I didn’t start out planning to be a critic, and I didn’t start out planning to be a writer. They both just kind of evolved. Many years ago I submitted a story to my local newspaper, “The Houston Home Journal.” I hadn’t been asked to write a story; I just did it – and sent it in. I was amazed when it ran in the next week’s paper. I was even more amazed when the Editor called and asked if I would like to start writing for the newspaper.
Now I already had a full time job so I wasn’t looking for full time employment. So I declined. Then he countered with asking me to write a weekly personal column. When I asked on what subject he wished for me to opine, he said whatever I would like to write about was okay with him. This began “That’s Entertainment,” a weekly column about the movies and other forms of entertainment.
The reading audience seemed to like the column and soon the Editor asked me to do a column on books. He knew I liked to read and it seemed to be a natural fit. So “Novel Ideas” was born. It too proved to be popular and soon both columns were running in several newspapers in Georgia. I also began doing personality profiles for various magazines. I also began to get quoted in the front sections of paperback versions of the hardback novels I had reviewed. Honestly, I think publishers thought I was with “The Houston Home Journal” of Houston, Texas; except there is no “Houston Home Journal” of Houston, Texas.
For many years I had also been keeping a journal, and the stories in my journal formed the basis for my first book JOURNEY OF A GENTLE SOUTHERN MAN. It was published by a small press in Dallas, Texas. I was one of the truly lucky ones. Eventually I entered into a contract with Mercer University Press and I am working on my seventh book for them.
Thus the dichotomy began. I was a critic by day and an author by night. I didn’t feel like a critic until a few years ago when I was contacted by “The Huffington Post” and asked to review movies, books, etc for them. That is when I became a critic, even though I was still just giving my opinion as I always had. I didn’t feel like my opinion was any better than anyone else’s; it was just mine. Still I did begin to learn that if you had a platform like “The Huffington Post” you could wield some influence. I have people who e-mail me and tell me they read everything I like, but I also get e-mails from people who say they read everything I don’t like. Hey, whatever floats their boat.
It is an awkward position to be in. I have many, many good friends who are writers. Jeffery Deaver and I communicate by e-mail most of the time but when I go to see my son in Raleigh and Jeffery is at home we try to grab a cup of coffee. Still when I reviewed CARTE BLANCHE, his new James Bond novel I did not give it a rave review. And this has happened with other friends’ stories as well.
Basically I guess I am a book critic who is also an author. Reviewing is my main job and writing books is my second career. I do a little thisa and a little thata. It makes for a strange career but it is one I could never have dreamed up in my wildest dreams.
Not everyone likes my books. I understand that. I don’t like everyone else’s books. Some I do and some I don’t. I hope you understand that.
Jackie K Cooper is working on MEMORY’S MIST, the seventh book in the JOURNEY series.