I had the opportunity to chat with author Gordon Jack about his YA book, Your Own Worst Enemy. I had previously reviewed this book for our site and it was great to get some more insight into his work. Thank you to Gordon Jack for his time and make sure to check out my review of Your Own Worst Enemy after you read this interview.
Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I am an Aquarius who is also left handed, two things my mom told me meant I was destined for great things. Actually, she never said that, but I’m sure she was just trying to keep me humble. And it worked! I am the most humble genius that has ever lived. My memoir, which hasn’t found a publisher yet, is titled “Imagine the Pastabilities!”after one of the catchy advertising slogans I created when I worked as an advertising copywriter. I feel like the tagline, originally intended to announce a sale of Ronzoni fettucine, fits my life story well because I’ve always been hungry for adventure (and pasta). I’ve lived abroad in Mexico, Spain, Chile, and Argentina. Even though I’m not yet fluent in Spanish, I have perfected my miming skills to communicate my needs to strangers. When I got married and had a kid and a dog, I could no longer travel the world. Whenever I needed to “imagine the pastabilities”, I would pick up a book and get lost in its pages. This led me to become an English teacher, which I loved until my principal told me I had to do more than just make my students read quietly to themselves every period. He suggested I might be better suited to being a librarian, which is what I became seven years ago and I’ve never been happier. So if happiness is the measure of greatness (and it is), you can see that my mother was right when she predicted I would be successful. It’s not everyone who can say they are the guardian of the world’s stories, but that’s me– a very, humble genius.
I’ve previously reviewed your book, Your Own Worst Enemy for The Nerdy Girl Express, but for our readers who might not have checked that out yet, or need a refresher, could you describe the book?
Your Own Worst Enemy is about a high school election for student body president. Stacey is the front-runner because she has the most experience. But then Brian, her best friend and campaign manager, falls in love with her rival, Julia, a transfer student from Canada who may or may not be Latinx. Unbeknownst to Brian, his little brother, Kyle, is spying on both campaigns and putting his own candidate forward -Tony, a stoner who just wants to bring chocolate milk back to the cafeteria. Everything gets really crazy when a spaceship of giant squid-like creatures lands in the quad and enslaves everyone. Just kidding about that last part. I’m saving that story for the sequel.
What inspired Your Own Worst Enemy?
I was inspired to write Your Own Worst Enemy by my editor from Harpers. We were talking about my next book and she said, “Why don’t you write about a high school election?” and I said, “You mean, like the movie Election?” and she said, “Yes, exactly like that.” I love the movie Election and wasn’t up for writing another bit of fan fiction (My last book The Boomerang Effect is a rip off, I mean homage, to a P.G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster novel.) I decided instead to write a novel about a dog saving a small town from a tornado, which my editor hated for its unsympathetic portrayal of tornados. “Why don’t you write about a high school election?” she repeated. And that’s what inspired Your Own Worst Enemy.
Did you draw any inspiration from real life people?
The reason I didn’t want to write about a high school class election is because they’re kind of boring. Only a few people run and there’s never really much drama. The trick, I found, was to make the teens as competitive and immoral as some of our politicians. So, I modeled the three candidates in my book after Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump. Once I did that, the writing got way more interesting (and therapeutic after the 2016 presidential contest). Brian’s dilemma of working for Stacey but being in love with her opponent mirrors my own conflicted feelings of supporting Hillary but secretly loving Bernie. I felt like Hillary had the most experience to be president, but Bernie had all the energy and radical new ideas. That became an easy love triangle for me to imagine. Tony became my Trump character and Kyle his Steve Bannon. Tony wants attention but doesn’t really want the responsibility. Kyle helps him tap into the part of the electorate that’s being ignored and weaponizes people’s anger.
Who would you have voted for between Stacey, Julia, and Tony?
Voting is a private matter, which is why you go into a sealed box to do it. ☺
Did you ever run for office in school?
Yes. I was a class representative at my high school. I wish I could say I ran because I wanted to make my school a better place, but really, I just did it for my resume. All I remember is one terrifying speech and a lot of boring meetings. I quit after a year and devoted myself full time to not failing Physics.
While the focus of this interview is Your Own Worst Enemy, could you talk a bit about your debut novel, The Boomerang Effect?
The Boomerang Effect is where I take on homecoming. Someone disguised as the high school mascot is systematically destroying every homecoming float. It’s up to my main character, Lawrence Barry, to discover who it is because everyone at school thinks it’s him. Luckily, he’s aided in this effort by a super genius he’s mentoring named Spencer Knudsen. The two of them fight off a gang of goth vampires and vengeful chickens and fall in love with LARPing maidens and right wing Republicans. In the end, they learn some powerful lessons about love and friendship and how it’s never a good idea to be trapped in a float with a crazy chicken.
Do you have any other books or projects planned that our readers should keep an eye out for?
I am currently finishing my trilogy of terror series centered on pivotal high school experiences. The Boomerang Effect tells the story of someone trying to bring down homecoming. Your Own Worst Enemy tells the story of someone trying to bring down a high school election. The next story is going to be about someone trying to bring down prom. Or graduation. Or back to school night. I love working in a high school, but I’m starting to wonder if I’m taking out some of my workplace issues in my books.
Where can we keep up to date with you online?
On Twitter: @gordojack
On Instagram: gordonrobertjack
Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.