June 1

An exercise in trying to remember

Dr James Cooper has been part of Stories of Life since it began in 2016. In the eight years since, he has judged and given feedback (not in the same year), edited and hosted writing workshops. So you can understand we delighted we all were to celebrate the launch of his YA novel, Something about Alaska


SOL: What prompted you to write Something about Alaska?

The novel began as a short story assignment I did while studying creative writing at Tabor College. The short story was inspired by my time spent working with sled dogs in Alaska when I was 21. My lecturer, Rosanne Hawke, insisted my short story would make a good book. I couldn’t see it, but she kept encouraging me to work on it until I gave in!


SOL: What is the genre of your book?

It’s YA (Young Adult) fiction. I guess you could also say it’s contemporary realism.


SOL: Who is your intended audience?

From a marketing perspective, it’s targeted at early teen readers and young adults. But I just tried to write a story that kept me interested. I also think it might appeal especially to boys, or reluctant readers.


SOL: How would you describe your writing process for this book?

Drawn out! It took about two years just to finish the first draft, which was routinely rejected by publishers as the story underwent various revisions and lots of editing. There were times when I worked on it every Friday at a cafe in Hahndorf. Then it might get put away for months before I returned to it and sent it off to another publisher. It took ten years before it finally got accepted by MidnightSun publishing.


SOL: Could you describe the way facts and imagination interplay in the writing of this book?

The story began as an exercise in trying to remember what it was like to head out in minus 30-degree weather, to harness up a team of huskies and go mushing. The more I wrote, the more details I started to recall. But the story soon took on a life of its own, with characters and events that are completely made up. It’s funny how the setting started to suggest a story, into which I could weave certain facts and memories and experiences of my own, but which ultimately is a far cry from anything I’ve ever gone through.


SOL: What effect do you hope that your book will have on your readers?

For the most part, I hope it’ll keep readers turning the page, wanting to know what happens next! At its heart, though, Something About Alaska is an exploration of what it means to forgive, and also the true nature of strength and resilience. I think we’ve all fallen short and have all been hurt by the failure of others. I hope the story will encourage readers to reflect on this and to consider what it takes for the vicious cycle of pride, fear and anger and hate to be broken at last.



We’re doing this interview series with published authors hoping that something in each interview might inspire you to write your own true stories of life and send it to us. Feedback Month is now open until 30 June. Our editors provide feedback on story drafts at no cost to you! Submissions to the competition costs AUD10 per entry, and submission period closes 31 July. Happy Writing!



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Welcome to the team, Paula Vince

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