The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 25, 2013

Good Thunder concludes with MSU instructor on the rise

By Tanner Kent
Free Press Features Editor

— There’s still time to hop on Geoff Herbach’s bandwagon.

But you’d better hurry because it’s moving fast and picking up speed.

During the Minnesota Book Awards Gala on April 13, Herbach won the category of Young People’s Literature for the second book in his Felton Reinstein trilogy, “Nothing Special.”

The announcement stunned even Herbach, for his competition included William Alexander and “Goblin Secrets” — which had already won the National Book Award in the same category.

“I was pretty surprised,” said the recent transplant to Mankato who teaches English and creative writing at Minnesota State University, and who will join Diana Joseph in the Good Thunder Reading Series’ 2012-13 season finale today.

“I was eating crackers and sipping wine — definitely not ready to go.”

Apparently, the judges for the MN Book Awards feel similarly about Herbach’s work as national critics.

Since Sourcebooks Fire released the first of his trilogy — 2011’s “Stupid Fast” — the writer has received monster reviews.

The School Library Journal praised Herbach for a voice that is “fresh and believable as a teen on the edge of manhood.” Other reviewers complimented storytelling that “blends humor with honest questions and realizations about family and life,” and for creating an “authentic and endearing character.” He’s earned a smattering of awards from library and literary associations, and he’s likely to earn more when the final installation of his series is released in May.

With “I’m With Stupid,” Herbach has closed the proverbial book on Felton Reinstein, the insecure and hopeless but ultimately relatable protagonist in all three books.

“I lived with him for years,” Herbach said. “He feels like a real person. I do feel tenderly toward him. But, at the same time, he’s kind of annoying. I’m happy he’s grown up.”

With Felton out of the house, Herbach has already started working on a newly inked two-book contract. Though, he admits the writing is coming along slower this time around.

“This one’s not coming along as easily,” said Herbach, who said he’s been exploring the characters by submitting them to fictitious interviews and writing their biographies. “Finding the right voice for a character is so important.”

During today’s Good Thunder reading, Herbach said he will read from “I’m With Stupid” for the first time publicly. And though he’s adamant that he’s done writing multi-book series, Herbach said Felton Reinstein will always occupy a special place.

“With ‘Stupid Fast,’ I really loved it,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever write something I like so much again.”