Friday, November 16, 2007

Interview with Shelley Mosley

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Shelley Mosley. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Thank you for inviting me here today. Where’s my chocolate?

See Hans on your way out.

I understand you have a new release out called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

There are many lists of the “best books” to read, and, as a librarian, I’ve seen patrons struggle through these as though they were on a death march. They’ve been brainwashed to believe that if they don’t read every single title prescribed by some “expert,” no matter how dry and dull the novel, they’ll somehow be woefully short of I.Q. points, and the world will label them as “culturally inadequate.” Guess what. Reading can be fun, and there are great books out there just waiting to be read. John Charles, Sandy Van Winkle, Joanne Hamilton-Selway, and I put together lists of our favorite books in the categories most requested by library users: romance, mystery/suspense, horror, science fiction, fantasy, chick lit, westerns, humor, true crime, inspirational fiction, inspirational non-fiction, popular fiction, literary fiction, history, biography, travel, science and medicine, and true animal stories. Our book is designed for people who read in a specific category as well as those who would like to try different genres, but don’t know where to begin. In the back of the book are lined pages for people to list more authors they’ve discovered along the way, books they want to read, or notes on titles they’ve finished reading.

Why did you write The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List?

We were asked to write it, and it was something we thought we could do well.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

The publisher gave the book its name, which is usually the case. We actually had some other ideas for a title. Leah Hultenschmidt, for example, suggested Books for the Bedstand, which I really liked.

How did you go about pitching this book to an editor?

I went to the Society of Southwestern Author Conference in Tucson, where I met Mike Sanders, Editorial Director at Alpha Books, the company that publishes the Complete Idiot Guides. He seemed like a really nice guy, and I thought he’d be easy to work with. (It turns out I was right on both counts!) Anyway, I pitched The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Library. Mike said it wasn’t “sexy” enough, but he did have a project he thought I could do. That project was the Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List.

How did you convince your writing team to work on this book?

John, Sandy, Joanne, and I were all pretty exhausted from writing Romance Today: An A-Z Guide to Contemporary Romance Writers, which took something like four years to complete. Plus, John and I were writing The Suffragists in Literature for Youth: The Fight for the Vote at the same time. To top everything off, John and I were reviewing for Booklist and Library Journal and writing for What Do I Read Next? John was writing a column for the Chicago Tribune, and I was writing romantic comedies with Deborah Mazoyer. Sandy started writing children’s books. Despite the tight deadline and our heavy writing workloads, John, Sandy, and Joanne agreed to join me on the Ultimate Reading List project. For librarians, getting the right book to the right person is almost a holy mission. To have a chance to list what we considered the best of the best books--what an opportunity! What troopers the members of “Team Mosley” (as John has named us) are!

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

We did extensive research. We interviewed dozens of writers, readers, librarians, and people in the publishing industry and asked them what their favorite books are. We pored over lists of award-winners. We read or re-read many of the books that we eventually recommended (and there are over a thousand of them!) Lastly, we drew on a total of 75 years’ library experience--we’ve done a lot of reader’s advisory work over the years! We also had to learn all of the protocols necessary to format a Complete Idiot’s Guide.

What kind of deadlines did you have for this book?

Deadlines were tight. There were six months from contract to finished book.

Is there anything about The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List that you would change? Any roadblocks?

No writing project is perfect. We had a good team and an excellent editor, but six months isn’t much time to complete a book like this, especially with the massive research involved. We’ve written an article about our experiences, “Six Months, Five Revisions, Four Authors, Three Editors, Two Meltdowns, and One Book.” You get the picture! With four of us, we had four different ideas about what books should be in the Ultimate Reading List. One…um…enthusiastic discussion lasted six hours.

The only real roadblock to our book was when we got the galleys to review, and it was the same time the book went into production. We were unable to correct our errors. Fortunately, there aren’t many, but one of the bloopers is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice instead of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If our book goes into a second printing, these errors will be corrected.

Would you ever do another Complete Idiot’s Guide?

You bet!

Do you have any authors who inspired you?

The other night, when I saw Nora Roberts get the Quill Award for the best romance for her book Angels Fall, I really wasn’t surprised. The woman is a publishing phenomenon. But when she won for best book of the year, too, it occurred to me that here’s a person who’s taken a much-maligned genre and earned the respect of everyone, even those who hate romance novels. If that doesn’t inspire all of us, I don’t know what does!

What do we have to look forward next?

On the non-fiction, reference side, the Crash Course in Library Supervision, which I co-authored with Dennis C. Tucker, will be out any day now. It can actually be used for supervisory situations outside of the library world, too, and focuses on using the Golden Rule as your philosophy of management, and treating your staff as though they are fellow human beings. (Hasn’t everyone worked for someone who was a bully boss and/or acted as though he or she was superior to the employees?)

As far as fiction is concerned, Deborah Mazoyer and I have a romantic comedy, tentatively titled Marriage 101, coming out from Avalon in June. It’s written under our pseudonym, Deborah Shelley. Marriage 101 is about Rachel Levin, a young teacher who gets her graduate degree in human relationships, considers herself an expert, but has never had an actual relationship of her own. Her first job, of course, is teaching Life Skills (a.k.a. Marriage 101) to a class of high school seniors. The hero, Danny Ricucci, a commitment-phobic high school coach, is blackmailed by the students into going through the class as Rachel’s “husband.” Soon, the lines between their hypothetical romance and a real one begin to blur. Of course, Danny’s family, including his sister, the stealth nun, feels obligated to become involved.

Thanks, Shelley!

Thanks for the interview, Ladies of Much Cheaper Than Therapy! This was fun!

Check out author’s website at

Buy The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List at

Bio: Shelley is a retired library manager and a full-time writer. She’s co-authored several non-fiction books: The Suffragists in Literature for Youth: The Fight for the Vote; Romance Today: An A-to-Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance Writers; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List; the What Do I Read Next? series and Crash Course in Library Supervision. Shelley has won two Romance Writers of America’s Veritas awards and was RWA’s 2001 Librarian of the Year. She reviews books for both Booklist and Library Journal. As half of the romance writing team of Deborah Shelley (the other half, Deborah Mazoyer, is the Director of Building Safety for Glendale, AZ), Shelley has written four romantic comedies. Their newest novel, tentatively titled Marriage 101, will be out in June, 2008, and will be an Avalon hardback. Their novels have been translated into Dutch, Danish, French, Russian, Norwegian, and Portuguese. Shelley has just signed on as a writer for Novelist. She likes cats, chocolate, and all things Disney.


Roz Denny Fox said...

I can't remember when I actually met Shelley, but from our first meeting she was funny, warm, and friendly. And she had a phenomenal memory when it cames to specific books and characters. As a librarian she was a terrific outspoken advocate for romance novels. And since she semi-retired, if you can even term it that as busy as she is, she continues to do great things for the genre. For all genres, really. I don't think Shelley has ever met a book she doesn't like. Or a person for that matter. I love hearing about her many recent successes. Shelley, keep it up.

Monya Clayton said...

Shelley sounds like a dear, the kind of librarian we would all like. Can I ask one question, though? I'm Australian and haven't seen a copy of the book (I live in a very small town) but it is devoted to American-only works, or is there some international representation? Not a criticism by any means, the U.S.A. is so well populated you could probably come up with several books of the same title! Just wondered.
And I'm glad to hear she is a champion of romance! I write (and read of course) in the genre, and it is full of treasures that don't get deserved credit because so many people sneer at 'Romance' books.
You are a busy lady, Shelley, and it really must have been a slog getting the book together. Long may you continue - to much kinder deadlines.