Can you believe I’m already thinking ahead to October?! Well, I am and here’s why: Jeff Jackson, Canadian hybridizer of the Imp’s series of African violets and popular author (J.P. Jackson), is slated to be the speaker at the Fall Meeting of the Illinois African Violet Society! What’s more, Jeff has submitted a LOT of photos of his hybrids to All About African Violets so that I can share them with you over time!
I’m the newsletter editor for Illinois, so I contacted Jeff to get some information about him that I could use to write a bit about him – which I will do – but we ended up doing a sort of virtual interview that was so enjoyable that I wanted to share a little bit of it with you here :-)
Q When and why did you start hybridizing?
A As soon as I figured out how to grow African Violets well enough to ensure that I could get them to grow and bloom, I started to study the different bloom forms and colour patterns and that itch to hybridize started. In reality, that had always been my intent, but before I started crossing, I needed to get the growing part right.
Q What traits/colors do you hybridize for, and why?
A Fantasy. Definitely. And multi-coloured blooms. I’m not a fan of solid-coloured flowers because they just don’t grab my attention. I love the garish and flashy. I also love it when a flower has multiple traits being displayed. A fringed bell flower with a Geneva edge and fantasy. WOW! I don’t know, does that exist? Maybe I should make one.
Of course, I ended up gravitating to the wasps, because they’re just weird. And I love weird. So now, I want to take all that garishness and multi-coloured bloom potential and throw them onto wasp flowers, and then have wasp plants that bloom as well and as heavy as some of the good ole standard African violets that everyone grows for show.
Q Would you like to talk a bit about your books?
A Sure. As much as I like weird African violets, I’m also attracted by fantastical and weird stories. Urban Fantasy is my favorite – that’s where fantastical and magical things occur in a world that would be considered our own, whereas Fantasy is magic and beasts in a world built from the author’s imagination.
I read, a lot, about 50 books a year. But when I was growing up – especially in my late teens – there were no books around that had people like me in them – gay men – people who identify as LGBT. And as I was coming to terms with my sexuality it was the mid 80’s, it was very scary. Everything on TV was about AIDS and HIV, and attitudes at the time weren’t very positive. It kept me closeted for many, many years.
Looking back, if I had had books with LGBT characters who were positive role models and showed LGBT folk living happy productive lives, my isolation and fear might have been minimized. That wasn’t the case. There’s a lot more LGBT fiction now, but not as much in the realm of Urban Fantasy, and next to nothing in the mainstream books stores.
Given all that, I decided to ‘write the stories you want to read’. So, knowing I like Urban Fantasy books, I set out to write my own. Turns out I like my stories a little darker than most – so I ended up writing more of a Horror story for my first book.
January of 2017 I got my first publishing contract with a small boutique publishing house that specializes in Queer Fiction – NineStar Press. Since that first contract I’ve published two short stories and a second book. My editor keeps asking me for more. You can see all my published works on my publisher’s website. All my books can be purchased through them, and on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
You guys, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about Jeff – I know you’re going to enjoy seeing his hybrids!