Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Jonathan Friesen Author Interview

Photo Content from Jonathan Friesen

Jonathan Friesen is an author, speaker, and youth writing coach from Mora, Minnesota. His first young adult novel, Jerk, California, received the ALA Schneider Award. When he’s not writing, speaking at schools, or teaching, Jonathan loves to travel and hang out with his wife and three kids.


Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Blink (January 31, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031074833X
ISBN-13: 978-0310748335

Praise for UNFOLDING

Jonah wishes he could get the girl, but he's an outcast and she's the most perfect girl he knows. And their futures seemed destined to fork apart: Jonah's physical condition is debilitating, and epileptic seizures fill his life with frustration. Whereas Stormi is seemingly carefree, and navigates life by sensing things before they happen. And her most recent premonition is urging her to leave town. When Stormi begs Jonah for help, he finds himself swept into a dark mystery his small town has been keeping for years. And the answers Stormi needs about her own past could possibly destroy everything Jonah has ever known -- including his growing relationship with Stormi herself. 'Unfolding' by author Jonathan Friesen is a consistently compelling novel from beginning to end and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to highschool and community library YA Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that 'Unfolding' is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Midwest Book Review

An awkward 18-year-old and his enigmatic crush discover that their town hides a terrible secret. Gullary, Oklahoma, a former mining town that is now dominated by a maximum security prison and ruled by a group of vigilantes called the Circle, has always been prone to violent storms. White narrator Jonah, afflicted with scoliosis and epilepsy (aka "Old Rickety"), is more preoccupied with Stormi, a "free and wild" spirit with a healing touch and psychic powers, than storms. Wandering in and out of occasionally florid flashbacks peppered with fake Latin, self-deprecating humor, and self-pity, Jonah recounts the awkward evolution of his friendship with Stormi and his misadventures with Old Rickety and his twisted spine. When Stormi predicts a tragic accident and comes under the Circle's suspicion, she and Jonah flee Gullary, learning its dark secret along the way. Someoneor somethingwants justice, and they're its instruments. Several plot points pass in a whirlwind of explanations, losing some emotional impact. Tired tropes, such as epilepsy as a harbinger of evil spirits, abound. However, when the dust settles, some strong character development remains. The biblical, ominous atmosphere of Gullary provides a vivid backdrop for Jonah's and Stormi's feelings of longing and alienation, which are further explored through occasionally poignant banter and conflicted family relationships. The almost-romance is engaging. A flawed but darkly atmospheric read. (Fiction. 13-18) Kirkus Reviews

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Absolutely not. My childhood Tourette’s made writing positively painful. But there were many moments when I realized I wanted to be a storyteller. These moments happened after I had kids, when I would tell them stories until they fell asleep, or I fell asleep, which usually came first.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories are the only way people can share what they really think without fear of criticism. If I tell you what I believe about politics or religion, this issue or that, there is always the risk of confrontation. Stories allow us to share our deepest hopes and beliefs through the distance of fictional lives. There is safety in that.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Oh, I don’t know any author whose favorite book is his/her own. What a tragedy that would be. No, my first all-time favorite book is Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger. His stories suck you in so deep you literally have to close the book to remind yourself what world you’re in. My other favorite is Winnie-the-Pooh. How cool it is that a learning disabled bear and an anxiety-ridden piglet and a tiger with ADHD and a compulsive mama kangaroo and a donkey living with deep depression could all get along! As a guy who writes many characters with mental health issues, I really appreciate that.

In your book; UNFOLDING, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
It’s a novel about first loves, second chances, and about eight tornadoes.

Eighteen-year old epileptic Jonah Everett gives tours at the almost-abandoned Supermax prison in Gullary, OK. Almost-abandoned as it houses one prisoner who Jonah needs to feed, though he isn’t sure why the harmless old guy is there. But when he escapes, Jonah’s best friend Stormi begs Jonah to flee with her. She sees into the future a little earlier than Jonah, and that insight tells her this prisoner isn’t just an old man. He’s going to reveal a secret that will tear their town in two, Jonah heart most of all.

For those who are unfamiliar with Jonah, how would you introduce him?
He’s big-hearted, so the hurt goes way in, but he’s also profoundly loyal, so he can’t let go of the ones who hurt him. Jonah’s epilepsy and scoliosis fill his life with an underlying sadness, but nobody can kill his hope. It’s the contradictions in him that make him human, and so darn likeable.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
For the first time in ten years, I have no deadlines. I’m going to write that again, because I like the look of it so much: I HAVE NO DEADLINES! I am letting stories come out how they want and when they want. My projects are personal, so I can share nothing with you just yet! Sorry.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I know I’m mixing media here, but I would like Connor Pickering from Unfolding to meet Rocky Balboa from any of the thousand Rocky movies, so that Rocky could beat the tar out of him.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Stormi?
It isn’t a new lesson, but it was sure reinforced: Giftedness and beauty can be their own curse. Stormi’s loneliness is just as profound as Jonah’s, though hers is born of strength and his is born out of weakness. That was an interesting discovery.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Write scenes that hurt you. I know that sounds odd, but when you write scenes that force you to face real pain in your own life—or recall real painful memories—the unfiltered, unique you comes out. There is no way I can write about my first in-school, seventh grade seizure in any other voice but my own. The feelings and embarrassment are still so raw and potent; my own voice spills out. I use the difficult times to remind myself what my teen voice truly sounds like.

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
Memorable. Working as an intern at The Cities 97 Alternative Radio Station. That was a blast. Sneaking into the studios, sitting in on the new music selection committees, meeting the biggest names in music as they came through to perform live in studio. It was pretty cool.

Who was your first girlfriend?
That would be thirty years ago, and that would be Lynnie. Interesting factoid: Two years ago, I was speaking at a random high school (with my wife accompanying me to help with book sales) and a random kid raises his hand and says, “I think you dated my mom for like a year. Her name’s Lynnie?”

“Ah, yes.” (Here I take an awkward peek toward my lovely wife, who thank goodness is laughing) “Yes, I did.”

We live in a very small world.

What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?
Well, after twenty-five years of marriage and eighteen years of fatherhood, I still do the first option daily. I’ve never had to tell anyone I didn’t love them back. So, based on my lack of experience, I’ll say the second scenario would make for a tougher day. I think when I was a teen, I would have answered differently, as those words, for me, meant a rather frightening level of commitment. It took more than a year to tell the woman who would become my wife that I loved her, because I knew that when I did, my life would forever change.

And it did.

When was the last time you cried?
Hey, this is good therapy. This morning at church. I don’t know why. It wasn’t a sad sermon. It was during the music, the worship. I was singing and suddenly I was crying and I don’t know the reason. But something in that song must have struck me as really true. That’s what usually gets me.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I was a sickly teen, and it would be hard to imagine living before modern medicine, but if my health would have been solid, I think the fifties. There was a sense that life was improving, we were improving. I don’t see enough of that optimism nowadays.

What is your greatest adventure?
I’ve chased down a camel herder across Mali, West Africa, who was attempting to steal my wife, and I’ve been stranded without a passport in the Middle East ... But my greatest adventure is my marriage, followed closely by fathering three awesome kids. That might not be the type of answer you were after, but every day with my family can be stormy or heavenly, tragic or jubilant. When you love people deeply enough that their choices warm or break your heart, you are in for a ride. I’m still hanging on!

Where can readers find you? (social media accounts)
For long thoughts, follow me on FB: @AuthorJonathanFriesen
For short thoughts, follow on Twitter: @FriesenJonathan
For visual thoughts, follow on Insty: @jonathan.friesen_
They can always check out my website as well: www.jonathanfriesen.com

“No, I just don’t think I deserve all the blame.” I folded my arms. “Maybe two percent, two percent of the blame.”

Stormi opened her mouth to speak, then closed her lips.

“Fine. I’d go as high as six.”

And it may not be a law of God, but the law of teen-hood is near as unshakable: senior year doesn’t hide anything.

“Nothing asked, nothing required, exceptin to dig.”

Truth be told, nobody cared much for Gina while she drew breath, and it pains me now even to mention it. Death muddies the realities of life.

“Exactly right, Jonah. A wonderful trajectory. And from out of nowhere, the unbelievable happens and all you love gets turned upside down. You keep breathing. That’s all you can do.” His voice trailed off. “Keep breathing.”

Tres gently placed his tray on his bed, and his voice softened. “Trusting everything to only one puts a man at a disadvantage.”

How far the swirling clouds carried the child is anyone’s guess. But that she was set down with the care of a new mother is a fact, one my parents emerged to when the wind paused and the rain fell straight.

That night I dreamed of Stormi, road trips, and the curves of each.

“Well, let’s start with kids. Yes or no, and how many?”


The yard lights stretched and warped my hunched shadow, enough so that Arthur stopped and pointed.

“You’re basically a walking boomerang. A boomerang carrying a plate.”

“Thank you, Arthur.”

Jonah wishes he could get the girl, but he’s an outcast and she’s the most perfect girl he knows.

And their futures seemed destined to fork apart: Jonah’s physical condition is debilitating, and epileptic seizures fill his life with frustration. Whereas Stormi is seemingly carefree, and navigates life by sensing things before they happen. And her most recent premonition is urging her to leave town.

When Stormi begs Jonah for help, he finds himself swept into a dark mystery his small town has been keeping for years. And the answers Stormi needs about her own past could possibly destroy everything Jonah has ever known—including his growing relationship with Stormi herself.

You can purchase Unfolding at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JONATHAN FRIESEN for making this giveaway possible.
4 Winners will receive a Copy of Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen
Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen
FEBRUARY 2nd THURSDAY The Silver Dagger Scriptorium SPOTLIGHT 

FEBRUARY 3rd FRIDAY Captivated Reading DREAM CAST 
FEBRUARY 6th MONDAY A Dream Within A Dream REVIEW 
FEBRUARY 7th TUESDAY The Avid Book Collector REVIEW 


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