Asked & Answered: Law student Jacob Gardner publishes debut novel.

AuthorTuten, Kassandra
PositionNorth of Highway 8

Byline: Bridgetower Media Newswires

By Kassandra Tuten

University of Wisconsin Law School

For lifelong Wisconsinite and second-year law student Jacob Gardner, formative childhood experiences in Northern Wisconsin as a self-described "poor rural kid" served as inspiration for his debut novel, North of Highway 8.

The novel features protagonist Matt Harris's return to his small hometown, where a once robust blue-collar economy has declined. Buildings are boarded up, schools are under-resourced, and poverty has increased.North of Highway 8explores the plight of rural America, man's inherent connection with nature, and the importance of tolerance, friendship, and ethics.

"This book grapples with questions like how far will you go for your pride or your career, and what does it really mean to love your home," said Gardner. "I explore the tension between people's prosperity and the Earth's welfare."

Loosely inspired by the real events in Wisconsinsuch as the Foxconn dealthe novel allows readers to "truly reflect on how to best 'save' small town America, and it proposes extra tolerance as the way to bridge the rural-urban divide," he said.

Accolades are already coming in for the novel, including two awards from the Speak Up Talk Radio Firebird Awards: third prize for Contemporary Fiction and first prize for Young Author (under 25 years old).

We sat down with Gardner to discuss his writing career, UW Law influences on his work, writing a novel during the COVID-19 pandemic and more.

Tuten: This is your debut novel. What encouraged you to pursue such an undertaking like writing a novel?

Gardner: I have enjoyed writing my entire life. Usually focused on poetry and short stories, I always dreamed of writing a full-length, albeit a little short, novel. My first time published was for a simple nature-oriented poem when I was 7 years old. Since that time, I have written countless poems and short stories.

In the spring of 2020, just before COVID-19 took the world by storm, I was invited to participate in the Creator's Institute program for first-time authors. While I originally deferred participation, in the fall of 2020, with a vacuum of a social life, I finally dove in. The program was focused on teaching first-time authors how to write a book like a second-time author. In short, it was designed to build both writing competence and confidence. I ended up working with a super developmental editor and finished the first draft of the book by January 2021. At...

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