Wednesday, August 19, 2009

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JOHN HIGHAM

Hello, everyone! First of all I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to John Higham, author of 360 Degrees Longitude, for joining us this morning for our interview! And to encourage all of you to enter the giveaway for John's book, and if you are not one of the lucky winners of one of 5 copies you can purchase the book here, or here, or here. 50% of the proceeds goes to KIVA, which is an organization that I deeply believe in, and besides that this memoir is SO worth your purchase! Also, visit the Higham's website as well for links to the Google Earth bonus feature that is added to the book as a cool layer to their whole story. 360 Degrees Longitude Site You can read my review of his book here.

Without further adieu...

Hi John! Thanks for visiting Book Blab today, and entertaining some of our questions.

Let's get started!

LJ: At what point did you decide you were going to make your family's journey into a book?

JH: This was a gradual process, that wasn’t firmly cemented until about the time we reached South America. I had encouragement from September and several people who were on our e-mail distribution list. Initially I was reluctant because, well, I knew it would be a lot of work. Luckily, flattery goes a long way. In the end, I was right – the book was a tremendous amount of work. But the writing and editing process let me relive our journey and now I have this huge sense of accomplishment and am immensely proud of the result.

LJ: Were there any objections or concerns any family members had about the book? Or were they pretty open to the idea?

JH: Without September’s unfailing support the book project would have never started. Katrina and Jordan were open to the idea, and we had long discussions about what it might mean for people to know some fairly intimate details about themselves. Although they have always been supportive, I’m unconvinced Katrina and Jordan will really understand the impact of having details of their lives made public until they reach adulthood.


LJ: I don't think you have ever written a book like this before, so what can you tell us about one of the major things you learned along the way with the writing and then the publishing process?

JH: Before I embarked on down the path of writing about our “World-The-Round” trip, I had written a few articles for bicycling magazines, but nothing as ambitious as a book. During the time between querying my first literary agent to the book shipping out to bookstores I learned a lot about publishing, and myself. The most notable items I learned about publishing is that the vetting process one goes through to find a literary agent and a publisher can be lonely, frustrating and tedious. So while writing talent is necessary to get a book published, it is, by itself, insufficient. Self-confidence and tenacity are absolutely mandatory.

As for myself, where to begin? While I may have been the one tickling the keyboard, for a guy who already has a full time job, writing a book was an undertaking for the whole family. As such, it required sacrifices from everyone. The biggest lesson I learned about myself is that my family has more tenacity and confidence in me than I do. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been successful in getting a book in stores.

LJ: As you were traveling I imagine you were keeping a journal, if you were planning on writing a book at the end of it all, were you writing and "editing" it as you went along? In other words, when incidence would happen would you find you would think, "That would be a great section for the book!" or was it more organic of a process pieced together when you returned?

JH: I did keep a journal, but the purpose of the journal was simply for e-mail material. I loved writing e-mails home, describing what we did and some of the crazy anecdotes that fell out of traveling around the world with kids. Any time I had a thought during the day, I would pull my “e.brain” (PDA) out of my pocket and jot it down so I wouldn’t forget it. When I had enough material, I would weave all those anecdotes into an e-mail home.

We had always planned our itinerary for a stationary final month and that ended up being in Belize. So, when my father-in-law visited us in Bolivia and Peru (before we went to Belize), we had arranged for him to bring a notebook and that final stationary month was spent compiling all our e-mails and journal entries into a rough draft. Although those e-mails become the basis of the book, I wanted our story to be much more than a collection of anecdotes. It took months of contemplation and revision to weave into those anecdotes the story I wanted to tell – that of an American family discovering that together they could accomplish much with the biggest accomplishment being finding their place in the world.

LJ: If there were one piece of advice you could offer to a would-be travel writer wanting to publish their journey, what would that be?

JH: Believe in your project and don’t give up.

LJ: What has been the most surprising thing that has transpired since your book has been released?

JH: This might sound odd, but the biggest surprise is that people other than my mother like my book! As I stated above, the vetting process to get a book published is lonely and that if I couldn’t draw upon the confidence of my family, I may not have made it through the other side in one piece. I poured my soul into my book and then put it on bookshelves. That felt a little bit like being an awkward teenager all over again, asking out your first crush on a date, fearing rejection. So, my biggest surprise is simply that the story resonates with those who read it; I actually can tell a story.

LJ: Can you tell us about the cover? I'm a HUGE sucker for a beautiful book cover, and yours certainly is up there as one of THE most gorgeous out there...

JH: Oh, my. Do I dare mention that the cover was, for me, a compromise? My publisher and I went back and forth on the cover art for a long time. Let’s just say that I had ideas about the cover that didn’t align with the publisher’s. I’m not exactly sure how the publisher came upon the image that we ultimately chose, but I had suggested an image that was a photo I took in Belize (click here for image) that was the inspiration for the VW Bug Bike theme in the Belize chapter. A few weeks later, the publisher came forward with the current cover. I should mention that throughout the process of selecting cover art I was pretty pig-headed and I am grateful to an even-tempered publisher for putting up with me. Now I simply can’t imagine any other cover art.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

LJ: If you had to do it all over again what, if anything, would you do differently in writing/publishing your book? And adding to that will you write another book when your family travels again?

JH: A friend with some experience in the book selling business told me the day the book came out, “Now comes the hard part.” I had read all the books about getting a book published, and thought I was ready for that next phase. A lot of things caught me off guard, however, including resistance from bookstores to carrying a title from “an unknown” to the timing of the book’s release with the lead time it would take to have it reviewed in newspapers and magazines. So, in retrospect, the down time I had between editing the last revision to the book shipping would be better spent making friends at local bookstores, newspapers and bloggers (not unlike yourself!).

Although our family continues to travel – we recently returned from three weeks in Tonga – I don’t see anymore travel books in my future. I do hope to write newspaper and magazine articles on a variety of subjects. Once September and I get Katrina and Jordan’s braces and college paid off, we hope to be able to do charity work in the developing world. It’s possible there is a book in there, somewhere. I also have an idea for a novel, but that would be a huge undertaking that simply won’t be possible until the braces and college are paid off.

LJ: This last question comes from my husband when I asked him any questions he might have, "I wanna know how much 'the shirt' cost”.

JH: You must mean the Bill’s Burger Barn shirt. I frankly have no recollection of the actual cost – the original was on a discount rack in a Prague department store – maybe US $10. Of course Jordan and I had some replicas made and shipped to Mauritius. While I do remember what that cost, not including shipping to an obscure tropical island, I think it best not to stoke the flame there J. I’ll simply state it was the most expensive practical joke I’ve ever played on my wife and I will always regret that the package didn’t come in time.

Once again THANK YOU for stopping by, and sharing with us! Good luck with 360 Degrees, already a great success! We look forward to watching your writing career unfold, and I, for one, am looking forward to a novel by John Higham!

Don't forget, everyone, that you can enter the Book Blab giveaway to win one of 5 copies of John's book, and 50% of the proceeds goes to the organization KIVA, and you can also purchase his book here, or here, or HERE.

HAVE A GREAT DAY!

9 Blabs:

Browngirl said...

Very nice and congrats on your first interview!

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

He and his family sound like great people. I loved his honest answers regarding the writing/publishing process and am happy to see how supportive and helpful his family was in getting the book written and on the shelves! You had great questions and I enjoyed the interview!

Lisa said...

Thanks Alyssa and Browngirl! I have to admit to being a bit nervous about my questions! But I am more excited by John agreeing to the interview, I feel so honored! Thanks for your comments!

Jenny said...

Great interview!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I love reading author interviews - thanks so much for posting this, and thanks to John for sharing his thoughts here.

Lisa, I'm excited that Jessica Jackley (co-founder of KIVA) is speaking in my town next month. Look for my blog post about it after the event (end of September)

Lisa said...

Dawn, I am a HUGE fan of your blog! And I am so thrilled that you commented on mine!!! I will definately stay tuned for your blog post as I have been a follower of yours for awhile now.

Thanks for the comment! :)

Craig and Jaclyn said...

this is so exciting!!!! and it was a great interview...woohoo you!!!

Jessica (BookLover) said...

Great interview! Now I'm even more anxious to read the book.

By the way, I have an award for you. I hope you don't mind. :)
http://abookloversdiary.blogspot.com/2009/08/zombie-chicken-award.html

Tea said...

I enjoyed your interview with John Higham. He seems very friendly and honest. For me it was an eye opener when he mentioned "loneliness" during the period of looking for a literary agent and publisher. I've always heard authors mention feeling lonely while writing the book.

I love travel books. I look forward to reading this one. Like you, I also love the book cover. Thanks again to you, Lisa, and to John Higham.

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