Interview with Jonathan M. Cook
Q: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing? How has that helped make you a better writer?
The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is probably something that many writers would disagree with–at least the popular ones, the ones whose novels sell millions of copies.
I am my own audience. I am the only audience that matters when writing.
That is not to say I don’t care about my wider audience, those fans who purchase and read my works. Without them, I’m just a guy with a lot of printed words. But there is an agreement made between an author and his audience, an agreement that the work be honest to itself. The audience may not always like the choices made by the author, but at least they know that the author stayed true to the needs of the work.
Take two examples from my first novel, Youth and Other Fictions: the dream sequences and the ending.
The dream sequences ranked as perhaps the most violent and graphic moments in the novel, and in a work so firmly rooted in realism, they act as a brutal slap to each reader’s understanding of the story. Almost everyone who read the manuscript drafts advised me to tone these scenes down or cut them entirely. Softening them, however, meant lessening the depth of the protagonist’s psychological trauma. Without them, the trauma is abstract. The reader may have accepted that the protagonist is deeply scarred, but the dreams gave the reader a more visceral account of just how deep those scars run.
Consider then the ending of the story proper. No other moment in the novel has raised as much ire as the ending, not even the multiple rape scenes. The protagonist confronts his doppelganger and is given a choice to make. The novel then cuts to a final image of the school building, leaving the protagonist’s choice unknown. That moment of choice is the key to understanding the larger themes of the novel, and how a reader chooses to view the choice dictates in large part how the reader ultimately interprets the entire novel. Providing a definite answer would have closed off entire avenues of interpretation, including the one I personally favor and around which I wrote the novel.
It is not, I believe, the author’s job to interpret his work; that is the responsibility of any good reader.
Publication Date: February 14, 2013
Category/Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance, Coming of Age
Tour Date: Mid-October/November, 2013
Available in: Print & ebook, 185 Pages
Author: Jonathan M. Cook
“Love makes sinners of us all.”
In the sleepy Midwestern town of Vespers…
In the sweltering summer heat…
Julian Sane, high school teacher and cad’s cad, is a man at war with himself. But a chance encounter with a former student will push him across professional boundaries and force him to confront his personal demons.
From the author of YOUTH AND OTHER FICTIONS comes a love story for those who live in the real world, where love does not conquer all and actions do have consequences.
Note: SINNERMAN has attracted some controversy in Jonathan M. Cook’s hometown due to a number of similarities between events in the book and actual events in the community over the past several years. This book is a work of fiction!
Praise for Youth and Other Fictions
“All I can say is WOW! This powerful book kept me turning the pages wondering what was going to happen next. It’s one of those stories that make you wonder who did it or who will do it. Though the book dealt with a sensitive subject that would usually make me uncomfortable it was written in a way that drew me in.
It is so suspenseful my heart raced and my palms began to sweat.
The characters are well written and the plot solid. The author writes in a powerful manner that is lacking in a lot of fiction today. He is able to bring the reader into the mind of a killer and also the heart of the survivors. He shows that the effects of a high school shooting never go away. They are always lingering in the minds of those who lived through it, no matter how hard they try to forget.
I recommend this book to people who love a great drama or crave suspense. This book is truly worth reading.”– Stephanie, Mother of Insanity
” I found myself totally engrossed in the book, almost against my will. I was drawn in by the inner dialog of the best friend, but also repulsed by some of his thoughts. The writing is clear, concise and effective and the tragic characters seem very real.”– Theresa, Frugal Experiments
” Cook allows us to get into the mind of his characters, and it brings a vividness to this story that is startlingly easy to fall into. When everything heads south, you’ll know exactly why. The reader is given an up close and personal look at the daily life of these students, at the cruel way kids can act towards one another, and at the frustration and anxiety that comes with feeling utterly alone.
I liked the way that Cook showed the stark contrast between the kids of Jack’s youth, and the kids of today.
Watching the events unfold really took my breath away, and I found myself reading at a manic pace to find out what ultimately happened. Cook definitely shows his prowess at writing characters that will pull you in and keep you there. Youth and Other Fictions definitely isn’t an easy read, but it’s one that I enjoyed. I highly recommend it.”–Jessica, Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
“The story completely absorbed me. I did not want to stop reading because I had to know what would happen. This book does a brilliant job of getting into the heads of Jack and Jason. It shows the horrors of having to deal with the tragedy of a school shooting. It goes places you never expect. I think it is a book that people will want to read.”– Lisa, A Casual Reader’s Blog
“Jonathan M. Cook’s work is fascinating. This a work of true goodness. He takes the unthinkable: teens committing horrific crimes, and turns it into a realistic fictional read for everyone.
In Youth and Other Fiction, Cook gives us a play for play breakdown of a student’s demise and what leads to the shooting. He gives us a look inside the teacher’s head. What the teacher was thinking, the reactions. The realistic feel that this book had was incredible. Cook put you in the middle of the story and kept you there until the last page. You were front and center for all the feelings, all the reactions, all the horrific details about the crime committed. I couldn’t have felt more emotion if I was in the center of a true school shooting, it was just THAT real. If you are looking for an emotional, GRIPPING, and fantastically written novel for adults and teens alike, this is it. This is not for the faint of heart, of course. It’s REAL. These things happen every day, somewhere, in some part of the world. You’ll turn each page with a new look on life. With a knowledge that bullying and craziness can happen among our youths today. This book is a worthy debut and is a keeper and one that should be read by everyone for a very REAL look into today’s world. Well done, Mr. Cook!”– Molly, Reviews by Molly
About Jonathan M. Cook
Jonathan M. Cook was born in 1982. He studied Literature, Composition, and Creative Writing at Eastern Illinois University before moving to Robinson, IL, to become a high school English teacher and faculty advisor for the student newspaper. He is currently at work on his third novel.
Jonathan M. Cook’s Website: http://www.
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