Saturday, October 22, 2016
Interview with author Billy O’Keefe
These Are My Friends on Politics:
A Children’s Book For Adults Who Occasionally Behave Like Kids
1. What inspired you to write your book?
It all started with the name. It was near the merciful end of the 2012 election, I was waiting on a few friends at a restaurant, and I was seated near a table of folks who were enjoying pleasant conversations about any old thing when, suddenly, someone mentioned the election and the whole tone of the table turned on a dime. No one broke any dishes or threw food or anything, but the verbiage was ugly in a way that compels people (like me) to stare, and the speed with which it turned personal would have been impressive had it not been so distasteful. It was like a drug or some kind of hypnosis took over. And, when one person abruptly suggested they all drop it and the conversation just as quickly reverted back to smiles and pleasantries, it was as if that drug or trance just wore off.
I'd seen this effect in action before and always found it amusing (if a little scary). But for whatever reason, that conversation put the book's title in my head, and I scribbled it down as a potential idea for a drawing. In the ensuing days, as I thought more about it, I realized there was more material than a single drawing could take on. A few pages full of scribbled half-ideas later, a book idea was born.
2. What is it about?
It's a children's book for adults about what happens when fully-grown, ostensibly mature adults start discussing politics with one another.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?
I hope people take to heart the notion that we're a lot more similar than we are different, and that we all want many of the same things despite politicians and commentators working so hard to make our differences seem irreconcilable.
But more than that, I hope simply to make people laugh a little about this nightmare of an election year we endured. I feel like a lot of folks will need a deep breath in November no matter who wins, and hopefully this will help with that.
4. What advice do you have for writers?
Honestly, this is such cliched advice at this point, but just sit down and do it. That's the hardest part.
Writing a book, even a kids book that's more pictures than words, is intimidating, and there are countless ways to talk yourself out of ever getting started. Same with trying to promote and sell the book later. Doubt, anxiety, imposter syndrome and any number of other ailments come with the territory when embarking on a career to which there is no invitation. Face and respect those obstacles, but don't let them talk you out of bringing a story you believe in to life. As bad as doubt is, regret feels far worse. And you don't need an invitation or anybody's approval to tell your story.
5. Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
I have no earthly idea. As romantic as the notion is that anyone can publish their own book at any time without the middleman telling them they can't, selling books is part of the job, and that's still extremely difficult to do without help. Curation will always be crucial and I don't think we've found a good method for it when it comes to self-published books. If that ever happens, we could be in for a revolution. Until then, I don't know if I see much changing, though I am excited to see what the likes of Inkshares and Unbound look like in five years. That intersection, where DIY entrepreneurship, curation and traditional publishing infrastructure meet, is what I hope publishing becomes.
Also, with sincere apologies to trees everywhere, I'm delighted physical bookstores have endured and have their arrow seemingly pointing back up. I love my Kindle, but the tangible book still holds considerable value to me, and that holds doubly true for tangible bookstores. Twenty years in, browsing online for books still isn't a good experience.
6. What challenges did you have in writing your book?
The notion of translating this from a one-note joke into a full-blown story provided some roadblocks. I wanted to make something that told a story and nudged people into being a little nicer, but without hitting them over the head with some obnoxiously preachy lesson. It had to remain funny no matter what. That took a few (dozen) passes at the initial draft, but I think I got there.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
Observe the sheer amount of arguments, Facebook rants, hot takes, ironic hashtags and screaming cable personalities swirling assaulting your eyes and ears every day of this election year. If you need a breather and a laugh, this is here to give you both. If you need a holiday gift that will provide some perspective to the more politically insufferable friends in your life without making it blatantly obvious you're doing that, this also is it, because they'll enjoy it too.
This might be the one politically-related book you can give to your political argument arch nemesis and enjoy reading together. It's that kind of book.
Remember, a few weeks after the election ends, the War on Christmas resumes. Seize on whatever happy respite you can.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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