“I have long felt a responsibility to help improve the world, so I created a protagonist whose mission is to do just that.”
So says Mark E. Klein, a Washington, DC radiologist and now writer, of his debut novel Franklin Rock. “I hoped to create a narrative that would tell a good story, but would also have the potential to alter the reader’s view of life.”
In this fascinating and unusual storyline, undergraduate student Franklin gets a glimpse into the future and is then tasked with fixing it. Throw in some time travel and a few meetups with some of the great minds of humanity, and Franklin is on his way.
Philosophical and hopeful, spiritual and scientific, individual yet emphasizing the importance of true bonds of friendship, Franklin Rock toes these fine lines with finesse. BookTrib asked the author more about how he conceived this intelligent novel. If you’re interested in learning more about the book, read our review here.
Q: Where did the idea for this book come from?
A: Franklin Rock has been brewing for several years. I began with the concept for a character who would be the vehicle for the important themes I wished to present in the book. As Henry Clay King, Franklin’s best friend, states in the first chapter: “Franklin’s story is a tale of hope and redemption, but he is not the beneficiary of that hope and redemption. He is the source.”
Q: The character Franklin Rock has been described as one-part Siddhartha and one-part Forrest Gump. Tell us exactly who your central character is and what he represents.
A: As the book begins, Franklin Rock is a college student. One cold, blustery winter day he experiences a vision of his future and is instantly convinced that his life will be a journey unlike anyone else’s. Franklin learns that he is “chosen,” meaning that he has been given a great responsibility. His mission, he eventually comes to understand, is to fix the world.
Franklin discovers that he can travel to other times, but time travel is only one of the powers he possesses; others are revealed as the story progresses. We watch Franklin mature and grow through his interactions with his mentor, Professor Charles Niemeyer, and a cadre of other characters.
Q: The book is said to be a healing balm and a ray of hope in our darkest hours. Please explain.
A: Covid has cast a long shadow over the world for the past year. We have witnessed great loss, not only of life but of livelihoods and relationships. Optimism has been in short supply. Enter Franklin Rock. Franklin delivers reasons to believe in our future, to expect a much better world tomorrow than confronts us today. Through his relationships with some fascinating characters, we discover surprising facts about our world and learn that there is far more to our lives than meets the eye. I don’t think it’s possible to turn the final page of this book without a smile and a sense of optimism about the future.
Q: What kind of lessons about time, our world, and the meaning of life can readers expect?
A: Time is one of my favorite subjects for two reasons. First, it is completely misunderstood by the vast majority of people, so it is a joy to share its secrets with others. Second, when one comes to understand how time works, he or she is rewarded with an unexpectedly massive dose of optimism. No moment ever disappears; each moment is alive forever. Through their conversations, Franklin and his mentor, Professor Charles Niemeyer, reveal the implications of this fact about our world.
Maurice Burnside, a wonderful elderly African-American man, teaches Franklin many of life’s most important lessons. Readers will undoubtedly fall in love with Maurice, as did I. His words have remained with me every day since I wrote the book.
Q: Franklin visits some of the greatest minds of humanity. How did you pick the people Franklin visits, and why?
A: Albert Einstein was an obvious choice. Einstein single-handedly pulled back the curtain and revealed the startling nature of time; one cannot discuss time without invoking him. His revelations about time changed our understanding of how our world works.
Franklin has visions and dreams, so who better to consult than Carl Jung, perhaps the greatest researcher into these phenomena that the world has ever known? Franklin’s discussion with Carl Jung covers topics that most of us find mysterious and fascinating.
Franklin is concerned about the amount of violence in the world, so he seeks counsel from one of the great non-violent leaders in history, Martin Luther King, Jr. Franklin’s conversation with Dr. King is one of my favorite chapters in the book.
Q: You are a radiologist by day, so how did you get into writing?
A: Michael Crichton, Abraham Verghese, Anton Chekov, and Khaled Hosseini are among the many physicians who went on to become accomplished novelists. When asked to compare his two professions, Dr. Hosseini answered, “Writers and doctors alike need to understand the motivation behind the things people say and do, and their fears, their hopes and aspirations.”
I have had an interest in writing since I was young. My previous two books were nonfiction; Franklin Rock is my first novel. I have also written poetry, short stories, and even music. The act of creation has always fascinated me. From where does the inspiration arise? How does it get translated into the finished product? After all these years of creating one thing or another, I still remain completely awed by the process.
Q: Why should we welcome and not fear the future?
A: The simple answer is that the future has already occurred, a consequence of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. One can make the case that it doesn’t make much sense to fear what is already fact.
There is another more important reason not to fear the future. Mortality among humans remains one hundred percent, meaning that no one, as is often stated, gets out of life alive. Death is the single best clue to life’s purpose. Since death is guaranteed, the purpose of life must be found in something that transcends death. That something is love. As long as we learn to love our fellow humans, as long as we grow from selfish to selfless and dedicate ourselves to helping others, our lives will be unqualified successes.