Saturday, October 1, 2022

Author interview Jess Frankel/ Book review 'Thread Weaver'


Update 04/03/23 this post won a Page Turner Award 

Today’s treat is an interview with author J.S. Frankel, who has penned more than 50 books (I am in awe!). Although some of his books are written in series, he suggested I read Thread Weaver which is a standalone novel. So let’s meet Jess:

‘I was born in Toronto, Canada, many moons ago, grew up there, and then moved to Japan when in my mid-twenties. I’m a forever ESL* teacher, and I got into writing very late, in my late forties, just after my mother passed away. Writing was a catharsis, then, and it’s a challenge now. Always fun, always somewhere new to go in my work. That’s the fun part of it all.’

(* ESL = English as a Second Language)

It’s amazing that such a sad catalyst produced such a prolific writer, but it’s good to hear it’s fun (albeit challenging)! Jess writes in the genres of YA Fantasy, Sci-fi, Romance Action, and Paranormal and was first published in 2011. Here’s a tweetable to introduce him to your friends (tweet here):

‘If you’re looking for adventure, romance, action, and a HEA* ending, then you’ve come to the right writer! My aim is to take you on a journey that you won’t want to come back from!’

(* HEA = happily ever after!)

So what inspired Jess to write this novel?

‘Something my late father once said to me. “You’re born alone, and you die alone. It’s what you do in between that counts.”

I changed it to: “When you’re born, you give up one percent of your life. When you die, you give up the last one percent. Make the other ninety-eight percent count.” I’d like to think that this novel honors my father’s name.’

Aww, that’s so lovely! Jess uses popular references in Thread Weaver, such as song and film quotes, which I enjoyed, but I wondered if they were a characteristic of that particular character or whether he uses them in his other books too?

‘I toss in references all the time, sometimes to movies, songs, famous people, ex-presidents...anyone and anything that I can get away with referencing, but I'm always respectful of the subject matter. By the way, Petula Clark's always been my favorite singer, and I used that reference to her in my first novel, The Tower.’

Aahh, so he’s got good taste in singers too! But do these quotes come to him as he’s writing, or is there a list waiting to be used?

‘They just pop into my head. I've never made lists...I like to be spontaneous that way.’

Interesting, so is he spontaneous when naming his characters too?

‘For the guys, I tend to use generic names—Harry, Paul, Bill—in order to emphasize their ‘every-dudeness’ but for the women, alien or not, I tend to add an -la or -ra to their names, such as Angyalla, Anarra, Angella, Shayala, and so on. It sounds more poetic, somehow.’

I wondered what Jess enjoys the most about writing?

‘Creating the story, getting my hero/heroine into ridiculous situations that they have to struggle and think their way out of. There’s always a bad guy, so I want to make sure he—or she—gets what’s coming to them.’

That’s one of my favourite parts too (shame it doesn’t always happen in real life!). What’s the hardest then?

‘Publishing-wise, this is more related to sales. Once my book is out there, it’s really my job to sell it, and marketing is H-A-R-D!

Writing-wise, editing is hard, as I don’t want to cut anything out.’

Editing does seem one of those jobs that writers either love or hate. It made me wonder how long it takes Jess to write the first draft, and then how much longer to edit it?

‘My first drafts take roughly three weeks. Granted, there are errors, but as Ernest Hemingway said, the first draft of everything is garbage, so there it is. It takes another two to three weeks of constant editing to get through everything and make it as presentable as possible.’

Three weeks to write and then another three to edit? Yikes, I wish I was that fast! And what happens to all that cut text?

‘I very rarely keep it. If it isn't useful to me, then I think that it probably won't be of use later on.’

I think I need to take a leaf out of his book! As such an experienced author, I asked Jess what he would advise his younger writing self?

‘I’d tell myself that less is best. Many writers tend to overdo things, way too much description. I did the same at first, but then I read something the late Elmore Leonard wrote, and I’ll paraphrase: cut the fat, leave the meat. Do only that which will advance the narrative. Any extraneous description or dialogue, get rid of it. I’ve taken that advice to heart.’

Great advice and reading good authors also helps us learn good practise too! What is one of Jess’ favourite novels and why?

‘Of all the novels I’ve read, Gone South, by Robert McCammon. It has everything: adventure, romance, humor, action, a compelling lead who’s less than perfect—in fact, the entire novel is a search for perfection, in a way—and a twist ending. Worth reading and rereading.

Of my novels, probably The Tower, as it was my first.’

So back to Thread Weaver, I wondered if Jess was a DC/ Marvel fan, because his writing’s so visual?

Books published by JS Frankel
Books by Jess (so far!)

‘I prefer DC over Marvel, although Marvel's movies are superior, whereas DC puts out excellent animated features, and, yes, they gave me the impetus to write The Tower, my homage to Justice League. It differs from the comics/animated series in that the action is seen from the viewpoint of an ordinary person and not a superhero...and it remains my first and favorite novel, along with the Catnip series.’

Aww, I can see touches of their influence in your work! So, could you imagine your work being onscreen and would you like to be involved in the process?

‘Of course! A few reviewers have called my work 'cinematic' and I agree. Everything I write is like a movie yet unmade...and I can only hope! If I were ever lucky enough to have my work featured onscreen, I'd work with the production team as long as they'd have me.’  Calling any budding filmmakers out there...!

Writers need feedback to sell their books nowadays so does Jess read reviews left on his books?

‘I do. If the review is harsh but fair, I’ll consider any advice given and try to apply it in my next novel, if I find it useful. If the review attacks the book for no reason, if the reviewer has an agenda, if they get personal—and they have, on occasion—then I dismiss their thoughts. Simple as that.’

That sounds a great attitude! What about Jess, would he like to say to you, his readers?

‘Simply, thank you! You’ve taken a chance on my novels, and I can only hope that I’ve delivered, and I’ll keep trying to please. That’s my job!’

To finish up I asked Jess for a tweetable-sized favourite extract from Thread Weaver (tweet here):

‘As I plummeted through the wormhole, I remembered a saying. In space, no one can hear you scream. But this was New York, and I was sure that everyone could hear me scream.’


Thread Weaver starts in New York, where Fenton Mardwich is preparing for an art audition. He has a low opinion of himself although he does recognise his talent as an artist, which had landed him Meredith, the hottest girl in school, for a whole ‘one-hundred-twelve days’ and says:

‘I became her official artist and unofficial boyfriend, although nothing outside of a few kisses ever happened. It wasn’t like she saw anyone else. She didn’t. No, Meredith was into herself bigtime.’

I love this! Jess has a great way of making you understand a character in very few words, which is a real skill.

Fenton aces his audition and has just secured his perfect paid internship when he’s sucked into a wormhole - isn’t that typical! – and lands in Kaseto, a medieval world that’s been conquered by Dranians. He’s captured and their leader, King Hallefwatt (nicknamed Halfwit), tells him,The interstellar wormholes are sent hither and yon to various worlds throughout the universe,” the head man said. “Who they take is a matter of chance.”

So, he’s just unlucky – poor Fenton!

He’s enslaved as a scribe, joining other new arrivals Litro (a gray larval being), Sekisa (an outcropping of rock) and Angyalla (a winged female). Their work is similar to war correspondents, and they’re told they need combat training to survive because: ‘You will taste the sweat, smell the blood, and use your skills to bring those battles to life for our people, for that is what they demand.’

This sets up our story and we follow the group as they embark on their journey and face a plethora of challenges together. As author Jess says at the start of the novel, When you’re born, you give up one percent of your life. When you die, you give up the last one percent. Make the other ninety-eight percent count’ and this story is about what these characters will do with their 98%.

Thread Weaver is a brilliant read, gripping and pacy, visual and thought-provoking, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride (where can I get me a hoverboard please!). The characters are believable, and Jess writes great external and internal dialogue. He also has an accessible writing style, perfect for YA audiences, and I flew through the pages.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action-packed stories with Fantasy/ Sci-fi/ Romance themes – it’s pure fun and escapism!

Please visit the author’s links below to find out more:

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