What made you decide to tackle the timely issues of terrorism, marathon bombings and social media?
Four years ago, Marcia and I were in a hotel in Door County, Wisconsin, as we prepared for a library event. We turned on the television and found that all the channels were broadcasting live from Boston, as a manhunt for the marathon bombers gripped the city. I thought about how much the marathon is a part of the identity of Boston – and how that is true of the marathon in Duluth, too. So I felt immediately that I needed to write a novel in which Jonathan Stride faced these complex issues. In the time since then, we’ve continued to struggle with a self-perpetuating cycle of hatred, violence, and revenge, and I wanted to bring all these difficult topics together in the midst of a page-turning thriller.
While researching these topics for Marathon, did you come across anything that surprised you?
My research led me in directions that were both surprising and scary. I found a lot about how pressure cooker bombs work. Technology can be simple and yet enormously destructive. I was also disturbed to discover the depth of the real-world security threats that all marathons face in the wake of Boston. However, I found determination and faith, too. Despite the increased security, the marathon in Duluth is still one of the most inspiring events you’ll ever witness. I also talked to many Muslims whose love of the U.S. is undimmed by the angry rhetoric that is sometimes directed their way and who are horrified by the violence done in the name of their religion.
Can you tell us more about the significance of the green park bench in many of your novels (including an appearance in Marathon!)
The most ordinary places can have an almost sacred importance for us. That’s true for Jonathan Stride and the green bench at the end of Park Point in Duluth. It’s nothing special. It has no great significance in the city. But Stride has gone there at turning points in his life. He went there to grieve the loss of his wife, Cindy. He went there to deal with the future of his relationship with his new partner, Serena. It’s a symbolic place for him. I love the fact that readers have embraced it, too: They will write and tell me they have to make a pilgrimage to “Stride’s bench” whenever they visit Duluth!
In Marathon, social media almost acts as its own character. Was this your intention?
Yes, social media has upended how we deal with tragedies. Misinformation spreads like wildfire, and it’s easy for false accusations to take on a life of their own. It also means the police face additional pressure when responding to a crime because of the viral intensity of social media coverage. I wanted to showcase some of the dangers of this trend – how social media threatens to compound the violence of a tragedy and divide people, rather than bring them together.
What will you be doing to celebrate the release of Marathon? (tours/signings etc?)
I’ll be all over the country! I’ve got events scheduled in Duluth and the Twin Cities and in areas like Denver, Houston, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Vero Beach. I hope readers will come out and talk to me. You can find a full list of event dates, times, and locations at my website, bfreemanbooks.com. If you can’t make it to an event, be sure and post about MARATHON on my Facebook page at facebook.com/bfreemanfans.