Watch the Performance Reading of JUNCTION PART 2:
Novel performed by actress Val Cole
Get to know writer Cody Schlegel:
What is your novel about?
Junction chronicles the aftermath of the death of a small town drug dealer, named Joey Sheeks. Joey was found naked and frozen in a woods not far from his home in rural Iowa, and even though the local law enforcement attribute his death to his tripping on acid, not everyone in the sleepy town shares this opinion. When Joey’s high school friend Zack Harmen “inherits” the business, suspicion falls on him. Then a local priest dies under strange circumstances, and a deputy vanishes without a trace. There’s no obvious connection to these incidents, but a handful of residents—including main character, Nick Harmen (Zack’s cousin)—believe Junction’s in the midst of a killing spree. It’s a tense, thriller, uncomfortable at times. And it’s not afraid to casually discuss topics that most people tend to tiptoe around in casual conversations. Issues pertaining to government corruption, media manipulation, PTSD, race relations in the US, and non-traditional spirituality play an intricate part, but at the same time don’t distract from a meaty story driven by strong characters.
Why should this novel be read by people?
It’s entertaining, and it’s constantly forcing the reader to need to know what happens next. Also, it captures a realistic look at the underbelly of small/rural town living. People from larger cities who have never lived in these smaller communities sometimes paint a picture in their minds of 21st century “Mayberry” like towns but a substantial amount of these small areas are littered with poverty, heroin/meth addiction, and extremely shady politics. The town that Junction is loosely based on has also proven to be a great place to get away with murder.
How would you describe this novel in two words?
Sans-graphic novel (I hope that counts).
What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Home Alone. VHS.
How long have you been working on this novel?
The characters have been in my head for almost eight years. I had no idea that I’d one day put them in a book. They were originally developed for a television series, and I even wrote twelve episodes, but when the series didn’t get produced everything got shelved. When I started developing the storyline for Junction, I wondered to myself—what are those characters doing now that they’re all grown up (between the ages of 29-33). Once typing began, it took about five months, plus another two months of editing. So roughly seven years and seven months, even though I didn’t know I was working on a novel those first seven years.
Do you have an all-time favorite novel?
Absolutely. If graphic novels count I have to go with Batman: Earth One Volume 1. If not—The Godfather.
What artist would you love to have dinner with?
He’s long dead, but I would love to break bread with Homer of ancient Greek fame.
Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Food. And not just that I love shoving it into my face, but actually growing food. I am a co-director for a non-profit that’s mission is to work gardening programs into schools so we can educate young people on how to grow their own food. Not only does it feel good for them to get their confidence level up, but also, what they’d be growing is good for them. And they’d know exactly what’s going into it—which is a growing concern these days with so many GMOs and pesticides in circulation.
What influenced you to enter the Novel Festival?
I was really just hoping for some feedback. I’ve submitted a couple of projects in the past, and have always been happy with what I heard back. You guys haven’t exactly liked everything I’ve done, but the feedback has always been phenomenal. It comes at you in such a way that points out troubled areas without being condescending.
Creativity can be a very sensitive animal and you guys always seem aware of that. You present your opinions in such a way that doesn’t discourage the writer. Had it not been for previous rejection and feedback of this very project, Junction would have never reached its full potential. So, thank you.
Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Know that this is what you were born to do. Don’t push your work onto your friends and family. They’ll be interested when they feel like being interested. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback—own it. Avoid sugar, especially pop and diet pop (or soda depending on where you live). It kills creativity. Do have fun, and don’t be afraid to step into the shoes of your characters—even if it does get you into a little trouble.
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