When myself and Roundup reporter Felicia Megdal were welcomed into the home of Jay Kemp, I first noticed the immense number of paintings and sculpture that decorated his home. On the coffee table were his three books, "Critters," "My Hopscotch Life," and his latest, "Over the Back Fence."
For Jay, telling stories just seemed to come easy for him. He began by telling us how he was drafted for war at the age of 18. He trained in the Navy at a base in San Diego, where he learned to be a parachute rigger.
"That's a life-and-death job," Megdal said.
"It sure is," Jay replied. "For graduation, we had to rig our own parachute and jump out of a plane."
After the completion of his training, Jay was sent to the South Pacific. He was on a neighboring island when the A-bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. As a result, Jay contracted thyroid cancer in 1948. As he told us this, he motioned from the left side of his jaw all the way to his left shoulder, where a scar still remains from his surgery. Since the surgery, his cancer has not returned, but it cost him his left vocal cord. Since Jay was also a singer, this caused him problems for several years as he tried to rebuild his voice. Today, it is as steady as ever, and he's even joining a local choir.
Following the war, Jay was in television production for 32 years. More specifically, he was "Mr. Five" on Channel Five in 1955.
As for writing, Jay's favorite genre is scientific fiction. In addition to the sci-fi aspect, Jay says there is also some humor in his books.
"I like the humor in life," he said.
He's written five manuscripts, as well as a young adult book. When he turned it in, his book was denied because it directly followed the first Harry Potter book, written by J.K. Rowling. Although he was unable to publish his book, Jay thinks highly of Rowling, "She made kids want to read. She got 8-year-olds to read thousand-page books."
Beyond being a veteran, writer, actor, and nearly professional photographer, Jay is an artist and sculptor. His garage is covered in paintings and sculptures, as well as the ribbons they have won.
That's not all. He's also an inventor, and created an "air cushion vehicle." We asked him if all of this was written in his books, and the answer was "no." The three books only cover the first part of his life. Laughing, he said, "I could write a book about that book."
So, after learning all this about Jay Kemp, we had to ask what his favorite thing to do might be. His reply, "I don't know. I haven't done it yet."
This being my first interview as a reporter, I was so glad I got the opportunity to talk with Jay. I was given signed copies of all of his books, and I can't wait to read more about his life.
Jay Kemp's books are on sale at Fireside Espresso and the Carpenter's Wife. He will also be promoting his newest book, "Over the Back Fence," with a book signing at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 at Fireside Espresso.