A Cause to Kill For
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
Interview with author Eric Jackson
A Cause to Kill For by Eric Jackson, Latino/LGBT editor of ?New York City Voices, has been self-published through Xlibris, the print-on-demand company. Sitting down with him at his kitchen table to talk about literature and life, I was struck by his easy-going, compassionate nature.
In 1996, Eric became a mental health consumer after a psychotic episode. He spent years in the hospital because of legal complications due to his illness. On the ward, he found a copy of John Grisham's The Pelican Brief in the day room. It created a "reading frenzy" in which he devoured other thriller books. He picked up a pen and started to write his own.
In Eric's riveting, high-speed thriller of human drama and political intrigue, the U.S. discovers oil off the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and our president and Congress move to grant statehood to the island. During the plebiscite or national vote to choose among statehood, free association, or independence, terrorists kidnap the first lady of Puerto Rico to force its governor to cancel the vote. Human instincts clash with political factions as Puerto Ricans decide their future.
Eric Jackson, born and raised in Santurce, a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has a journalism background, having worked as a news writer for Channel 24, an all-news station there. As an activist, he fought for the preservation of El Yunque Rainforest, and joined peace and anti-nuclear organizations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
With such a storied past of social and political involvement, it's no wonder his fiction incorporates elements of real life. His book includes a gay character, and references to mental illness.
"I've liked to write since I was a teenager," he says.
More recently, his talent helped with his disability because, "It was a way of creating a different world, to escape the oppression of a psychiatric hospital." Aiding his recovery were the discipline to write every day, and the focus on his goal, as well as resiliency in the face of rejection.
Eric's first draft was written over four months in 1998. After that, with feedback from friends and a literary agent, he made multiple revisions until the book was publication-ready. He wrote everyday from morning to night, in the face of numerous obstacles, yet didn't allow bitterness or anger to deter him, even when an inpatient counselor asked, "Are you having delusions of being a famous author?"
Too often, creativity is seen as a symptom, but self-expression through art, music, or writing can be healing, as we turn the illness against itself by engaging the mind in a productive, nurturing way. Eric's writing kept him focused, "on the fact that I wasn't going to be ill all my life, and it kept me focused on my possible success."
Artists, musicians, and writers all have goals about sharing their gifts with other people. This takes us out of the isolation of being locked in a garret or a hospital. Print-on-demand, as Eric found, allows a person to self-publish for $500 or less. The new technology provides a viable way of promoting your craft. Xlibris offered marketing and editorial services for a fee, but Eric decided to promote A Cause To Kill For with the help of a Puerto Rican attorney who became his socio, or business partner. The book will be targeted to Latinos in the U.S. and will launch in Puerto Rico in October, in time for its November election.
Wrapping up the interview, I asked him what he would say to consumers who want to write a book, or who have other goals. He said, "You have to believe in your potential. You can't let fear stop you from fulfilling your dreams."
Eric Jackson hasn't, and neither should we.