Archive for March, 2014

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Author Interview: Ian Doescher

Some excerpts from our interview with author Ian Doescher, which appeared in March’s State of the Thing.

Ian Doescher is currently the Creative Director at Pivot Group LLC in Portland, OR. He has B.A. in Music, a Master of Divinity, and a Ph.D. in Ethics. His first book was the New York Times best seller, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, released in July 2013, and its sequel, The Empire Striketh Back is out this month from Quirk Books.

We’ve got 15 copies of Ian’s latest, The Empire Striketh Back available this month through Early Reviewers! Click here to request one!

Ian was kind enough to chat with me about the Bard, the Empire, and what we can expect to see from him next!

While it’s generally safe to assume that everybody and their kid brother knows the gist of the original Star Wars trilogy at this point, some of our readers may not be so familiar. What is the original trilogy about, in your mind?

Overall, I would say it’s the tale of how a group of rebels overthrew a mighty, power-hungry Empire. Within that, it’s the story of a man who has a transformation from innocence to pain to evil to redemption (Darth Vader), and other young people who are learning what destiny has in store for them (Luke, Leia, Han). Along the way we get to meet some interesting and hilarious characters. There’s my elevator pitch for the series!

You said in an earlier interview at Giant Freakin Robot that you’ve seen Star Wars 40–50 times at this point. How many times did you watch Episode V while writing this book?

It wasn’t so much a matter of watching it over and over as it was a matter of watching little bits at a time. I would watch a little snippet of the movie—a few seconds—to remind myself of the dialogue, then look at the script online if needed. After that, I would translate the lines into iambic pentameter, see if I could add any references or give a character an aside or soliloquy, and then move on. So I watched the movie once, very, very slowly.

After the success of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope, was it easier or harder to write The Empire Striketh Back? What was the hardest part of writing it?

It definitely was easier to write The Empire Striketh Back, if only because at this point iambic pentameter is much easier to write since I’ve had so much practice. I now have this strange (and useless) ability to recognize iambic pentameter when I hear it in normal everyday conversation, in a movie, and so on. The hardest part about writing Empire was that I had roughly half the time to write it than I did for Verily, A New Hope.

As you were writing the book, did you envision what it would be like for your work to be performed on the stage?

Yes, much more with Empire than with Verily, A New Hope. With the first book, I wasn’t really imagining it as something that would ever be performed or something people would want to perform. But after hearing from theater groups around the world who want to perform the first book, staging was very much on my mind the second time around. Consequently, I think I made better use of what you would actually find in an Elizabethan stage — a balcony, the overall breadth of the stage, etc.

You hinted in the afterword that Han and Leia’s dynamic turned toward being similar to that of Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. Did you model Darth Vader off of any particular Shakespearean character(s)? You did a great job of giving him more depth than we see on the screen in the original movie.

I don’t know that Darth Vader is necessarily modeled after a particular character, but he’s definitely a sweeping tragic figure along the lines of King Lear or Othello—someone who is driven by external forces to push away those he loves, only to find out at the end of his life how wrong he was. I think the six-movie Star Wars story could easily be called The Tragedy of Anakin Skywalker.

In this book, we finally meet Yoda, and you had a very interesting way of dealing with his idiosyncratic speech patterns (Yoda speaks strictly in haiku). How did you come up with this idea, and was it harder to write Yoda’s lines than any of the other characters?

After the first book, many people said to me, “They all sound like Yoda now!” I knew I had my work cut out for the second book in terms of what to do with Yoda. None of my three original ideas—using modern speech, using his lines verbatim, or using even more antiquated speech (something like Chaucer)—really moved me. I was jogging one morning—always a good time to think—when the idea of haiku came to mind, and instantly felt right. Luckily, Quirk Books and Lucasfilm agreed! I don’t know that it was harder to write Yoda’s lines, just a different way of checking my work (5-7-5 syllable pattern instead of iambic pentameter).

Read our full interview here.

Labels: author interview

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Interview with Keith Goddard at Books Matter

LT members who’ve been around for a year or so may remember our partnership with Books Matter, an organization dedicated to providing books to needy schools in Ghana. I caught up with Keith Goddard—founder of Books Matter—this week, who was kind enough to update me on their latest projects!

Interested in donating to Books Matter? Drop me a line at loranne@librarything.com to donate books, or visit their website for monetary donations.

Can you tell us a bit about how Books Matter got started?

Basically, three things happened. First, my wife was sending some items to Ghana (that’s where she’s from) and she suggested we send some books and other things that my kids no longer used. The second thing is that she had always told me that many school in Ghana have no books. That really shocked and amazed me. The third thing is that I am a teacher in the Toronto public school system and I noticed that a lot of books are lying around in schools and not being used. So, I gathered up about 800 books and that was the start.

What is the process involved in getting a shipment of books sent? How many books can you send to Ghana at once?

We don’t have a lot of room at our house, which is where we store the books. Once we get to about 2,000 books our sunroom becomes unusable, so we are encourged to clear them out. Then we have to scan them, pack them, and raise enough money to send them. There’s no limit on how many we can send at a time, but due to the storage issue, we think around 2,000 is a good number.

In its first year, Books Matter sent 6,000 books to Ghana. That’s great! Did you anticipate that you’d have this much success?

I didn’t really know what to expect. Sometimes I think 6,000 is great and other days I feel that it’s nothing. I wish we could help meore people, but that being said, I know that the people we have helped are appreciative.

How many schools/libraries have received books from Books Matter now, and where are they? (Click map to enlarge)

So far, five institutions have received books from us: Bright Future School, in Keta; a library in Keta; a college in Ho; an elementary/junior high near Ho; and, an orphanage near Kumasi.

You recently ran an Indiegogo campaign, and set out to get another 2,000 books sent. Have those reached their destination(s)? Will you be running another Indiegogo campaign any time soon?

We ran an Indiegogo campaign just before the New Year, and with that money we shipped 1,700 books to five schools, two of which have separate buildings for the junior high and elementary schools, but on the same land. So, those books were cataloged into separate libraries. So, it’s five schools, but seven libraries. I hope that makes sense. Those books should arrive in late April. Since then we’ve received more books and would like to send about 1,500 in April. We’ve packed about 1,000 and scanned about 700. We scan the books we send to most of our recipients, but not all. Probably over 80%.

What are some of your and/or the students’ favorite books that Books Matter has sent?

We’ve sent some great books so far, but I hope we can get more book donations, from publishers, once we are an official charity. One thing that is difficult to do, but that I want to do, is get more feedback from the students about the books and their reading
habits, and how those habits are (hopefully) changing. I’d probably have to check some of the catalogs on LT to remember what we’ve sent! Good thing I cataloged them. We’ve sent a lot of great science and non-fiction picture books, fact books, and there are very few books like that in most Ghana schools. I think those will have a big impact on a lot of younger kids, even if they are reluctant readers, because the topics are so diverse and often relevant. We also sent a first edition And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street… lots of Dr. Seuss. It would be wonderful if any LT members thought there were certain must-have books for youngsters, that they wanted to donate, and maybe write a litte note in the front; they would just have to ship it to us in Toronto.(1)

What’s your personal library like? What sorts of books can be found on your shelves?

My personal library is really nothing to talk about… a fair number of biographies/memoirs about people in developing countries overcoming extreme adversity. Lots of non-fiction.

What have you read and enjoyed lately?

I like having about five books on the go at once, partly because I have trouble sticking with things sometimes! Also, because I enjoy such a wide variety and that’s the big reason I think kids should have a lot of books at their disposal to check out and become interested by. Having an e-reader is great, but that’s different than browsing through shelves of books, and touching them and flipping through them. That’s how kids catch the reading spark. That, and being read to. I just finished 12 Years a Slave and am now reading a modern day slavery account, called Slave by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis. I’m also reading a book on how to use YouTube for marketing.

What’s next for Books Matter? Do you have the next milestone, upcoming projects/shipments, etc. in mind?

We’ve always got shipments in mind. We’d like to hear from some of the schools where we’ve donated and make subsequent donations based on their likes and needs. I would love to go back to Ghana sometime in the future and oberve the kids, talk to them about reading, read with them, and talk to the teachers about reading/teaching strategies. It would be great to give more support than just putting the books in front of people. That’s not always enough, especially if they haven’t already developed the reading bug. That’s why sending the picture books and easy readers for the very young children is so important.

I’d like to thank Keith for taking the time to chat with me! Books Matter is doing excellent work, and it’s a joy to work with them!

—interview by Loranne Nasir


1. As mentioned above, if you have books you’d like to send to Books Matter, be sure to send Loranne an email (loranne@librarything.com).

Labels: books for ghana, gifts, member projects

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Welcome Jon

Back in January, we announced that the search was on for a new programmer—one who’d be devoted entirely to LibraryThing.com, and there’s been much excitement. Today, I’m pleased to say that the search has ended!

Everyone, meet Jon Kiparsky (long-time LT member kiparsky), our new developer! Say hi on his profile, or on the “Welcome Jon” talk topic.

Jon was born in Boston and has never lived more than a hundred miles from an ocean. He has a degree in Linguistics from Reed College, and his career has been varied, with past positions including tech writer, music label bigwig, radio personality, and sound tech.

Jon spends his non-programming time playing music (largely Irish session tunes), brewing beer and mead, and studying math, and he’s working very hard on controlling his nearly Tourette-like tendency to spout atrocious puns with little provocation or warning. He also translates fiction from German, Spanish, and Portuguese into English—having learned Portuguese in order to read Jose Saramago stories that hadn’t been released in his native tongue.

Favorite authors include: Iain M. Banks, Douglas Hofstadter, Raymond Smullyan, Steven Brust, and Theodore Sturgeon (but no guarantees that asking again will produce the same list)

Jon’s job at LibraryThing is a big one. He’ll be working with Tim on LibraryThing.com, developing features, fixing bugs and improving performance. We expect great things from him. But it’s going to take him a few weeks to ease into how we do things, so don’t expect everything to get better immediately!

So, who gets $1,000 in books?

Many of you may remember that we offered a bounty of $1,000 worth of books to whoever managed to connect us with our new developer. That lucky individual is Jon’s girlfriend, Nadia, an archivist who saw Tim mention the job on Twitter! Many thanks to you, Nadia, and enjoy your books!

Labels: employees

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

March Early Reviewers batch is live!

The March 2014 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 109 titles this month, and a grand total of 2,996 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Then request away!

The list of available books is here:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, March 31st at 6pm Eastern.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, Germany, and many others! Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Kregel Publications Tundra Books Bethany House
Taylor Trade Publishing Akashic Books Chronicle Books
Henry Holt and Company Quirk Books Riverhead Books
Putnam Books Kaylie Jones Books Gefen Publishing House
William Morrow JournalStone John Ott
CarTech Books Random House Five Rivers Publishing
De Angelo Moody Development Group, LLC Greyhart Press Conscious World Press
Whimsical Books ZonaBooks Palgrave Macmillan
ArbeitenZeit Media Apex Publications ENVISION BUSINESS & Computer School Publishing
Human Kinetics Crux Publishing Recorded Books
Algonquin Books BookViewCafe Santa Fe Writers Project
McFarland Lion Fiction Thomas Dunne Books
Crown Publishing Viva Editions Bellevue Literary Press
Chin Music Press Berlinica Small Beer Press
Ballantine Books Phaeton Publishing

Labels: early reviewers, LTER