Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Meet Jamie Zakian in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6
Welcome, or welcome back, to debut author Jamie Zakian. The first writing contest to feature this author's query was Operation Awesome’s mystery agent contest back in 2014!

Ashby Holler by Jamie Zakian
Ashby Holler series Book #1
Genre: NA Criminal Suspense
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Limitless Publishing

1- What was the inspiration behind Ashby Holler?
At its core, Ashby Holler is a story about a young woman who refuses to live by the standards that society places on women, and of course the fallout of daring to live out loud. I’ve struggled since childhood to have people accept me for how I prefer to dress, had a million snide comments about the masculine traits I was born with pierce my ears. That struggle inspired the character of Sasha Ashby. She could be violent, raw, say the things I’ve always been afraid to speak, think the thoughts I was told were wrong. The storyline, and adventures she ended up taking just sort of happened as I wrote.

2- Has living in South Jersey affected your research for your book about organized crime?
A long time ago, in the era of B.C. (before children), I studied criminal justice. Thankfully I still had my old college books, and one of them was solely based on organized crime. The books were in-depth, detailed the structure of many criminal organizations, and described the mentality of certain types of criminals. That resource helped immensely when perfecting later drafts of this novel.

3- Your query letter mentioned “drug trafficking Mack truckers.” Did you visit the Mack Truck Museum in Allentown, PA for research?
Mack Truck Bulldog statue Allentown, PA

I didn’t know there was a Mack Truck Museum in Allentown, but I’m definitely going to visit it now that I do! I actually am a trucker, just not a Mack trucker. I’m more of a backwoods mud-trucker. But, to get a feel for the authenticity of a big rig, I browsed a lot of pictures on the internet, talked to a few friends who are owner/operators, and even studied the schematic of a semi.

4- Have you ever run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum?
I did run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum! Just once in 1997, when I was seventeen. It also happened to be the place where a boy first told me he loved me. It was very romantic, set a rather high bar for the people who followed. There was a little balcony around the side of the museum overlooking the Schuylkill, which we sort of climbed/trespassed on. The moon was shining on the river, and icicles hung down the stone railing around us, sparking. I was just about to tell him I wanted to go back to the car because it was too cold, and he leaned close and said, “I love you.” It was so sweet! I have no idea what that guy is up to now. He was a bad-boy, we had to go our separate ways.

5- What most contributed to your choice of publication method?
After a few rounds of querying agents, I knew Ashby Holler was going to be hard to place based on the feedback I received from full/partial requests. The story was romantic, but not a romance. It had criminal elements, yet it didn’t fit the crime genre. It was heavily dramatic, had a southern feel, but wasn’t quite a southern drama. Genre-crossing can be good, but when you straddle so many there’s no one place to situate your book. Plus, figuring out who to market to is a disaster. So, I decided to take the script to small presses who were open to motorcycle club stories, since that’s where my novel seemed to fit best. In the end, I received three offers from small presses for Ashby Holler, but decided to go with Limitless Publishing because of their passion for my story.

6- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
Since I honestly love every type of story, I usually don’t bother with the back cover copy of a potential new read. I always go straight to the first page. The voice of the main character is very important to me. It doesn’t matter if that voice is quirky, crude, dorky. As long as it’s unique, I’ll want to follow it through whatever world the author created.

7- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters? (Example: Lou’s mother never sitting down in Me Before You, or Harry Potter’s lightning bolt scar.)
My main character, Sasha, loves brass knuckles. To her, that strip of metal is the great equalizer. It makes her skinny girl-sized fist pack the same punch of the large, brutish men around her. Sasha doesn’t go anywhere without a set of brass knuckles in her pocket, and she’s never afraid to swing them.

8- Given your archery skills, might there be a “Katniss Everdeen” or “Legolas” character in your writing future?
There is definitely a foul-mouthed, bow-wielding character in my future! Archery is one of my passions, and I’ve longed to incorporate it into my writing. I actually just outlined a story featuring a hardcore archeress who leads an intergalactic mission, seeking out a habitable planet for her species to migrate to. I’m very excited to get started on it as soon as I wrap up the Ashby Holler series.

9- What diversity can readers look forward to in your pages? (age, race, LGBQT, etc)
My main character is exploring her sexuality with both genders. Since the book is set in 1984 Kentucky, she has to do it in secret. Back then, in most places, it wasn’t okay to be gay, and bisexuality wasn’t even recognized. Some of the subject matter in Ashby Holler, the phrasings used to harm my main character, the things done to her just because she’s different than those around her can be uncomfortable but was necessary to reflect real life. Especially now, with how volatile the world’s become, I feel it’s important to show the perspective of the one’s falling victim to stereotypes. It’s 2016, and we as a people are still hating what we don’t understand instead of trying to learn more about it. My hope with Ashby Holler is that people will see—no, feel the damage that stereotyping does through the eyes of my main character.

10- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
I recently shared an excerpt on my blog, which you can find here:
I know this site is family friendly, and my book is quite explicit so I’ll just share my PG-rated blurb:

Sergeant at Arms for a deadly club of drug traffickers doesn’t sound like the ideal job for a nineteen-year-old girl…

But Sasha Ashby has never been typical, and she’s waited her entire life to sew a club patch on her leather jacket. Raised on violence and crime as part of Ashby Holler Trucking, while hiding her own dirty little secret, Sasha knows she can handle anything.

Now there’s a spot open at the table, and Sasha will do anything to secure it—including betray herself…

Her best friend and fellow prospect, Vinny, devises a stupidly brilliant plan—they fake a relationship. It’s a match the club president, who happens to be Sasha’s mother, has longed to see. It’s a good idea, in theory. Vinny knows she’s into girls, and what’s a little sex between friends? The ruse works well, elevating her in line for the coveted position, until Vinny’s older brother Dez gets out of jail and breezes into her seat.

There’s something about Dez that Sasha can’t shake…

She should hate him. It’s only natural after he snatched away her opportunity of a lifetime. But the instant Dez locks his fierce gaze on her, Sasha’s world turns upside down. In the midst of a war with a rival biker gang, Sasha must figure out what she needs most. Is it the gentle touch of her best friend Vinny, the savage hold of his dangerous brother, or the soft skin of the many women who crawl into the cab of her semi?

The timing couldn’t be worse, but the lies, deceit, and death that dwell in Ashby Holler wait for no woman.

About the Author:
Jamie Zakian lives in South Jersey with a rowdy bunch of dudes, also known as family. A YA/NA writer, her head is often in the clouds while her ears are covered in headphones. On the rare occasions when not writing, she enjoys blazing new trails on her 4wd quad or honing her archery skills. She’s a card carrying member of the Word Nerd Association, which means she’s probably stalking every Twitter writing competition and offering query critiques so keep an eye out.


Thanks, Jamie! Interviewing you was a pleasure.


  1. Ashby Holler sounds like a great book and relevant to our times. Thanks for the post!

  2. There is a chance you're eligible to get a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.


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