Comicality: Welcome back to our ‘Featured Author Of The Month’ spot here on Imagine Magazine! And this month, I’m proud to shine a well deserved spotlight on an up and coming author by the name of ‘Juju’, whose story, “Duncan Out Of Exile” can be found in this very issue! So check it out and give him your thoughts when you get a chance!
And now, an interview with the talented teen himself…Juju!
So, you are one of the youngest authors to ever join the writing team on Imagine at only 15 years old, and I truly thought that your story was amazing! What do you draw from as a writer, and do you feel that currently being a teenager gives you a better perspective on stories like these?
JuJu: My principal asset is the school I attend. All boys and I’ve been here since I was eight years old. In this environment you hear a lot of “life stories” and I might snip out a bit here and there and incorporate them into a theme. My main goal in writing is to depict boys (not necessarily gay) in positions of power over some of the things they are being faced with. Adults often underrate the abilities of children and adolescents. We can use that to our advantage and gain the upper hand.
Comicality: You dive right in and tackle some racial issues right at the beginning of the first chapter of your story, which may be seen as controversial. But, speaking from experience, I feel that it’s the right of any author to ‘stir the pot’ from time to time, possibly making their audience uncomfortable. Have you faced any backlash over this? And would you stop if you did?
JuJu: Well I think Chris Rock said it most succinctly, “Everybody is a little bit racist.” Preconceived notions are part of human nature, they extend from primitive society when anyone outside the tribe was a possible threat.
We fear what we don’t know, it’s part of being human. There is something we can do to mitigate the effect, and that is to actually speak to people and discover what they’re about. Start with hello, good morning or something and go from there. We’re all so afraid to bring up the subject of race in conversation because the self-appointed referees might hand you a red card. What you don’t want to do is presume that everybody of a particular race or nationality is part of a monolithic block. So put down the fucking phone, pull out your ear buds and say hello.
Comicality: Well said! Now, I noticed some dark themes being approached in this story. Abuse, bullying, loss…how close is this to your real life experience? And do you have any issues talking about this in your fiction? (However fictional it may be)
JuJu: Dark issues, yes I have some experience of them. A teenager tried to molest me in a beach bathroom, I bit him hard enough to draw blood and then screamed when my mouth was free, he punched me in the face, I was around four. My Mom beat the crap out of him and had to be restrained. I’m sure he’ll remember me the rest of his life. You can either rise above an experience like that and take away its power by sharing it or live in fear. I prefer my solution. I’d even tell you his name if I knew it.
Bullying as such doesn’t get much traction at our school, the tradition is to tell if someone is bullying and it is against the rules of comportment to act that way.
Occasionally someone with a (Type A) personality, (That’s eighties psychobabble to justify some people being assholes as near as I can figure) will act the little Hitler but we have a tacit agreement among the students here that protects the vulnerable. Simply don’t buy into the “if you tell you’re not cool” mentality, guess who came up with that, yeah the same dick that’s trying to take your lunch money. There’s more of you than them, use your numbers to make a change. And if you’re a big guy, look after the littler guys, Girls think that is really cool. If you’re into them. But boys too.
I’ve heard some real horror stories from kids from other countries. Russian kids forced to assemble nude outside in the snow to receive corporal punishment for any infractions from the week. Boys being caned in Africa and other countries. I really have it soft.
Comicality: Bullying and standing up for yourself seems to be a big thing for you, and understandably so, from what you’ve told me here. Is this going to be a running theme in the stories you write? Sort of a ‘David and Goliath’ feel?
JuJu: I would say probably yes, to that. I tend to dig my heels in on certain things and I won’t be shifted. Gallic intransigence is what my Dad calls it. Some just call it stubbornness. And since I tend to imbue my characters with my own traits, that boils down to an anti-bully attitude which I possess in abundance. As a private school student we get a lot of crap from town kids. Not all of them, just the idiots mostly.
Comicality: What is your writing process like? Talking to you in emails, you seem to be pretty busy with a bunch of different things at once, plus you still have school and friends and family to think about. When do you find the time to write?
JuJu: In a word “bizarre”. I start with an idea and just go stream of consciousness for a while and see if it goes anywhere. Then it’s rewriting it in an intelligible form “I hope and doing chapters spelling and punctuation.” I don’t have a photographic memory but my recall and retention of what I’ve read is pretty good. That helps a lot. School is exacting, we have very heavy class schedules and long days. We’re primarily music students but they really pound the stem subjects here as well, and that’s where my future lies. Not sure what aspect, but it will be science for me.
I do a lot of late night writing, unlike a lot of my peers I can only manage four or five hours of sleep per night with an occasional twelve hour crash at the week end, so if I can’t sleep I write.
Comicality: Wow, your writing process sounds almost identical to mine, sleeping habits included, hehehe! I find that the stream of consciousness method of writing can be very therapeutic. Like a sigh of relief. Do you feel like you work through your random feelings or daily issues when you write? Frustrations, desires, disappointments, etc?
JuJu: Writing is very cathartic for me. It gets rid of the stress and allows me to indulge my imagination and perspicacity. I have to tuck that in a little during the day. Teachers like it but fellow students struggle sometimes especially if English isn’t their first language. I write a lot of drivel in the process but that clears the way for the stuff I want to keep. Occasionally, I’ll be working on one story and some aspect of what I’m writing will connect to another story so I have to put that in story notes for that story and then return and complete the chapter I was working on at the time.
Comicality: Tim and Duncan seem like such a sweet pairing. I felt the chemistry from the moment they met. Are these characters based on anyone you know, personally? How did you craft this young romance for your story?
JuJu: Well I hate to disappoint but Tim is a device, he only appears three times in the story. He serves to inform Duncan of what other boys who aren’t isolated, do when they have the opportunity.
Comicality: What kind of impact would you like your writing to have, not just on readers your age, but readers in general? Do you have a certain message to deliver with the stuff you do, or do you just like writing for fun? Maybe a bit of both?
JuJu: I would hope that readers of any age come away feeling good about the characters and the resolution of their issues as the story is concerned and that even though we may be kids, we are humans and not just a monolithic block of phone addicted gamers with no social input. Kids my age are already having an impact on the world in working for social justice and environmental issues. If you discount us you’re missing a bet. So get out there and make yourself heard, find something to be passionate about and campaign for it.
Comicality: Again, I agree completely. Go for it! Right? So, what’s next for you as a writer? Do you have any other current projects in the works, or any that you’re looking forward to?
JuJu: I’ve got a couple stories that are far enough along that I would have a comfortable margin to finish them before the deadline would come up. At last count, I have twenty-one different stories going. Including at least one from an adult viewpoint. That’s nearly uncharted territory for me. I did a challenge for Thanksgiving on that level and it seemed to go over okay. I say that knowing full well that I just sent you the final version of the first chapter of “Duncan Out Of Exile.” Like a lot of writers, I tinker with a story until it’s pried from my hands. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
Comicality: Where is the best place for new and interested readers to find your stories and get a hold of you to send you some feedback?
JuJu: Okay, “The Music In The Painting ” is currently on two different sites. True’s Fandom which can be seen here https://truesfandom.com/?t=CWYSqpOrhYj13B8N
And at Castle Roland https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=6513
So far that’s the only story that’s available on-line besides this one. I’m working on others and hope to get some feedback from site owners soon.
Comicality: And there you have it, folks! Juju, the youngest author that we’ve hosted here on Imagine Magazine to date! Thank you SO much for your contribution! You’re a highly intelligent and mature young man, and your future potential , I believe, is off the charts! I had fun doing this interview with you, and my apologies for giving you some extra ‘homework’ on the weekends to do this for me! I know that you’ve already got a lot on your plate as it is. 🙂
Is there anything else that you’d like to say before we wrap up?
JuJu: Big thanks to Comicality for getting this story on public view and all the help he’s given me.
I want to thank Jules Porter for giving Comsie my name and Email.
Truefan and Al Norris deserve a thank you as well. And of course thanks to the readers for taking the time to check out the stories here.
(I’ll tuck it in about there, this isn’t the academy awards after all.)
If you want to send me a note or some feedback, I can be reached here firstname.lastname@example.org
Comicality: Well, I expect great things from you, Juju! Best of luck with everything you do! And you guys reach out to support this fresh new talent when you get the chance!