My most recent book is titled When Coal Was Queen: The History of the Queen City – Olyphant, Pennsylvania.
Tell us something about yourself.
Hello, my name is Jay Luke. I am an artist, musician, and author. I’m from a town called Throop in Pennsylvania. Ever since a young age I’ve always been interested in all facets of art. I love to paint, create music, and write. My writing has developed quite a bit over time. When I first began writing it was mainly poetry and song lyrics. Looking back a lot of my earliest attempts are laughable to me now, but I do recognize that the main thing was that I kept at it and honed my craft as time went by. I realized a lot of my songs and poetry were my attempts to tell stories, and at some point I realized that if I eliminated the rhyme scheme of the songwriting, I was able to convey my storytelling much easier. From there on out I kept plugging away with my writing and before I knew it I had my book completed.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well first let me explain my book a little bit. It is a comprehensive history of a one-time booming anthracite town, its famous residents, and important events throughout the years.
My inspiration to delve into this project began while I was still in college. A friend and I thought it would be a good idea to snap some photos of the buildings that were still standing from the mining era around our town for our photography class. Unfortunately, we found that our idea was just a little bit short, as nearly all the buildings we recalled had since been razed, demolished or had been built over by new developments. It made us sad to think that future generations might never get the same education we did about our local history. My generation is one of the last to have had grandfathers who could tell firsthand stories about life in the mines.So as all of these things were floating around in my head, I thought it would be a great idea to try to gain more attention for our area’s past, hoping it would help preserve the future for those who want to learn.
We found that we were not alone in our idea – many local residents wanted to assemble some sort of memorial to raise awareness of how our town was built. So we organized a committee called “The Olyphant Coal Miners Memorial Association.” Our goal was to erect a statue in honor of all the miners who sacrificed their lives to make our area thrive in the anthracite world. We met with much disbelief from people who doubted we could ever raise money from town residents, but all doubters were quickly silenced when the statue was erected atop the riverbanks that are at the entrance to Olyphant.
Not only did we raise enough money on voluntary funding, but we also had extra funds leftover. We decided it would be a nice gesture to put a book together that documented the names of those who were generous enough to help us on our quest. At the time I didn’t realize I was in for the biggest history lesson of my life. I decided that it would be foolish to just have a book of names, so I did homework – a lot of it – regarding the town’s history, famous residents and notable events. I spoke to countless elders about their memories from the good old days, spent long hours in the libraries, and did my best to get this book as accurate as possible. The one thing that drove me the most was how many people had published items that were incorrect. I wanted to be sure that my information was reliable for future generations to learn from. During this book’s creation, I not only found many inaccuracies but also quite a bit of future work I’d like to see fixed throughout the town.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?
When the time came to choose a publisher, I felt that it would be best to keep it as local as we could – keeping with our theme. So an old school friend of mine, Nicole Langan, who runs Tribute Books, seemed to me the obvious choice. She was a blessing to work with and came out with a really nice product for the finalized piece, not to mention setting me up with some great signings and speaking opportunities.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
As I’d mentioned earlier, I began very young trying to emulate my musical heroes in writing songs, and that drive became my springboard to better things. I always enjoyed telling stories and tales that were unique, and when I began writing without a rhyme scheme it was like a light switch being turned on.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
I often say that this book has been the biggest history lesson of my life. While there were dozens of obstacles in writing any historical retrospective of a town history, mine were in the research itself. Writing about history is difficult in the fact that when something happened over a hundred years ago stories become blurred or exaggerated. and the real challenge is in sifting through previous publications for the truth. So, many older accounts I researched had clashing dates and misspellings that it made for a trying time in compiling everything. But eventually I got the information where I wanted it. I lived in libraries checking facts and trying to correct previous mistakes. My one lucky break was that the time frame of which I wrote about still had some surviving miners or immediate family members. I was able to interview them and hear their stories. I consider the surviving miners a national treasure,. They helped me immensely in sorting out inaccurate information.
What are you reading now?
Currently I am reading Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol.”
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I have a love for history and suspense, so a lot of what Dan Brown does is tailor-made for my interest. He blends the two seamlessly. I also like reading biography style books as well.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I am working on a new book and this one is less of a historical book and more of a thriller novel. I’ve been working on it for a few years now and it’s shaping up nicely. It’s going to be filled with a lot of twists, turns and surprises. Hopefully I can fill you in on more of it when it gets published.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
I’d like to tell writers out there to be sure to spend a lot of time checking facts on the material you’re writing about. You’d be astounded how many mistakes can be sitting right in front of you until you trace them back. I found so many in my research I was shocked. It rewards itself to find an error that’s been in print for decades and correct it yourself. I know that to be true especially in the subject of history. In my book I tried to spare young people the trouble I went through to get the information straight. I wanted this to be a great resource for history lovers, school children, and people close to the area.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
I wrapped up 8 book signings, newspaper interviews and a television spot last year for “When Coal was Queen.” This year I’m doing a few more interviews and trying to concentrate on finalizing my latest novel.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I try to keep my projects and information updated as often as I can on the following social networking sites:
If you’d like to purchase a signed copy of my book just send me a message and I’d be glad to arrange it to be sent to you.