Some may question how author J.J.White explains his impressive writing output. His answer? “I started late, so I have to write as much as I can, as fast as I can.” White moved from Vermont to Florida’s Space Coast in 1963 when his father, who worked for the space program, relocated there. White went on to earn a degree in engineering from the University of Central Florida and became an electrical engineer. Although he describes himself as always having been creative, writing was never something he pursued until he was sidelined with a back injury in 2006. “I was flat on my back for two weeks, so I started writing,” he recalls. “I progressed from horrible to better.” Later, he started going to writers conferences and joined a writers group to hone those literary skills. To date, he has written over 300 short stories, many of which were published in magazines and anthologies such as The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. Along with the short stories, he has penned eight novels, three of which have been published by Black Opal Books
In 2014, White’s first published novel, Prodigious Savant, was released. A savant is a person who exhibits a superhuman mental ability like photographic memory or being able to do complex mathematical calculations in one’s head. Unfortunately, this unusual type of genius has a dark side. Savants are usually significantly impaired when it comes to day-to-day functioning and normal social interactions (think Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.”) Among this group is a small percentage – fewer than 100 worldwide – who show abilities so outstanding that they fall into the range of genius. These are known as prodigious savants. This is the phenomenon White explores in Prodigious Savant, a unique thriller that takes readers into the savant mind.
Prodigious Savant is the story of Gavin Weaver, a typical 17-year-old living in Vermont in 1962. After surviving a head injury resulting from a horrific explosion, he awakes from a coma to find that he possesses savant-like abilities in art, music, mathematics and chess. While he doesn’t seem to be suffering from the accompanying mental impairment, it isn’t long before Gavin begins to realize that something's not quite right. White says the idea for the book came from two sources. “In Burlington in 1961, two boys were shooting at a building where explosives were stored. There was an explosion, and one boy was killed. The other was blinded, and I remember him riding through town on a bike built for two with his parents. That made an impression on me. Later, I read about Jason Padgett, an acquired savant. He was injured on the right side of his head and woke up able to do complex math.” For White, the hardest part of writing the book was the research – particularly learning enough chess to make that talent believable. He was rewarded for his efforts with a Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association and a second place in the Maryland Writers Association Novel Contest.
White's second novel, Deviant Acts, is a crime story about “a reluctant hippie Vietnam vet PI.” White got the inspiration for Deviant Acts from his brother Eddie, who used to send him letters from Vietnam describing the horrors of the war while at the same time sending letters to his mother detailing only the happy and banal events of a bored Marine. “Eddie would write about snipers and firefights to me while describing wonderful landscapes and museums to my mother,” he recalls. Deviant Acts begins in 1973, Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the story of Vietnam veteran Jackson Hurst, a poster child for losers. Jackson lives his nightmares from the war with his eyes open. Only the heroin he's been addicted to since Vietnam keeps the horror at bay. His addiction has cost him his job and his girlfriend. Jackson's hope for change comes in the form of his Aunt Camille, a Vermont millionaire who desperately needs his services to retrieve her twenty-year-old adopted daughter from kidnappers. Camille wants her back at any cost - and she wants the kidnappers murdered. Jackson desperately needs the money but isn't sure he can stay clean long enough to do the job. He also doesn't know if he can he kill again, despite the demons haunting him from the war.
On the cover of Deviant Acts is a blurb by noted author Sterling Watson who wrote, “White has reinvented the amateur sleuth.” Although White thought it an honor to have an author of Watson’s caliber offer such a flattering statement, he worried the words “amateur sleuth” might dissuade readers from buying the book. “After all,” White says, “why would anyone want to hire a private detective who has no experience gathering critical evidence or solving crimes? When most readers think of fictional private investigators they envision men of confidence and cunning, morally upright detectives with a keen eye for detail, such as Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and Spencer. These men had backgrounds from the usual sources you might recruit investigators, such as the police department or the legal profession." White, instead, creates an amateur sleuth who reluctantly enters the world of private investigation not for the cause of justice but to support his expensive drug habit while stumbling through his first case.” But this flawed protagonist is one of the things that makes the story so compelling.
White’s next book, Nisei, a historical fiction centered on second-generation Japanese Americans during WWII, is scheduled for release this summer. Nisei has already been named Grand Champion in the Columbus Creative Cooperative “Great Novel” contest. White believes he has created novels that will keep readers turning pages. “I hope they come away from my books entertained," he says. "I want them to feel satisfied they’ve read a good story.”
For more information, visit the author’s website at www.jjwhitebooks.com.