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Local author J.D. Austin shares what it took to publish his first novel

During the COVID-19 pandemic, J.D. Austin was at his father’s farm in the Keweenaw. Austin had been writing for the two years prior, but “wanted to work on a more serious project.” One evening, Austin and his father sat around a fireplace wondering how to deliver difficult news to a family member. The conversation inspired Austin, providing him with a new idea for a project. After years of hard work, Austin’s idea evolved into “The Last Huck,” his first novel.

Austin initially thought that he would have to self-publish the novel. However, with the guidance of Victor Volkmann, Austin secured a publishing deal with Modern History Press. The deal gave Austin access to reviews from published authors, writing workshops, and the platform Austin desired. The momentum from the novel has translated into newfound opportunities for Austin. In the upcoming months, Austin will do everything from hosting events at Black Ice Comics & Books in Houghton to attending festivals and fairs to promote the novel. Some events include the local Fourth of July celebration, the Big Craft Fair in Escanaba, and the Leopold Festival in Hessel. 

For Austin, the journey started in the spring of 2019 when he took a playwriting class and fell in love with it. However, Austin’s context-heavy style was better suited for fiction writing. About a year into writing fiction, Austin got a story published online for the first time and has since written other publications before finishing his first novel. To get your writing published, Austin believes that you have to “both have an ego and manage an ego. Without the ego, the work never gets done and you won’t have the confidence to sit down and write every day.” Still, Austin emphasized that you have to keep your ego in check to absorb and apply the criticism given by other readers and people close to you. In the end, Austin acknowledged that “it all starts with reading, as whatever you write is like what you read.”

“The Last Huck” is available in print at Black Ice Comics & Books and The Well Read Raccoon Books & Curiosity in Houghton. Additionally, the book is available in print and hardcover on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The novel focuses on a Finnish Family who owns a Keweenaw farm spanning four generations. In “The Last Huck,” brothers Peter and Niklas must decide whether to keep or sell the farm and must tell the news to their imprisoned brother, Jakob. While telling a tale of hardship and family heritage, the story focuses on a fireplace conversation about how to deliver difficult news. The book can resonate with anyone, and Austin believes it has the ideal blend of youthfulness and rawness within contemporary literature. Those interested in learning more about “The Last Huck” or Austin’s other work can visit or direct inquiries to

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