I had the opportunity to interview fantasy and young adult fiction author Douglas McKim. He’s written two fantasy novels: “Just Plain Old Jeremy” and “Are You Man Enough?

 

Tamara Wilhite: “Just Plain Old Jeremy” reminds me of a Conan cover. Is it swords and sorcery or sword and planet?

Doug McKim: In truth, I was inspired more by the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. My father was a huge fan of Burroughs. Dad passed away in January of the year I began working on JUST PLAIN OLD JEREMY, and the novel was dedicated to him.

There are other elements which motivated and inspired JEREMY. I also wished to tell a story of a faraway land which is being fought over by nations hoping to exploit its natural resources. As well, we have an allegory concerning the athlete dying young…. An individual of great promise who, despite his considerable talents and abilities, becomes overwhelmed by events greater than himself. Jeremy Kentworth is forced to accept changes and challenges facing him, whether they involve growing up, the horrors of war, the death of a loved one, the loss of innocence. Jeremy is forced to make decisions he doesn’t want to face, such as needs to leave the comforts and safety of home. It is a coming of age tale, with often tragic consequences.

Tamara Wilhite: The sequel “Are You Man Enough?” puts the central character of the first novel in a military school of sorts. Can you tell me about it?

Doug McKim: Jeremy Kentworth does not appear in ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH? A few minor characters from the first story does. MAN ENOUGH is a sequel, of sorts, since it takes place in the same world, though it’s story more based in reality. The planned third entry of this series, titled INFERNUS, will send our characters from ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH? to the location of the first novel, JUST PLAIN OLD JEREMY.

But where JEREMY is inspired by the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, MAN ENOUGH is harder-edged and brutal. I had always wanted to write an anti-war parable. The death of a family member in Afghanistan motivated me to write a tale of war’s effects on youth. ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH? is an ensemble piece, and the majority of its characters are young adults and children.

Tamara Wilhite: Is the young adult novel you’re working on a continuation of this series?

Doug McKim: No. The story I’m presently working on, HARVEY MADDEN, is the third of a series concerning at-risk and troubled youth in contemporary eastern Oregon. I had been a volunteer and later paid tutor and mentor for kids who stemmed from broken homes. I dealt with children who, despite their backgrounds, were regarded as “salvageable.” My job was to keep these children in school while also offering them guidance and proper role models.

 

The first story in this series, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF MARTY McKENNA, involves an angry gay teen who learns that vulgar language, caustic behavior and violence are not the best solutions to handle adversity. The second story, LOVE, DEATH, AND ART deals with an aspiring young artist who is the target of frequent bullying.

Finally…..

A weekend in the Wallowa Mountains becomes a journey of self-awareness and discovery for teenager HARVEY MADDEN. This is the tagline and brief synopsis for the third tale. I grew up in rural Oregon, near the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area. Hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping were the leisure activities of my own youth. In that regard, HARVEY MADDEN is  my most personal and autobiographical story.

Tamara Wilhite: Have you had short stories published anywhere?

Doug McKim: Only in my high school and college newspaper, back in the 70s and 80s. Darn it.

Tamara Wilhite: How much of your work is influenced by your history degree?

Doug McKim: My college education had influenced my work a great deal. I have a degree in history, with minors in English and education. ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH? in particular, found much of its basis in nations which had undergone major political, social, economic, and technical changes. Much of my research involved everything from the Russian Revolution, to the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Tamara Wilhite: And what else has influenced your writing?

Doug McKim: I watched a great deal of Italian Neo-Realism Cinema while I worked on ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH? This included classic films such as SHOESHINE, OPEN CITY, GERMANY YEAR ZERO, and THE BICYCLE THIEF. As well, I’d like to cite Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic masterpiece 1900. Once more, I studied nations and societies during period of transition, and I found these movies to be very helpful.

Tamara Wilhite:  What do you like to do in your spare time?

Doug McKim: I enjoy walking a great deal. I’m fifty-eight, and I hope to maintain good physical health into retirement and old age. I’ve always had dreams of walking across America, but it may only happen in my dreams. Darn it.

Tamara Wilhite: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Doug McKim: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to chat with you. I’d like to place eastern Oregon on the literary map. I can only hope that my example and influence will motivate more artists in the rural Pacific Northwest. I’m extremely grateful for your interest in my work.

Tamara Wilhite: Thank you for speaking with me.