Author J S Frankel might have begun writing about a decade ago, but he hadn’t taken the art of writing seriously until 2014. Speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction, the fifty-eight-year-old Canadian author, who dwells as an English coach and editor in Japan, says he wishes he had taken up writing much earlier. Conceding, nonetheless, that becoming a writer was not a conscious decision, Mr Frankel tells us that he was initially too busy working and helping his wife rear their two male children. ‘But one day, I had an idea, wrote it down, and then I took it from there. While it wasn’t very good, to be honest, it was my start. After that, I got the idea of becoming a writer, and I simply kept up with it,’ he shares with us.
Working Fantastic Worlds
Talking about his published works, the author, who holds a BA in Political Science and English Literature, says he has mostly written YA Fantasy, with some of his best-known works being Catnip, Master Fantastic, and The Keymasters of Telemma.
‘All of them start with the MC (main character) living a fairly boring life until they get dropped into something fantastic, a fantastic world or situation, or both. That’s when they have to step up, to learn to do for themselves and to fight back, if necessary,’ he explains, adding, ‘My latest novel, The Tower, is just that. Our MC, Linden Lampkin, is a fifteen-year-old, who lives with his surly, drunk father. One night, Linden goes for a bike ride and stumbles upon a mugging gone bad. He gets shot, and he ends up on a parallel Earth. There, things seem idyllic until he finds out who’s really running the show. It’s all fun and games until it’s not. There is some romance, a lot of action and humour, and a twist ending. All in all, I had a lot of fun writing that novel.’
Be that as it may, when asked if he tends to have an idea of the story before he puts pen to paper, Mr Frankel, who favours author Robert McCammon’s flawless narratives and great characterizations, tells us that he always has a basic idea, and when he starts writing, he tends to observe where the story takes him. ‘Naturally, I change things to make the novel more exciting and, as ideas surface, I change things even more,’ Mr Frankel, who also adores N K Jemisin’s works, lets us know.
‘Sleep Imperative to Being Creative’
Besides, Mr Frankel shares with us that being an English coach and editor, he has to make time for other essential activities as well. While he usually writes at night for a few hours and takes breaks every fifty minutes or so, we learn that during the day too, he gets interesting ideas, which he more often than not jots down immediately. ‘During the day, however, I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) besides editing other writers’ works. Then, I do my own thing, which is writing. When I want to relax, I listen to music, read, or try to sleep. Most writers are sleep deprived at one point or another, and sleep is imperative to being creative.’
On being asked about his works in progress, the author says that he is presently working on a devil-angel team-up type of comedy novel. ‘It’s almost done, so I’m editing it to the best of my ability, and I’ll see where it goes. Also, if any of my novels became a bestseller, I’d think of becoming a full-fledged writer. But that’s a dream right now. Until that day comes, I’ll keep working,’ he says.
And is there something he would want to tell budding authors? Says Mr Frankel, who feels he has written some excellent novels that have not sold well on account of poor marketing and public taste, ‘You have to want to improve. That means studying the craft, working at it, shoring up your weak points, and always thinking of trying to better things. Contrary to popular opinion, there are no ‘natural’ writers. Some writers are naturally better at narrative or dialogue or action sequences or whatever, but even those ‘naturals’ make mistakes, and they work to improve what they have.’
He adds, ‘I would also like to say to all the writers not to give up. I had no support when I first started. No one bothered to help me, and many times, I thought about quitting, but I didn’t. You shouldn’t, either. If you have a dream, a story to tell, then tell it. Write it. Someone out there will want to read it!’
Nevertheless, as the conversation draws to a close, we ask him if there is something he would want to change in the world, and he says he feels the world could become a better place if people were a bit kinder to one another. ‘There is way too much hate and intolerance going around, no matter where a person is from or their race or religion or ethnicity. A little kindness goes a long way. That’s what I’d like to see,’ he tells us, thereby bringing the discourse to an end.
I had no support when I first started. No one bothered to help me, and many times, I thought about quitting, but I didn’t. You shouldn’t, either. If you have a dream, a story to tell, then tell it. Write it. Someone out there will want to read it!J S Frankel