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Idea to interview author helped create Book Nook

Occasionally someone will me ask me how I got into the business of interviewing authors. It was one of those happy accidents. Here’s how it occurred:

In 1994 I was hosting a music show weekday afternoons on WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs (91.3 FM). Every once in a while I would get a phone call from someone inquiring if I might be interested in interviewing an author.

I would chuckle and explain that I was the host of a music program. I wasn’t in the business of interviewing authors. It had never crossed my mind. Those calls kept coming.

One day I got another. A publishing house in New York was wondering about the possibility of having me interview a legendary science-fiction writer. At the time I didn’t know she was famous. OK, I’ll admit it, I had never heard of her.

Then that imaginary light bulb that floats invisibly above my head when I have moments of inspiration started blinking. I suddenly realized that I could interview authors if I wanted to do so. Heck, why not? So I asked them to send me the book.

The author was Anne McCaffrey. I interviewed her during my music program. I enjoyed it. I began doing more interviews with authors. I have always been an avid reader, and it was wonderful to be able to talk to writers about their work.

I didn’t ask the station manager for permission to interview authors. I went ahead and did it. You might recall that 20 years ago WYSO’s format was somewhat freeform. You could hear music that ranged from punk to polka to Puccini.

I would drop in an author interview now and then as part this eclectic broadcast tapestry. A couple of years passed. One day my colleague Anne Williams had a suggestion; that it might be fun to run “The Book Nook,” the name I gave this segment, in a regular daily time slot. That imaginary light bulb was flickering again. What a splendid notion!

So that’s what we did. Listeners liked tuning in for it at a regular time. Over the years I have interviewed more than 1,300 authors for WYSO or for this newspaper. I got to ask Buzz Aldrin what it felt like to walk on the moon. The late Janet Leigh told me that Alfred Hitchcock kept the water shockingly cold for her shower scene in “Psycho.” That was so cool to know.

In 1999 WYSO News Director Aileen LeBlanc asked me to write some book reviews for her radio magazine program “Sounds Local.” In 2003, a writer who had once been my “Book Nook” guest asked me if I would write book reviews for this newspaper. His name is Ron Rollins, and he was my very first newspaper editor. (He is now this paper’s associate editor.)

This column you are perusing is my 440th weekly column. The circle keeps on turning.

Over the past year I interviewed 50 more authors. Martha Moody talked about her futuristic thriller set in Dayton. Junot Diaz offered insights into his latest story collection. I re-connected with some old favorites like James Lee Burke and Donald Ray Pollock.

You can listen anytime to more than 100 “Book Nook” interviews archived on the WYSO website.

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