A Journey into the Heart of Alaska with J.L. ASKEW

Exploring Wilderness, Writing,  and the Supernatural in Alaska Deadly

J.L. Askew masterfully weaves vivid imagery, complex characters, and supernatural elements, creating an enthralling narrative that captivates readers’ imaginations.


Alaska Deadly marks J.L. Askew’s debut novel, a gripping tale set against the rugged and remote backdrop of Alaska’s wilderness. But Askew’s journey to becoming a novelist is as diverse and rich as the landscapes he vividly portrays in his work.

Before delving into the realm of fiction, Askew traversed through a multitude of professions and life experiences. From his early days as a dedicated reader to his career as a social worker, Askew’s path eventually led him to spend over three decades as a field engineer, working with MRI machines across the globe. Alongside his professional endeavors, Askew remained a habitual writer, documenting family histories, case studies, and court reports, fostering his passion for storytelling.

Inspiration for “Alaska Deadly” struck Askew during his time living in Anchorage from 2009 to 2010, where the untamed beauty of the Alaskan wilderness captivated his imagination. It was a chance encounter with a wildlife photographer that ignited the spark for his novel, as he found himself captivated by a photograph of a wolf, a symbol of the wild and mysterious essence of Alaska. This encounter laid the foundation for the intricate plot and multi-layered characters that populate Askew’s novel.

Crafting “Alaska Deadly” posed its own set of challenges for Askew, particularly in seamlessly incorporating supernatural elements into the narrative. Yet, he navigated these challenges with finesse, drawing upon native superstitions and the concept of shapeshifting to add depth to his story without overshadowing its essence.

Throughout the novel, echoes of Askew’s own experiences resonate, particularly in scenes depicting small aircraft flights, a common mode of transportation in Alaska. Anchorage comes alive through Askew’s eyes, reflecting his firsthand memories of the city. Moreover, the protagonist, Race Warren, bears resemblances to Askew himself, infusing the narrative with authenticity and familiarity.

Askew’s literary influences, including Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, and Ray Bradbury, are evident in his writing style, which prioritizes immersive storytelling and vivid imagery. Like these masters before him, Askew endeavors to not only entertain but also to enlighten readers, inviting them on a journey that transcends the boundaries of reality.

As Askew embarks on his next literary endeavor, crafting a sequel to “Alaska Deadly,” readers can anticipate another enthralling exploration of the human spirit against the backdrop of Alaska’s unforgiving terrain. With his unique blend of personal experiences, vivid imagination, and literary influences, J.L. Askew continues to carve out his place in the world of fiction, leaving an indelible mark on readers’ hearts and minds.

What inspired you to set ‘Alaska Deadly’ in the remote landscapes of Alaska?

When I was young I read Jack London’s adventure stories of the Far North and I imagined going there some day and living in the wilderness. Reality got in the way of that dream but later in life circumstances aligned and I was able to live in Anchorage from  2009 to 2010. It was an exhilarating year in my life that I will never forget. That summer, while downtown at a gathering of street vendors, I came upon a wildlife photographer who’d lived for decades in Alaska, selling his wares. The pictures were fascinating and I looked at scores of them until I came upon one of a wolf and in an instant I forgot everything else. At that moment it seemed to be just the animal and me. The wolf had an inexplicable, trance-like presence that was working on my imagination and he seemed to be the embodiment of everything wild and mysterious in Alaska.

I bought the photograph on the spot. It hangs on my office wall today, it’s on the cover of the book, and it’s what inspired me to write Alaska Deadly.

 Can you share insights into your process of crafting the intricate plot and multi-layered characters?

The starting point for the novel had been written nearly ten years ago after living a year in Alaska. I took the twenty pages written then and expanded it into “Alaska Deadly.” This was my first novel and I had no preconceived notion of how to write it, rather I let the story write itself. I hate outlines so there were no preliminary sketches or detailed planning and the plot (or plots: reviewers have pointed out three separate plots) does not always follow a linear or logical progression. Rather, the story goes in different directions and not always in a logical manner. But this fit with my idea of how to tell the story. I wanted the novel to have unexpected twists. As I wrote, I would think of what was happening and of what would be the ”normal” thing to follow. But I would not go that way. Instead, I would write something different. I wanted to surprise myself at every turn. Also, I often threw down obstacles to what someone was trying to do and sometimes I had individuals do things that were “out-of-character” in order to keep the reader (and me) guessing.

Of course writing this way must be done carefully and with restraint or the story will falter from things like plot holes, dead ends, or unbelievable characters. There must be a balance or the story may be hard to follow or verge into confusion. My writing style is not “formulaic” but is rather unstructured and loosely plotted. I am interested in description, settings, and character development and I wanted the story to have excitement and suspense. This was a first novel of a writer trying to find his way.

How did your background in writing and diverse life experiences influence the development of this novel?

I have always been an avid reader, scribbler, notetaker and sometime diarist. Writing was always an enjoyment for me throughout my education and in my careers where written case histories, project summaries, or reports were required.  Most of my work life was in the medical field requiring long hours and travel and any non-work-related writing was limited. It was only in retirement that I found time to write my first book, a Civil War small unit history. I was all set to do another but my brother urged me to branch into fiction and I wrote “Alaska Deadly”. The non-fiction book took over four years to write, mostly because of lengthy research, but the novel took only a year. Since I’ve been writing in various ways all my life, the novel seemed to flow without difficulty. Writing “Alaska Deadly” was a true delight and hearing from readers was equally rewarding.

What challenges did you face while incorporating supernatural elements into the story, and how did you overcome them?”

From early in the story there are hints of something supernatural at work, but the truth does not come out until the very end. One challenge was how to bring the supernatural into the story to show its cause or origins, whether to have it completely untethered from reality or try to have it more factually based. I chose to base it in native superstition and the practice of shapeshifting. Since the book was an outpouring of imagination while disregarding certain novelistic norms, the supernatural elements are no more than one part of a complex novel.

Were there any real-life events or experiences that inspired certain scenes or characters in the book?”

The many scenes in the book where small aircraft are in flight, taking off, or landing, come from my experience in Alaska where “air taxis” are a common mode of transportation. The scenes in Anchorage are as I remember them. Also the main character, Race Warren has some similarities to me such as his background, and some of his habits and thoughts. Other personages in the book are loosely based on people I have known.

What authors influenced you as a writer?

Every writer is shaped by what he reads, and he learns more from some authors than others. One master I most admire is Joseph Conrad, followed by William Faulkner and Ray Bradbury. Conrad’s famous dictum about employing the written word, “to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see”  is enough inspiration for any writer. Bradbury is another author who is able to transport the reader to distant lands and universes and entertains in the process. Faulkner does more, not to simply entertain but to make the reader see the truths of human experience.

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