Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Interview with Author Joe Rhatigan

I Love Books

1.      What inspired you to write a book about loving books? I wrote the words and the illustrators, Olga and Aleksey Ivanov, brought the book (and the books in the book) to life. I struggle with how much information or instruction to give illustrators, and for this book, I gave them very little beyond the manuscript. I had one scene in my head I wanted to see, and that was the boy on the train reading a book while everyone else was staring at a screen of some sort. And wow, did the Ivanovs have fun with that spread. So much of this book’s charm leads right back to Olga and Aleksey. It is one of my great joys to see my words spring to life so masterfully on the page.

2.      How does the story foster an appreciation for reading books? As a book that celebrates books as opportunities for exciting adventures, I Love a Book reads a bit like an extended advertisement. I’m perfectly fine with that. And as much as this book extols the virtues of good books to kids, I hope the adults also get the message. I’ve never met a young kid who didn’t already love books; but I’ve encountered many who just didn’t get much exposure to books.

3.      What can be done to increase literacy rates here? One of the wonderful things about Harry Potter was that for a few years there, kids and adults were talking about the same books. The fact that we were talking about books at all was wonderful. So my advice is to read what your kids are reading. Talk about the books when you can. Relate to the characters and their predicaments. Our Harry Potter dinner table discussions are some of my fondest memories of my children when they were younger. 

4.      How can parents, when children are fairly young, turn their kids into bring prolific readers? Read to children at a young age as often as possible. Read to kids in school as often as possible—even through middle school. Have kids see adults reading as often as possible. Read and memorize poetry with kids. Puts on plays. Immerse yourselves in verse…and prose, and so on. Busy parents might be rolling their eyes right now and I get it. But my wife and I got lucky in that my first daughter as a toddler would only fall asleep if we read her book after book after book. This turned into a nightly routine with our three kids for years. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my daughter had been a sound sleeper.

5.      What do you love about books? When I find out that someone has read a certain book I cherish, I feel I know that person just a little better. I know the book better as well. That, and the smell. I had a line in I Love a Book about smelling the books, but I ended up taking it out. It was too weird.

6.      Do you prefer paper books to digital? Why or why not? I have a very specific worry when it comes to digital books. Part of becoming a good reader is learning to understand what difficult words mean through context. Very few readers run off to find a dictionary every time they run across a word they don’t know; they figure it out as they read. With e-readers, press your finger on a word and get its definition. It’s an amazing change in the way we read, but I get the feeling it negatively affects the reading process for kids. So, to answer the question, paper books for kids, and then after that, whatever platform gets you reading. I personally go back and forth depending on where I am and what I’m reading.

7.      Any advice to struggling writers? Like any art form, I believe the best work comes from struggle. The words and sentences that come easily are usually the ones I have to edit out sooner or later. And, write about what scares you, enthralls you, confuses you. And make sure you have an editor who isn’t related to you. Do you have a social media presence? Beyond your writing, that’s what many acquiring editors are looking for these days. And read … a lot.

8.      Where do you see the book industry heading? I feel like for every bit of good news in the industry, there’s a bit of bad news to go with it. Indie bookstores are back! Book World Inc. is closing all 45 locations! Philip Pullman is back! George W. W. Martin still hasn’t finished Game of Thrones! I’ve been in the book business for 20 years, and never before has the writing on the wall been quite as inscrutable as it is now. It’s not 2008, but it’s also not the 1990s. So I’m hopeful, but anxious. Thrilled and grateful beyond words to be doing what I love, but I’m not quitting my part-time job at Whole Foods (now part of the Amazon.com family!) any time soon. 

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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs

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