Kosoko Jackson is a vocal champion of diversity in YA literature, the author of YA novels featuring African American queer protagonists, and a sensitivity reader for Big Five Publishers. Professionally, he is a digital media manager for a major nonprofit organization, and a freelance political journalist. He has also recently taken the position as Social Media Manager for Foreshadow: A Serial YA Anthology, through 2019 Occasionally, his personal essays and short stories have been featured on Medium, Thought Catalog, The Advocate, and some literary magazines. When not writing YA novels that champion holistic representation of black queer youth across genres, he can be found obsessing over movies, drinking his (umpteenth) London Fog, or spending far too much time on Twitter. His debut #ownvoices Historical Thriller, A PLACE FOR WOLVES, will be published by SourceBooks Fire, April 2nd, 2019.
How would you describe the world of A Place for Wolves?
I have a love for period pieces and historical fiction. Some of my favorite books and movies fall into these categories. I wanted to write a story that focused on the concept of war, but on a deeper level. Who are we when we enter a conflict, who do we become after and during it, and is the change worth it. The story started as a fictional country, with an allegory to the conflict, but after edits, it became clear the book should be set in Kosovo.
The book takes place in a small town in the south of Kosovo where James and his family are working on a USAID project. The book spans the 2-hour drive between that town, and Pristina, the capital, and shifts between rural, forest and city settings. The reader, in my eyes, gets a good view of Kosovo from the 300+ pages.
What can you tell us about James and Tomas?
James is a confident Black guy, who is proud of his sexuality, and his family. He’s smart–linguistically talented, with lesser skills in science and engineering. He’s witty and confident but also torn about who he is. He has problems finding his identity as a Black adopted kid in a white family. For his whole life, his sister has been his right hand, and suddenly losing her makes him fend for himself, and find who he truly is made of.
Tomas is far more confident than James. He’s funny, warm, an engineering nerd, and a lover in all the senses. He’s a person who loves hard, and fast, and super protective of the people he brings into his ‘tribe’. He believes in community, as his parents do, and believes love, and friendship, are more important than anything. He’s also witty enough to give James, who prides himself on his snark, a run for his money.
What books or authors inspired the world-building for A Place for Wolves?
The Outsiders, Meg Rossoff’s HOW I LIVE NOW, Code Name Verity, and anything by Jason Reynolds!
I have one personal question. I was born in Serbia, and I currently live in Germany. I lived in Serbia in the period from 1996 to 1999 and I know what actually happend. Why Kosovo? Do you have personal experience or is your book based only on research?
As mentioned above, the book started out as an allegory to the conflict. I also wanted to show that wars, no matter the war, has good people and bad people on both sides. In the US, we don’t really talk about the Kosovo-Serbian conflict. I wanted to bring it to life, and talk about it. I wanted people to know, even if only from a historical fiction angle, what happened. My research was done through books and websites. I have no personal connection.
That being said, this is a work of fiction. It’s not an educational guide. It’s a story, and though I did my best to do justice to both sides of the War, it’s still a work of art and not meant to be taken as a precise guide of what happened!
Which part of the writing process do you find the hardest?
WOLVES is written with letters and prose in a non-linear pattern. Editing that was the hardest. Having to make the letter connect with the prose, and the letters being the “past”, and the prose the “present” made it a complex task in and of itself to manage the book. That was the hardest part.
In general, when it comes to a linear book, the hardest part for me is sticking with an idea! I tend to have more ideas than time (or energy) to write, and easily get distracted with “shiny new things”. I’m working on finding ways to stick with ideas, and putting others on the back-burner. You can’t finish something if you keep jumping around!
What are your most anticipated YA reads this year?
Crown of Thunder by Tochi Onyebuchi
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix By Julie Dao
The Cursed Sea by Lauren DeStefano
Read more about A Place for Wolves
INTERVIEW : YA SH3LF