Posted by: Natalie Hatch | April 20, 2009

Introducing Jack Heath.

(From Jack’s website, they say it better than I can).

Jack Heath is the award-winning* author of three action-adventure books: The Lab (2006), Remote Control (2007), and Money Run (2008). His fourth book will be released, predictably, in 2009. Jack started writing The Lab when he was 13 years old and had a publishing contract at 18. He’s 22 now, but all the older writers still make fun of him (not me, I was only giggling a little bit and being envious of his energy).

When he’s not writing, Jack is performing street magic, composing film music, teaching or lecturing at schools and festivals, submitting slogans to t-shirt websites, or playing a variety of instruments including the piano and the bass guitar. He stoically ignores his lack of qualifications or training in any of these areas. (Talented little blighter).

I met Jack Heath last year at Wordplay, the teenage wing of the Brisbane Writers Festival. I immediately noticed the huge black boots he wore, his blond hair, and the big grin that didn’t stop.  I had my teenage step daughter with me and she fell in lurvvv.  We had to go out and buy his books straight away (yeah thanks for sending me broke Jack).   Jack won over the cynical teenage crowd with his abundance of energy, the guy doesn’t stop. He’s not only one of the youngest writers I’ve met, but he also composes music on top of that (in his spare time). So yes I did want to wipe that smile off his face for being too gifted.  😉

Jack made a quip during the meeting that he was nowhere near as talented as Marilyn Manson, and one of the teens hesitantly raised his hand and asked who Marilyn Manson was. Jack replied that he himself must be getting old and out of touch (yeah, he did!).  I sat back and chuckled, when someone mentions Hayzee Fantayzee then we’ll be talking.

Jack’s books The Lab and Remote Control have Agent Six saving the world. They’re fast paced, full of action and great fighting scenes. Money Run is a stand alone book that Jack wrote about a female thief who has to outwit the bad guys to save the day. There’s some great dialogue which Ashley hands out that you just wish you had the guts to use yourself in everyday life.

Jack’s third book in the Agent Six series comes out soon, it’s called Third Transmission and I don’t know the scoop on it yet, but I’m going to be asking. Do yourself a favour and read these books, they’re great and Jack’s cute (I thought we could adopt him but Miss14 has forbidden it – don’t know why…. *grin*).

A couple of the girls want to know how someone as young as yourself had the drive to not only complete a novel, but to edit it and get it to publication standards. Had you always wanted to write?
I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life, but I didn’t get started until I was 13 – a girl I had a crush on asked me what I’d written so far, and I had to admit there was nothing. The drive to actually complete The Lab came from the knowledge that I had no other skills or career prospects. I had to either write, or prepare for a life of destitution. (Although in the end I got both.)

Your books have teens saving the world, The Lab and Remote Control definitely fit this description (oh apparently I’m suppose to tell you that Six is ‘hawt’ – Miss14 has described him as so), and Money Run really is Ashley being a super thief/spy type stuff. Are these characters based upon you in any degree? What we’re asking is ‘Jack Heath are you a spy?’

I’m not a spy, but like all boys, I secretly wanted to be one. The Lab and Remote Control were actually written to suffocate that desire, not just for me, but also for my readers. They ask the question: what would life really be like as the world’s most hunted secret agent? The answer is: unfair, frightening, desperate, and probably short. Money Run answers a slightly different question – why would a teenage girl want to become a thief?
To answer your other question, all my characters are based on me (including the villains). They are who I would be if I had grown up in the same circumstances. Writing them like that is the only way I can find to make them convincing.
You’re up to the third book of Agent Six’s activities, what’s special about this one? And does Six finally get a girlfriend? (would he like one? Shameless plug for Miss14 again who reminded me she’ll be 15 soon).

Third Transmission is my favourite Agent Six book so far. It’s a challenge each time to make the action bigger, the choices harder and the threats more widespread. But this time I’ve thrown Six into some situations that are more alarming than anything he’s had to deal with before.
Do those situations include his getting a girlfriend? You’ll have to wait and see.

When we met at the Brisbane Writers Festival, the first thing I saw was your boots, they were huge (as in Marilyn Manson/Gene Simmons tall things). Are you a fashion junkie? Do you think it’s important for authors to stop wearing tracky dacks and get some fashion sense (she asks clinging to her own grey trackies)?
I’m flattered that you think I have fashion sense. I don’t see it that way – it’s just that once you’re successful enough, you can wear whatever you want and no-one cares. For me, sometimes that means goth boots, sometimes dinner suits, sometimes both at once.

And yes, sometimes that means tracky dacks and/or a dressing gown and Ug boots.

MichaelPryor acts out a lot of his scenes, have you ever done this? What scene would you give this a go with? (One wonders how a 6ft+ blonde guy would you go about breaking into a bank dressed as a girl?)
For The Lab I acted out most of the fight scenes with a punching bag – I did a few years of kickboxing in my teens, so that helped. And I’ve recently done some firearms training, which I think makes my gunplay scenes more realistic. But for the most part, I learn from what I read and what

I see in the movies rather than life experience. I don’t have the resources to drive a car off a rooftop just to see what it feels like, so I don’t try – a good writer should be able to imagine sensations without having to experience them.
Do you have a set time of the day to write?
Mornings, and sometimes night-time. At all other times, stuff gets in the way. Plus, in the afternoons I’m no good to anybody – lethargic and forgetful and depressed.

Are you a plotter or pantser?

I’m not sure what a pantser is, so I’ll go with plotter. I tend to plan out my books pretty thoroughly before I start – I don’t know the characters names, or their lines, but I know where they’ll go and what they’ll do. Having said that, the best plot twists are usually the ones the catch me by suprise.

Could you share with us your ‘call’ story.

It wasn’t so much a call as an email, which Mum mistook for spam and nearly deleted. It basically said, “Your manuscript is pretty good, but it’d have to be at least twice as long before we’d consider publishing it.” That’s a long way from a yes, but I took it as one anyway, and did a victory prance around the house.

Is there any advice you would give to teens struggling to write?

Just do it! Nothing’s stopping you. To be a filmmaker, you need a camera, to be a musician you need an instrument – but to be a writer, all you need is a pen, some paper, and an idea. And you can steal all those things. Cheers, Jack

Jack would love to speak in your local school, check out his website for more details. Jack’s also going to be teaching a writing course starting early May. His website has all the details, it sounds like it’d be great to go to, unfortunately I’m too far away.

P.S. apparently I’m very highly embarrassing and I’m not being talked to at all ever ever ever again by Miss14 ever!  Was that enough evers? Yes well, I have crossed the line of embarrassing that mothers should never do. But he’s cute girlie girl, and sometimes it’s nice to know that people think you’re swell. But I’m still in the bad books. Ah well, now all I have to do is find Nick Jonas or Zac Efron and I’ll be wonderful again – or just give her a copious amount of books and I’ll be forgiven.

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Responses

  1. Great interview!
    And I definitely love those boots.

  2. I know Kiki, they were huge! Have you read any of his books? I haven’t read Money Run yet, but The Lab was great, especially for a debut book, you should check it out.

  3. Wow, Jack is like the Jim Cameron of books! Thanks for the interview!

  4. Now Lesley, I had to look up who Jim Cameron was, LOL. He’s either the producer or the leader of the Australian Christian Democratic Society! Maybe we should ask him. Thanks for taking the time to have a read.

  5. Between William and Jack, I feel ridiculously old and unsuccessful. It’s great to see young authors invigorating their audiences and readers with their exciting presence and words.

    Great interview.

  6. Adele, I’m beginning to feel that way too! 😉

    Jack, you’re a great inspiration to us all. Whatever happened to the girl who shamed you into putting pen to paper?

    Great interview, Nat.

  7. Go Jack! Youth and determination, fabulous. And I love how you started writing to impress a girl. Did you friends feature in your earlier stories?

    Just to make us older writers feel even more inadequate, perhaps we should invite the gorgeous Alexandra Adornetto for an interview?

  8. Oops, Natalie! I was referring to James Cameron, the director of Titanic. He is so multi-talented that I would be happy to have just an iota of his ability!

    I also want to add that Jack is a real cutie too 🙂

  9. Thanks for the great write-up, Natalie! You made me look much more competant than I feel.

    Vanessa: the girl in question remains a close friend of mine, although she’s profoundly embarassed whenever I mention her role in my writing career.

    Diane: I don’t really have any “early stories”, as The Lab was the first thing I ever wrote. And I think the only real-life person to inspire a character in any of my works so far is Milla Jovovich, actor/musician/model, whose looks I shamelessly plagiarised for the character “Queen of Hearts”. I did that just so there’d be a role for her in the film adaptation!

    And yes, an interview with Alexandra is a great idea. She’s lovely.

    Lesley: aw, shucks. Thanks – you’re pretty cute yourself, for a green blob-thing with chicken feet.

    Thank you all for your support and encouragement. Keep reading and writing!

  10. Jack Heath,

    I have been reading your book Money Run as novel studies in class. I was really interested in this book so as one of the tasks I have to complete I choose an interview. Here I have ten questions and I hope you have the time to answer them for me.

    1)Do any of the characters from the book remind you of anyone you know, or did you base one of the characters on someone you know?

    2)What was your childhood dream(apart from being an author)?

    3)Did you have someone you looked up to when you were a child.

    4)What is your favorite part of the book?

    5)Did you have to do any research, such as learn how to fly a helicopter to write about it?

    6)Is there any part of the book you would change?

    7)have you thought of making a sequel to money run?

    8)Out of all the books you have written, which is your favorite?

    9)What was your mian insperation for this book?

    10)Finally,whats your best tip for writing a book?

    Thankyou for your time and lighting up Mondays with your great and inspiring book MONEY RUN.

    Thanks Erin

  11. 1) Do any of the characters from the book remind you of anyone you know, or did you base one of the characters on someone you know?

    I named all the characters after people I knew, but that turned out to be a collossal mistake. As for their personalities, they’re 100% fantasy – I don’t know any thieves or assassins.

    2) What was your childhood dream (apart from being an author)?

    I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 6 years old. Before that, I think my dream job was “dinosaur hunter”.

    3) Did you have someone you looked up to when you were a child?

    My parents, same as most people. Neither of them are fiction writers, but my dad used to teach English.

    4) What is your favourite part of the book?

    The bit where Michael Peachey gets boiled in oil. Everyone else’s favourite bit seems to be the Bugatti Veyron scene. Not sure exactly why, but it was fun to write.

    5) Did you have to do any research, such as learn how to fly a helicopter to write about it?

    I learned how to fly a helicopter by reading “The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook”. As for everything else, I rarely did formal research – I just kept my ears open for things I could use.

    6) Is there any part of the book you would change?

    There was something I regretted because it made the sequel harder, but I’ve since found a solution, so I forget what it was. That often happens.

    7) Have you thought of making a sequel to Money Run?

    My deadline is November.

    8) Out of all the books you have written, which is your favourite?

    Third Transmission. I think I’m getting better at this as I get older.

    9)What was your main inspiration for this book?

    There’s never any one thing that inspires me to write a book – I just start. But I guess the first idea was, “How could I fake my own death so as even my supposed murderer was convinced?” It all grew from there.

    10)Finally, what’s your best tip for writing a book?

    Don’t stop.

    You can ask more questions at jackheath.com.au, either using the feedback form, or a creepy robot that pretends to be me.

    -Jack 🙂

  12. Thanks for answering my questions.
    My teacher love your book Ill tell her about your sequel, although she probably already knows.

    I was wondering if A: any other kids had asked much about this book and B: I could show these answers to my teacher.

    Good luck with the new money run and all future writings. Ill be sure to read more of your books.

    Thanks Erin.

  13. Ps
    Do you know some way i can get hold of your book (Money Run) online so i can read it?
    I have to make a script for one of the scenes.

    -Erin

  14. […] Harland, Kirsty Eagar, Tania Roxborogh, Kathy Charles, Scott Monk, Jacinta di Mase, Rebecca James, Jack Heath, Paul Collins, and Gwendolyn […]

  15. Wow, sorry Erin – didn’t see your reply until now! Yes, of course it’s okay for you to show your teacher, although I assume you already did. As for reading Money Run online, Pan Macmillan sells it in eBook form, or you can see bits and pieces of it in Google Book Preview on jackheath.com.au/books.htm.

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