'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Guest Post: A Race Adventure with Jason Alter

KBR is delighted to welcome US author Jason Alter, whose action-packed nighttime stories to his kids not only became part of his family's life, they fulfilled a lifelong dream... published work. Enjoy this intriguing insight.

I’ve always loved writing and in my professional capacity I write quite a few technical articles. However, it’s fair to say that my greatest writing challenge was John Fastramp and the Dakota 3000 Challenge.

The story about a group of great friends, a unique race car and colorful villains didn’t come easily nor early in my writing career. John and his friends first became available on Amazon in 2007 when I was….. older.

My children, Ross (15) and Lindsay (12) were my major source of inspiration for the book’s characters and adventures. Every night, over the course of a decade, first Ross and later Lindsay demanded the nightly, cliff-hanging adventures of the dashing John Fastramp and his close friends.

Ross loved race cars and so I invented an amazing race car, the Blue Spider, in which John and his friends traveled the world having new adventures and meeting new friends. Each night, John would end up in a precarious, dangerous pickle and the story would end to the dismay of my children.

The next night we would pick up where we left off and John would escape with the help of the Blue Spider’s unique gadgets and the spirit and determination of his friends.

John’s adventures became a unique teaching tool and Ross and Lindsay learned about the world during John’s nightly travel around the globe. One night the Fastramp teaming would be screaming across the Great Wall of China, the next they were rescued by the Australian kangaroo kick-boxing team while exploring the Great Barrier Reef (yes – seriously).

The stories became more and more real as time went on and at some point; the story characters became part of our family. The Alter family would talk about John Fastramp in casual conversation and Lisa, my wife, invented names for new friends and villains alike.

But there is a leap that must be made between telling bedtime stories and making the time and effort to develop a book that will truly appeal to children. Frank McCourt, my high school English teacher, helped show me the way by his example. Frank wrote the Pulitzer prize-winning Angela’s Ashes, and did so late in his life. I learned from Frank that it is never too late to live your dream.

So, in 2005 I sat down and outlined the story, heavily borrowing from years of highly developed adventures. John and his friends did not require extensive character development, I knew them well, and they were, after all, members of the family. The villains, the adventures, the close calls, and the near misses were culled from years of storytelling. 

After a year of writing, I brought the manuscript to the local elementary school. The reading teacher loved the book and provided it to the fourth-grade teachers.

Later that school year, John and his friends were discussed at the annual, fourth-grade Battle of the Books. The response was so positive that the next step was publication. An amazing artist and friend, Kirk (http://www.studiokm.com/), was my illustrator and brought my imagination to digital life. Kirk produced some of the most beautiful artwork I’ve seen for a children’s adventure book. In 2007, John Fastramp and the Dakota 3000 Challenge became available on Amazon.

After John and his friends became available on Amazon, a number of local Borders book stores as well as some independent stores began to offer the book. Since then I’ve been invited to book signings, book fairs, class discussions, readings, etc. But, I am most proud that the story was translated into Braille and I was invited to speak to the children at the New York Institute of Special Education.

Time passed and my fervent, local fans demanded a sequel. At the bus stop or at the market, I would be approached... “Mr Alter, when is the next John Fastramp story coming out?”

I’ll admit that I’ve missed John, his friends and a new adventure. Thus I went back to work. Early in 2011, a sequel John Fastramp and the Mystery of the Ghost Speedway will become available on Amazon. Complete with a vanishing race track, the abominable snow man, assorted new friends and villains, early feedback suggests that the second book is even more fun than the first!

See KBR's review of John Fastramp and the Dakota 3000 Challenge, and for more on John, see his website - www.johnfastramp.com.