It’s been a good start to 2019 for Minnesota author Brian Freeman.
Last month, he won the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction for “The Voice Inside.” It was a savored victory because this was his fifth nomination and first win.
And then it was formally announced that Putnam Books and the Robert Ludlum Estate had selected Freeman to revive the Jason Bourne series. This means in addition to his Jonathan Stride and Frost Easton book series, he will also be writing “The Bourne Conspiracy,” which is set to be released in 2020.
Freeman will talk about his books and his recent honors at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at Glencoe City Center. Following his presentation, the author will have books for sale and will be signing them.
Katy Hiltner, head librarian at Hutchinson Public Library, said she and Jackee Fountain, head librarian at Glencoe, are always looking for Legacy program opportunities.
“As we were mapping out program ideas for this spring, Brian Freeman’s name came up,” Hiltner said. “We both have avid mystery readers in our communities and Brian is a favorite. I think readers especially enjoy his Jonathan Stride series because of the Duluth/Lake Superior setting. It’s always fun to read about places you know.”
Hiltner called the timing of the program “fantastic” because of Freeman’s Minnesota Book Award and the announcement of the new Jason Bourne series.
“What an honor and a testament to his writing talent,” she said.
Freeman said he learned about the new Bourne series when the publisher put out a call to agents for an author to take over the series. His agent asked him if he was interested.
“I didn’t hear anything for a few months and (then) I got a call from my agent,” Freeman said. “It was an extraordinary moment. I’ve developed a full plot for the book, sample chapters, ran (it) by Putnam, (the) Ludlum Estate signed off, now I’m moving forward. The book is coming out in 2020. Later this year, I’ll turn in a new Jonathan Stride novel, too.”
For the past several years, Freeman has written two books a year.
“It’s a challenge in and of itself,” he said. “I can’t complain. This is what I love to do. This year is a little more drastic with the Robert Ludlum book. It’s an amazing opportunity. I’m a Ludlum fan. It’s an amazing opportunity to bring his characters back to life.”
At last count, Freeman had published 18 books. He’s known for his psychological suspense novels and protagonists Jonathan Stride and Frost Easton.
How it started
Freeman was born and raised in Chicago. When he was 10 years old, his family moved to California.
“I can remember sitting in sixth grade starting work on my first mystery novel,” he said. “I come from a family of readers, that made a difference. My grandma was a big thriller fan. She would say, ‘I’m reading this great new book. It has lots of bodies.’ It was inevitable this was the kind of book I’d write.”
Freeman said he has five books sitting in his nightstand that go back to when he was 13 years old.
“I had lots of opportunities to get to know my craft, characters I like,” he said. “I look back on that stretch as breaking through artistic development. It helped me become the writer I am.”
After high school, Freeman returned to his Midwestern roots to attend Carleton College in Northfield. It’s where he met Marcia, his future wife and work partner.
From Carleton, Freeman went on to work a variety of jobs including college stewardship, donor communications and mortgage banking.
Meanwhile, he kept writing. He reached out to agents and publishers through the years. His manuscripts would come back in pristine condition, meaning no one had spent more than 10 seconds looking at them.
There were times when he couldn’t help but ask, “Gosh, why am I banging my head against a wall in this difficult business?”
“A writer has to have a crazy amount of determination,” he said. “I think when you’re a writer, you can’t give it up. It chooses you as much as you choose it.”
Freeman’s break came when he was working as a marketing and public relations director for a corporate law firm.
“I think you reach a point when all your life and craft experience come to bear at the right moment,” he said. “I think that’s what it was. You have to believe things happen at the right time for the right reasons.”
Freeman found out one of the lawyers was going to London for a college alumni event. One of his classmates was a literary agent. He jumped at the opportunity and asked him to make an introduction. She fell in love with the manuscript for “Immoral,” the first book in the Jonathan Stride series, and signed him as a client. The next summer, they sold the rights in 17 languages. The book went on to win the Macavity Award for the Best First Novel.
Some called him an overnight success, but Freeman said it was 20 years of trying with five books in the nightstand that got him to that point.
Freeman, 56, has made writing his career for the past 15 years. His office is a converted bedroom in his St. Paul home. Now that the weather is getting nice, he’ll move his laptop outdoors and work on the deck.
He never likes to write the same book twice.
“Different characters give you an opportunity to tell different stories,” Freeman said. “To me, it’s very energizing to explore different aspects of my creativity with different stories.”
When it comes to his writing process, he’ll usually do a chapter-by-chapter outline first. His “roadmap” may change as he puts words on paper. He typically likes to do his books consecutively, meaning he finishes one before he starts the next one. Due to deadlines, however, that won’t happen this year.
“I’ll spend a week on one and then shift gears and do them in tandem,” Freeman said. “It’s actually easier than you think. It’s hard to put one down to go on to the next, but after a few minutes diving in, you’re back in that completely separate world. They are so different. It’s so vivid and exciting to shift into the other one.”
So far, none of his books have made the jump from the printed word to the silver screen.
“Hollywood is such a crazy place. You have to get the right book in the right hands of the right person,” he said. “We keep knocking on the door and we’ll see what happens.”