Monday, September 3, 2018

Interview With Dena Neusner, Executive Editor of Behrman House and Apples & Honey Press

1. I promoted a book by Dr. Ruth nearly 30 years ago. Now she is turning 90 years old. What was it like to work with her recently on Roller-Coaster Grandma? Really fun. She has a very compelling, larger-than-life personality, and mentioning her name to colleagues and friends evokes such excitement and enthusiasm, even as I’ve gotten (almost) used to interacting with her. She’s charming, and has a generous spirit, and a level of energy and drive that is impressive for anyone, let alone someone who’s 90.

Please not that I oversee the editorial team here, which means I was very involved in the planning stages and kept an eye on the development of the project behind the scenes, but my colleague Ann Koffsky was the editor for this book, had the most hands-on collaboration with Dr. Ruth and her coauthor Pierre Lehu, and illustrator Mark Simmons, and Ann was instrumental in shaping the development of the book.

2. Roller-Coaster Grandma tells the amazing story of her long, successful and challenge-filled life. What do we learn about the famous sex therapist, best-selling author, and television talk show star? The book is for kids and so while it touches on her fame in relation to giving relationship advice to people it stays far away from the subject of sex therapy. What’s surprising, in Roller-Coaster Grandma, is that there’s so much more to her life that most people don’t know, from growing up in a Swiss orphanage to her time in the Israeli army, to working as a maid in a hotel in New York City and more.

3. Her story is told with words and illustrations, like a graphic novel. Is she like a superhero? The graphic novel format makes her story come alive in an appealing, visual way for readers. There’s excitement, but it’s not a superhero story. It’s a story of real life, and its ups and downs, and the hope and resilience and drive that kept her going.

4. She must have had a lot of stories to share. How did you help narrow down what to focus on? She shared her stories with us and we helped her focus on the ones that moved the story forward in an exciting way. We decided early in the project that her life story demonstrated a great deal of resilience, and so we were sure to draw that out in the focus of the book.

5. Her story is also one of the immigrant. How timely is that?  Very much so. The book does not make any political statements, however Dr. Ruth’s story is a terrific illustration of how we’re a nation of immigrants, and how immigrants have contributed so much to our culture and history and values.

6. How might her story help children think differently about their own life? Throughout the book, Dr. Ruth shares her stories with her grandkids, who relate the themes to their own lives. We hope readers will find hope and inspiration for the challenges in their lives, and learn from her example, as her grandkids do.

7. An orphan out of World War II, how did someone from less than nothing manage to make it so far? She was driven by core values and qualities such as resilience, drive, and hope… and a little luck. If you meet Dr. Ruth today, it is clear that when she feels something is important, she will act on that, and motivate others to act, through her unique blend of charm, kindness, perseverance, and sheer force of will.

8. The cover features  Dr. Ruth on a roller-coaster. Does this symbolize her up and down life or her adventurous side? It’s meant to signify the ups and downs of her life, of all our lives.

9. Why do you believe this book’s format is a great way to encourage our youth to read more?
Kids love graphic novels. They’re accessible, fun, popular. In addition to being a fun, exciting read, we think Roller-Coaster Grandma has a terrific message for kids, and we hope the format will broaden its appeal to kids, whether they are voracious readers or drawn to more visual types of storytelling. Stay tuned, by the way. We’re working on another book with Dr. Ruth, to be published in Summer 2019. This one will be a picture book for young kids about being comfortable in your body, with gentle messages about self-esteem and boundaries.

You can find out more about Apples & Honey Press at
Order the book on Amazon or see it on our website.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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