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Dear Franklin: My Dad Just Had an Operation, What Do I Do? by Jake Ryan

It’s enough of a challenge to read a book that hits close to home, let alone write it. But that’s exactly what Jake Ryan has done with Dear Franklin: My Dad Just Had an Operation, What Do I Do? (Arbitrary Press), a book aimed for kids whoes parent has just undergone a major surgery. While the events of the book are fictional, Ryan’s drawn a ton of inspiration from his own open-heart surgery and how the experience affected him both as a person and as a parent.

We’ve sat down with Ryan to discuss how this book came to be, as well as what possible sequels he has in store for the characters of Dear Franklin.

Q: Why did you write this book? 

A: Originally it was the book I wish existed when I had my surgery. And though the story has changed, it’s still a book that shows a family how to deal with a sudden major surgery. But, yeah, like the Dad character says, I was really nervous about how I was going to be able to (still) be a dad.

Q: How much of your real-life story with open-heart surgery is reflected in the story and how much is fictionalized?

A: Everything with the family is fictionalized. But there were some events from my own experience that are in there. How it happened — in the gym. The PTSD. The walking. The not wanting help. But it’s all told from the perspective of this amazing girl, Hannah B, and as smart as she is, she’s not a mind reader — maybe in the sequel. All that said, there’s enough of the trajectory of my healing which makes the book a great roadmap for anyone recovering from major surgery.

Q: Why did you choose to write this in the voice of a 11-year-old girl and in a diary format? How did you manage to get into the head of a girl that age?

A: There’s never a lot of conscious decision-making in these things. I wanted to tell a good, honest story that would help people. And this is what came out. Plus, kids tend to be more honest than adults, and nothing is more honest than (don’t say diary) a journal. As for finding her voice, well, my daughter and I have always had a very similar sense of humor; when she was a baby, I used to write cards to people as her—it’s the same voice in the book.

Q: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

A: This question is actually harder than writing the book. Look, I had a great editor, Peter Alson, who also happens to be a great writer. So it was like being in a band and wanting to impress your bandmates, that’s how I felt handing in pages. I don’t remember the specific notes which opened the story up, but that’s what really brought it to life. When he loved  the new direction, especially Hannah B’s “friend,” Billy Rocco — who nearly steals the whole book, (he’ll definitely be back for the sequel) — that was when I knew we had something great.

Q: Is the book primarily geared to helping children cope or providing advice for helping parents help their children? Or both?

A: As I said, it began as a roadmap for parents recovering from major surgery—and still works as that. But now, in the way that it’s a parenting book is that it offers insight into the mind of a young person. Kids are so savvy nowadays, so smart. And Hannah B is not at all a cute cookie cutter kid. She’s dry and sharp and doesn’t suffer fools. It’s middle grade but plays older. I think young readers are going to really connect with it—not to mention, discover the power and freedom in journaling.

Q: You have gathered more than 60,000 followers on TikTok. How did you do it, what do you talk about, and why do you suppose your message has resonated with so many?

A: This is going to sound woo-woo to some, but everything is energy. Therefore, all communication is an energy exchange. With regard to growing my audience, I’d never say I keep it real. Ever. But I would say, real knows real. More practically-speaking, I am a storyteller and was once an actor; the perfect TikTokian storm. So when creating content I’m passionate about — mindset, personal development, energy exchanges — I’m able to do it in a (ahem) phenomenally charismatic and entertaining way. Plus, I post a lot.

Q: What is the next big project for Jake Ryan?

A: I just finished the “final” draft of the first in a five-book series. I have a 300-page outline for the rest, and accidentally wrote Book 3 first, so I’m pretty invested. It’s YA, but no more so than A Princess Bride or Game of Thrones, which it is (aspires to be) a cross between. This first book, The Chambermaid’s Son, is the villain’s origin story. An inverted ode to (my Uncle Stephen’s) The Dark Tower. Also there’s: Dear Franklin #2: I Just Had My First Kiss, Twice. And, of course, my continuation as the fourth best Life Coach on TikTok.


About Jake Ryan:

Jake Ryan is in top-flight physical condition. Seriously, dude is ripped. Especially considering he “recently” had massive open-heart Surgery. Currently, he resides all over the world (online), but sleeps most nights in New York City, where he has a thriving Life Coaching business and two amazing teenaged kids — both of whom, the teens that is, he loves with all the might of his bionic heart.

He can be found crushing it on TikTok as @FreeJakeRyan, creating content that enlightens, inspires, and entertains a billion people a day, potentially. While this is his debut novel, he writes a very popular daily newsletter, The Fire Wave Manifesto — yet claims to merely edit it, as the writings are direct downloads from the Universe. Jake takes his work, though not himself, very seriously.

Dear Franklin: My Dad Just Had an Operation, What Do I Do? by Jake Ryan
Publish Date: October 11, 2022
Author: Jake Ryan
Page Count: 136 pages
Publisher: Arbitrary Press
ISBN: 978-1958762028
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