Jumped In: Sixteen-year-old Rasheed is smart, tough and a survivor. In his neighborhood, he has to be. The streets are run by a gang called the E Street Locals, and they’ve been trying to jump him in since he was a child. So far, he’s managed to escape their clutches. But the gang is not his only problem. Rasheed’s sister, Daneeka, was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting, and now she’s confined to a wheelchair, mentally frozen at the age of nine. His mother is an addict. His father hasn’t been heard from in years. High school is no safer than the streets, so Rasheed seeks solace at the local university campus. There he meets a young woman named Lanaia who takes an interest in him. He also bumps up against a police officer who he thinks at first is hassling him just because he’s black. But eventually Rasheed realizes that the officer is only pushing him to become a better person. Though he can’t escape his home life, or the gang, as easily as he’d like, Rasheed does learn some valuable lessons in his struggles: you and you alone are accountable for the decisions you make in life; even though the world is not a fair place, you can still accomplish whatever you set your mind to; and we all become stronger when we admit we need someone to lean on.
What was the hardest scene to write in your new book?
All of them. Every book is like entering a whole new world, and I have to feel my way blind, mapping things out and learning the new rules.
What comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
Usually it’s the main character who comes to me first. I wait until the situation around them becomes clearer before I start to write about them. I’ve learned that a character’s nature is a direct result of their circumstances. They are totally intertwined with each other.
What part of a book is your favorite to write?
What are 5 words that best describe your writing process?
Lonely, confusing, engrossing, overwhelming, but ultimately enriching.
Which author, living or dead, would you want to have coffee with?
Mark Twain. I’m sure he would have me in stitches the whole time.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever googled for book research?
Almost certainly something that could get me arrested, or at the very least on an intelligence watch list.
What’s the most unusual job you’ve had (besides writing)?
For a day, I had a job selling framed photographs door to door in downtown Pittsburgh.
How do you select character names?
Names need to conjure up a feeling, so I look for a name that makes me feel the way my character might feel. I also try to pick a name that makes sense for the person, given their background.
What do you do to combat writers block?
William Kowalski is the author of the international bestseller Eddie’s Bastard, winner of South Africa’s 2001 Ama-Boeke Award, and, more recently, The Hundred Hearts, winner of the 2014 Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. His work has been translated into fifteen languages. Four of the titles William wrote for the Rapids Reads series have been nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s Golden Oak Award. He lives with his family in Nova Scotia. For more information, visit www.williamkowalski.com.