A new novel by a local author goes deep into issues of faith and personal identity – and all profits from sales of his book will go to help a family in need.
J. Michael Koppen is a husband, father and retired pharmacist – and now the author of his first novel, “The Lies.”
“We moved to Pine City from Fairmont, Minnesota, in 1978 and opened a Snyder Drug store in the Pine Plaza Center the same year,” Koppen said. “I have learned to love Pine City and the people of East Central Minnesota. Our kids grew up here and still call Pine City their home away from home.”
With “The Lies,” Koppen tells the story of Holden Jeffries, a man who seems to have everything, but is in reality broken and on the edge. In desperation, Holden obtains a new identity, forges documents, and fakes his own death in a bid for freedom.
Koppen said he’s not a big reader, though he loves a great story, and authors like John Grisham and Vince Flynn.
“I seem drawn to writers who move the story quickly,” he said. “I like limited detail. It’s enough to paint a picture in my mind. I don’t need to know the Sherwin Williams color of the walls. I guess I probably write like that, too.”
He said he has always written, though never before considered a book like “The Lies.”
“I find that I don’t write like others I have met,” Koppen said. “I don’t do an outline and may not know where the book or the story will end.”
He wrote his novel over the course of a year in an empty backroom office of the former Snyder Drug building.
“When I am writing it is important for me to find time almost every day,” he said. “I need quiet and solitude. I would push myself to drive into town and write.”
He said a number of characters in his novel seemed to take on a life of their own as he put down the words.
“My writing style (if indeed there is one) is almost visual with characters walking into and out of the story as if they are writing it,” he said. “I have learned that I need to control their activity if I want to keep the story moving. I enjoy directing the players rather than attempting to control them as they come and go.”
He said that he drew on his own experience to shape the story of “The Lies.”
“I was at a place in my life where I questioned some of the past and consideration of the future,” Koppen said. “I was far from suicidal or depressed, but I was admittedly struggling with some life things. The writing allowed me to vent frustrations and relate some of my feelings. ‘The Lies’ is total fiction, but no one can write without involving part of their own story and experiences. The characters have pieces of many important people in my life, though I can say that not one of them is a specific friend or acquaintance. These are not friends I have known, but they are characters I will never forget.”
And Koppen’s own Christian faith is at the very heart of his novel, though he noted that he doesn’t consider “The Lies” to be a religious book.
“Faith is personal and each of us has our own spiritual relationship to figure out,” he said. “This is a story about battles within that we can attempt to fight alone or ask for help.
“I think the story helped cement my relationship with Christ and my faith through the journey,” he said. “Faith is the only answer that I have found that buffers the chaos and can bring peace amid life’s trials. I hesitate to propose answers in the lives of my characters, hoping that by giving a glimpse into their inner thoughts, doubts, and fears to let the reader know their own questions may not be so rare. If it helps someone else, that would be fantastic, but at the very least I would hope readers would enjoy the ride.”
Koppen is hard at work on a new novel and is looking forward to hosting a book reading for “The Lies” at Mom’s Parkside Cafe (223 Fifth Street SE) on Thursday, Sept. 23 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
And Koppen said that all profits from sales of “The Lies” will go toward the Mauricio and Nicole Trujillo family. Mauricio has been battling GBS Syndrome – a rare, debilitating disorder that causes paralysis. Many items needed for Mauricio’s care were not covered by insurance, and funds are being raised to help him and his family get through this difficult time.
For those not able to make it to the Sept. 23 event, “The Lies” can also be purchased online at Amazon.com, Apple iTunes store or Barnes and Noble.
“It is amazing to me, I guess, that readers seem to love the characters and the story in ‘The Lies,’” Koppen said. “This alone makes all the work involved in writing and publishing worthwhile.”