Jean Book Nerd
Feature Date: May 2, 2013

Jean BookNerd

"There is real honesty and heart in this book..."

The Review

When the privileged seventeen-year-old Jake Hawthorne was sent to an elite boarding school on desolate Raker Island, he finds himself with other boys who also have have been afflicted living in their fathers' shadows. Longing to understand his estranged father, preoccupied mother, and a brother who has wandered off to the other side of the world, the last place he'd expect to find answers is the boarding school that he desperately tried to avoid. The relationships he forms at Wellington Academy will guide him in defining who he is and the direction of his life moving forward. J.B. Hickman's The Keeper Dawn is a uniquely written story of a young man's journey to life discovery.

Readers will be pleased that there is a mystery within this story. One of the reasons for Jake's enrollment at Wellington is due to a wounded past that readers are made aware of, but not yet revealed. However, as the story progresses, it slowly begins to reveal that whatever is surrounding Jake, it is the same thing that troubled his father.

The interaction between Jake and the other characters is the ultimate driving force in the story. Some of the most moving and touching moments are his visits to his beloved Grandpa. This is where Jake sees the light sort-to-speak and it provided depth and insight as to what the "mystery" may be.

Readers will find The Keeper Dawn to be an emotionally-charged and excellently-written book about a young man's trek to life discovery and the adolescent lessons from a distant father. The characters will draw you in as you are immersed into Jake's days at Wellington Academy. There is real honesty and heart in this book which is a rare gem of today. It is totally charming and extremely fascinating. It is highly recommended for anyone who simply loves real literature and enjoys a story that will resonate long after it has been read.

The Interview

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Although my debut novel takes place at an all-boys prep school in the Northeast, I was born and raised in the Midwest and attended public schools. So I definitely deviated from the writer's adage of "write what you know."

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
I tend to be attracted to authors whose body of work stretches over several genres. Paul Theroux accomplished this with his novels as well as his travel memoirs. I'm also a big fan of T.C Boyle and John Irving.

I avoid series writers like the plague. Diversity is a rare commodity in almost any money making venture, and the publishing industry is no different. I have a great deal of respect for any individual who can resist the temptation of pursuing the more lucrative path and craft stories that forces them to step outside of their comfort zone.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
In hindsight, school taught me the limitations of a formal education. I have learned so much since graduating (including creative writing), that I view school and college as a starting point.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
The best advice that I received from another author was to throw the first hundred pages of THE KEEPER OF DAWN out and start over. It was not something that I wanted to hear at the time, but a necessary lesson in learning where to start a narrative.

Can you tell us when you started The Keeper of Dawn, how that came about?
I first got the idea of when I visited Christ School, an all-boys prep school outside of Asheville, North Carolina. In the short while that I was there, I was struck by a feeling of seclusion. The campus had a gravity all its own, something distinctly apart from family and community. It was this feeling of isolation that gave me the idea of having a school on an island off the northeastern seaboard. And in a way, the island in my book becomes a sort of character that both restrains and empowers the wolf pack of privileged, adolescent boys as they struggle to redefine themselves in the wake of the lives they have left behind on the mainland.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Chris Forsythe is the rebellious youth in my book. If he were to meet Holden Caulfied from THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, the possibilities of troublemaking would be endless.

For those who are unfamiliar with Jacob, how would you introduce him?
Jacob comes from a wounded past. He has grown up beneath an overbearing father and is desperately trying to figure out how to cast his own shadow.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Take a chance on books outside of your comfort zone.

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
Whenever my daughter asks, "Are we there yet?" I've been known to stretch the truth.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Gimmewald, Switzerland comes very close to heaven for me.

When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I have two young children at home, so professing my love happens on a daily basis.

What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?
My wife can attest to the fact that I am not the best at conveying my feelings. I had to break a girl's heart once, and it is not something that I ever wish to repeat.

When was the last time you cried?
My daughter was born five weeks premature, and had to spend the first few weeks of her life in intensive care in the hospital. Everything turned out all right, but it was a difficult time for both me and my wife and plenty of tears were shed.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The sixties. Since I wasn't born until the seventies, I've always felt like I missed out on that epic decade that stands out from all the others in American culture.

Where can readers stalk you?
For cyber-stalking, they can find me at For all other types of stalking, they are more than welcome to swing by Saint Paul, Minnesota.


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