by Ben Zackheim | Dec 19, 2013 | Writing |
When I joined “The 12 Authors of Christmas Blog Tour” I did not know I’d fall in love with a ninja librarian. An older gentleman, at that. Jemima Pett, the creator of the blog tour, asked if I’d review the book. Of course I jumped at the chance. With a title like Ninja Librarian, who wouldn’t want to crack the story open asap?
But I was taken in by Rebecca Douglass’ book, The Ninja Librarian, quicker than almost any read in 2013. The premise is simple enough. A nice gentleman comes to town. He’s the librarian. The only problem is that librarians don’t last long in Skunk Corners. The Old West town isn’t as backwards as some of the local townships, but it doesn’t like the idea of a local library. There are more important things to do. Like not going to school, and hanging around, and running unfamiliars out of town.
It’s in this setting that we’re introduced to Big Al and Tom, the librarian. The two of them strike up a friendship and a partnership. They tag team some herculean efforts to educate the local kids, with hilarious, thought-provoking and surprising results. Douglass has a wonderful way of turning a simple yarn into a heart-warming, twisty-turny journey, with fantastic characters, and excellent dialogue.
The book is made up of short stories, making it perfect for casual reading for you and your entire family. The Ninja Librarian is one of my favorite books of the year. It really is that good.
I got the chance to interview the author recently. Head on over to check it out, then enter the 12 Authors of Christmas contest, where you could win one of 30 books!
Who are the Authors on tour?
All these authors are interviewing each other, reviewing each others’ books and more in the Giveaway blog tour starting 1st December. Click the links to go to their websites and find out more about them, and check out their books in the InLinkz list below.
Check out all these books!
Jemima Pett: the Princelings of the East series (1st, 11th and 18th December)
M G King: Fizz & Peppers at the Bottom of the World (2nd and 10th December)
Fiona Ingram: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab (3rd and 12th December)
Wendy Leighton-Porter: The Shadows from the Past series (4th and 14th December)
Stanley and Katrina (Pet Authors): The Perpetual Papers of a Pack of Pets(5th and 17th December)
Ben Zackheim: Shirley Link, ace detective series (6th and 19th December)
Rebecca Douglass: The Ninja Librarian and Return to Skunk Corners (7th and 16th December)
Cheryl Carpinello: The Young Knights of the Round Table series (8th and 13th December)
S Smith: The Seed Savers series (9th and 18th December)
Julie Grasso: Caramel Cardamom series (11th and 22nd December)
Paul R Hewlett: Lionel’s Grand Adventure series (16th and 20th December)
S W Lothian: the Quest series (tba)
Now Enter the Giveaway!
You could win a prize from one of these authors. Most are offering one or two books from their series: if you’ve already got the first, they may offer you a different one if you win. The prizes are as detailed on the rafflecopter form.
Contest runs: December 1st to 23rd, 11:59 pm EST, 2013
How to enter: Enter using the Rafflecopter widget click this link.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have until 28th Dec. to respond. If the winner does not respond in that time, a new draw will take place for a new winner. No cash alternatives to the ebooks offered. Authors may (at their sole discretion) offer a different ebook from that listed if the winner already owns the prize listed. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors named and is hosted and managed by Jemima Pett, the Princelings author. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send an email to jemima (dot) pett (at) gmail (dot) com.
by Ben Zackheim | Dec 6, 2013 | Writing |
The Ninja Librarian came out of nowhere. I don’t mean Ninja Librarian the man, I mean Ninja Librarian the book. As we set up the Middle Grade Elves book tour I was assigned Rebecca’s series. It certainly sounded interesting. As I read it I had a feeling I was enjoying something special. The pages turned and turned as I met some fascinating characters and twists and turns that delighted me. While this is a Middle Grade book tour, I highly recommend this series to anyone, of any age.
I had a chance to interview Rebecca about The Ninja Librarian. It’s a good primer for her book series, but should also be fun for those of you who have read the book.
Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of a ninja librarian?
The Ninja Librarian has a real-life model. Admittedly, Tom the Librarian from my work may lack some NInja skills. But he shares his looks with the Ninja Librarian–and was responsible for the line that started the idea bubbling in my fertile imagination: “I don’t get mugged; I’m trained to kill.” He really did say that one night at work, and the whole idea pretty much exploded into my head at once. Fortunately it was a slow night at work, because I had to grab pen and paper and start writing. Originally, I wrote the stories just for my co-workers, but I eventually realized I had a book others would enjoy, and began putting it together in earnest. The stories fell into a pattern of problem-solving and thinking outside the box that I liked, so I went with that.
Al reminds me of Deadwood’s Calamity Jane. What appealed to you about a “Wild West” setting for the stories?
I’m not really sure. The setting (Skunk Corners) was part of what entered my mind ready-made. The opening lines of the first chapter established the setting, and they have remained essentially unchanged since that memorable night at the library. Once I had Crazy Jake and Wild Harry Colson, the unspecified Wild West setting was inevitable. But you’ll not find Skunk Corners on any map, and attempts to nail it down to a time and place are doomed to disappointment.
There are so many little delights and surprises within each story. Were these originally short stories that you strung together? Or did you always want to tell a serialized story?
These started life very much as individual short stories. I had written several before I realized I was writing an episodic novel. Because the short-story format works well for kids (and others) who don’t want to commit to too much reading at once, I have stuck with that format in the sequel, Return to Skunk Corners, though I allowed myself more extended plot threads in that one. The self-contained short stories were also easier for me to write while working and raising the kids, because I could let more time go by between chapters without losing the thread of the story. As long as I finished each chapter fairly quickly, the rest could wait.
While you have a very strong and unique voice, the structure of your stories has a bit of a Sherlock Holmes feel. What are your influences as a writer?
Boy, those are probably too many to name! As a kid I read everything from Tom Sawyer to The Wind in the Willows to Homer Price, and the adventure stories of Robb White and (I’ll confess it) Louis L’Amour. More recent influences are Richard Peck, Gary Paulson, Karen Cushman, and an awful lot of books on the settlement of the West, especially through the eyes of the women and children. My fascination with that period in our history probably influenced the setting quite a bit. And using a first-person narrator for the first time worked wonderfully to help me find my voice–my tendency to dry humor worked better that way!
Where did the name of the town come from, Skunk Corners?
I’m pretty sure it was just lying around when I started writing. Well, almost. When I wrote the very first story, it was Skunk Springs. When I wrote the second story, it had become Skunk Corners, and it was actually a long time before I realized I’d changed the name. But the skunks were always there.
Several times, you mention the pain of hunger that some kids in town suffer. Do you have a personal connection to this problem? It’s certainly a big part of our lives in America.
Happily, though we were poor growing up, we gardened, and my parents were creative, so we never went hungry. My Dad did, though, during the Depression, and some of his stories have stuck with me, as have accounts of kids crossing the prairies or settling in less-than-ideal places. I should probably add Laura Ingalls Wilder to the list of influences, and she wrote very feelingly of hunger at times, especially in The Long Winter.
If your story got the Disney treatment, what animals would Big Al, Tom, Tommy, Neb Jones and Tess be?
I like this twist on the standard “who would play your characters” question (which I can never answer anyway)! I’m pretty sure Al would be a bear. The Librarian is a tough one. He has elements of the big cats, but also of the fox, or even Coyote. On reflection, I think he might be the border collie–a smart dog, but not wild as the others–he’s the strange outsider with a little extra knowledge. Tommy and the other kids I could imagine as a troupe of squirrels (to keep it in the right set of animals) or maybe prairie dogs. Neb Jones is a sheep. Not a mountain sheep. A pretty dumb domestic sheep. And Tess. . . she’s a deer, but a wise one.
I understand that you also enjoy backpacking. How are backpacking and writing similar?
Well, both are better if once you begin you keep going to the end! And both go more smoothly with some planning, though they can be done by the seat of the pants. For many, backpacking is as solitary as writing, but I travel and hike with my family, so our trips are actually often more social than my life at home. For me, it’s more that backpacking helps refuel my mind and spirit. I get pretty weird if too much times goes by without getting into the wilderness.
When’s the third book out? ;-)
The next kid’s book isn’t a NInja Librarian story, but a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fantasy called Halitor the Hero. That will be out sometime in 2014. But I’m not abandoning Skunk Corners. At this point, I’m seeing a collection of stories by and about different people around town, not all in Big Al’s voice. I specified “kid’s book” above because my next release will be for the grown-up fans, a humorous cozy mystery (i.e., no blood, gore, bad language or much in the way of violence) called Death By Ice Cream, due out early in 2014.
Thanks so much Rebecca. I’m delighted to have found your wonderful work.
Thank you! I’m always so happy when people enjoy my work! I have Shirley Link on my Nook, queued up after a couple of library books (always have to read those first, before they expired and leave me mid-page!).