Getting To Know Jo

Introduction: About You

3 Little Known or Interesting Things About You

1 I trained in outdoor survival for years to write Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe.

2 I know 5 different ways to build a fire in the wild.

3 When I get writer’s block, I draw maps of my character’s world.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Our very nice cat, Maggie, who often tries to march across or take a nap on my keyboard.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

Readers are really smart and, if I can create characters that they care about and a journey that they are invested in, I trust them to be willing to stick with the story and the characters.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

An owl, because I often write at night, I’m very curious, and I love to hang out in the woods.

About Your Books

Tell us about your book(s)-length of time it took to write, journey, publishing, release dates, etc.

I spent ten years from first picking up a pen to publishing Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe. Now I’m glad that it took that long. I was able to add in layers and create an experience that I wanted to create for readers.

Favorite line or quote from one of your books.

“Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. The hard part was getting up the guts to go.”  

That’s the first two lines of the book and I think of those lines as an invitation to pull up a chair, get cozy, and lean in to listen to a story you just might want to hear.

Describe the character that is most like you. 

Cricket’s family history is fictional, but she’s a lot like I was when I was 12. I loved exploring the outdoors, I loved solving mysteries, and I was always on the hunt for a good clue trail.


Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

-Keep a writer’s notebook and write down interesting things you come across that you might want to include in a story someday.  I love to collect odd, weird and interesting facts, unusual names, random plot ideas, overheard dialog, and character quirks. 

– Read as much as you can, especially of the kind of books you’d like to write someday.

-Try to write every day.

-Join a critique group with other people writing the kind of books you’d like to write.

-Read books about writing and take classes on writing if you can. 

-Study other genres.  I studied (and wrote) a lot of poetry and creative nonfiction to try to help make my fiction come alive.. 

-Don’t be afraid to take risks. Write the story that speaks to you and that only you can write.

– Read your work aloud and pay attention to the rhythm of the words.

Leave us with some wise words. What advice would you give the readers of this interview?

As Cricket would say, “Sometimes it’s time to start taking chances on yourself.”

Leave some links for us to follow you and buy your books:

My books are available wherever books are sold, including your local indie bookstore (I’m a big believer in supporting local businesses), and through Indiebound and Amazon.  

I have free resources for educators and other readers at including:

–       A Book Club menu (complete with how-to videos) and Book Club Questions;

–       An interactive map of the real places that inspired parts of the book;

–       An interactive clue trail you can solve using the things you learned in the book; readers who solve the clue trail receive a printable clue solver’s badge;

–       “Cricket Challenges” and an Activity Guide to take your reading adventures into your own world;

–       Printable Bookmarks;

–       A “Hidden Object” search with items from the clue trail; and

–       Resources for educators including lesson plans.

You can find me online at @JoHackl (Twitter);  @/JoHackl/ (Instagram) and at @Jo Watson Hackl Author (Facebook).

I am a middle school teacher who loves to read ALL KINDS of books. I am part of the ARC-sharing group LitReviewCrew, a co-creator for the YouTube Channel Legit KidLit and the Podcast Read to Write KidLit. Check out my Linktree for more:

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