How Do You Measure Up?

Okay, whether it’s true or not, there’s been a list of books floating around Facebook which apparently claims the BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100. It’s a great list of books regardless.
How do your reading habits stack up? How many have you read?
1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazu Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Author Karen Spears Zacharias ~ Interviewed

KAREN SPEARS ZACHARIAS is the nation’s leading authority on chicken salvation. Karen was adopted at an advanced age by Lucky Earl, a rooster that she saved from certain death. She is an accidental vegetarian.

Karen was recently canned from her job as a columnist & editorial writer for the Fayetteville Observer in Fayetteville, N.C.. She taught journalism and feature writing at Central Washington University and is a popular speaker at literary events. In 2008, she served as author-in-resident for the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, Fairhope, Alabama, where she wore a WWII helmet to ward off late-night bombardier roaches and tick collars around her ankles to keep from being eaten alive by fleas.

Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek and on National Public Radio. Her third book, Where’s Your Jesus Now? offers a seriously funny look at fear. Karen lives in Pinehurst, N.C. where she is at work on her fourth book — Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? Visit her blog.

What is your current project? Tell us about it.

Where’s Your Jesus Now? is a collection of seriously funny essays about how so many of us in the faith community have given in and let fear have its way with us, only to wake up in the next morning full of regret and lacking any self-respect.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head?

I was recruited to write for Zondervan by an editor who had read my previous work and loved it. The book, Where’s Your Jesus Now?, was inspired by a gray-haired granny named Shirley Dunham. I met Shirley while covering a crime story as a reporter.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Journalists don’t have the luxury of writer’s block. I am expected to turn in an editorial every day. It doesn’t matter how I feel, what matters is what I produce.

That’s proven to be a very valuable lesson to carry over to book projects. I set self-imposed deadlines and work on those, such as typing a page a day, or a chapter a week.

But, yes, I suffer from self-doubt, like any writer, like any reflective person of any profession. I don’t mind it so much any more, though. It’s good to second-guess yourself. It helps keep the criticism of others down to a minimum.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Oh, gosh, there are so many mistakes I’ve made. I thought that writing was the hard part. I didn’t have a clue how hard marketing a book would be. It’s a lot like selling Fuller Brushes or Mary Kay. Some people are born to it and the rest of us, well, we might as well get jobs hawking Dilly Bars at Dairy Queen. I still haven’t mastered the art of marketing.

The other huge mistake I made was trusting untrustworthy people. Always ask for references and make those calls. Writing is a very personal process. It creates false intimacies. Remember there’s a difference between someone who truly cherishes you as a person and a person who simply cherishes the product you produce.

What’s the best or worst advice (or both) you’ve heard on writing/publication?

The best advice came from George Venn, my writing professor, who told me once: Ignore all flattery and all criticism and just keep writing.

What is your favorite source for finding book ideas?

Listening or eavesdropping.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share? Or have you ever been at the point where considered quitting writing altogether?

I spent eight years writing After the Flag has been Folded, the story of what happened to our family after my father was killed in Vietnam. That book was showcased in nearly every media market from CNN to Good Morning America to National Public Radio. Yet, sales were dismal.

The American people are pretty discriminating readers. They don’t want to read about the aftermath of war when their sons and daughters are deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Go figure.

Needless to say, I came off of book tour, exhausted and devastated. I couldn’t imagine writing anything more important than that book. I was ready to walk away from it.

But the one thing that kept me going was the emails of encouragement and thanks that trickled in from readers, primarily Vietnam veterans or their families.

That, and a note from author Pat Conroy. “Writing is for the long-haul,” he said.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

Don’t quit the day job, even if you end up with a bestseller. You’ll lose the thing that makes writers write well – interaction with the real world.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

George Venn was the first writer to tell me I was a writer. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Had he not pulled me aside and told me that I should be writing, I never would have pursued it.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

That’s like asking me which of my four children I love most. I love them all equally but for different reasons.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

The overall infatuation Americans have with celebrities. A gal approached me once in Nashville. She was gushing because she’d seen me visiting with a friend who is a celebrity-writer.

“Are you friends with HER?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Are you a writer, too?”


“Are you famous? Should I know you?” she asked.

“Apparently not,” I replied.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I’d give my away my iPod to see an AP photo of President Obama reading one of my books on Air Force One.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Writing grants me access to so many adventures. My favorite part of being a writer is taking others on those adventures, whether that’s saving a chicken’s life or to the gravesite of one of our national heroes.

My least favorite part of writing is the ticks I encounter on those adventures.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you’d like.

The photo is of the sunroom at the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts cottage. I wrote my last book here while serving as the writer-in-resident.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

When I made the transition from writing articles for newspapers to writing books. Articles are considered long if they go over four graphs. Books required 40,000 words or better.

I wasn’t sure how to craft the longer project, but I was given once piece of advice that has served me well. Don’t quit writing when you have exhausted what you have to say. Instead stop during the heat of it and leave a note so you know what to come back to the next day. That keeps me from returning to a cold computer screen. I don’t stop until I know exactly where I’m going to pick it up next.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?


Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

I keep a jar of pickled pig’s feet on hand. I gnaw on one before I begin writing and when I finish for the day. While writing, I dip snuff.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response? Please share.

Harry Kennison.

I wrote a column after his grown son Kyle died of cancer. I’ve never met Harry but he called me a couple of years after Kyle’s death. Said he and his wife keep that newspaper clipping in a scrapbook and take it out from time to time. Harry’s in his 80s now and not in good health himself. Kyle was his only son. He misses him terribly. I tell people that the reason I write is because of people like Harry. Words can breath life back into a person, if only momentarily. For a grieving daughter or a grieving father, sometimes that’s good enough.

Have you had a particularly memorable peer honor? Please share.

Yes. When I left my last newspaper job, several of my peers cried. Anyone who has worked in a newsroom will understand the value of those tears shed.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

Depends. On the memoir I did tons. Everything from 8 minutes on Good Morning America to hour-long shows on C-Span and NPR. I was on the road for all but 6 weeks of that year, talking at literary festivals, universities, military events.

With this last book, Where’s Your Jesus Now? I hired my own publicity person to market the book. We did a few books signings. A couple of gigs at churches and a few literary events. Very low-key.

I’m a people person. I love to speak in public forums, panels, etc. But I don’t like the aspect of hawking a book.

The bottom line is bestsellers are sold the same way any book is sold – one by one. The best marketing tool any of us could hope for is to have a reader urge a friend to read our book and that friend tell a friend and that friend tell a friend…

Tell us about your actual platform/vision as a speaker/author.

Fear is destructive. It is a poor foundation for constructing public policy or personal choice. Love and faith, not fear and anxiety, ought to be the factors that mold us and compel us. If Christians don’t have hope, what do we have to offer a world of wounded people?

Do you have any helpful hints on finding the perfect voice/career/passion fit?

There isn’t any magic formula. Search for who you are in Christ. Then, instead of removing yourself from the world, become an active participant in it. Get out of the cubicle. Live a life worth writing about.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t followed this career path? Why?

I’d be a fashion model for used trucks. I’d wear cutoffs and a red halter-top and my calendar would be pinned up in every junkyard auto parts store across the nation. Men with scruffy beards and beer bellies would whistle at it, nudge their buddies and declare, “There’s a sight that’ll give you sore eyes.”

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

There are no perfect words, perfect writers, or perfect people. But life is not a first draft – we don’t get to rewrite this script. Figure out in advance how you want to wrap it up and plan accordingly.

Author Interview ~ Noel Hynd

st1:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } Noel Hynd is the author of twenty published books, mostly thrillers. He has millions of copies of his books in print worldwide.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

The title is Midnight in Madrid. It’s part of a trilogy of thrillers, called The Russian Trilogy, that I’ve written for Zondervan. My heroine, U.S. Treasury agent Alexandra LaDuca ( who debuted in Conspiracy in Kiev) is back crisscrossing Europe. This time she’s in pursuit of an ancient relic stolen from a Madrid museum and the secrets behind its theft. The stolen artwork is a piece of ancient Christian sculpture, a small carving called The Pietà of Malta. Simple assignment? No way. The mysteries and legends surrounding the relic become increasingly complex with claims of supernatural power.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Dashiell Hammett so within this story there was a little homage to classic detective and suspense fiction like The Maltese Falcon. Anyway, I take the reader on a nonstop chase through a modern world of terrorists, art thieves, and cold-blooded killers. A lot of action, adventure and espionage with Christian philosophical themes woven in.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?

As I said, it’s part of a trilogy, the second book. The central story in the trilogy is Alex’s relationship with a Russian gangster named Yuri Federov. So there are important events here concerning him, too. No real “what if” moment. I was in Madrid several years ago and really liked the city. So I always wanted to use that as a backdrop. Spanish politics in the 20th Century have fascinated me, also. For better or worse, I can remember Franco quite well.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

Got a few hours? I wanted to create an exciting female character who spoke several languages, can use a gun, use her femininity, use her brain and zip around the world as sort of a female Jason Bourne. (Robert Ludlum and I had the same editor and publisher many years ago and I had the occasion to meet and chat with RL many times.) Then, to some degree, I let Alex do what I can’t do. I went to school in Europe (Switzerland) for a while and always admired the way Europeans can slip in and out of another language almost in mid-syllable. I can speak French okay, and I’m working on my Spanish, but Alex puts me to shame. 😉

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

Aside from getting paid to write it? 😉

I suppose I enjoyed vicariously revisiting parts of the world —- Switzerland, Italy, Spain — where I haven’t been for a while. My characters from Conspiracy in Kiev emerged a bit more here, too. That was fun. The Zondervan folks always come up with cool jacket art, too. It’s always fun when that happens and you think, WOW, my struggling words have become a visual reality.

What made you start writing?

My father, Alan Hynd, was a true crime writer in the 1940’s and 1950’s. He was an expert on crooks and con men. He got poisoned once by some bad guys who didn’t like some stuff he wrote, threatened all the time, and infuriated a number of people with his theories of why the Lindberg kidnapping case (and some other high profile case) would never been solved. (Official corruption and/or incompetent police work were often the reasons) So I went into the family biz, so to speak, but figured it would be a little healthier to stick to fiction.

What does your writing space look like?

LOL. You wouldn’t want to see it. It’s a mess. Or it looks like a mess to anyone else. I know where everything is, or like to think I do, but there are papers all over, boxes of books, notes and print-outs of the current ms on my desk.

I live in Culver City, California, near Los Angeles, so the weather is good, but there’s a mental health clinic across the street which I look at from my window. Sometimes I think I should be over there. We (my very cool wife and I) have three cats, or more accurately, the three cats have us. Sometimes they wander in to distract me. I enclosed a shot of Wendy, looking skeptically at one of my books.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I either run or swim five days a week. I’m a sucker for baseball (The Yankees) and English soccer (Arsenal).

What’s the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

Frankly, in the past, dealing with publishers and some of the sneaky incompetent stunts they pull. I won’t bother to elaborate. The current people, Zondervan, are great, however, and not just because they just gave me a new contract for a second trilogy. After three decades of getting published, it’s a new experience to actually like one’s publishing house.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Every author does, whether he/she is conscious of it or not. Likes, dislikes, skills, background. Sometimes an author reveals just a little too much. Oh, and then there are the personal stories people have told you that you just sorta-kinda work into your text. Got to be careful with that one.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

I write to entertain people, to give them a good exciting fast-paced read, and a character they can feel good about and cheer along. I like to sprinkle that with some accurate history and world politics (how things work or why things don’t work) and throw in some spiritual stuff to think about also.

Alex is readily identifiable as a Christian (I’m a member of an Episcopalian church) and I think she reflects many of my views as well as view that readers of all faiths will be sympathetic took. I get nice e-mails ( from Islamic and Jewish readers as well as Christian, and also from people who might observe no religion at all. So I think I’m hitting certain themes of human decency…..but keeping the story cooking at the same time.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

It’s a little like traveling from Moscow to Rome by crawling on your knees. I somehow torture a first draft out of myself, usually about 425 pages. It’s supposed to be 100,000 words and it would make my life easier if I could hit that mark, but I always seem to run past by about 15,000. This takes several months and that’s considered quick.

The first draft might get re-written 7 or 8 times in some spots. Then it goes to my editor for his first run at it, then back to me for more revisions, then back to him, then often back to me, then to a second editor who picks up all the stuff that we/I left dangling the first few times.

One is constantly revising…..Then sometimes you look at the final book and you think, uh, oh, should have revised some more.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

Just off the top of my head, The Great Gatsby, A Moveable Feast, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I also love a current series of French graphic novels called Djinn, written by a Belgian named Jean Dufaux and an absolutely fabulous Spanish artist named Ana Miralles. All of these works have wonderful atmosphere, character and story telling. Another lifelong favorite is The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant, the novel that Damn Yankees! was based on.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

From a business standpoint, I wish I’d known better how to handle that end of it better. Also, having a better view of where one is going in a book would have saved a lot of early revisions. But one never knows completely. It’s always a learning experience.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

When my first novel (Revenge, 1976) was published, it was reviewed in 50 places. Newspaper and magazine book pages have disappeared over the years. Internet is hugely important now. In terms of what works for me, I try to respond to absolutely everything I receive from readers. Being an author is like running for mayor. You might or might not have a big ad budget but the person-to-person thing remains the most important.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

After finishing The Russian Trilogy with Countdown in Cairo, which Zondervan will publish in January of 2010, I’m down for a new “Cuban” trilogy which will take place in Cuba, Central America and the US. Same heroine, Alex, and plenty of new trouble for her.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Rush to the Zondervan web site or and order one of my books. Do it now before your server crashes. Is that too self-serving? 😉