Books open the world, author tells local students

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 25, 2015

 First-graders Charly Werenka and Olivia Lowin enjoy Rand’s humor.

First-graders Charly Werenka and Olivia Lowin enjoy Rand’s humor.

Photo by Deb Jacques


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A homegrown Michigan author shared his love of rock ‘n’ roll, scary books, radio, reading and writing with students at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School on Friday the 13th.

Johnathan Rand has been writing books for more than 15 years and has 96 books to his credit in the “Michigan Chillers,” “American Chillers” and “Freddie Fernortner, Fearless First Grader” series of books. Rand also writes for adults under the pen name Christopher Knight.

“I’ve always loved to read,” he said. “I never realized how important it was going to be for me.”

Rand’s first job, while he was still attending college, was working as a disc jockey at a rock ‘n’ roll radio station. He was hooked the first time his boss gave him a backstage pass to an AC/DC concert, and he made the students laugh with his anecdotes about writing and recording commercials for the station. As he told them about his efforts to make them stand out, he emphasized that it was his writing skills that ultimately made him successful at that job.

His message for students was to learn to excel at reading and writing.

“Those are the backbones that will help you do everything,” he said.

Rand drives from his home in Topinabee, Michigan — 30 miles south of the Mackinac Bridge — to speak at about 150 schools per year.

He said he began writing after spending about 15 years working in radio and television.

“I kept getting ideas for stories,” he said. “I just wanted to do something fun. I fell in love with the process.”

He remembers, as a child, holing up in his room after bedtime with a flashlight “reading and scaring myself silly.” That’s the love of books he wants to instill in young readers today.

Scary books are what he loves to read himself, so Rand told the students, “That’s what I wanted to write.” He began writing books based in different cities in Michigan to do something different. But when a student in another state wrote to ask him when he’d write a story about his state, the idea for “American Chillers” was born.

Fifth-grader Joe Washburn said he has read a lot of Rand’s books.

“I like them because they’re about animals and creatures and stuff,” Washburn said. He was excited to meet his favorite author. “That’s awesome for him to come to my school.”

Principal Sister Catherine Marie said school leaders were so thankful for Rand’s visit.

“It’s so important for our children to have an experience with someone who not only loves to read; but to write,” she said.

Rand’s message for students is that books can take them anywhere in the world.

“Reading is not something you do; it’s a place that you go,” he said. “Books don’t have covers; they have doors."