David Baldacci

David Baldacci: 'Publishers will provide a lot more access'

"If you make a reader earlier, I think you make a reader for life."

Well, growing up in Richmond, Virginia, we would go to the library every weekend.  And I was able to check out far more than the limit because I had deals the librarians. You know, they knew which kids read books and which ones didn't. And I would go home with a stack and read them during the course of the week and take them back and you know, check another stack.

And I was able to see the world, in many respects, without ever leaving my hometown. And had a profound effect on me because if you make a reader earlier, I think you make a reader for life. That certainly was the case with me.

You walk into a room filled with books and to this day whenever I go into someone's home and they have a bookcase, I walk over. You can learn so much about a person's books, and I lament the fact that with e-books you really can't do that anymore. But it really is part of your identity and when I go into a library and see books all over the place, it's just a comforting feeling and there's both the peacefulness to it, but also the sense of discovery because you walk down the shelves and you find something.

I do [use the library]. When I write books that have historical significance, I wrote one years ago called "Wish You Well," I pretty much camped out at the State Library in Richmond.  I needed to look at WPA reports, oral accounts written down by people in the Depression Era, genealogical records, geographical documents. So it depends on what the subject matter is. Certainly have done a lot of work at the Library of Congress. I go down there often go through their facilities and their archives as I'm doing research for a book because there's a fount of information there and obviously would be would be ridiculous not to use it.

[Favorite librarians?] I had a couple. One was my elementary school librarian and one was my high school librarian, Mrs. Norwood. And they were a lot alike in certain respects.  When you came into the library, they wanted you to respect place, obviously, but they wanted you to explore.  And one of them introduced me to these biographical novels  for children. So it was biographies about famous people when they were kids. You read about Teddy Roosevelt until he turned 18, or Franklin Roosevelt, or George Washington, or the Ringling Brothers, or Thomas Edison.  So it didn't talk about the famous part of their lives, it talked about the kid part, which for a kid like myself was amazing. I mean, I sort of saw how a kid grew up and really was able to change the world.

[On e-books in libraries] It's been a great transition. The publishing world is not great at change. And the publishing world had not changed, really for a long time, decades and decades and then all of the sudden this e-book phenomenon came, and a tipping point came, and all of the sudden their whole business model was turned upside down. Now there's a shake-out period and obviously I think greater access and granting access to libraries for books, e-books, any type of format, audio is very important. I think the publishers are going to get there. They're trying to figure out how they can do all this and still make money. As we all know, they have a lot of challenges from enormous competitors out there whose main business is not books, you know, and so it's difficult to compete against behemoths like that.  I think that at the end of the day publishers will provide a lot more access. They just have to figure out how they can make money doing it, make sure the industry survives.

I go down and lobby on behalf of libraries and also literacy in Congress.  And it's a hard sell. It shouldn't be, but it is. Everybody loves reading  everybody loves books, everybody loves libraries but it's easy to cut stuff like that in bad economic times.  I say it because a lot of the kids who benefit from that can't vote yet, so they don't really care. But they cut off our own future when we do that.  I gave them this anecdote that when dictators take over country, the first thing they do is not kill all the lawyers, or Mr. Shakespeare. They have this checklist and the first issue on their check list is to close all the libraries, because libraries are places of  differences of opinion and ideas and thoughts and that's the last thing an oppressive dictator wants.

So for me you know, libraries right now have never been in greater demand. You go into library and they're packed. The only thing they're not packed with are books and librarians  because of budgetary cuts. It's a short-sighted approach and we're gonna feel the effects of doing something like that. If we want to spend money on something that is going to help this country move forward, we can turn away from the bombs and turn back to the books. 

[On censorship] Banned and challenged books, it's always great for the author, because people just want to go out and buy it and read it to see what all the fuss is about and we live in a democracy and at the same time you may not like some of these things. I don't like the KKK being able to march, you know, down at the Capitol, but we live in a place that grants freedom of speech to everyone, so it's important, even the ones you don't agree with. So people can challenge books, they can try to ban books if they want. I don't think any of that should ever happen, but they certainly have the right to raise objections about it. I, obviously as a writer, I don't agree with censorship. If you don't agree with what's in a book, don't read it. If you want to tell other people not to read it, fine, but don't try to go in and rewrite the book. 

The one I'm here for is called "The Finisher."  It's a young adult book that I spent five years writing and it deals with girl named Vega Jane. She's 14, I don't use the term years, but sessions old, and she lives in a place called Wormwood, and around Wormwood is the Quag. and there's nothing beyond the Quag. So it's kind of like us and the universe,  we're the only ones out there, so there's no reason to leave Wormwood, and no one has ever visited Wormwood, there's no place to visit from, until she finds out that maybe all of that is not true. I spent five years writing it. I sold under a pseudonym because I wanted it to, people to buy it for the book, not necessarily for the name behind it.  I'm really excited about it. I've loved fantasy. As a kid growing up, I read a lot of fantasy books at libraries when I was a child. And as an adult thriller writer, you sort of are fastened to the real world and you can't exercise your imagination to the limit. With "The Finisher," I could.

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