Interview with Jacqueline Dooley, Author of Doorways to Arkomo
Jacqueline Dooley is a mother, author, and entrepreneur. She recently self-published Doorways to Arkomo: The Spirit Oak’s Gift, a novel exploring a unique friendship between two 11-year-old girls. Sorel, a princess in Arkomo, strives to save the lives of her family while Grace, a young New Yorker, fights cancer and hospitalization.
Jacqueline kindly agreed to field a few of my questions about her life and the world she’s created through her writing:
Could you tell me more about the inspiration behind Doorways to Arkomo? What motivated you to write it?
“There were two strong motivators for me when I decided to write the book. The first was the experience blogging about my daughter’s battle with cancer. She was diagnosed when she was 11 and I started a blog from the hospital with the goal of keeping friends and family updated about her condition. The blog turned into a lifeline – a way to draw people into our daily struggles with the disease and also reach out for help. I got so much positive feedback about my writing (and suggestions from people who wanted me to turn the blog into a book), that I decided I would write a book – but I didn’t want to write a memoir.
The second inspiration was my daughter and some of the other children I met at the hospital. I felt very strongly about creating a character that honored kids with cancer – someone strong and scared and very pissed off. I wanted this character to be someone that kids going through something as traumatic as cancer could relate to – there are enough dystopian novels featuring gorgeous teens who save the world. I wanted a kid with cancer who could save the world – so I created Grace.”
What do you believe are Grace and Sorel’s strongest characteristics? How do these characteristics lead them through adversity?
“Grace’s best characteristic is her fierce determination to stay independent even when her body fails her. She’s also incredibly worried about Sorel. I love her empathy even in the face of her own devastating illness. Sorel is sweet and strong. I love her determination to find a friend and her ability to navigate the perils of Arkomo and the hospital. She is the perfect friend for Grace.”
In your novel, you write from the perspective of both Grace, her parents, and even her doctor. What advice do you have for families navigating similar circumstances?
“Even though Grace and Sorel are the main characters, I wanted to write from the perspective of Grace’s parents and (to a lesser extent) Grace’s doctor because they are so critical to the world of the hospital. I actually got some criticism about this from agents when I tried to get the book published traditionally – they felt that it was two books in one (a fantasy, and a memoir from a mother’s perspective about her sick child). But when a child is sick, the parents and physicians are inextricably connected. It wouldn’t have seemed like an authentic experience if I didn’t include their perspective – not to me, and not to the kids (and adults) who are living through it right now.
To families who are navigating similar circumstances…my advice would be to reach out to your extended support network. When people offer help – take that help. This is one of the things I love about GiveForward – it makes reaching out so much easier. I learned through my blog that when a child is very ill, people desperately want to do something. Letting them in helps you, your child and your family get through what is an extremely traumatic and exhausting experience.”
A couple years ago, Jacqueline managed a GiveForward fundraiser for a friend. She’s graciously committed to “giving forward” with the profits of her first year’s sales to other families on GiveForward, The Child Life Department at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), and a wish-granting charity.
To learn more about Doorways to Arkomo and purchase a copy, you can visit http://doorwaystoarkomo.com/.