CJ Bernstein is the creator of The Monarch Papers and owner of the real life Ackerly-Green Publishing.
CJ grew up in rural Florida, coming from an impoverished family that didn't afford him many opportunities to read books. His love of reading was fostered through librarians and English teachers, who allowed him glimpses into magical worlds that only books can provide. CJ was a high school drop out, and a twice college dropout, once majoring in musical theatre. He eventually decided to pursue screenwriting and moved to Los Angeles where, after a year, "happenstance and luck and being almost sort-of prepared led me to my first sold script."
CJ worked for many years as a screenwriter for movies, but became disillusioned with having a job that forced him to chase other people's ideas, and which didn't allow him to take creative risks. CJ had worlds in his mind that he wished to share with the world, and this ultimately led him to develop what would become the Book of Briars. After consulting with his husband, Matt, he chose to pursue his dream and move to New York City to become an indie publisher and author.
Creation of The Book of Briars Edit
Before The Book of Briars became a book, CJ pitched it as a pilot for a TV series and also nearly published it as a comic book. However, he decided to write the Book of Briars as a book so that he would be able to fully manage the development of the world. In The Making of the Monarch Papers - Episode Zero, CJ discussed the first two years of planning The Monarch Papers and The Book of Briars. The idea to create a publishing company had come to CJ when he was on vacation with his husband in Connecticut, when he stayed in a hotel with a room that was built like an old library. It inspired him to play with the meta aspect of actually making the publishing company that was discussed in the book. In 2015, CJ had nearly finished writing the Book of Briars and was planning to test the waters by publishing one book and gauging the reaction. In the process of learning how to build a publishing company from the ground up and publish his first book, CJ was connected with Simon Arrowsmith through their mutual associate, Tyler. CJ emailed Simon in the hopes that he could help him build the brand mythology of Ackerly Green, as well as CJ's brand as an author. When the two sat down for a Skype session, Simon proposed that CJ create an immersive storytelling experience. CJ was excited for this new concept and, together with Simon and his husband Johnny, began planning out the development for what would become The Monarch Papers.
As CJBerlane Edit
CJ became connected to the lore of The Monarch Papers as Saberlane - a Mountaineer from the 1990s who had been forced to forget his memories of magiq to escape the Storm. Having lost his memories of the Mountaineers, CJ went on to live a normal life, marrying his husband Matt and adopting two kids. In the spring of 2013, CJ's kids found Ackerly Green's Guide to Magiq on a park bench in New York City, and the Guide became a cherished book in their household. The book was eventually tracked down by Mountaineers in early 2016, who asked if they could see it, but it was in tatters by the time they arrive. The Guide had finally disintegrated, but not before one of the children had made a hand-drawn copy. The Mountaineers begin the painstaking process of reproducing the Guide based on the rough copy and their fragmented memories of its content and illustrations. The Guide was released online, which included a foreword by CJ.
After the Ackerly Green Website was released, a new post by Deirdre Green was included in the Further Tales section. In the post, which was written right before Deirdre joined the forums, Deirdre described her struggles getting Ackerly Green Publishing on social media. She realized that both the Twitter handle and Instagram account were already registered under the name AckerlyGreen. By emailing Instagram, she was able to get the address of the person who registered the account - email@example.com. The man was CJ, revealed to be Saberlane, the man who had found the MAGIQ Guide and who had asked to be left alone for the sake of his family. CJ admitted that he found himself strangely drawn to the company and that he was using the accounts to try to find other people who might remember the company. Deirdre and CJ began a friendship over emails and CJ helped Deirdre learn how to resurrect the publishing company. As Deirdre's interest in running a publishing company waned, she decided to leave it in the hands of CJ.
After Deirdre left for Neithernor, CJ agreed to take on the role of steward of Ackerly Green Publishing. He planned to publish Martin Rank's account of the opening of the Book of Briars, as well as publish the contents of the Book of Briars. In doing so, CJ also began to dedicate his time to tracking down the old Ackerly Green books, such as The Forest of Darkening Glass, which he found in Bangladesh, coverless and missing its front matter.
CJ was also at the center of the Ackerly Green Secret Society, after having found a box of Herman the Hippocampus pins, which he believed were from the Book of The Wild. Since Ackerly Green was a failed company in the Book of Kings, he believed that the pins came from a time where Ackerly Green was a successful company with a dedicated readership. The pins and the secret society caused strange supernatural occurrences at the Ackerly Green offices, which led CJ to encounter a ghost of Neithernor, nicknamed Woolie.