Saturday, June 3, 2017

Saturday Author Spotlight: Jonah Bergan #Review #Interview #Giveaway #Excerpt

Today is that day of the week that makes me smile so big! Saturday Author Spotlight time! We have the author of Off-World and his new book, Heathens here with us today. Jonah Bergan. He's a writer who loves to bring the world of sci-fi to his readers. We are going to be talking about Heathens today. We have a review of that book, and interview, Jonah has even given us an excerpt, and we will close it down with a chance for three people to win this book! So get comfy and get ready to expand your mind.

by Jonah Bergan
Published: April 29, 2017
Length: 90,000 words


Well it finally happened. The world ended. It didn't happen the way anyone expected it would. No nukes, no pandemics, just a whole lot of rage and a whole lot of violence. None of us saw it coming. There were plenty of clues, but none of us figured it out in time. The real kicker is, I'm pretty sure someone planned it. I'm pretty sure someone did it on purpose.

I'm Holden. I survived. You won't like my story. That's too bad, because your world's headed the same way as mine. Everything that happened to me, is going to happen to you. The same kind of people who did this to me, will do it to you. They're doing it right now. They're making it worse and you don't even see it. Sure, I could help you. I could give it a try, but you won't listen. I'm not the same religion. I'm not the same as you. I'm a different kind than you so you won't listen. That's why it'll happen to you. Don't say I didn't warn you. Don't say you didn't have a clue. Not when all you had to do was listen.

Heathens is a young adult post apocalyptic science fiction novel. Heathens contains some coarse language and violence.

Can One Angry Boy Save the World?


I'm a huge fan of YA but not a huge fan of sci-fi, but when Jonah Bergan is the writer, I'll read it. I truly loved his book Off-World and very much was looking forward to Heathens. The synopsis itself when presented to me started off with the line, "Can one very angry boy save the world?" And that grip stays with you through the whole book.

Heathens is a post apocalyptic story. The world is in shambles, there's power at play here, everything isn't how it seems, and there are so many questions with so little answers. At least that's how you feel until everything shows it's colors. A lot of elements are used in this story and each one is important to discovering how to save the world. What is 4140? Supposedly, it will save us all! Now, I've read many books and seen many movies and when I see the world destroyed like you do in this book you can't help but wonder how one can save what is already dead. You'll see....

Heathens is a pretty deep book and even though it's sci-fi it's quite relatable in its parallels with division. The struggle for equality rages on. Maybe not exactly how it is right now but it lives and it breathes in this book. Makes you wonder if discrimination will ever die.

Holden, the MC, is taking this journey to save the world so to speak. He's very angry as a matter of fact when we meet him the first time. His rage is palpable. I liked Holden so much. I felt his need to get answers and his determination. He had a loyalty that you could feel in everything he did for a greater purpose.

I don't want to give anything away so I'll say this; if you've ever felt like an outcast, been told it's you that is breaking our society, or that you're not special then you'll want to take this journey with Holden. It's a facinating and suspenseful read.


Thank you, Jonah for being here today as our Saturday Author Spotlight. It’s great to see a new book out from you. Off World was wonderful and today we will talk about your newest, Heathens and a bit about you as a writer as well.

I’m glad to be here Mere. I want to thank you for making the time for me. Off-World was a lot of fun for me to write, but it was a much more playful book than Heathens. I tried to keep some conceptual depth in the telling of Off-World, of course, but Heathens is a much more serious work. It speaks to some of the critical issues of our times.  It’s about division and discrimination and the costs that come with that sort of mentality. It’s young adult and science fiction, and yes there’s a lot of action, and the main characters have “psychic powers,” and I hope the reader will be carried away, but Heathens is much more like the old-school social science fiction that I read while growing up in the seventies. Heathens is much more “of that style” of book than anything I’ve written to date.

Where did your love for the paranormal and/or science fiction come from?

I love the way the fantastic can, in some cases, perfectly frame an emotional or social issue in order to show it in a whole new light. If you’ll remember back to the original Star Trek series, and the episode: “"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" you’ll see a prime example of this. Two aliens from a warring species; one half of their faces were black, the other white. It turns out that their war was about which sides of their faces were different. For viewers it helped frame the issue of racism in America in the sixties and seventies.

By today’s standards that episode might be considered a little heavy handed, but in its time it was eye-opening for many people. I remember that episode being used in one of my high school sociology courses to open discussion on the topic of racism and discrimination. Star Trek was fun, highly entertaining, but it was interesting because it was about something that related to us and our lives and the real world around us. A lot of old-school science fiction was like that, and growing up with it has had a significant effect on my writing.

In Heathens your MC, Holden, is telekinetic. I always think of the movie Carrie when I hear telekinesis. Holden is a fascinating character. Was he inspired by anything or anyone?

In many cases, characters with special abilities—psychic powers or superpowers, are representative of emotional or therapeutic concepts. If you think of Superman, for example, the young man (or woman) leaves home to become an adult. They have an array of newfound skills and abilities as adults, but their kryptonite (rocks from home) debilitates or strips of them of their powers. I see this as an allegory to the manner in which early trauma, even mild trauma, can debilitate or weaken us.  In Carrie, her telekinesis was not only the conduit for her rage; it was in many ways the source of her “strangeness.” It was the unique aspect of “who she was” that caused her to be ostracized in the first place, but it was her power too.

While reading Heathens, the reader might think of Holden’s telekinesis as representative of talent—be it artistic, or social, or practical talent. Everyone has a talent, but like Holden, they think it’s just a talent. Like Holden, there are those who think that because their talent is not a superpower, it can’t change the world. Of course, talent can change the world. It always has and it always will. It is the only real way we change the world. We don’t need superpowers to make a difference. As Holden eventually realizes, all we need “is a little talent and the courage to use it.”

Without giving away too much, tell your readers something about Heathens that will absolutely pull them into this story.

Alright, I’ll ask your guests to go along with me for a moment.

Who are you? What kind are you? Are you the black or the white, or are you some other kind? Are you male or female or something else? Are you the gay kind or the straight kind or are you a more open kind than that?  Maybe you’re the strong kind, or maybe the silent kind, or the funny kind? Make a list. Make a list of all the kinds you are, then take out a map and draw some lines. Where should your kind go and where shouldn’t it go? Is there a place for your kind in this world? Somebody thinks that answer is no. Somebody thinks we’re all better off without you and your kind. Someone else told them so.

Why would they do that? Why would they say such a thing, and why would they raise up a mob or even an army against you? What are they after? What do they want? They say you’re the reason and the cause; they say you are the source of all their woes. You know it isn’t true. What do they really want? What does their kind always want, and how do we stop them?  That’s what Heathens is about. It’s about what happens when we don’t stop them, and it’s about the only way we can stop them. 

Post-Apocalyptic books are some of my favorite because though it’s a fresh start it’s a terrifying one. One brought on by something horrible usually. If our world right now was to fall to serious disrepair. What do you feel would be the most valuable resource?

People. Without a doubt my answer is people. You’d need the basics of course, but it is people that make a society, and it is people you need to build or rebuild a society. We need each other—badly. We need each other’s talents and skills. We’d need a wide diversity of people; we’d need diversity in ideas and outlook and in being. There are those who say differently. There are those who believe that diversity among the people in a society weakens a society, but they are wrong. They are flat out wrong. History proves that. Nature proves that. Ask a gardener, diversity makes a garden lush. Diversity is what makes a biome thrive. There is nothing unnatural about us, or our desires. We’re all people. We need the basics to survive, but we need each other, in all our diversity, in order to thrive.

If you could collaborate with any author out there who’d you love to work with and why?

Without a doubt, and with no hesitation, David Milch. He wrote Deadwood and Hill Street Blues, Lucky and John from Cincinnati to name a few. Granted he’s a screenwriter and it may seem strange that a novelist might want to collaborate across crafts that way, but I think novelists can learn quite a bit from screenwriters.  Screen writers have to define characters and tell their stories using only dialog. They have to leave setting and mood and descriptive text to the director. That’s not easy work. It requires some real skill. I think I could learn a great deal from David Milch, and I love his work.

What was the hardest part about writing Heathens?

The rage. At the start of Heathens, Holden is full of rage. None of the story would have read true if that wasn’t so. As the author, I had to feel that rage the same as him. I had to feel it to a very real degree. That was the hardest part of writing this novel.

You know, I thought finding rage within myself would be difficult, but it wasn’t so. What happened to Holden hadn’t happened to me, so I turned to the news. I read about gay men being thrown from buildings, about intolerance of all kinds. I listened to the arguments over Black Lives Matter, and to the stories about immigrants hiding in churches and about supremacist groups vandalizing Jewish cemeteries.  I read about children being beaten in school yards because of their skin, their orientation or their nationality. I read about Russia and the laws there, and what some people are doing to gay people while the government turns a blind eye. I listened to the hateful rhetoric of the election and thought about what it means for our society. I thought about where it will lead if we let it go on. I put it all in Heathens. Rage was easy to find, but hard to endure.

What are you most excited to bring to your readers with this book?

An actual answer: 4140. It’s the only way out of the mess that we have found ourselves in.

What I absolutely loved about all that old-school social science fiction was that the authors asked people to look at the hard questions. But few of them answered those questions.  Perhaps they thought the answers were apparent? I’m not sure. I do know that I wanted to take it further. I wanted to propose an answer, and I found it in a concept that Holden calls 4140.

I can’t tell you what 4140 is without my answer serving as a spoiler, but I can say this. If you are a Star Trek fan, 4140 is what made the idea of the United Federation of Planets feel like such a good idea, and I think the fact that 4140 was behind those stories it is what made Star Trek a great show. If you like superhero stories, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman—all of them, 4140 is at the center of their appeal. 4140 is all the X-Men ever wanted from the world, it’s the code all heroes live by. But 4140 isn’t just true in fiction; it is the foundation of civilization itself. Talent will change the world, but 4140 is the only way to save the world.  You won’t find 4140 in Heathens, you’ll rediscover it there. It’s a simple idea, but its power is vast.

Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or future projects?

A sequel to Heathens seems likely in the future, but I’ve already begin work on another novel. This one is about a young man who travels to another world—a fantasy world, through a portal. It’s about re-discovering the magic in our own world.

As you know Mere, I start all my books now with an introductory premise. For Heathens I started with the original quasi-poetic “first stone” to introduce what Heathens is about. I use these introductions to identify the theme for readers, but I also use them as a touchstone when I’m writing the book, and while I’m editing it through various drafts.

The novel I’m drafting now begins like this:

Here’s the world and here’s the world;

And this is how it goes.

The world you know is not the world;

It’s not as you’ve been told.

Like Heathens, this new work will take another two years or so to complete, unless the Patreon account I just started works out. If I get enough Patreon supporters, I think I can have it finished in one year, maybe a little less. When it comes to writing, it’s all about where we spend our time. If we can add forty hours a week to our writing time, novels can come a lot faster. This one will likely be a series, since Nate, the main character, already has a lot to say. The plan is for it to be a series, but we’ll see where it goes.

Where can your readers follow you: Facebook, Twitter etc…


Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Star Wars or Star Trek? Ohhhh….. Star Trek
Cats or dogs? Dogs
Day or night? Day – morning to be precise
Favorite beverage? Coffee again. More coffee please.
Favorite smell? Citrus
Favorite color? Green
Series or standalone? …. Both? I really love both.
Indoors or outdoors? Indoors.

Okay, Jonah, thank you so much for being here!

Thanks for having me, and Happy Pride Month to you and all of your readers, Mere."


The bell above the door sounded. It went “ching-a-ling.” It sounded like Christmas. It sounded like reindeer bells. Right away some of the people sitting in the folding chairs turned to look at me. They turned away just as fast. I guess they were just looking to see if I was someone they knew. Maybe they were looking for someone the same way I was looking for James or Top-hat? Who knows?

I looked back outside and saw the guy in the suit walking off. I was kind of relieved. Not a lot. Just kind of. I needed a minute. I needed some time. I needed to think about something else.

Everyone had turned back to look at the person speaking. He was a black guy—kind of old. He had big crazy gray hair. He parted it in the middle. He had big glasses. No matter where he looked the lenses seemed to be glazed over by the overhead lights. He was wearing a ratty looking sports coat, and brown slacks and a black turtleneck. He was really agitated. He talked like a preacher or something.

“…embrace our own culture and heritage!” he said. “In the most ancient of times, we were the shamans, the spiritual leaders of our tribes. Some called us twin-souls! They conceived of us as a more perfect balance of both masculine and feminine—the most elemental aspect of nature! Later, in cities, we were the priests and priestesses in the magnificent temples they built. They called us the Sons of Hermes! The Daughters of Aphrodite! The singular difference of our being was elevated in those societies, and a family lucky enough to birth one of us was considered blessed!

He tensed up his shoulders and shook both his fists in front of himself.

This is what they've stolen from us! They buried our truth, hid from us our culture, and condemned us for everything that makes us wonderful in the eyes of whatever gods and goddesses may look down upon this poor earth!”

I turned away and started looking around at some of the books. I wasn't really looking. I was just pretending to look. I picked up a book at random. I didn't even look at the cover. I flipped through a few pages without really reading or anything.

Clarissa was there. I didn't know that until she tapped me on the shoulder. She was wearing a red felt dress with a wide black belt. The buckle looked like two opposing crescent moons. She wore black boots that rose to mid-calf. Her makeup was simple, elegant—blue eye shadow and a careful line of red lipstick. She smiled.

“I didn't get a chance to ask,” she said. She was speaking softly. “Did you enjoy the show?”

I nodded. “You were really good,” I said.

She smiled again. “Thank you.” She kind of half-bowed her head. Then she looked back up at me all kind of cheery. “What brings you here?”

“I was supposed to meet someone,” I said. “A guy I know.”

“Aww,” she said, kind of smiling a little and kind of sounding like she was talking to a puppy or something. “Did the mean wittle boy stand you up?”

That kind of pissed me off a little.

“I think he's dead,” I said. “He lived at the Center.”

She sobered up. “I'm sorry,” she said. She looked at me, like she was looking for damage in my eyes or something. “I'm sorry that happened,” she said. “I'm so sorry.” She put her hand on my arm.

I shrugged.

“Maybe there's a good reason for you to be here,” she said. “Maybe some of this will help you. Do you believe in fate?” She glanced at the book in my hand. She took my arm in hers and patted it.

“I don't know,” I said. “I should go.”

She glanced back over at her shoulder at the speaker. He was finishing up. There was a smattering of polite applause. She looked back at me.

“Not all the speakers as quite as... extreme as the Professor,” she said. “Maybe one of the other speakers will say something to help give you some perspective. I don't think it's a coincidence that you're here.”

“I don't know,” I said.

“There are no accidents,” she said. “Come, sit with me. What could it hurt? It certainly wouldn't hurt my reputation to have a handsome young man on my arm.” She kind of leaned in and gave me a wide tight-lipped smile. It was kind of a false smile, but what could I say?

“Okay, for a few minutes,” I said.

There were two groupings of chairs, one in front of the podium, and the other alongside it. Clarissa led me to the one on the side. There were fewer people sitting there. The Professor had just stepped away from the podium. He came toward us. Clarissa stopped him before he could sit.

“A very nice presentation, Professor,” she said. “You've given us a lot to think about.”

“Thank you young lady,” he said. “But it is no longer enough to think! We must act! We must reclaim our heritage!” He looked from her, to me, and then back again. I kind of gave him a half-smile. I wanted to be polite and everything, but he kind of smelled bad—kind of stale, you know?

“Young people today,” he said. “These talents they possess. Perhaps, on our behalf, they may turn back the tide of the hateful and the untruthful.”

“I agree,” she said.

The Professor looked at me. For a real long minute he looked.

“Rise up, young man!” he shouted. It kind of startled me. He pointed his finger into the air. “Claim your right to live. Demand your right, not to be what you want, but to be who you are!”


Three people will win a copy of Heathens.
Contest will end on June 9th.
Winner will be contacted via email.

Thank you to, Jonah, for being awesome and 
hanging out with us!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Hi Jonah the book sounds fascinating and I'm a great fan of Star Trek I used to hurry home from school and watch the repeats with my dad.

    1. Hi ShirleyAnn. Oh Yes! Star Trek. As a kid every weekday at 4:00-5:00 was the "Do Not Disturb Jonah" hour. :)

  2. hi Jonah
    congrats on the new release

  3. Hey Johah, congrats on the new book. Added to my TBR list

    1. Hey Jess, I can't wait to hear what you think! Drop me a note and let me know.

  4. Hi all,

    Sorry for not getting back to you all sooner. I was swallowed by a gigantic beast and whisked off, far and away, only to find myself in a strange land. Okay, maybe not, but I'm still sorry for not getting back to you sooner :)