Frank is many things: a dapper dresser, most often seen sporting a top hat and a monocle; a classic hollywood film aficionado, quoting from the likes of Marlon Brando to Humphrey Bogart; an inquisitive magpie with a skilled slight-of-hand. Most importantly, however: Frank is only nine-years-old.
Compared to many charming and eccentric characters, including Manny from Modern Family, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, Don Tillman from The Rosie Project and, my most favourite, Oskar Schell from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Frank is a character that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page of Julia Claiborne Johnson‘s debut novel Be Frank With Me. His charisma is infectious.
Though Frank carries most of the narrative (and is certainly the most likable in this cast of characters), Be Frank With Me isn’t short of an intriguing and enjoyable plot. In it, a young publishing assistant must relocate from New York to L.A. to monitor the progress of reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning and ensure the timely completion of her first book in decades. However, when Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away: as a full-time companion to Frank.
Full of heart and countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and heartwarming story of an unusual mother and son. Admittedly (and I reluctantly include this for fear of sounding like a humblebrag), I loved this book and Frank so much that I stayed late at the office one day drafting cover mock ups that I thought could properly evoke its unique and utter-Frankness. I am in no way a cover designer, nor have I ever done this before, and expected these documents to be used as inspiration by the professionals, if I summed up the courage to show people…
I didn’t. They sat for a few days amongst the many piles on my desk.
But a co-worker spotted them and, with a slight-of-hand comparable to our charming title character, snagged one off my desk and ran (literally, she ran) to our Marketing Director and Vice President who (after a few additional mock ups) forwarded the cover to Julia Claiborne Johnson’s team. She loved it. Actually, she loved it so much she said: “I keep thinking about the cover and getting frissons of joy. Please tell her I plan to leave her all my polo ponies when I die.” (I’ve been told Julia does not actually have polo ponies and that I should manage my expectations accordingly…)
Now, oddly, the book with my cover is on shelves. If its enjoyable plot and exuberant characters weren’t enough, I now have my own stake in its success. Which is thrilling and exciting as both a publishing professional and a reader.
“I’d love for everyone to spend time with Frank. He is one of the most delightfully incomparable chatacters I’ve read in some time. I imagine Frank growing up to be Don Tillman from The Rosie Project.” — Cory
BE FRANK WITH ME is that rare, hits-me-just-right book I am always hoping to find when browsing: Witty, but never cutesy. Deeply felt, but never sentimental. Peopled with deeply flawed, fully realized characters I cared about.” — Joshilyn
“If you want a funny, touching and immensely enjoyable story that you will fall in love with, you must read Be Frank With Me.” — Mike
“I LOVE Frank & everyone else in this book. It’s like a mashup of what I imagine a Harper Lee-like author is like and Bernadette from Where’d You Go, Bernadette plus every other quirky character you’ve ever met in the body of a 10 year old child & his mother. I’m going to need this optioned into a movie ASAPtually.” — Read in Colour