As my girls began to discover the joy of reading, I felt the little books they read, you know, the ones with big pictures and one sentence (if that) per page, presented little or no challenge. Yes, I push hard for the reading, but truly, are there bigger portals to the imagination than novels?
I started looking for books for younger minds, and ended up being taken on a terrific ride when I read Tribe of the Teddy Bear.
My youngest is a Teddy Bear hoarder, and although at the time, she was just beginning to recognize letters, she loved to hear me or Mommy read to her.
And so, I treated them to J.J. Wright's epic. They laughed, they hid under the covers, they listened to the inflections of my voice with wide eyes, and learned to love long stories.
Tribe is full of compelling characters, but perhaps because my girls were the primary audience during our reading, Amelia struck a chord with all of us. Is there a real Amelia?
J.J.W: Amelia. What can I say about Amelia? She’s the girl I was in love with from afar in kindergarten. The girl I saw in the halls of my grade school, and sat across from in Junior High, but never got the chance to really meet, to really talk to. She’s a mystery, a fantasy, a long lost love and a girl next door. She’s a combination of many girls I’ve known, actually, and possesses small qualities from each. A lot of my beautiful, thoughtful wife is in her, of course, along with many other females who’ve influenced me in a positive way throughout my life. Amelia represents goodness and beauty, and, of course, unusual intelligence. Obviously, she is a central character, and as such she’s one of my favorites. I’m pleased you asked me about her, thank you.
The concept of the Tanakee is one of the most original plots I've come across. They are a microcosm of the human race, and emphasize the strength of friendship and cooperation for the greater good. Where did that concept come from?
J.J.W: Your question is quite astute, and shows you really did read and allow yourself to escape into the world of Tribe of the Teddy Bear. The story is in fact a sort of microcosm of the human race—how united we stand and divided we fall. To be quite honest, when I first started dreaming up this idea, it didn’t have the same grand scope it does now. In fact, it was just a simple little story about these creatures that lived in a supermarket, posing as lifeless teddy bears during the day and then coming alive and ransacking the store at night. It was when I added Jack James, the boy who befriends Takota, that the story took on a life of its own. For the character of Jack, I borrowed from a short story I had written long ago about a boy inventor and a revolutionary machine that gives its user super powers. At that point everything just clicked. Jack is a superhero, but he’s just a boy, and boys need protection. And who better to protect Jack than his teddy bear? But Takota, as you know, is no normal teddy bear. Add the other Tanakee and a host of human characters, and you have an epic, really, which is what Tribe of the Teddy Bear is.
I remember reading late into the night even after the girls had fallen asleep, only to look up at the dozens of teddy bears around me. I expected one of them to come to life. The story is that compelling, but apart from the emotional elements, we are introduced to the sci-fi aspect of Tribe. What inspired the gravitomiton, the "machine" at the center of the novel?
J.J.W: The gravitomiton is the power source for the O/A. It’s a little confusing, I know, but think of it this way: as the Flux Capacitor is to the Delorean, so is the gravitomiton to the O/A. So, to that end, I’ll make my remarks regarding the O/A, which stands for Omega Alpha. It was named the Omega Alpha because Ben (Jack’s Dad and the creator of the O/A) thinks of it as the last invention of the old age, and the first invention of the new. It’s a truly transformative machine, with interdimensional technology so advanced, even the inventor doesn’t understand it fully. But, intuitively, Jack understands it, and, with his limitless imagination, he uses the machine to save their hometown of Willow from a devastating tidal wave. You have to read Tribe to capture the nuances of how the O/A works, and, when you do, you find both magic and high technology are behind its functions. As far as what inspired it, all I can say is I am much like Jack in that I have this imagination with seemingly no boundaries, as there really is nothing, in fiction or in reality, quite like the O/A.
What's behind the pages of Tribe of the Teddy Bear?
J.J.W: What's behind the pages of The Tribe of the Teddy Bear? The book is on the longer side, and it’s got quite a lot going on in those four hundred plus pages, so let me distill it down by using some word association. Friendship. Laughter. Cooperation. Mystery. Fear. Doubt. Good and Evil. Struggle. Discovery. Confidence. Bravery. Victory. But, most of all, what I feel when I think about the story is an overwhelming sense of love. That’s what Tribe of the Teddy Bear is all about, and I know it’s corny, but it’s true. The power of love.
Oregon's woodlands seem to come alive in the novel. Was it easy to choose the setting for the story?
J.J.W: As far as the setting, I can safely say this was the easiest part of the story for me to write. Having been born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and living in a forest all my life, it was only natural to place the setting in the rainforests of Oregon. I’m a nature lover, and try to get outside every day, whether to hike, work, or just enjoy the fresh air and scenery. No matter how many times I go into the woods, I never get bored, and find beauty and wonder in even the smallest of things. I also see the forest as a magical place, which is where the idea behind Wind Whisper Woods came from. WWW is a secret place, a mystical place where only the Tanakee and similar creatures can enter. Of course, children can go there, too, and that’s because children are magical thinkers.
J.J. The page is yours to add anything else you'd like to share with us about your unique novel.
J.J.W: I don’t really have much to add, except, to Javier, I just want to say thank you once again for considering Tribe of the Teddy Bear as one of your favorite indie books. It’s such an honor to be recognized by a fellow author. I also want to express how much I love your blog, and the good work you are doing to help promote other indies like ourselves. Great work, and keep it up.
Like many of us, behind J.J. Wright and his work is his talented wife Krystle, who is a joy to talk to, and a terrific artist. She's the woman behind the art work on the covers of J.J.'s novels. This husband and wife team are sure to enjoy some much deserved success in their work.
Tribe of the Teddy Bear transcended genres and struck a chord with the kid within my brain, the one who built Lego empires and arranged armies to fight the old battle of good versus evil, employing magic, super technology, and that timeless and most significant trait of all heros: friendship.
to learn more about J.J. Wright visit:
to learn more about Krystle and her art, visit: