In my year long quest to bring you new and “new to you” authors, I’m please to present young adult fantasy author J.S. Frankel, author of The Titans of Ardana (and many other YA Fantasy novels).
Hi, J.S., thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My real name is Jesse Frankel, but I never cared for it, so I go by my initials most of the time. I was born in Toronto, Canada, a long time ago, and grew up there, attending university and graduating with an Arts Degree, which is about as useful these days as an empty beer bottle.
When I was twenty-six, I moved to Japan to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) and never really went back. I got married a long time ago, and my wife and two sons make our home in Osaka. I teach English and write when I have the time.
How long have you been writing?
Not very long, really. I started when I was forty-eight, and now I’m fifty-five, but I didn’t get into it until I was around fifty-two.
What inspired you to start writing?
Something my son said to me back in 2011. We’d been watching a cartoon, something about trees, and he said, “Papa, it would be great if the trees could talk.” It was a throwaway line, really, but that night—cliché time!—I had a dream, and later on I turned it into my first novel, The Tower. (That’s out of print, but I may self-pub it in the future).
Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?
I’m working on a number of projects right now. Actually, I’m waiting for the edits to Master Fantastic, a YA novel I have with my publisher. Then I have the third Titans novel to edit, and two more, and I’ve just completed the rough draft of Ether, a fantasy novel with a hard-edged twist. So, I’ve always got something going.
What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?
YA, as it is fresh and exciting and new. Teens always have something new happening in their lives, and I like to record those happenings, as it were.
Do you write every day? A few days per week?
Yes, every day, unless sick. If I don’t write, I get withdrawal symptoms. OCD, I know, but that’s how it is.
How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?
When I first started, I was pretty decent with writing dialogue and action, but my narrative was poor. I knew it, the reviewers knew it, and they mentioned it to me—kindly. I went to work on it, and now my narrative has improved quite a bit, although I still feel there’s room for improvement. I like to keep things simple, no excess, no waste, just enough description to spice things up, and then let the action carry things along.
How do you create the covers for your books?
I don’t. I work with a cover artist who goes on basic ideas I put out and she carries them through. I’ve worked with a number of people, but two of them stand out: Carmen Waters and Martine Jardin. Both work for Devine Destinies. Carmen did most of my covers including those for Catnip, Picture (Im)perfect, and Mr. Taxi, while Martine did the Titans covers as well as Master Fantastic and a few others. Both are excellent artists!
Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc.)?
I’m a huge YouTube video watcher, and I can honestly say that music and music videos have provided me with the inspiration to pen my novels. Mr. Taxi, Twisted (a gender-switch action/comedy) Star Maps, and a couple of others all came about due to watching music vids. They gave me ideas and I ran with them.
Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?
Excerpt from my novel, entitled The Titans of Ardana. This is from the end of Chapter One, where the main protagonist, Martin Calder, attempts to get an autograph from his favorite television action star, Dana. And…he finds out that things aren’t quite what they seem…
Peering inside, the brother-sister combo stood in the center of the room. Dressed in jeans and long-sleeved shirts, they stood ankle deep in a sea of empty candy bar wrappers and cookie boxes. Three assistants fussed around throwing garbage into a large trash bag.
In a lazy, idle motion, Dana lifted the front of her shirt to reveal a firm midriff. Yeah, she had the abs, along with a line of bumps that started from a triangular bellybutton and ran around her narrow waist. All of the bumps were a perfectly round shape, the size of pearls. Multiple bumps… that wasn’t a rash. Neither was the three-pointed navel.
Oh hell! My heart immediately accelerated to mega proportions and I flattened my back against the wall, breathing hard. Bumps, I’d seen bumps and…no…it had to be some kind of prosthetic. Sure, that was it. In a second, she’d peel it off, scratch her stomach, and I was an idiot for believing something had been wrong in the first place.
Risking another peek, the assistants turned around, and all of them were clones of Van. With a sudden, massive inhalation of breath from him, they melted into his body. “Holy crap, they’re…”
Reflexively, I put my hand over my mouth in order to stifle the gasp of surprise. This couldn’t be happening! People didn’t just split apart and reassemble, did they?
“Hey, what are you doing here?”
The voice—Dana’s—startled me. Damn it, I’d been busted. Hands on her hips, she wore a pissed off expression. “What did you see?” she demanded.
“Uh, nothing, I saw—”
“You saw nothing. Now what do you want?” That came from Van. He’d come outside to stand alongside Dana and I felt his eyes rake my form over as if searching for a spot to tear me a new one. At six feet and around two hundred pounds, the guy looked strong enough to lift a tank.
Put on the spot, trying desperately to hang onto the real and true, I sputtered out an excuse. “I, uh, was hoping I could get an autograph from Dana. And you, too,” I added. “I’m a big fan of the show.”
Dana visibly relaxed and a smile began to play around her lips. “You’re a fan, huh? If you are, tell me what happened in episode twelve, midway through the show.”
plit-second answer time and it was a no-brainer. “You were captured by the Shadow Agency. They tortured you, sent a rogue mutant agent named Saldar to kill your brother, and you busted in and saved him at the last moment.”
Yes, perfect response, and in an attempt to look cool, I crossed my arms over my scrawny chest. A second later, I dropped them to my sides. My chest was too small and my arms resembled sticks. Glancing at her brother, his reaction was to offer no reaction at all. Rocks showed more emotion.
“Great,” he said. “We got us a fanboy.”
He then took a step toward me, violence flashing from his eyes. Please don’t hammer me too hard. In a quick move, Dana put her hand on his arm to restrain him. She may have been shorter and lighter, but she had some grip. Van struggled, but couldn’t go anywhere. Finally, he jerked his arm away. “All right, sis, it’s cool.” Impaling me with a glare, he said, “Fine, you’re hardcore. So, what did you see?”
“N-nothing,” I stuttered. My confidence shattered and sweat poured down my face. After wiping it away and hoping not to appear too pathetic, I managed to say, “I just, uh, walked in and saw all the candy wrappers and—”
“And now you’re here because you wanted an autograph. That’s all, right?”
“Yeah, an autograph, and then I was going to leave.”
Unfortunate situations made people feel like total tools. Call me Tool Dude. Van grunted something unintelligible, and then pulled a piece of paper and a pen out of his pocket. He scribbled something on the paper and thrust it at me. Pivoting around on his heel, he walked inside, back turned to me.
Dana stayed a moment longer, long enough to give me that same curious smile, a faint curling of the corners of her mouth. Dawn purple glowed in her eyes, and the color seemed to leap out and swallow me up. Something was there, something I couldn’t figure out. Maybe it was interest or maybe not. “What’s your name?”
“It’s Martin, Martin Calder. I’m a student at Tacoma High.”
Dana didn’t bat an eyelash and then went over to the table to grab a sheet of paper and a pen. Following her brother’s lead, she wrote on the paper and handed it over. It read From Dana to my biggest fan.
Lifting my head, our eyes met once more. She was in the process of giving me that same curious look, and then the door closed. Well, mission successful and I’d achieved the impossible. I’d seen it as well. While exiting the building, a security guard confronted me. “Hey, how’d you get inside?”
“Uh… uh, well…”
The expression of mess with me and you’ll suffer major trauma was written all over his face. “The exit is over there.” He stabbed a thick forefinger at the gate. Message given—message received.
Once outside the entrance, the shakes began. What I’d just seen had rocked my world and shaken the very foundation of my grasp on reality. Two people I idolized weren’t people. Aliens lived here and I was the first one to know their secret. The only problem was no one would believe me.
Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?
Where can we find you online?
How do you market your books?
I use mainly Facebook and Twitter, and hope that word-of-mouth will carry my name around.
Any parting words for writers?
Don’t give up! I know that sounds like a cliché—and it is—but the most popular writers—not the best, maybe, but the most popular, are those who stayed the course and kept at it when others folded. You have to be persistent as well as consistent. If you have those traits, you have a good chance of getting published.