Q&A with controversial author J.K. Franko about his new novel: Eye for Eye
by Veronica Rios, Miami Post
Last week, I received a very interesting package in the mail. It was an advance copy of the book Eye for Eye by author JK Franko. Along with the book came a fish knife.
I’m not kidding. A real, metal—sharp—fish knife with a wooden handle with Eye for Eye engraved on one side of the handle, and JKFranko.com engraved on the other.
Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued.
I read the book, and WOW! A real roller coaster ride! Not like anything I’ve read recently. The best way I can describe it, without giving anything away, is Gone Girl meets John Grisham.
After a bit of online sleuthing, I tracked down Mr. Franko and was able to set up an interview.
So, first off. I loved Eye for Eye! Lots of twists. Lots of surprises. But, when I was getting ready for this interview, I found it difficult to prepare questions about the book without giving anything way. How do you describe the book and avoid spoilers?
First off, thanks. I’m glad you liked it. But, yeah, it’s tricky. I mean, the book builds on a series of dramatic events that all happen very early on in the story. But, of course, not all is as it seems. The rest of the book is about putting those events into context. Exposing the guilty. And then, meting out punishment. It’s modern noir—a friend recently described it as Florida Noir—about the perfect crime, about getting away with murder.
How did you pick the subject matter for Eye for Eye?
Well, they say you should write about what you know. I know about the law. I know about how the legal system works, and sometimes doesn’t. And, I know about revenge—don’t we all? So, I set out to put all of those together into a story. It all boiled down to two key elements.
First, if what happened in the book happened to me, how would I react? And if I chose to take revenge on someone, how would I go about it? What steps would I go through?
And second, what would it take to get me there—what would have to happen so that I would be willing to plot a murder? That was sort of the guts of it.
But this isn’t autobiographical, is it? I mean…
No, no, no. If it was, that would make me a very bad person. I’d be in jail. Unless, of course, I got away with it. (Franko laughs) But, no. Not biographical—though, again, you do write about what you know. (another laugh) But no, the idea was “what would it take” to get me there, and how would I go about doing it. Then, I let my imagination run wild and put all the pieces in place for Roy and Susie, all of the characters really, to live out that scenario.
Roy Cruise, and his wife Susie, are the protagonists. As characters, they feel very real. Did you base them on someone you know?
I wouldn’t say they are the protagonists necessarily. They are definitely the main drivers of the plot in this first book of the series, no question. And they figure prominently in the rest of the series. But, the main characters in the series are—well, they are all introduced in Eye for Eye.
As for Susie and Roy, parts of them are people I know. Several people. No one would recognize themselves, I don’t think. Part of them is me. They are agglomerations I guess.
Eye for Eye is the first book in the Talion Series. How much of the series is already complete?
Eye for Eye launches in April in the UK and June in the US. The second book, Tooth for Tooth, is done. It’s going through final edit right now, and will release in October of this year. Book three, Life for Life, has been fully outlined and I am going to start writing it this month. It launches next April—maybe sooner depending on demand.
A lot of Eye for Eye feels cinematic. The locations, the descriptions. Were you thinking about film when you wrote it?
You’re not the first to say that. There is a proximity to the locations—I’ve spent a lot of time in them—Colorado, Austin, Miami, the Bahamas. I know them all very well. So that’s probably part of it. I do feel that the locations also have a metaphorical value. The cold winter of Beaver Creek, Colorado, and Susie and Roy’s situation, where they were in their relationship at the outset of the story, none of that is accidental. I do feel that the environment, atmosphere, is critical to setting the stage. And I think that translates, the reader picks that up, when it’s done effectively. For me, reading is very visual. I have a vivid imagination, and when I read, I see the places, people, events. I try to make that happen in my writing as well.
So, let’s talk about the infamous Chapter 19. Can you give me the background on that?
(Franko laughs) I think that’s getting blown a bit out of proportion. The short version is, as I was preparing the book for publication, I was working with an editor—a very capable editor, a good person. We were progressing through the book, and then one morning I get up and I have an email from the editor quitting on me. The gist of it was that the editor wasn’t comfortable with the direction the story was taking. The email stated that the morality of the story was questionable. And, apparently, it was the contents of Chapter 19 specifically that the editor said were just too… well, went too far, I guess.
In terms of the book launch, I understand that an event is planned for London in April. Something out of the ordinary…
April 6, Veronica. You’re invited.
Thanks. I appreciate it, though I don’t know if I can make the jump across the pond. Will you be doing anything similar in the U.S.?
It’s up in the air—the US part. The London event will be special. Rather than reading a chapter from the book over stale cheese at a book store, we are doing something a bit more interesting. We’ve chosen a historical location in London, with a courtroom in it. There will be a theatrical piece—basically a short play based on a part of Eye for Eye—a trial—along with some other surprises. We’re trying to keep it very intimate, but fun. More of an event than a book launch.
We are doing an even smaller event in Austin for friends and family. Nothing major. My publicist is pushing me to do something similar to the London event in the US—New York or Miami. We have time to plan. We’ll see…
Lastly, I just have to ask. The fish knife… I know how it figures in the story, obviously (cringe). But, whose idea was it to send it to the press, with the book?
It’s funny… the idea was mine, I thought it made the story real. I mean, there’s a knife on the cover, obviously. But, when you read the book and understand the significance of it, well… it takes on a whole new meaning. Getting the book and the knife in the mail makes a statement.
Initially, everyone was against it. I mean, at first they laughed and said…“Yeah, cool idea.” Then, they realized I was serious, and started backpedaling. Some of the team were worried whether they could even send knives through the mail. In the end, it’s just a knife. You can buy knives on Amazon and get them delivered to your house—but this one takes on a different significance with the book. Again, it’s about context.
After completing this interview, I was left with the feeling that there is something very fresh and different about Eye for Eye and about JK Franko.
The next day, I was not disappointed. I received an invitation on LinkedIn from Roy Cruise.
As mentioned above, Roy Cruise is one of Franko’s characters. I clicked through to Cruise’s LinkedIn profile, out of curiosity. You can check it out here. Mr. Cruise, founder of Cruise Capital, has over 7,000 connections and an active online life. I accepted his invitation to connect, and sent him an email, requesting an interview.
Thanks for the inquiry. Love to do an interview, but kind of busy right now. Better after the first week of April.
I am not sure what to make of Mr. Franko’s approach to storytelling, but it is definitely intriguing. And the book certainly speaks for itself.
EYE for EYE is out in the UK on April 6th 2019 and in the USA and rest of world on June 22nd 2019. It is available from all good bookstores in paperback, for kindle and audiobook.