The Ultimate Book of Bizarre Lists is my most recent (and second) book. It is a compilation of top 10 lists covering bizarre topics from my website Listverse.com. It is the second of what will be a trilogy of books based on Listverse.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am from Lower Hutt – a medium sized city in New Zealand near the capital Wellington. At high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life so I went to University to study the only thing I was good at – singing.
After a brief hiatus from my studies I entered a traditional Catholic seminary in Australia. The religious life was not to be so I returned to music. I was offered two scholarships to study at music schools in England but turned them both down to accept a place at the Royal College of Music in London which was my first choice. I worked professionally in opera for three years before deciding that I wanted to do something else with my life. As a teenager I had taught myself computer programming so I began a new career as a software engineer in the UK. While working in IT I created Listverse.com. After two years I returned to New Zealand where I began working on my books and managing my website. Including my time writing online I have been writing for four years (two of which involved work on my print books).
What inspired you to write this book?
First and foremost my website, but that was inspired by a book my brother had (the Book of Lists) which was the first book of its sort. I loved the format of the book (top 10 lists with a little blurb of information about each entry) and thought it would be a good online format. Boy was I right. Little did I know when reading the Book of Lists that I would eventually be the author of two such books myself!
How did you choose the title?
I chose the title of the book in collaboration with my publishers Ulysses Press. To be honest, they came up with the title and I was so thrilled to be published that I didn’t really disagree with anything they suggested. That has definitely not worked against me so far.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I encountered no obstacles other than my own personal fault of procrastination. I was approached directly by Ulysses Press to write the books for publication with them. This is not the usual way that a person gets his manuscript published so I was extremely fortunate.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer until it dawned on me that I had been for a year already. I just enjoyed putting the lists together and most especially the research element. I have learnt so much in my years of working on Listverse and my books.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I don’t have any writing rituals – I just thank God when I manage to force myself to stay at the computer long enough to write a chapter!
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
My books are based on facts and history so the characters are all people who were named by their parents
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I learnt that when I procrastinate I can produce a lot of work very quickly as my deadline approaches. I also discovered just how diligent editors are when going over a manuscript – it is no mean feat to edit 700 pages of text and retain your sanity.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing at all – the whole process as directed by my publisher went incredibly smoothly and I am happy with how it has all turned out.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I like to read books of trivia and facts as these are very helpful for research. I also love to read books on theology, linguistics, food, music, and classic literature (ancient Greek mostly). My favorite author of all time is Oscar Wilde who manages to put amazing beauty and wit into every line of his writing. I also love the books of Denton Welch who is relatively unknown (which is very unfortunate). Other male authors I really love are Truman Capote, William Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, Bret Easton Ellis, Allen Ginsberg and St Thomas Aquinas (in translation). Female writers I especially like are Nancy Mitford, Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Parker.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I am working on my next book. It is going to be a little different from my other two in that it won’t be given in top 10 format but rather as chapters of facts. The premise of the book is misconception busting – one of my favorite things. Here is a sampler: Misconception: George Washington had wooden false teeth; Fact: He never owned wooden teeth. He did however own a set of hippopotamus ivory teeth, a set of horse teeth, donkey teeth, and human teeth (from various sources), a set of 18kt gold teeth (he tried 24kt but they were too malleable), and a set of lead teeth, which were not particularly good for him. Four of these sets of dentures are in the National Museum of Dentistry.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Write a lot. Keep writing even when you don’t want to. But more importantly (regardless of how much you output), revise, revise, revise. Great writing comes from revision and cutting. What you cut from your writing contributes more to the quality than what you leave in.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Anyone that loves trivia, history, facts, oddities, and learning. My books make it easy to learn without knowing you are learning. After reading both of my books your friends will think you are the smartest person they know!
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
On my website listverse.com – there is a profile of me there as well as a bookstore with links to my books on Amazon and other third party books that I think readers of my books will enjoy.