For my first entry in my planned ongoing series in which I interview fellow writers and bloggers, I got the chance to interview Rebecca Douglass, aka “The Ninja Librarian.” I first met Rebecca through Goodreads, via the “Running With Scissors” group. Since then, we’ve followed and commented on each other’s blogs. Her blog, the Ninja Librarian, is a funny and insightful read, and I highly recommend you subscribe to her blog.
Now, without further ado, here’s my interview with Rebecca:
Bio: Rebecca Douglass grew up in Idaho, Arizona, and Washington states, and now lives near San Francisco with her husband and two teenaged sons. Her imagination resides where it pleases, in and out of this world. After a decade of working at the library, she is still learning the secrets of the Ninja Librarian. Her passions include backpacking, hiking, books, and running and biking. She works at the library, volunteers in the schools, and hopes that lots of kids (and adults) will enjoy reading about the Ninja Librarian.
You go by the name Ninja Librarian. How did you come up with that name? What’s the story behind it?
My blog name is the eponymous title of my first book, The Ninja Librarian. I’m not the NL, but I am a librarian, and the main character of the book is inspired by our former head librarian. The whole idea was given me by a smart-alec comment he made once about not getting mugged because he’s trained to kill. I said “what are you, some kind of Ninja librarian?” and the rest, as they say, is history. Picture lightbulbs going off above my head. I actually wrote most of the first story at work that night, between helping patrons. Since at that point I was writing it for our co-workers, I made the Ninja Librarian look a lot like him.
I’m not actually a librarian–my degrees are in English Lit., not library science–but I do work as a library aide, which in the eyes of most people makes me a librarian or, at least, a library lady. Lately I’ve had to start wearing reading glasses, too, but I draw the line at pushing them down my nose and glaring over them.
Does the ninja librarian have a cool costume? A logo? A cool crime-fighting signal?
The Ninja Librarian is a late-19th-century gentleman and dresses as the same. The closest thing to a crime-fighting sign he has is the “open” sign at the library. He fights bad behavior and idiocy both with a pile of books, good sense . . . and the occasional kick where it will do the most good.
While the Librarian doesn’t have a logo, the books ought to. If I’d gotten to that, I think it would be a Ninja mask draped over a pile of old books.
Say the Ninja Librarian gets optioned for a film adaptation: who plays the Ninja Librarian in the movie version?
The film adaptation question. I never know what to say here, since I don’t know many actors, and can’t recall faces. Should be someone like Dumbledore or Gandalf or something. He doesn’t look like much, until he puts on his Ninja mask and gives the baddies what for.
What kind of librarian are you? Are you the schoolmarm shusher-type, or the overly-friendly type that points people in the right direction?
I’m mostly the helpful type. I’ll shush the rude ones and remind children that it’s the library and we use quiet voices. But I’d rather help people find what they want. Oddly, since I’m a total stick at parties and things, I like chatting with people when they come to the desk. Nowadays we do a lot of computer help, too, which is a bit of a strain for me.
You’ve self-published one book…what did you take away from that experience that helps you continue as a writer?
The biggest thing for me has been all the positive feedback. NOTHING makes me want to write as much as someone telling me they totally loved my book and are waiting for the next one.
But the other side of it is that I have learned that there is pretty much an infinite amount of stuff about marketing and social media that I don’t know, much of which I will never know. I started blogging because everything I read as I prepared to launch said you have to blog. It was spotty and random at first, but I feel like I’m finally finding a groove that works pretty well for me, talking about writing, reviewing books, and rambling about life in roughly equal portions.
Being taken seriously as a writer makes me take it seriously, and that really helps with my spotty self-discipline (I’m fine when I’m on a roll, but when it looks like work, I tend to go do the laundry or something). Knowing people are waiting for the next book helps me to sit down and do the hard work most days.
What are you working on right now?
The big thing right now is the second book–Return to Skunk Corners. But most of it is out of my hands right now–I’ve got two editors at work on it, and an artist starting cover art. To keep myself out of trouble, I’m working over an older MS, with the working title of The PTA Murder, with an eye to seeing if it can be brought up to snuff. That one would be for the adult side of my audience, not the kids. Though I’m keeping it clean, mostly, there are high school students in it, so there’s some cussing and kissing. It definitely falls into the “cozy” category of murder mystery, and has as much humor as mayhem.
When did you discover you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pencil, more or less. I have always wanted to be a writer, and spent years shopping queries to agents. After I became an at-home Mom I felt more of an urge to make it real, but for the first ten or twelve years I just didn’t have the time or energy. I really admire those who write while holding a full-time job and taking care of kids. I just couldn’t do it, even without the full-time job. Fatigue totally sapped my focus and creativity. Now my boys are teens and much less demanding (also not home as much).
About five stories into The Ninja Librarian I decided to go for it–make it a book and publish it myself (I just couldn’t see a traditional publisher going for it). That was really the moment when I decided to be a writer for real. About that same time, someone approached me and paid me to write a report he needed for work–nothing creative about it, but it was another encouragement that I could actually get paid to do what I do best and enjoy most.