leisure suit… so that’s the character who became Jesus Jackson.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Ryan Daley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. After earning an MFA in fiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004, James has spent most of the years since teaching writing to college students, creating websites about video games, and editing anthologies of fiction and political rhetoric. When he’s not glued to his computer, James can usually be found skiing the slopes of Vermont’s famous mountains or sailing the harbors of Rhode Island. He lives in Newport, RI with his wife and two daughters.
Book trailer: http://youtu.be/iD3nMqCzjxo