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From Mad Men to Thrillers: An Interview with William Thompson Ong

William Thompson Ong, or Tom as his friends know him, has created quite a stir with thriller readers in the past 12 months with his trilogy of novels featuring journalist-protagonist-amateur sleuth Kate Conway.Tom's jacket photo. Alicia #9 (preferred)

The Mounting Storm, The Deadly Buddha and The Fashionista Murders (published by Ri Publishing) combine tight, twisting plots, charming bad guys to which Kate becomes attracted, and some high-powered crime solving in great professional settings – art museums, Parisian fashion runways and the like. The trio of novels (not a trilogy; Tom has more Kate Conway novels in his future) also incorporates two aspects of writing of which I can never get enough (or impress more upon writers) – tough, gritty narrative voice, and attention to detail  explicit in time, place, and the character’s personal likes and dislikes. NWhen I see this, I see someone who has married fine journalistic skills with excellent fiction-writing style. ot as easy to write or maintain as it sounds.

41z1MhGnReL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Behind Kate Conway is a novelist with an illustrious past in the advertising industry, especially for fans of the hit AMC TV show Mad Men. Tom Ong is an original Mad Man, an advertising copywriter and, later, executive who began his career on New York’s Madison Avenue a decade before Mad Men star Jon Hamm was born. Later, he moved to the West Coast, where he cooks up plot twists rather than hook and tag lines.

This is the first of a two-part interview with Tom, in which he reflects on his Mad Men days and takes us deep into Kate Conway’s world, and the ways in which he constructed it. I found his answers rich and fascinating. Hope you do, too.

WORDJOURNEYS.COM: First of all, Tom, you’ve made an interesting creative leap – from being an advertising agency executive to writing thrillers. How did that come about?

William Thompson Ong: It wasn’t that hard. I entered the business as a copywriter, and every copywriter I knew was secretly working on a novel. It was in our blood. At one time at the Benton & Bowles agency we had four guys writing copy for P&G and General Foods, along with our other clients who went on to become successful novelists and lyricists and screenplay writers—Israel Horowitz, Shepherd Meade, Ed Hannibal and Herman Raucher  (who wrote Summer of ’42)—all of us working at the same time and on the same floor. Even though I eventually had many executive titles, like Creative Director and even CEO of my own agency, I was always a copywriter, creating ads and aiming for the fences.

WJ.COM: Could you give us a brief synopsis of your background?

WTO: I grew up in the quiet, tree-lined suburbs of Cleveland, and got my undergrad degree from DePauw University in Indiana. I wrote some short stories and then some angry editorials as editor of the campus newspaper, which led to my MA in journalism from Columbia. After the army I spent 15 years with the biggest advertising agencies in New York City—yes, I was one of the original Mad Men. Then I opened my own agency in Philadelphia and ten years ago cashed in on my lifelong dream, migrating to Los Angeles cold turkey to pursue a new career as a novelist.

WJ.COM: You’ve been quite prolific since becoming a full-time novelist.

WTO: I’ve completed seven novels (plus two screenplays). The three novels in the Kate Conway series are thrillers and have been partnership-published and are doing quite well on Amazon.  I have four more historical thrillers waiting to be published, and I’m still developing plots for Kate Conway.

WJ.COM: Have to ask, since you were one of the originals – how authentic is Mad Men?

WTO: Don Draper is hard to resist as the handsome anti-hero in a world of snakes and dragons, but in a sense he spoils the series for me.  I was hoping it would be more about the classic creative wars that took place at the time between the good guys in creative and the bad guys, at both the client and the agency—all heavily-armed and  thoroughly trained to shoot down any idea that looked fresh and original. I will give Don credit for his ploy in taking on the Cancer Society client and its anti-smoking messages to get even with the cigarette account the agency lost.  That was brilliant—and Don’s personal high for me.

What I like about the series is the telling it like it was—the drinking and smoking, the cheating and jealousy, the double-dealing and back-stabbing, the toll the business took on marriages. Incredible!—we were all so busy trying to survive and get ahead we failed to realize what was going on.

WJ.COM: What were some of the toughest parts of the adjustment from writing ad copy to subjective, character-based fictional narrative?41WA0IPiSeL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_

WTO: No matter how good you are with words, it requires work and study to absorb the basics of good fiction writing. And there definitely are rules: ‘Show, Don’t Tell’; establishing and following well-defined character arcs; knowing your characters intimately; and keeping the action moving—plus a dozen other rules that you should learn to follow before you can break them. You can break them when you reach that point of competence and hear that voice whispering in your ear saying you have arrived.  Then you can forget the rules because they are no longer rules on paper—they are automatic in your head.

When I sat down to write ads and campaigns I would always begin by briefing myself as thoroughly as possible and then staring at that blank sheet of paper—rejecting idea after idea until I knew I had nailed that one idea that would knock everything else silly. It’s the same in fiction writing—we are always staring at that blank sheet of paper and forcing ourselves to come up with that one great plot, one great character, one great scene, one word that propels our story forward. It’s the same process for both. And it’s nakedly, sinfully, deliciously, heart-warmingly beautiful.

WJ.COM: What do you feel are the most important points to remember when writing action-based fiction?

WTO: Every writer has a checklist. Here’s mine, just the way I have the points written down:

  1. SHOW DON’T TELL. Avoid “She saw . . . /noticed . . .” Substitute: “She turned. Two snakes were slithering down the embankment.”
  2. NEVER BE BORING—keep asking yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen next?
  3. Welcome friction, antagonism, fear, unexpected twists and turns. Make characters want something out of reach in every scene.
  4. Know where you are going with the story.
  5. Start the FLASHPOINT OF ACTION on Page One
  6. Make Kate a tough cookie and keep her there. Never let romance get the best of her.  Keep her innocent of how sexy she is.
  7. AVOID CLICHES AND EMPTY GESTURES.  ‘She finished eating and, wiping her mouth with a napkin, smiled.’

8 .  Watch the adjectives, adverbs. Ditch the colons and semi-colons. Don’t try so hard with word play. Use dialogue more often to advance the story.

Another thing I keep in mind is that, broadly speaking, thrillers are action-oriented while literary fiction is character-oriented.

WJ.COM: You’ve brought your journalistic skills into the mix through the way you interlace precise details that are on the money for time and place as well. Could you talk about the importance of enriching narrative with well-chosen details?

WTO: At Columbia University we had a tough, white-thatched ex-Chicago Daily News editor as one of our professors. His name was Roscoe Ellard and he described the cub reporter who couldn’t wait to hand in the story of a horrific fire that destroyed a landmark church and its historic steeple. The reporter captured all the details—the time of the fire, names and addresses of the dead, degree of burns of all victims, age of the church, the hospitals involved, whether arson was suspected, plus dozens of other facts that were right on the money. The professor finally asked the cub writer one simple question.

“How high was the steeple?”

A stony silence followed.

For the rest of the school year Professor Ellard, in his huge booming voice, not only opened every class with the same question, but as students passing each other in the halls or meeting in bars our official greeting became: “How high was the steeple, pal?”

41u0RCXXw7L._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_WJ.COM: The other side of your journalistic background comes from Kate Conway, the protagonist in three books now – The Mounting Storm, The Deadly Buddha and The Fashionista Murders. Is Kate the journalist you would have been had you not moved into the advertising business?  

WTO: This is a tricky question, and I’m not sure, since Kate and I represent opposite sexes. My first response would be to say yes, that Kate and I are Type-A personalities not content to stand idly by but want to always plunge in and slug the perpetrator – or at least try to bring the body at our feet back to life.

WJ.COM: How different or similar were your primary goals?

WTO: Kate’s primary goal in journalism is to do what she was taught as a child and had driven into her being by her Catholic parents and especially her detective father— TELL THE TRUTH.  That also describes my background, my family, my political views and, although I am a Presbyterian, my religious beliefs.  With a nation full of evil CEOs, politicians and killers posing as saints, there is plenty for Kate and me and any other investigative reporter, real or imaginary, to feast upon.

WJ.COM: While many male novelists have written strong woman characters, it is very rare to find a male thriller writer using a female protagonist.

WTO: I have received a lot of praise for establishing Kate as a role model for women. I set out to do this intentionally.  In Kate’s first novel, The Mounting Storm, we see her flair for journalism in writing an innocent bio piece about Margaret Winship, The Museum Queen. The piece leads ultimately to exposing her husband and finding the missing Monet, but in it, Kate has Margaret deliver a stern lecture challenging today’s women in the work force to keep giving back to their own sex as they plunge ahead.

WJ.COM: What is Kate’s primary motivation in life? How is it she finds herself crossing paths with the twisted, sophisticated, charismatic bad guys you bring into each story?

TO: Close behind Kate’s driving preoccupation with discovering and telling the truth is coming face-to-face with a talented and romantic male character who she is attracted to and, plot-wise, becomes deeply  involved with—and in two of the three novels comes close to marrying.

I’ve already mentioned how I chose a woman as my major character to stand out from the male-dominated thrillers.  I decided to take this extra positioning step by not being afraid to have romance that leads to sex (and a lot of it) become a powerful and controlling factor in all three of Kate Conway’s adventures.

In this case it was more than relieving my own boredom.  I felt I was being adventurous myself, perhaps venturing where others feared to tread and all that ego-enhancing stuff.  But I knew I was on the right track when women readers and the dozen or so agents who read the first manuscript loved Kate just as written with all her romantic entanglements.

(PART TWO will run on Friday, August 9)

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What To Look For (and Require) From Your Book Editor

A few days ago, on the Southern California Writers Conference’s Facebook community page, SCWC director Michael Steven Gregory posted about one of the most troubling challenges writers face today:

Gotta say, folks, I’ve recently been coming across way too many people bilking writers big time–from publicists & editors & book printers & conference organizers to you name it… Please do your due diligence before paying anybody a penny with regards to your work and dream. The big shift today is not about publishing your book; it’s about convincing you that “author services” will sell your book. (I know the SCWC’s been dealing with this for about a decade, but it’s gone really, horribly rampant as of late.) Just a heads up.

For the past three years, I’ve been a member of the SCWC faculty (FYI: the next conference is Feb. 15-18, 2013 at the Crowne Plaza Hanalei in San Diego). I’m also a freelance book editor who also, in some cases, writes book proposals and locates agents or publishers. I steer others toward a self-publishing route, whether through print books, e-books, or both.

Michael is right on the money: it’s getting tricky for anyone trying to write and publish a book. With the traditional publishing industry becoming more difficult and condensed every day, and the costs, potential profits and opportunities to self-publish more appealing than ever, an increasing number of writers are striking out on their own. The smart ones are finding qualified, distinguished professionals who can edit their books to a publish-quality shine, perhaps help them build their promotional platforms, and maybe even offer solid advice on the publishing process.

But here’s the rub: For every good, established professional, you’re going to find two or three who just aren’t qualified to provide the services they promote. Some among this latter group try hard, and mean well, but don’t have the skills or track record. The others, however, are shamelessly capitalizing on your dream of publishing a book. Like unscrupulous shysters in any industry, they promise the moon, take your money, prey on your hopes and aspirations, don’t edit well, and leave your book off worse than when you started. These are the people to which Michael Gregory alluded. When you’ve spent months, or years, pouring your heart, soul, time and money into a book, the last thing you need is to meet the proverbial robber on the road.

These people infuriate me. They infuriate all other hard-working, dedicated professional editors and author services experts who commit themselves, knowledge and skills into their clients’ works — their clients’ dreams.  I have personally witnessed authors’ dreams crushed by reputed agents and freelance editors who did nothing — or worse, touted their credentials and proved to have no track record at all.

Conversely, good editors and service professionals deeply care about your book. They pour their hearts  into your writing. None of us receive the lofty salaries New York-based editors earn (or at least used to earn). That’s OK: for us, the satisfaction comes in knowing we help authors fulfill their journey, and bring their stories, essays, memoirs and knowledge to your awaiting readership . We collaborate with our author-clients, help them reach down and find the very best expression of their feelings or subjects, and manifest it in their work. When you’re half of a great editor-author working relationship, it sometimes becomes transformative, like alchemy. Doesn’t matter which half, either.

This leads to a couple of questions: How do you distinguish between solid, qualified, professional editors, and those who are not? How can you tell when someone really cares about your work — cares enough to go over it, again and again, to make sure it’s the most polished and refined it can be? How do you know an editor really has helped other clients get published?

These are questions you should ask, whether it’s your first book or your tenth. Since self-publishing is not only a viable, but a preferred option in many cases, it is more important than ever that your book emerge as clean and mistake-free as possible. Therefore, you need to hold a prospective editor to a rather tough standard.

Here are my suggestions:

1)   Ask the editor what books s/he has edited within your genre. Believe it or not, many writers miss this, and then wonder why their manuscript hasn’t been properly edited. Editing a memoir is entirely different from editing a how-to book. “Listening” to make sure dialogue matches characters and situations within a novel is far different than polishing an explanatory thread in a history book. Mysteries differ from adventure romances. And so on.

2)   Ask what type of editing services are provided. If they say, “all editing,” or “everything you need,” dig deeper. Do they offer content editing? Line editing? Revising? Polish, or final, editing? Proofreading? The good ones do it all — and break down each phase with explanation, just like this.

3)   Ask which edited books have been published, and by whom. Do your due diligence. In nearly all cases, a quick visit to Amazon.com will suffice.

4)   If the editor’s previous works in your genre were self-published, that can also be a good thing. Go onto Amazon.com, and look at book reviews, ranking, how high up in category the listing shows, etc. That will give you an idea of how noteworthy the book is.

5)   Ask the editor to test-edit 3 to 5 pages of your manuscript. This will give you an idea of how much more refined s/he can make your work. Don’t ask them to edit more than that; be mindful that the editor is busy, too.

6)   Have a conversation with your editor on the phone or in person before hiring. It’s so easy to do everything via email, but at least hear the voice of the person you’re entrusting with your hard work.

7)   Be sure the editor does not alter your narrative voice. This has been my biggest pet peeve for years with editors both inside and outside publishing houses (and magazines and newspapers as well). A good editor recognizes or helps you develop your narrative voice, learns your working vocabulary and vernacular, and works to help you expand it.

8)   Set deadlines for performance, and pay according to those milestones. Most editors require some down payment (as I do), which is fine, but do not pay in full until you are completely satisfied with the final product. A good editor will set up installments – a sample schedule might be 25% down, 25% when half the manuscript is edited, and 50% at completion and acceptance. There are many variations, which are all good as long as you don’t pay in full until the job is complete.

9)   Does your editor have good contacts with agents or publishers? Or does s/he know how to help you write book proposals, synopses or market the book? This is not necessary to guarantee a good editing job. If so, however, that’s a huge plus. Some editors do have these credentials and contacts.

These questions will serve you well. They’ve served me well during the past 15 years and 130+ books, ebooks and numerous magazine titles that I’ve edited. Good, established editors will pass this test with flying colors.  For instance, when I work with a client, I always offer to test-edit a few pages. Some take me up on it; others just want to get started. If clients want to know my credentials, I rattle off a few finished titles in their particular genre. If I haven’t edited in their particular genre or sub-genre before, I tell them straightaway. They have a right to know. If writers want contact information for my former clients, I provide a couple of contacts. Since I also write book proposals and synopses, and occasionally work with agents and publishers directly, I let prospective clients know that as well. If they have specific questions about the publishing profession, I answer — or find the answer if I don’t know it, and get back to them.

My newest addition is a spreadsheet. When someone is considering me for their book, and want to know my background, I send them a spreadsheet with 20 recent titles I’ve edited, six books I’ve ghostwritten, and six author or client websites I’ve developed, including publisher’s name (or soon to be publisher) — and a URL to the publisher’s site, Amazon.com title link, or author’s site. Nothing verifies faster than seeing the physical proof. If you’re an editor, you may not yet have 20 books on your list — but you may have 200. Whatever you do have, give your prospective clients the opportunity to see what you’ve edited.

That’s what you want when seeking an editor. I wish we could all be in the trusting business — and it pains me to say this, because I’m an incredibly trusting person — but, you need to know who’s working on your book. And what makes them the right person to do so.

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What’s Going On, Amazon?

During the past 12 years, most of us have grown to regard Amazon.com as an immediate source for books we want to purchase: a) at a discount; b) from the convenience of our homes or offices; and/or c) because we can’t find them at our local bookstores and don’t want to wait for a special order. In fact, we’ve obliged this wonderful service so much that Amazon.com is not only the biggest bookseller in the country, but also one of our nation’s biggest and most cash-flush businesses.

I’ve written before about Amazon.com’s incredible customer focus. I featured it in an online tutorial that I wrote for corporate management and leadership training. Amazon.com’s way of automatically presenting buying choices based on your preferences, their crisp shipping practices and their ease-of-use platform all speak to extraordinary attention to detail. The customers come first. So much so that Amazon.com has an in-house goal: to never receive a complaint.

Well, today, they’re getting a very public complaint from one of their biggest supporters and customers the past 10 years: Me.  It pertains to another of their finest features, allowing customers to post reviews.

Amazon.com has decided to disallow published authors from posting reviews on books. Any books. In other words, because 12 of the books I’ve written or ghostwritten are available on Amazon.com, I cannot write a review for your book, or my friends’ books, or the books written by any of the 440 people in my Word Journeys – Resources for Writers group on Facebook. Or anyone else’s book that I happen to buy and read.

This is absurd. Completely ridiculous. Does Amazon.com think that authors cannot write objective reviews? Do they think authors aren’t customers? If they ran some metrics on their buying customers (which they can do), they would find that a fat percentage of their revenue comes from working authors. By and large, we are  obsessive book buyers. (For my part, I have 2,000 books, plus at least 3,000 that I’ve donated to libraries, schools or charities over the years). I mean, this is like telling librarians that they cannot recommend books to other librarians.

I love writing book reviews. I also love reading the reviews of my books, whether positive or critical. But I have ethics, too, and I do not write book reviews on Amazon or other online services for clients who enlist my services to edit or market their books. Much as I want to (and my clients want me to), I feel that’s a little too conflicting. However, I tell fellow authors about my clients’ books, and my other friends as well, and encourage them to review these titles.

Here’s the thing: Amazon.com works on a ratings system. The higher your book rates in sales, the quicker it pops up on the screen. This is particularly important when you have a title with common words, such as the latest effort by Dr. Steve Victorson and I, The Champion’s Way.  We’ve sold copies, and we’ve had favorable reviews. Presto: Our book is seen by more casual browers.

If authors can’t write reviews anymore, who can other authors count on? If authors can’t support the effort and content of another’s book — with a particular, inside appreciation for that effort — that takes away a vital promotional asset. The beauty of having an author review your book is that they can address the way you put the story together, the journeys of the characters, and the voice you used. It’s a very collaborative and supportive act — something that I think is lost on the hyper-competitive Amazon.  What Amazon.com needs to remember is that the book publishing industry has been torched by the combination of online bookselling, the migration to digital publishing and computing, and two recessions (2001-2 and 2008-onward). First, authors were forced to start promoting their own books. Next, publishing houses closed down by the droves. Now, many authors self-publish, a situation for which Amazon makes many millions of dollars through Create Space.

So Amazon is taking away a vital communications and promotional vehicle for authors. It’s as if they DON’T want authors to help each other out, which I find astonishing since they BENEFIT from our collaborative instincts through Create Space.

I know a lot of authors, many of whom have published through traditional houses, and some through Create Space. NONE of these authors would write the type of review that, I presume, Amazon.com thinks we would write — a blatant fluff piece that smokescreens the weaknesses in content, voice or writing of the reviewed book. We don’t do that. We’re professionals, and we write that way. We also know that we’re doing other authors and the reading public a disservice by sugar-coating book reviews.

And now, Amazon.com has chosen to silence the voices of those who feed both a hefty chunk of its online sales and its Create Space business. I certainly hope this suppression comes back to bite them hard enough to make them reconsider their decision. One thing for sure: I won’t be doing any holiday shopping on Amazon.com this year. Nor will a lot of authors that I know.

Let Amazon.com know how you feel. For those with Twitter accounts, a great handle to address is @AmazonBookPromo. Otherwise, let them know with your wallets.

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Singing Praises to the Home Library … and All Libraries

In the past week, I’ve been really thinking a lot about libraries, those bastions of knowledge and our love of learning and reading that, many feel, are under siege by the proliferation of e-books. Three things popped into my life concerning libraries:

First, while reading a scene in Roadshow, the outstanding travel memoir of Rush drummer Neil Peart, I was reminded of the time I spent in a couple of Carnegie libraries in New York. As part of his enormous philanthropic work, 19th century American industrialist Andrew Carnegie created 2,500 libraries when there was no library system in the U.S. He launched libraries in this country as we know them today.

Second, I read two conflicting articles, by two newspapers of conflicting political views. One said that libraries were about to die by the sword of electronic publishing and a lack of deep thinking and learning in the U.S. The other said libraries were thriving like never before. As one who taught writing workshops for four years in a small, vibrant rural library (Crittenden County, KY) with a staff that radiated love of reading (and whose head librarian, Regina Merrick, is a novelist), I’m here to say the latter article is more accurate.

Third, I read an article the other day from the Independent, the United Kingdom’s largest online newspaper, entitled, “Will the Home Library Survive the e-Book?”

This article gave me pause: Can the home library truly be endangered? The answer is, yes and no – depending upon the value you place on good old-fashioned book learning, how much you and family members enjoy curling up or stretching out with a good book, and on the worthiness of books as a reflection of who you are. With Amazon selling more e-books on Kindle than physical books, and Barnes & Noble also claiming higher e-book sales, the very satisfying and rewarding experience of going to an independent bookstore, buying a book, reading it and placing it on your home shelf appears to be in some danger.

Appearances can be deceiving. For example, since I now promote books via social media and publish e-books, among other things, I could be considered the enemy … until we start talking about the 3,000 books in my home library. Some of these books were the first I read, or that my mother read to me: Babar the Elephant, Make Way for Ducklings, Burt Dow Deep Water Man. Others serve as literary benchmarks of my school years: Johnny Tremain, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Old Man and the Sea, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Then there’s my rebellious bohemian side, told in a tale of New Journalism titles: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Pump House Gang, In Cold Blood, Trout Fishing in America, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. An entire bookshelf captures my love of poetry as a reader and writer, with works by more than 200 different poets. And the spiritual titles, ranging from Christian works to Autobiography of a Yogi and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Often deep flirtations with the Space Age, movies, sports, nature, ecology, sustainable living, organic gardening, travel, military subjects, running, nutrition, foreign languages, mind-body learning and so much more cover a roomful of shelves, presented as novels, memoirs, topical non-fiction, essays, short stories and travelogues by writers from legendary to one-book wonders, from globally known to regional heroes and heroines.

Then there are the collectibles, the old hardbacks, the books that sit prominently, some behind glass cases, to be seen but not necessarily touched: the transcript of the Apollo 11 moon landing and walk; Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, with pencil illustrations by Picasso; Steve Garvey’s life lessons learned as a Dodger batboy, before he became a star first baseman, with his autograph to me “from your fan, Steve Garvey,” a nod to the years I covered Garvey while a sportswriter; first editions of Mark Twain books; and my priceless treasures, the poetry and children’s books written by my great grandmother and great-great aunt.

I’ve tried many times to downsize my library. I can downsize furniture, clothing, dwelling size, DVD collection and other possessions … but unless I’m passing along books to a public library for safekeeping, I just can’t part with them. That’s because each book on that shelf represents a slice of life, an experience, a moment in time shared by the words on those pages and the inquiring or imaginative mind inside my skull. Furthermore, I put notes, related articles and other slips of paper in these books, further footnoting them for posterity.

Whenever I get around to writing life stories or a memoir, you can bet my library will be a major character. It has accompanied me through thick and thin for 45 years and counting.

My experience is shared by millions of others who have home libraries of all shapes, sizes and designs (and home library design also reflects the style of the owner). As Alice Azania-Jarvis, the writer of The Independent article, noted, “But it’s not just a matter of which books we display that’s interesting – how we choose to do so has become an equal point of fascination. ‘They can almost sculptural in that they offer a physical presence,’ explains (household stylist Abigail) Hall. ‘It’s not just about stacking them on a bookcase, it’s how you stack them. I’ve seen books arranged by color, stacked on top of each other. Once I saw a load of coffee-table books piled up to become a coffee table in themselves.’

Do you think people like this – people who truly love to read, to present their libraries as a statement of taste and love of learning – will let Google come in and scan out their collections? Do you think they’ll buy a bunch of storage drives and relegate covers, paper and all their visceral experiences to electronic files? Will you?

I didn’t think so. To me, the home library is like the public library – an institution running a very close second in sacredness to your place of worship. For many, the library, home library or bookstore is a place of worship. My library is the living, breathing lungs of a life dedicated to writing, learning, and helping others bring their stories to life.

Here’s hoping your bookshelves receive the same love — and reward you with the joy of all those stories, words, and memories of your life at the time you read them. In fact, dust off one of your older books, one you haven’t read in many years, then sit down and re-read it. As you do so, enjoy this present experience and literary adventure, but also recall the events of your life the last time you flipped through these particular pages.

Deeply enriching and revealing, isn’t it?

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