snowy mountain framed by evergreens
Glacier National Park
summer 2011

Jak Koke

About the author

Jak Koke writes and edits from Seattle, where he lives with his partner, Karawynn Long. Jak has authored seven published novels and many short stories under his own name. He has also ghost-written novels and edited manuscripts by other authors. He is currently the Managing Editor of an award-winning small press — Per Aspera Press.

Photo of Jak Koke

Bio (long version)

Jak Koke grew up in a series of university towns all across North America. As the perpetual new kid, Jak was constantly picked on, and he honed diplomatic skills during lunch hour and recess fights, most of which he lost.

The son of a biology professor, Jak excelled at science and math. He didn’t see the appeal in capital-L “Literature”; he was busy devouring classic works from the ghetto: Tolkien, Donaldson, Heinlein, McCaffrey, LeGuin.

At 18, Jak earned a spot as a Rotary Exchange Student to France. A year immersed in another language and a different culture reformatted his brain in such a profound way that when he enrolled in college after his year abroad, he found himself taking courses in History and “Literature”… and enjoying them!

Jak went on to get a double degree in Biology and English, and wrote short stories for his honors thesis. Fiction writing was the hardest thing he’d ever tried; his early stories were generously labeled ‘pedestrian’ and ‘melodramatic’.

Jak persevered and studied and never stopped improving his writing. After college, he joined the Pulphouse Gang, a Eugene OR Clarion-style workshop of professional writers. In 1992 he made his first short fiction sale (to Amazing Stories) — “Deadwise,” a collaboration with Jonathan Bond. More than two years later, in 1995, he started selling novels. First was Liferock, set in a post-apocalyptic high magic fantasy universe. That led to Jak’s first Shadowrun novel — Dead Air — followed soon thereafter by his Shadowrun trilogy The Dragon Heart Saga — each of which became a Locus magazine number-one bestseller.

In 1999, Jak decided to leap out of shared-world, work-for-hire novels and write a mainstream science thriller. His book Creation’s Daughter was met with a broad array of wildly enthusiastic rejections from both New York and Hollywood. The next year Jak started an editing and ghostwriting company, Thriller Doctor, and spent several years helping would-be published authors improve their manuscripts.

In 2003, Jak and his partner Karawynn Long founded Per Aspera Press, a small publisher of original speculative fiction novels. Idealistically, they hoped to create a line of beautiful hardcovers from talented but unknown authors passed over by the big New York houses.

With dedicated marketing work on the part of both publishers and author, Singularity by Bill DeSmedt garnered impressive blurbs, outstanding reviews, and several awards. Next came Steel Sky by Andrew C. Murphy, another impressive first novel that sadly didn’t attract the attention Per Aspera thought it deserved. Sales figures were low, and in 2005 Jak and Karawynn were forced to pause publishing and return to day jobs to pay off their debt. In 2011, however, Per Aspera began slowly edging back to the living with the release of Singularity in ebook format.

Jak lives in Seattle with his family. He splits his time between intermittent ‘day-job’ contracts working for businesses, writing as much as he can, and editing select projects.