Thursday, March 4, 2021

Jack Heath

Jack Heath is the author of several books, including the Danger series, the Fero Files, the Ashley Arthur series, the Agent Six of Hearts series, the Liars series, and The Mysterious World of Cosentino series. He lives in Darwin, Australia.

Heath's new book is The Missing Passenger, the sequel to The Truth App.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I'm trying not to overthink it. The Missing Passenger was first published in Australia as No Survivors, but that title was deemed too dark in the midst of a pandemic. But both titles express the premise, sort of - a plane crashes into a house, and while looking for survivors, the hero discovers that the plane is empty. The pilot and all the passengers have vanished. Hopefully both titles make readers curious enough to pick up the book.

What's in a name?

Jarli was originally a First Nations character. During the editing process, the publisher suggested that those aspects felt artificial, stapled on - like token diversity rather than sincere. They were right, so I removed the explicit references to this aspect of Jarli's background. But I wanted to keep his name, because he felt inseparable from it. Jarli means river in an Indigenous language.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

Astonished. Firstly, the book revolves around a smartphone app that can basically read minds - and smartphones and apps were unimaginable when I was a teenager (although the book I was writing at the time did refer to "digiphones"). Secondly, I knew I'd be a writer, but I expected to be writing for adults. I take children's literature much more seriously now than I did when I was an actual child.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Endings are much harder than beginnings. You have so much freedom - you can start anywhere, but your book only works if you arrive at the correct destination. I revised the ending of The Missing Passenger several times to get the right feel. Whereas the beginning, the plane smashing into Doug's house, remains almost exactly how I put it down on day one.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There's an aspect of wish fulfillment in my characters. I'd love to have Jarli's courage, or Bess's charm. Sometimes my female characters are autobiographical - swapping the gender stops readers from noticing how much the character resembles me - but not in this book.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I always loved Lost, particularly the pilot episode. When I sat down to write the two plane scenes in The Missing Passenger, my goal was to make them both as intense as that show.
Visit Jack Heath's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Truth App.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing Passenger.

--Marshal Zeringue