Michael Ryan chose an atypical means to honor one of his literary heroes in his new book, The Last Freedom.
"I've written a novel, but it's about a real historical figure named Viktor Frankl," said The Augusta Chronicle editorial page editor. "Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor and he was the author of Man's Search for Meaning , which is one of the 10 most important books of all time, according to the Library of Congress."
Though numerous academic and nonfiction works have been written about Frankl and his philosophies, Ryan chose to create a piece of fiction to retell Frankl's story.
"I want to change the conversation from the academic world and the nonfiction world and get it into the entertainment world," Ryan said.
"My fear is that as the years go by his fame and message will be a little bit more obscured," said the Evans resident. "By writing his story for people who like to read novels, hopefully I can bring in new audiences and keep his story alive."
More than 10 years ago, Ryan had a conversation with someone during a museum function about Man's Search for Meaning . Two weeks later, the person mailed him a copy of the book.
Frankl's novel collected dust for several years before Ryan read it during a visit to a Brazilian orphanage.
"When I read it, it hit me like a ton of bricks," Ryan said. "It's all about his concentration camp experiences and the theories about humanity he took in as a medical doctor and psychiatrist."
Though the book is a work of fiction, in at least one way Ryan stuck with what he knew in telling his story.
"I had this fantasy of what it would have been like if I'd ... interviewed him while he was alive," Ryan said of Frankl, who died in 1997. "In a way, that's what I did. I created a journalist to do that."
Set in San Francisco, the novel recounts the interview between the reporter and Frankl.
Much of the material used for the novel came from interviews Ryan conducted in Vienna, Austria, with Frankl's widow, son-in-law and grandchildren.
"All of Viktor Frankl's experiences I tell in the book and all the people in his life included in the book are real," Ryan said. "It's the other stuff that I made up."
Copies of the self-published The Last Freedom are available at The Book Tavern, 1026 Broad St., Augusta.
Ryan will hold a book signing at the store from 6-8 p.m. Monday. Another signing is planned for 1-3 p.m. Feb. 21 at Barnes & Noble at Augusta Mall.
Eventually, Ryan said, he would like to write a screenplay based on his novel and pursue another work of fiction.
"Writing fiction was a bit intimidating ... for somebody who has written nothing but nonfiction all his life, but it was a fun experience creating characters," Ryan said.
"If time and money were no object, I would just dive right back into writing books. I loved it."
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