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Interview with Jean Hackensmith, author of Identity Crisis

ABOUT IDENTITY CRISIS

Identity CrisisTitle: Identity Crisis
Genre: Detective
Author: Jean Hackensmith
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Language: English
Pages: 260

When rumors of how Dan Hamilton actually died reach the Cheyenne Chief of Police, Brian Koski is forced to resign his position as captain of the Sixth Precinct and go into business for himself as a private detective. His partner? A mahogany colored Belgian Malinois named Sinbad. A former NYPD police dog, Sinbad is vicious when need be and reliable to a fault–unless a train goes by or there’s a thunderstorm, then chances are he will turn tail and run.

Brian’s first clients are Jeff and Melody Patten. He’s an explosives expert for a local demolitions company, she’s a stay-at-home Mom. Both are devoted parents to their young daughter, Angela. The problem comes in the form of one Collin Lanaski, an unstable ex-Air Force lieutenant and Angela’s second grade teacher, who suddenly starts insisting that Angela is his daughter—the same daughter who died in a tragic car accident four years earlier. What does Collin base this incredible revelation on? Dog tags and car seats. Brian is convinced the man has suffered a psychotic break. He’s delusional and dangerous, and it becomes the P.I.’s job to protect Angela from a madman.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

Actually, the publisher came up with the title. My original title was Child’s Play, which I didn’t like at all, since it was also the title of (in my opinion) a horrible movie. I was totally thrilled, however, when the publisher came up with Identity Crisis. It fits the plot of the book so well!

What is your writing environment like?

Until early winter of last year, I had an office all set up in my enclosed and heated front porch. Let’s just say I use the term “heated” loosely. It may be heated, but I found out the hard way that there is very little insulation. When it got to the point that I had to wear a jacket and gloves to work out there, I decided it was time to move the computer into the house. I live in the country on a lake and often spend time sitting on a bench overlooking the water when I’m plotting a book…notebook in hand.

What is your favorite quote? Why?

That would have to be President John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I am proud to say that 6 members of my immediate family have served their county in the military over the years. They all did so with pride and dedication. My son, son-in-law, and stepson all served time in Iraq or Afghanistan. All of them came out of the experience with varied levels of PTSD, but they also say the sacrifice was worth it to help keep their country free.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

I was lucky enough to have parents who were of the mindset that, if you work hard enough, you can be or do anything. Never once did they say that the journals I kept as a teenager or the stories I’d been writing since I was old enough to put words together were a waste of time. My mother especially encouraged my writing from a very young age. I was constantly writing little stories, and she read each and every one of them with a critical and loving eye. I won’t say that she unduly praised them. She would correct my spelling and grammar and make suggestions as to how I could improve both the story and my writing skill. My mother wasn’t a teacher, but she was an avid reader and she was also one smart cookie. When I reached junior high and high school and began taking creative writing courses, my teachers, too, were always very encouraging. One in particular, Mrs. Gloria Nelson, was especially supportive and told me that I had a “gift” and she had no doubt I would one day be published. She passed away years ago, and I have often wished she could have seen my dream realized. I’ve also wished I could thank her for her devotion to her students.

What inspires you to write?

Anything and everything. Since the day nearly twenty-five years ago when the first line of my first novel just kind of “appeared” on a piece of paper when I was talking to my mom on the phone (I was always a doodler when I on the phone), I was hooked. Honestly, I don’t need inspiration to write. It is as essential to my well-being as the blood running through my veins. I have to write. It’s who I am.

What do you consider the most challenging part about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Research, research and more research. I spend literally hundreds of hours researching my books. It is my duty as an author, after all, to make sure that the details of my book are correct. I will say it is much easier now with the Internet than it used to be when I first starting writing. Then I would haunt my local library and carry home stacks of books to pour through for the information I needed. Now, if I’m in the middle of a chapter and find something that needs researching, I can just pop onto the internet, find what I need, and get back to writing. There’s kind of a funny story associated with that. When I was writing the final book in my Passage Time Travel Romance saga, The Ultimate Passage, in one day I researched floor plans for the White House and United Nations building, and homemade bombs. I expected to have the FBI knocking at my door any second!

Did you learn anything while writing this book? If so, what was it?

I’ve never written an actual detective or who-done-it type book before, and honestly it was a little unnerving at first. It is definitely its own type of art form. The author must be constantly dropping clues that their protagonist can put together in the end to solve the crime, but he/she has to do it without making the ending too predictable for the reader. I was constantly going back and dropping a clue here or there, and then wondering, “Is that too obvious?” Yes, it’s an art form, and one that I am proud to say I had pretty well mastered by then end. (Or at least I hope I did. I’ll let my readers be the judge of that.)

What have you done to promote this book?

Number one on that list would have to be this blog tour. It’s running for three months (June-August) and I’ll have visited over 50 blogs and websites before I’m through. It is a wonderful way to reach my readers. I also have several books signings/readings set up, and will be hitting close to a dozen little festivals in my area this summer. My publisher is also working hard to promote the book, sending out press releases and media packages, setting up signings, and securing reviews. It is definitely true that the work really begins after the book is released.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers?

A computer and the Internet, hands down! I look back fondly (though not too fondly) on the days when I first starting writing. I started out filling spiral notebooks, then my ex-husband took pity on me and bought an electric typewriter. After that came the typing, and re-typing of manuscripts, white-out and correction tape. I graduated to a word processor in the late 1980’s. Tiny screens and countless floppy disks. Then came the computer and Microsoft Word…thank God.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just to say how grateful I am to The Examiner for allowing me this opportunity to share my life’s story and my work. It’s been fun!

ABOUT JEAN HACKENSMITH

I have been writing since the age of twenty. (That’s 37 years and, yes, I’m disclosing my age.) I am the proud mother of three, stepmother of two, and grandmother to twelve wonderful children. I lost the love of my life, my husband Ron, in November of 2011 when he died in an accident at work. He took my heart with him and, for a time, my desire to write. Time, as they say, heals all wounds, and I have again discovered my passion for the written word. In fact, I find it strangely comforting to delve into the intricate webs that are my character’s lives and immerse myself in their existence instead of dwelling on my own.

Next to writing, my second passion is live theater. I founded a local community theater group back in 1992 and directed upwards of 40 shows, including three that I authored. I also appeared on stage a few times, portraying Anna in The King and I and Miss Hannigan in Annie. I am sad to say that the theater group closed its final curtain in 2008, but those 16 years will always hold some of my fondest memories.

My husband and I moved from Superior five years ago, seeking the serenity of country living. We also wanted to get away from the natural air conditioning provided by Lake Superior. We moved only 50 miles south, but the temperature can vary by 20-30 degrees. I guess I’m a country girl at heart. I simply love this area, even though I must now enjoy its beauty alone. I love the solitude, the picturesque beauty of the sun rising over the water, the strangely calming effect of watching a deer graze outside your kitchen window. Never again, will I live in the city. I am an author, after all, and what better place to be inspired than in God’s own back yard.