Jake Cavanah began telling stories before he even knew how to write. He’d iterate his stories to his father, who wrote them for him until he learned himself. Being an editor for his high school’s newspaper and majoring in journalism kept Jake writing, but it wasn’t until after college that he realized his passion: creating stories based on his own imagination. He published his first novel The Abandoned in September 2021 and is the author of the short story series Impoverished Wealth. The Abandoned’s sequel is in the works, he is adding to the Impoverished Wealth series, and, just like every other writer, thinks about new story ideas every day. Jake lives in Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend Scout and two dogs Murphy and Sophie.
Jake, thank you for joining me here for this month’s Spotlight. Tell us about your book The Abandoned.
Once an uninhabited island off the Californian coast, the government used Morple to quarantine minorities during the sonoravirus pandemic from 2030 to 2045. At its conclusion, Morple became the country’s fifty-first state. This is where sisters Robin Karros’ and Ariana Jackson’s tragic journey began. As two of the first children officials checked into and raised in a state-run program responsible for inflicting severe abuse on Morple’s youth, they shared hardships that strengthened their bond. After a social revolution put an end to the program and freed them, Robin and Ariana went their separate ways. Now in 2089, as each has achieved prosperity, their paths intersect after spending the latter portion of their lives apart. Even though it goes against protocol, Ariana reestablishes a relationship with her older sister and integrates with her family. In doing so, she risks her marriage and her husband’s business interests, but it causes her to realize she must make up for her life’s biggest mistake. It soon becomes apparent the fate of Robin, Ariana, and others has been more intertwined than they ever could have imagined.
Is The Abandoned part of a series or a standalone novel?
The Abandoned was originally going to be a standalone novel, but near the end of the project, I decided to write a novella as the sequel. The first half of the first draft is nearly done and it will be a two-part novella.
I love the premise of this book – what gave you the idea to write a futuristic dystopian?
When I began writing The Abandoned, the premise was how America’s internment camps during World War II resulted in our fictitious fifty-first state. But after speaking to my favorite professor and former New York Times journalist/best-selling author, he sparked the idea to base it in the future. That way, I had more freedom to create its world, which has a lot to do with our present.
You note that people-watching is one of the ways you get ideas for your fiction. Were the characters of Robin and Ariana inspired by real people you know?
Absolutely! I’m not going to reveal who those people are, but yes a lot of their strengths, weaknesses, and even circumstances (just not as severe) are inspired by people I know.
Having worked in corporate, do you think corporate day jobs fueled or stifled your creativity and impetus to write?
Fueled because I knew I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the energy to write as much as I would’ve liked back then, but I thought about it constantly and knew I’d eventually make it happen.
What does your writing practice look like? Are you consistent and regimented about writing every day?
Prior to my new job, I would wake up at 5:45 a.m. and write Monday through Friday. To get done what I needed to, I had to make time for it elsewhere, too, but those morning sessions were always the most productive. Right now, I’m writing every weekend, and I’m doing my best to wake up at 5:15 a.m. and write. But I can’t lie, I’m finding out those thirty minutes of extra sleep were crucial!
The Abandoned seems like a multi-layered, complex plot. How much time did you spend researching and outlining this book?
Calling it “researching” and “outlining” is too kind – it felt more like throwing ideas at a wall and seeing what stuck. I wrote countless chapters about whatever was on my mind before deciding what I was actually going to include in the book. The bulk of writing The Abandoned occurred in 2020 when, as we all know, a lot was going on. The news and political climate were so in my face that it was more feasible to get creative. While being all over the place is sort of my style when it comes to narrowing down my ideas, I’ve since identified methods that will make this process more manageable for future projects.
What are the top 3 books you’ve read this year?
John Grisham’s The Brethren, Jeff Pearlman’s Three-Ring Circus, and Abigail Dean’s Girl A.
Who inspired you as a writer more than anyone else in your life?
It’s hard to narrow down to a single person, but I’ll go with author Don Winslow. His stories are absolutely incredible, but hearing his passion when he talks about his work is what really moves me. It took him a while to make it big, and when asked about what kept him motivated, he said something like, “I’ll just write another book.” I think about that often, and it’s a mantra I now live by.
What’s coming up next for you?
At the start of 2022, I’ll be joining Indies United Publishing House, which is super exciting because I’ll connect with so many other talented authors, add more stellar books to my collection, and have another place to share my work. Both The Abandoned sequel and a fourth Impoverished Wealth short story are my current WIPs. The latter will be part of an anthology that I’ll publish with IUPH, and I hope to do the same with the former. My goal is to get both of those done so I can start my second novel, which I haven’t stopped thinking about since I came up with the idea.
Buy The Abandoned
You can buy Jake’s books here: