John Connolly is the internationally bestselling author of 14 books (15 later this year). He is one of our favorite authors around these parts, mostly because his books are some of the best we’ve read, but also because he was kind enough to hold a signing at our store (back when we had a store in which to do that kind of thing). He graciously agreed to answer some questions for our blog about his newest book, Hell’s Bells, released in the UK earlier this month. (It will be out in the U.S. in October as The Infernals, but you’ll want to get your hands on it as soon as possible.)
[Booksellers Without Borders]: Why should anybody buy your book?
[John Connolly]: I have no idea why anyone picks one of my books over another. I feel I should cling to their legs in an embarrassing show of excessive gratitude if, and when, they do. That’s not false modesty: most authors have this weird ego/self-doubt inner battle going on. When it comes to The Infernals/Hell’s Bells, or, indeed, The Gates, the answer is the same as for any other of my books: because I’ve done my best to ensure that you put the book down when you’ve finished it and think, gosh, that was actually kind of fun. I wouldn’t mind doing that again…
[BwoB]: There seems to be some dispute over the intended audience of the Samuel Johnson books. If you owned a book shop, where would you shelve them?
[JC]: It’s a kids’ book. If adults enjoy it, then that’s fine – after all, it makes very few concessions to its younger
readers, apart from no swearing or sex – but it was written to be read by smart kids. I hate books and films for
younger readers that wink at adults over the shoulders of the supposed audience. Also, when I was a younger reader I read books in the adult fiction section, mainly because the young adult market didn’t exist then, and had few, if any, problems with the prose.
In real terms, there’s very little difference, at the literacy level, between popular fiction for young adults and
popular fiction for adults. It’s only when it comes to the approach to subject matter that things become a bit murky.
[BwoB]: Are there any plans for a third installment of the Samuel Johnson series?
[JC]: I know what the next two will be, when I get around to writing them. Ideas aren’t the currency for writers; time is the currency. I seem to be juggling the adult crime books, these books, and ideas for novels that don’t fit into either category.
[BwoB]: How do you balance writing two very different series? Does anything cross over, or are they discrete entities?
[JC]: Actually, writing one makes writing the other easier. It’s like going to the gym: if you exercise the same muscles every day, they get tired while the others atrophy. Ideally, you strike a balance between the two. By writing the kids’ books, or The Book of Lost Things, or the ghost stories, I come back to the Parker novels refreshed, and vice versa: the experiments allow me to develop new skills for the Parker books, and keep them fresh.
[BwoB]: If you could choose one superpower to help you save the book industry, what would it be?
[JC]: It wouldn’t be a superpower. I would just summarily execute a couple of the doughnuthead writers who use phrases like “dead tree publishing” or “legacy publishing” to describe printed books. In the end, I believe that printed books and e-books will co-exist, but bookstores will be more boutique environments, offerning signed hardbacks and books with added value, than discounting chain stores. We’ll return to valuing expertise, and the beauty of the artifact, because those of us who really love books will always need to be surrounded by the physical objects. But those writers who are being dismissive of the beauty and practicality of printed books should be ashamed of themselves, and readers shouldn’t support them. Oh, and ladies of a certain age who have found a way to download books for free to their Kindles: hey, you’re thieves, and you’re killing books! You wouldn’t steal a book from bookstores, so why is it okay to steal a book from the Net? Naughty!
[BwoB]: Thanks to John Connolly for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions! If you missed our review of Hell’s Bells, you can find it here.