Square One Publishers Remembers Their Award-winning Popular Fiction Novelist, James A. Misko
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Posted by: Christopher Locke
The following was provided by IBPA member Square One Publishers in remembrance of their novelist, James A. Misko.
|Novelist James A. Misko (1932-2019)
It is with sadness that Square One Publishers announces the passing of our friend and creative author/novelist, James A. Misko. Mr. Misko died, surrounded by his family, on the night of December 31, 2019 from complications due to cancer. He was 87 years old, and is survived by his wife, Patti; his daughters Carrie, Shannon, and Laurie; and both his four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Private family time will take place in Anchorage, Alaska, one of two locations that Misko and his wife have called home since the mid-1970s (the other home being in Palm Springs, California).
Across a varied and passionate lifetime, Jim Misko was as robust and vibrant a personality as the many characters that he created in his largely rural-set brand of twentieth-century based American fiction. Born and raised in Ord, Nebraska—a time and place that influenced his most recent and most autobiographical novel, The Path of the Wind (2017)—Misko went on to graduate college from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon and made his living at different points in time as an oil-field roughneck; mink rancher; forest service lookout; YMCA Youth Secretary; truck driver; logger; lumber mill hand; journalist; teacher; and real estate broker.
It was his expertise in real estate that first brought him to the attention of Square One’s president, Rudy Shur, who signed Misko back in 2003 to write a nonfiction book on the topic titled How to Finance Any Real Estate (Any Place, Any Time). The book sold well and received good reviews (called “just the thing for investors” by Publishers Weekly and applauded by Foreword Reviews for “help[ing] investors think outside the box to land the property of their dreams”); and based on this initial project with him, Shur came to regard Misko as “a seasoned and totally responsive writer, sure of his many gifts and smart as a whip.”
The next year (2004), Misko became a first-time novelist who chose to self-publish this debut work of fiction entitled For What He Could Become. “Square One had been a nonfiction publisher,” Shur recalls, “and so I didn’t feel we were the right fit for Jim at the time.” Over the next decade or so, however, Shur kept an eye on Misko’s continued output as a self-publisher of novels (operating under the company name, Northwest Ventures Press) that went on to include The Most Expensive Mistress in Jefferson County and The Cut of Pride. When he read that Misko’s fourth novel, As All My Fathers Were, had won the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin Award™ in the “Best Fiction Title” category, Shur took another look at Misko’s books. Recognizing a measurable shift in commercial publishing towards more “self”-published writers, together with Misko’s hard-won success at becoming a top-quality fiction writer with a large and ever-growing audience base, Shur decided that Square One would “dip its toe into the fiction market” by acquiring the rights to all five of Misko’s novels (including The Path of the Wind, which was published in February 2017 and went on to win “Best Fiction” awards from both the Feathered Quill Book Awards and Los Angeles Festival of Books while also being named one of only three finalists for the prestigious PNWA Nancy Pearl Contest Award).
Having already established the Alaska Writers Guild by this time, Misko went on to give keynote speeches and conduct writing workshops at conferences both there and in California, together with his home state of Nebraska in April 2018. He also maintained author presence across several dozens of store appearances, both within the Barnes & Noble chain store system in both Alaska and California and a selection of key indie “brick ‘n mortar” bookstores including Mosquito Books at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport where he connected with all kinds of travelers heading to and fro. He even saw the first “Jim Misko Book Club” started this past year by a fan of his in the Philippines. And The Path of the Wind, for which Misko was recognized as “a truly gifted novelist” by Midwest Book Review, was declared “an inspiring story, a classic tale of trying to expand a small town’s rigid boundaries and change children’s lives for the better” by The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
This fifth novel was also the first of Misko’s novels to be put into audio format this past summer through Audible.com’s new ACX.com system by Square One, in partnership with acclaimed fiction author and audiobook narrator Edison McDaniels, who had the following to say about Misko upon news of his passing:
“Jim Misko was an enormously talented writer. His stories were human stories, of the common man plodding through life’s little miseries with a simple truth. His voice was a sentimental testament to what the best writing can and should be.”
In the short round of weeks following a surprise diagnosis of stage 4 prostate cancer last month (December 2019), Mr. Misko opted even then to remain hopeful that he would remain with us for all five years of the expected survival rate for his illness. As a show of that positive attitude, he decided to “play Santa” over the past few weeks prior to the holidays by signing and handing out 250 assorted copies of his five novels to the more than 100 medical professionals and workers at the Eisenhower Hospital in Rancho Mirage, California; a book for each as a sign of his thanks, together with “one more [book] for them to give as a gift to somebody else.” Even in his final days, James A. Misko remained the same totally responsive and thoughtful individual that he has always been. He will be missed and remembered by family, friends, colleagues—and, perhaps especially, by his readers.