Jackson Superhero might not be a real name, but it is a story about a real boy, and as the name suggests, Jackson is far from ordinary. By day, a rare disease limits his ability to move freely, but at night he is far from grounded. When the sleeping hours come around, and weightlessness takes over, Jackson takes to the skies. He knows what it means to need the support of others, which is why when he hears a call for help, he is quickly there to lend a hand.
Darren Questions (author)
What is your favourite thing about writing books?
These stories are so personal to me and my son, but I want these stories to be bigger than us, and so when I hear from readers, and parents talking about how Jackson Saves an Owl is the new favourite book in their house, that is amazing. So my favourite part about writing really is the joy it can bring to readers.
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I have plenty of bad habits, but I do try to keep them away from the writing.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? (I guess this means do you plan or just let the story flow out)
I usually have a rough idea of a story and I play with the plot in my head for quite a while, but then when I feel like I have the plot in place I just let the story flow off the cuff
Aside from your own, what is your favourite children’s book and why?
Peace at last – Jill Murphy as its Jackson’s favourite. He laughs at the ending
With your own book, what has been your proudest book moment so far?
Well this all started with Jackson and with me wanting to help him dream. He loves being read to and he loves books. He knew the Jackson Saves an Owl Story as I had been telling it to him for ages, but getting the real hardcopy in my hand felt really big and it was amazing to read the actual book to him. I do still read him his other favourites, of course, but I love reaching for the Jackson Saves an Owl book for him, and he loves it too.
Jackson Superhero is obviously written for your own little boy who is terminally ill, in what ways is he like a real superhero?
When Jackson was diagnosed he was given a life expectancy of two years and he is now four, so he is defying all the odds on a daily basis. But more than that, he is caring, he loves the nature and the earth. But he really loves a cuddle, and what superhero don’t like a cuddle?
Who or what will Jackson Superhero save next?
He saves a desert island and the local animal residents from pollution
If Jackson was to team up with any other superhero who would it be and why?
It would have to be banana man, as Jackson loves bananas
Carl Questions (illustrator)
What’s the best thing about illustrating a superhero?
The best thing about illustrating a superhero is that I can turn any kid into whoever he wants to be. With Jackson there was no limit to the powers he can have.
Aside from a cape, what is the thing every superhero needs in his costume?
Every superhero needs an identity and a signature piece that separates him from the rest. In Jackson’s case, it’s the ‘J’ on his chest.
How did you go about choosing the costumes colour schemes?
The costume colours came from Jackson’s favourite PJs, and the socks are based on his favourite teddy, a puppet called Melvin.
You open the story with an illustration of Jackson in his bean bag, which due to his illness is pretty much as he is in real life. What was behind that decision?
Well, I have known Darren for years and I know Jackson and I just didn’t feel I could ignore the reality, to be honest. It sounds stupid when I say it, but I don’t think there’s always enough reality in children’s books. Many, many kids grow up in tough lives and books are a way to help with that. They are a way to say, you are not alone. Look at this little boy or girl and look how well they do. Roald Dhal did it well, not reality, or course, but more than once he killed off the parents on the first page.
How was it illustrating a real boy, did Jackson’s family have a lot of feedback?
There was a little bit of pressure, to be honest, but I presented Darren and his wife with a few different versions of how Jackson Superhero could look, and they took bits from this one and that one. But they helped with all kinds of things that I didn’t know about, choosing colours based on Jackson’s favourite teddy bear, also his hair. I needed some pointers on his hair style.