Long and Short Reviews welcomes J. Gabriel Gates, the author of The Track Series, modern fantasy YA books. Books One and Two, Dark Territory and Ghost Crown, both garnered five-star reviews.
He has also written a horror book, The Sleepwalkers, which was inspired by an incident when Gabriel was in college—he sneaked into an abandoned insane asylum called "Sunnyland" in Tallahassee, Florida. He has a sci-fi book coming out in the fall called Blood Zero Sky.
Blood Zero Sky, Gabriel told me, is a dystopian sci-fi, and Publisher's Weekly has already compared it to the classic Brave New World.
"It’s really sort of an anthem for the Occupy movement, so I think it’s incredibly timely, and will get people thinking," he said. "It comes out in October. I’d also like to find the right home – and by home I mean publisher – for the horror novel I just completed. My agent is about to stop shopping that one around. Aside from that, I’m finishing book 3 of The Tracks series now, and I have an idea for another horror novel that I’d like to complete after that. So, it will be another busy year!"
Gabriel has been writing for a long time.
"I remember when I was a kid I was signing in on some sign-in sheet with my family (I have no idea for what) and there was a slot for 'occupation,'" he said. "I put 'writer,' only I spelled it 'wrighter.' That’s how long I’ve been a writer: since before I could spell it!"
When he was in high school, he had a really diverse set of friends. He did theater, choir, and a lot of sports—soccer, tennis, track, and wrestling--, and he was also in advanced classes with the honors society crowd. Most of his best friends were into several different things like he was.
"I was really lucky to go to school where I did, in the small town of Marshall, Michigan. The people were great, it didn’t seem too cliquey (to me, at least) and I really had an amazing time. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything," he said.
"What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?" I asked.
"This might sound like your English teacher talking, but the most fundamental ingredient of good writing is sound and correct construction of sentences and proper use of words. It takes a lot of reading and writing to become really proficient, but it’s necessary, because the sad reality is that when you read something that’s not well written, it kinda makes you want to barf," he said. "For aspiring writers, that means you need to do a lot of reading and a lot of writing as practice, because no matter how good the story is, if it’s not well-written, no one will take the time to read it. Imagine a house. You might have the best architect in the world design it, but if the workmen who build it don’t know how to measure or cut or build properly, and they use lousy materials, then the place is going to look like a junk heap, it’s going to collapse, and no one will want to live there. Writing is the same way. Conversely, even the dullest story in the world can be fascinating if the writing is exquisite. (Don’t believe me? Read Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.) After the nuts and bolts of the writing are correct, for fiction, you need an original idea – not a re-tread of every book you’ve read in your genre of choice – a truly original idea. Those don’t come along every day. Once you’ve gotten those things down, it’s about keeping fiction and reality carefully balanced for the entirety of the story you’re trying to tell."
Gabriel told me that probably the criticism is the hardest part of writing for him.
"Unlike most tortured souls who might be geniuses but still think their work is manure, I think everything I write is awesome," he admitted. "It’s always jarring when other people disagree. That said, 99% of all the reviews I’ve gotten have been amazingly positive, so I really can’t gripe too much! And after all, you can’t please everyone, and I write for those who enjoy my work, not for the few who don’t."
When Gabriel still worked a day job, he would have to carve out an hour of writing when he was on his lunch break. When he started writing full-time, he began doing two sessions a day—a morning session about 10 and an afternoon session around 3. Now the day has kind of blurred together to the point where he works all day long from about 10 AM to 5 or 6 PM with a lunch break and a dog walk or two interspersed through the day. The mornings are generally reserved for working on first drafts of projects while the afternoons are set aside for editing a second project, with correspondence, social media, interviews, etc. mixed in.
"When you're not writing," I asked, "what do you enjoy doing?"
"I like fitness. I go for runs, lift weights at the gym. I like mountain biking and camping. I spend time with my family – I have four wonderful grandparents who I hang out with a lot. My girlfriend and I like to take my dog Tommy for long walks and talk each other’s ears off. I’m also a huge NPR fan, so I listen to that a lot and try to keep up with the news. I read, of course, and listen to audio books. I love to travel, too, and would love to get back to Europe. It would be especially fun to visit some of the places where I’m starting to hear from people who’ve read my books: Romania, Belgium, Australia, India, and places like that. It’s amazing to me that people halfway around the world are reading the words I wrote!"
I wondered what the scariest moment of his life.
"I was riding with a friend of mine to go snowboarding when I was in college and we rolled the SUV we were in on a patch of black ice. I could see the impact coming and all I thought was )Oh, this is going to hurt a lot. We rolled and ended up hanging upside down from the seatbelts with the roof of the car caved in and our faces in the snow where the windshield had busted out. We climbed out and looked at one another and were amazed to find that we were both okay. It was a profound thing, though, to fell that crushing power all around you as the accident was unfolding. It proved to me how fragile life is, and that it should never be taken for granted."
"What is your favorite meal?" I asked.
"My mom makes this stuff she calls Jacob’s Spaghetti. It’s basically pasta and little pieces of crispy bacon in a super-rich parmesan, garlic white sauce. It’s pretty much a clogged artery waiting to happen, and my mom has been on too much of a health kick to make it lately, but ho-ly is it good!"
Gabriel told me he is a Christian, "in the broadest, most liberal, most inclusive sense of the word." He continued, "I’m all about spreading a message of love, and empowerment - even though I sometimes write books about people getting their eyeballs ripped out and stuff. But truly, in all my work there’s an undercurrent that’s points to the deep metaphysical truths, the meaning of life, which, in my view, is centered around loving one another. As a corollary of those beliefs, I’m a big proponent of marriage equality, social and economic justice, and sustainable environmental practices. Every action we take as an individual or a society has an inescapable effect. Collectively, we need to face that fact and start making our choices a little more carefully."
He would love to spend one day with Jesus—just hanging out.
"I’d take him to Momo’s Pizza in Tallahassee, Florida, and share one of their huge pizza slices with him – pepperoni, salami, and sun-dried tomato. While we ate, I’d ask him to explain all the metaphysical nuts and bolts of existence, stuff about resurrection, reincarnation, heaven, hell, life, death, love and eternity. Then I’d go with him to a poor neighborhood and watch him heal people for a while. Since we’d be in Tallahassee anyway, we’d probably go to a Florida State football game. Maybe we’d go camping in the evening, strum the guitar around a campfire for a while and just chill out, sing a few songs and eat some s’mores. If I got up the nerve, I’d ask him exactly what he’d like me to do with my life – then I’d hope that whatever it was, I’d have the strength to do it!"
About the Author: www.jgabrielgates.com or follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @JGabrielGates.
A priceless mystical treasure, a dark secret order, and a vengeful fallen angel—forces collide as the battle for Middleburg continues . . .
For gang members Raphael and Ignacio, plans for the homecoming dance are almost as harrowing as their recent victory against the demonic forces that threaten their town. Despite their tentative alliance, a fight breaks out between the preppie Toppers and the goth Flatliners when Topper girl Aimee shows up at the dance with Raphael, the rival gang’s leader. In the midst of an all-out rumble, the homecoming queen discovers a supernatural power that causes a potentially deadly catastrophe. Meanwhile, a charismatic half-angel, half-human arrives in Middleburg with plans to steal Aimee from Raphael.
To add to the bizarre circumstances surrounding the town, real-estate moguls begin buying up most of the Flats and evicting the tenants. These mysterious men seek a priceless treasure prophesied in ancient Chinese writings and will stop at nothing to find it. But Raphael and his friends vow to get to it first and use it to reclaim their homes.
As Raphael and the Flatliners and Zhai and the Toppers hone their supernatural abilities and search for the treasure, Aimee begins kung fu training, intent on using her new skills to locate and rescue her mother. When she discovers that the elusive treasure may be the key, the race to find it intensifies.
But there are others who seek the treasure too, and they have the power to reduce all of Middleburg, and perhaps the world, to ashes. . . .